Nothing in Hae Kyung Lee’s Cal State Los Angeles program on Saturday proved more exciting than the opening--Miguel Olvera crouched on the extreme right of a big, dark, empty stage just behind an intense vertical shaft of light, accompanied by the apocalyptic music of Steve Moshier.
As Olvera ever-so-slowly rose to his feet and Stephen Bennett’s lighting ever-so-slowly brightened, the sense of expectation skyrocketed. However, it fizzled once the actual dancing began, for Lee’s ability to create imaginative stage pictures and dance poses far exceeded her talent for inventing or developing movement.
For this reason, the photo display in the lobby of the Luckman complex made a definitive statement of her artistry, while her three pieces Saturday grew less effective moment by moment. Korean-born and currently a Cal State L.A. faculty member, Lee can design compelling dance images but not sustain or deepen them over time.
The opening work “Distant Memory” achieved striking pictorial contrasts between Olvera and lines of women but endlessly recycled a rudimentary vocabulary and sometimes descended to the cliches of hair-lashing and stroking.
The duet “Flicker” boasted another atmospheric Moshier score and offered the finest dancing on the program--from Lee herself and James Kelly. The straw-strewn setting by Yu-Ming Aki Chien and Lee’s use of twitching motions initially suggested something like the gutsy environmental abstractions of Japanese-born modernists Eiko and Koma. However, once again, Lee filled space but not time--the work looked picture perfect but quickly wore out its ideas.
“Acts of the Moment” depended on a loose-limbed flow of dancing, but only Kelly managed to make it appear easy and natural. The others seemed driven and maybe even oppressed by choreography with no real movement impulse, just an arbitrary sequence of commands to be executed on cue.