Helios Dance Theater has been working on its dance about Anne Frank's diary for some time, first showing an unimpressive excerpt on a 2000 Kaleidoscope program, then premiering the work to mixed reviews in April 2001. People have strong feelings about the story of a sensitive Jewish girl who hid from Nazis in an Amsterdam attic until being discovered and taken to Auschwitz. And no one wants to see Anne, who died at 15, represent the Holocaust again unless it touches the heart and mind in new ways.
The stylish and affecting one-hour "About Anne: A Diary in Dance" that emerged Wednesday afternoon at the University of Judaism's Gindi Auditorium goes a long way toward that goal. At its expressionist heart are scenes of danced longing, familial angst and confined celebration.
Made by artistic director Laura Gorenstein Miller and her seven accomplished dancers, the piece unfolds in vignettes, with a feeling of curtailed space provided by Kim Palma's dusty sepia lighting. A few vintage tunes and some Bach join Robert Cairns' evocative soundscapes -- the sirens, bells and machines of the world outside -- and his music has the same emotional outbursts and nuance as the choreography. Video projections by Jamie Caliri and Chris Miller are used briefly but effectively.
Just enough metaphor emerges, as in a scene in which dancers take off extra clothing they've smuggled in: Layers of fabric become layers of vulnerability, then gags or entanglements and family ties. A solo by Anne (Diana Mehoudar) and her pas de trois with her parents (Maria Gillespie and Kelly Knox) fluidly suggest conflicting hopes and frustrations, each character seeming tugged from within and without.
Not all scenes work as well; the opening discovery of Anne's diary by her father seems too heavy-handedly dramatic, and the very last image of a tulle-swathed Anne in a leotard is somehow wrong in tone. Yet, her singing of a Hebrew prayer at the end is haunting, and images of ordinary life touched by terror linger. Helios has succeeded in adding eloquent embodiment to Anne's written story.
'About Anne: A Diary in Dance'
Who: Helios Dance Theater
Where: Gindi Auditorium, University of Judaism, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles.
When: Saturday, 8:30 p.m.; Sunday, 2 and 7 p.m.
Price: $30 to $35
Contact: (310) 440-1547