Sure-footed in exploring ideas

Times Staff Writer

For nine years, a resident company called La Danserie has offered local audiences creative contemporary ballet programming influenced by European trends. The slate proved typically diverse and stimulating at the Unknown Theater in Hollywood on Saturday.

Tatiana A'Virmond's artful new quartet, "Alma Brasileira," began with a dreamy, lyric solo for Amanda Lynch but grew forceful and rhythmic with the arrival of Heather Lipson. Unison dancing could have been sharper, but the choreography always used its arrangement of music by Villa-Lobos with great surety.

Dancer Yoko Ambe dominated company artistic director Patrick R. Frantz's expert quartet "Di-Fusion," which layered surprising modernistic gestures onto classical steps in the same way that the accompaniment added jazz accents to music by Bach.

Ambe also soloed strongly in Judy Pisarro-Grant's new trio, "No Way / Any Way," which often used the dancers to soften and undercut two assaultive violin sonatas by George Antheil. Ten dangling vertical rods defined the dance space -- and suddenly went askew when the music surged into overdrive.

French guest artist Alexandre de la Caffiniere contributed two unforgettably twitchy showpiece solos. His comic "ballet-tics" used the music and some of the steps from the last-act male and female variations in the ballet "Don Quixote," mixed with all manner of incredibly fast sight gags drawn from Charlie Chaplin and other sources. "Ibou" was even better: a display of benchmark millennial virtuosity in which every limb, muscle or sinew could be isolated, twisted in on itself or used to propel the whole body into bold movement experiments.

Lipson's pop suite "Even the Stars Have Gone to Bed" used recordings by Anita Ellis, a vintage song stylist best remembered nowadays for supplying Rita Hayworth's singing voice in the "Put the Blame on Mame" number from the 1946 noir classic "Gilda." Unfortunately, Lipson managed neither to evoke nor parody Ellis' world with any distinction, though Ellen Rosa and, especially, Nicole Mathis looked comfortable in choreography that often seemed perversely disjointed.

Dancer injury caused reductions and rearrangements in Lipson's piece, plus the cancellation of Frantz's new "Appassionato." Both should be fully restored by next weekend.


La Danserie

Where: Unknown Theater, 1110 N. Seward St., Hollywood

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, 6 p.m. Sunday

Price: $18 (students, seniors) to $24

Contact: (323) 466-7781 or

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