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Jessica Lang Dance — no relation to the Oscar winner — to perform at the Irvine Barclay Theatre

An unidentified member of the Jessica Lang Dance company performs. The award-winning troupe will make an appearance Sept. 28 at the Irvine Barclay Theatre on the campus of UC Irvine.
(Photo by Christopher Duggan)

Not to be confused with a certain Oscar-winning actress who spells her last name with an “e,” this Jessica Lang is an award winner in the field of dance, her style an amalgamation of classical ballet and modern dance.

“I’m trained in both equally, and so I have access to both techniques whenever needed,” said Lang, who returns with her 10-member Jessica Lang Dance to the Irvine Barclay Theatre at UC Irvine Sept. 28. “I like to combine movements that are filled with beauty, simplicity and artistry with use of the ground and gravity and other traits of modern dance.”

The result, she said, is dance connected to the human experience, one “full of emotion and soul.”

“I’m not inspired by dance,” said Lang, who graduated from the Juilliard School in New York City and danced in Twyla Tharp’s company, THARP!, for two years. “That’s not to say I’m not respectful of choreographers. But I’m inspired by the world around me, by all the little things that I like to call ‘winks’ that go into the human condition. I’m inspired by life and making it a dance.”

Spending the first 13 post-Tharp years as a freelancer creating dances for different companies before forming her own, Long Island City, Queens-based company in 2011, Lang brings five of her “wink”-inspired pieces to the Barclay, where she last performed in February 2016. She said she carefully chose the program to “show the diversity of the dancers, who are capable of modern that’s still very grounded in classical ballet.”

The centerpiece of the Barclay program — the second stop of a 19-city tour ending in early March 2019, part of a season of more than 50 performances — will be her latest work, “This Thing Called Love,” set to popular songs recorded by the ageless Tony Bennett.

“I just wanted to make something set to classic popular music,” Lang said of the nine-dancer, 22-minute work, a commission from the Performing Arts Center at Purchase College in New York, where her company premiered it May 5 . “And since we’re based in Queens and he’s from Queens, I wanted to do this.

“I’m just so grateful he accepted and was gracious in giving me permission to use his music.”

There’s no particular story attached to “This Thing Called Love,” named after a Cole Porter song, “What is This Thing Called Love?” recorded by Bennett, 92, who was born and raised in Astoria, Queens.

“Actually, it’s about love,” Lang said. “It’s about all the diverse ways we love. And it shows what my dancers are capable of, physically.”

“This Thing Called Love” concludes the Barclay program, which begins with “Lyric Pieces” (2012), set to the piano miniatures of Edvard Grieg and which Lang described as “imaginative” and “more in the classical ballet vein.”

This is followed by “Aria I” (2013), “glow” (2017) and, after intermission, “The Calling,” excerpted from “Splendid Isolation II” (2006).

“That’s where I come out in a big white skirt,” she said of the piece she called “my iconic solo.”

Recipient of a 2014 New York Dance and Performance (“Bessie”) Award and 2017 Arison Award (by the National YoungArts Foundation) and with more than 75 works to her credit, Lang has certainly been making a name for herself in dance. She’s no “other” Jessica Lang(e).

“Oh, yes, I get a lot of that,” she said of people remarking on the similarity of their names. “I take it all in stride.”

If You Go

What: Jessica Lang Dance.

When: 8 p.m. Sept. 28.

Where: Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive, UC Irvine.

Cost: Tickets start at $55.

Information: (714) 854-4646, tickets@thebarclay.org.


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