Lacking power, Sola is still pleasant

Special to the Times

The Sola Contemporary Dance Festival, celebrating its fourth year over the weekend at Torrance’s James Armstrong Theatre, featured nine emerging choreographers and 40 dancers in a program of old and new works. The passing parade promised a potent palette but instead blurred into mild pleasantries, several bright voices notwithstanding.

Large group dances dominated the evening, two making use of chairs -- but weren’t always successful, while of three solos, John Pennington’s “Hearing Change,” stunningly danced by Denesa Chan, proved one of the evening’s highlights.

Pennington designed the set for this short work, a large white bull’s-eye splashed with Mondrian-like red and blue planes, the squares echoed in Karen Weller’s two-piece costume. Alternately ebullient and reflective, Chan scooped the air with swirling arms, her etched plies and balancing feats perfectly attuned to Thuja and David Karagianis’ percussive soundscape.

Sarah Swenson, who dances with Rudy Perez, wedded her lyrical choreography, “Ancestors,” an homage to modern dance pioneers, to the music of Philip Glass. Punctuated with fugues, Swenson and eight other women beckoned with lovely arms, collapsing into powerful lunges and weaving intricate line formations as the swirling-gowned damsels called to mind a garden of Greek statuary.


Six women didn’t fare as well in “Origin,” Traves Butterworth’s frenetic opus featuring the gals in tribal mode, their power-rolling, crawling and quivering bodies an exercise in aimlessness. Hilary Thomas’ Lineage Dance, another female group in flailing mode, offered “The Breath That Reminds Me,” where skittering and the occasional handstand failed to command attention.

Elsewhere, Albertossy Espinoza performed his strange solo, “Trapped.” Angst-ridden, the dancer initially brandished two panels of fabric as he veered from neo-flamenco moves with rhythmic hand-clapping to floor gyrations in which he isolated various body parts. Pamela Debiase’s articulated kicks and crab-walking amped up her dynamic solo, “What Filters Through,” with a vocal collage lending a hallucinogenic air to this party of one.

Laurie Cameron’s musical-chairs-like octet, “Diminishing Returns,” was sprinkled with an absurdist text as a red dress provided showy gender-bending moments. Jennifer Backhaus McIvor’s previously reviewed “Sitting on January,” also built around chairs, fell flat this time.

The evening was produced by the Regina Klenjoski Dance Company, and excerpts from Klenjoski’s reworked “Streetscapes” completed the program that, however flawed, is still a gift to Los Angeles.