Entertainment & Arts

Review: BodyTraffic brings a light touch — perhaps too light — to the Broad Stage

Joseph Kudra and Tina Finkelman
Joseph Kudra and Tina Finkelman Berkett of BodyTraffic dance choreographer Richard Siegal’s “3 Preludes” Thursday at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

The three-part program from the local dance troupe BodyTraffic at the Broad Stage on Thursday resembled one of those television series in which nothing consequential ever happens but you keep watching because everyone in the cast is so unfailingly deft and endearing.

Founded nine years ago, BodyTraffic has built a loyal following though highly accessible programming and technically faultless performances. It’s never less than entertaining, but its penchant for empty diversion can leave the dancers marooned in perky juvenile antics — a danger not always avoided Thursday.

Energized by the forceful playing of pianist Inna Faliks, choreographer Richard Siegal’s  “3 Preludes” propelled four dancers through buoyant ensemble sections keyed to the pace and charm of Gershwin’s score. Unfortunately the central love duet for company codirector Tina Finkelman Berkett and Joseph Kudra lost the flow of the music through excessive choreographic ambition. Hollywood has a long history of dreamy Gershwin duets, from Fred Astaire and Gingers Rogers (“They Can’t Take That Away From Me”) to Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron (“Our Love Is Here to Stay”). But Siegal’s taste for incompatible partnering complexities didn’t so much plug into this tradition as short-circuit it.


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Billed as a preview, Anton Lachky’s incessantly diversionary “Private Games: Chapter One” began with high-speed wiggly group movement, then sustained an illusion of spirited improvisation through overlapping solos and outbursts of such gambits as unison face-making, pelvis-thrusting, hip-swinging and torso-shaking. But it never grew more clever than when Guzmán Rosado controlled and conducted the cast’s every move as if dancers were his puppets.

Music by Bach and Haydn accompanied the more frantic sequences, with sustained drumming connecting some of the other sections. Along the way company codirector Lillian Rose Barbeito and Matthew Rich (a master of ballet jumps) gave deliberately obnoxious speeches flattering the audience — each claiming Rosado as husband. He seemed to have no preference and, indeed, a breezy exploration of same-sex partnering turned up in all three pieces on Thursday.

The premiere of Arthur Pita’s “Death Defying Dances” offered another antic pileup of effects — this one keyed to nine songs by Judy Henske, billed as “Queen of the Beatniks.” A glistening mobile canopy designed by Yann Seabra kept changing the configuration of the stage; Seabra’s colorful beachwear clothed the dancers in bright prints. Once again BodyTraffic chose a choreographer willing to try just about anything — bubble effects, toy critters, lip-synched chatter, a fake baby-bump, stylized murder, a dancer in drag (Rich)  and lots of  sharply projected dance technique.


But if Pita showcased the skill and versatility of the six dancers, he consistently trivialized some iconic songs: “Empty Bed Blues,” for instance, and “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long.”  A kiss that caused the recipient to swoon to the floor remained a key movement-theme of the work: the first and last thing on view. But the little dance playlets Pita devised to show us the stories in the songs seldom left any room for deeply expressive performances.       

An exception that exposed the emotional shallowness of the piece as a whole: Kudra’s epic solo to “Danny Boy,” brilliantly in the moment, in the music and full of feeling. Did the first paragraph of this review call the program inconsequential? Apologies. Dancing this powerful is always consequential.

Besides the dancers already mentioned, the company included Joseph Davis and Lindsey Matheis. Performances continue through Saturday.



Where: The Broad Stage, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Tickets: $40 and up (subject to change)


Info: (310) 434-3200,


Follow The Times’ arts team @culturemonster.


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