'Reality Series' full of false steps

Special to The Times

As part of her wrongheaded and embarrassing premiere of "The Reality Series," seen Saturday at the Madrid Theatre, Louise Reichlin, artistic director of Los Angeles Choreographers and Dancers, had a volunteer come from the audience to have her hair washed onstage by Lynn Campbell, owner of a beauty salon that Reichlin frequents.

What this remotely has to do with dance is anybody's guess.

But that didn't stop four smock-clad performers from cavorting around a washbasin to an Afro-Celtic music track in the work's first section, "The Shampoo." Where is Warren Beatty when you need him?

Dance, especially in the 21st century, can be many things, but it's a stretch to consider a wash and blow-dry as part of any choreographic endeavor.

The 45-minute opus continued with the equally inane segment "Los(t) Angeles." Carol Gehring's tedious video of freeway-traveling cars served as backdrop to the segment featuring Salinee Vanichanan twirling on pointe, Sung-Yun Park brandishing Korean fans, Batista Germaud fluttering her hands in flamenco mode and Anaja Holloway teaching four audience members a few hip-hop moves, again onstage.

Those of us watching also had been prompted to stand and wave hands during Park's fan-wielding bit. Was this a dance concert or a Richard Simmons exercise class?

After that, things actually got worse: Concluding with "Identity," Reichlin's terpsichorean take on spam e-mails, including those she said she received from a soldier and an oil merchant, among others, the director posed a question to the now-shrinking audience.

Referring to the seven dancers onstage who had leaped, lunged and even faux barked to Pink Martini's version of "Bolero," Reichlin queried, "Who looks like they could be an assassin?"

Nobody had a clue. For me, however, it was Reichlin, who clearly killed dance on this woebegone day. In all seriousness, Reichlin, who founded her troupe in 1979 and has had a positive effect on the educational community, should stick to that aspect of the art.

The only bright spot in the show, alas, proved bittersweet: A short video was shown in tribute to the choreographer's late husband, innovative tapper-teacher Alfred Desio, who died last year at age 74. A trio of performances from former students followed, notably by the wonderful Channing Cook Holmes. Briefly grooving on a drum and tapping up a polyrhythmic storm, this was reality.

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