Lineage opens Brand Dance Series with heart-breaking prowess

Lineage Dance opened this year’s Brand Dance Series on May 15 with works that displayed the Pasadena-based company’s tremendous athletic prowess and lyrical grace, making the free, Sunday afternoon performance a lovely way to celebrate Leslie C. Brand’s 152nd birthday at the Brand Library and Art Galleries.

The artistic director-choreographer of Lineage Dance, Hilary Thomas, creates dance works that tackle issues that touch our lives — body image, aging, breast cancer, mental illness and the workings of the brain — in her abstract, modern dance vocabulary.

As a choreographer, Thomas utilizes lifts and intricate balances to poignantly explore how people support each other and help each other overcome the unkind changes in their lives.

For example, in an excerpt from Thomas’ full-length ballet about women’s struggle with breast cancer, “Healing Blue,” dancers Michelle Kolb and Teya Wilvington explore the mutually supportive relationship of two sisters diagnosed with breast cancer at the same time.

The work, set to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” begins with Wilvington and Kolb sitting next to each other on chairs with their hands folded in their laps. They move their heads toward each other until they rest on each other’s shoulder in a sisterly embrace filled with hope and fear. As the battle with cancer begins, the two dancers lift each other, dance separately and balance together dangerously upon the lightweight chairs in a heart-breaking display of love and courage.

The company itself had to overcome technical obstacles such as sound problems, which forced the dancers to finish its opening piece, “Body Heart,” to silence. In the piece, Thomas, who teaches dance and seventh-grade science at Flintridge Preparatory School in La Cañada Flintridge, explores how women can learn to love their bodies.

After Thomas and Wilvington danced their athletic duet to “Love Will Come Back to Me,” they were joined by four more female dancers. The music failed, but the dancers did not miss a beat or step, instinctively relying on the power of the rhythm of their breathing to keep them in sync. When the work ended, the audience of more than 100 people rewarded the dancers with a long and boisterous ovation.

With Thomas’ iPod dock at the ready, sound was returned to the dance concert, including “Healing Blue” and the second half of a duet danced by Molly Bricton and Andrew Pearson from “The Art of Evolution,” which dramatically explores how manic-depression affects a relationship.

After the dance concert, audience members had the opportunity to ask questions of Thomas and her dancers about their creative process and inspiration.

Vicki Smith Paluch has been writing about dance for more than three decades.


What: The Associates of Brand Library Dance Series

When: 2 p.m. today featuring Kybele Dance Theatre, which fuses together elements of modern and ethnic dance styles; and 2 p.m. June 26 with Invertigo Dance, which is known for its whimsical and wild choreography.

Where: Brand Library and Art Galleries, 1601 W. Mountain St., Glendale

Cost: free

Contact: (818) 548-2051

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