The menacing foursome lurked beneath the Grand Park water fountain, emerging from the shadows to appear even more threatening, arms waving against a backlighted cascade of water, backs curved into predatory crouches, feet scuttling across the splash pad.
Choreographed by Brooklyn-based Decadancetheatre artistic director Jennifer Weber, the Los Angeles dancers SHEstreet, Lindiwe McClinton Rose, Maria Malmstrom and Rebekah "Bekah" Denegyal were like kids up to no good in this fierce, folicking hip-hop take on Stravinksy's "The Firebird."
Randi "Rascal" Fleckenstine set the scene ablaze with an electric solo as the title character. As the fallen soul, she revived herself, unfurling her arm into a beautiful stretch, then breaking into a whirl of kicks and headstands that flicked the fountain water into amazing arcs and spirals. If water could be set on fire, Fleckenstine would know how to do it.
The magic of dance stretched beyond the stage Monday during the Music Center's opening night of Moves After Dark. Now in its second season, the initiative to present contemporary dance in unconventional performance spaces in and around the Music Center showcased three L.A. dance troupes, plus the work of Weber, who distilled the immensity of Stravinksy's score into one compact narrative of urban life that felt as timeless as "West Side Story."
Inside the nearby Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the imaginations of Laura Karlin and Jonathan Bryant of Invertigo Dance Theatre went wild. The company's "House Lights Up" offered a flipped perspective, placing the audience at the foot of the stage and the performers among the Dorothy Chandler's vast sea of orchestra seats.
Legs tip-toed and tumbled over chairs, dancers leaped between rows like gazelles, and an aviator-capped Corina Kinnear plucked beautifully arched bodies from between the seats' velvety folds. White, ruffled tunics and leotards by Rosalida Medina completed the company's whimsical display of turning torsos, lyrical lifts and statuesque stances.
At times, Invertigo's inventiveness was almost too unwieldy. To a painfully patchwork of brassy pop, roiling crackles and vintage French cafe music, Karlin and Bryant's choreography veered from poetic flights of fancy to ill-conceived comedy sketches. Twice the ensemble of 10 plopped themselves into the seats and assumed the role of spectator (or perhaps critic), clapping hands at invisible scenes, gasping at imaginary moments and expressing befuddlement on faces, just feet away from the actual audience. One dancer mockingly mouthed, "What was that?"
Better to soar in dreamy states than stumble in stand-up.
Yet nothing could shake the regal and rhythmic confidence of Linda Yudin and Luiz Badaró's Afro-Brazilian dance company, Viver Brasil, which performed Shelby Williams-Gonzalez's "Revealed" on the steps of the Dorothy Chandler's grand staircase with a percussive band.
Four Brazilian goddesses, danced by Gonzalez, Laila Abdullah, Rachel Hernandez and Nagodè Simpson, twirled in sequined hoopskirts with exuberance and joy, while four women in black hoodies brooded over something far more serious. With names like "Trayvon," "Michael" and "Tamir" emblazoned on the backs of their jackets, the dancers alluded to the Black Lives Matter movement — but the dancing itself made an even more powerful political statement.
A glowing Abdullah emanated elegance, grace and power with every sweep of her dress, every wave of her arm, every bend of her back, embodying the strength and resilience needed to mend broken ties, heal fractured bodies and reconcile fraught relationships.
Blue13 Dance Company's "Among Whispers," choreographed by Achinta S. McDaniel, kept the energy going with a rousing garden party of sorts on the Music Center Plaza. The contemporary Indian dance troupe stomped belled heels into the ground with vigor and darted between tree-lined platforms with abandon, like sprightly revelers on a midsummer's eve.
But like a babbling drunk, the piece lost coherence near the end of the evening as the ensemble shifted to another stage at the base of the Music Center's Peace on Earth fountain for a second movement. The procession, carrying long strips of saffron-colored butcher paper over their heads, was beautiful. Yet the after-party, so to speak, was excessively jumpy and freewheeling in form.
"Among Whispers" regained its composure at the very end, when the company ran through Robert Graham's plaza sculpture, "The Dance Door," and spilled onto Grand Avenue, leaving Clinton Kyles and Arun Mathai alone, holding hands within the door's frame. Like Juliet and Romeo, they had found their other half at the night's soiree — magical.
Moves After Dark
When: 8:30 p.m. Aug. 15, 16 and 17
Where: Music Center (and Grand Park), 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles
Info: (213) 972-0711, musiccenter.org/moves
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