Celebrate Dance blends local troupes on one stage

It is pitch black. Slowly a dark reddish glow lights the stage. A slim woman dressed in tight black shorts and a loose tank top walks out and, chest forward, dives to the floor, landing on her hands. She lies on her side, knees bent, and slowly rolls onto her back. She raises an arm, her fist clenched, and curls into a fetal pose on her knees. As she quickly rises, looks up and reaches out … it is as if she were being born. Or perhaps it is the memory of her birth.

That is what dancer Lydia Zimmer says is the basis of “Memoriae,” a structured improvisation that played at Live Arts Los Angeles in November as part of the “Transient Truths, a collaborative dance show” — memory within the human body. “I tap into my personal past … memories to produce feelings on stage and express them through movements,” Zimmer said of how she dances, with each performance producing new movements.

“Memoriae,” performed to the ambient electronic musical work “Während,” by German composer Marsen Jules, is mesmerizing and may evoke ethereal, personal memories for those who watch Zimmer dance. The Nova Scotia native will perform the piece at the seventh incarnation of Celebrate Dance, which brings local companies together for one night of eclectic performances that range from modern to classical, at the Alex Theatre in Glendale on March 3.

It was at the Live Arts show that Celebrate Dance founder and producer Jamie Nichols said she first saw Zimmer — a magna cum laude fine arts graduate of the Boston Conservatory Dance Division — perform.

“I made an on-the-spot decision and added her to the lineup,” Nichols said. “I usually don't do that, [but I was] that compelled by how amazing this young person was.”

Nichols, who produces the entire show — marketing, press, fundraising — on her own, usually scouts a year in advance to add new talent to Celebrate Dance, which has sold out the past four of its six years. Nichols has received the Lester Horton Dance Award for Outstanding Achievement for Production of a Festival three years in a row for his production of the event.

Several companies performing in this year's show have also been recognized, including the Los Angeles-based Hysterica Dance Company, which was Horton-nominated three times for Best Performance by a Dance Company.

The modern dance troupe, founded by Artistic Director Kitty McNamee, will perform a piece that McNamee said will contain “broad sweeps of movement, like the sea, with long stretches with a group of dancers.” McNamee, a prolific choreographer for television, music videos and stage (recently including “La Traviata” for Los Angeles Opera), worked closely on the piece with composer Bruno Louchouarn, who created an original score.

One sentiment echoed by Zimmer and McNamee is how grateful they are — as a solo artist and a local dance company — to perform in such a space as the Alex Theatre, a registered historic landmark with more than 1,400 seats, as well as to present their works with other esteemed local companies and choreographers.

“It is so hard to present our work in an elegant way with other companies that you admire,” McNamee said. “It is a pretty cool opportunity. We each develop our voices separately, and it's a great opportunity to have them presented together.”

One of Nichols' main goals in founding Celebrate Dance was to give artists a large, professional space to show their work.

“I know what it's like to struggle to get into a venue like the Alex,” Nichols said, adding that many venues don't have dressing rooms, a green room, water backstage, or a stage with wings.

Nichols takes care of all the details, from making sure performers have their names on their dressing room doors to recording the performance for the companies.

“All they have to do is rehearse and perform … it's my gift to them.”


What: “Celebrate Dance"

When: 8 p.m. March 3

Where: Alex Theatre, N. Brand Blvd., Glendale

Tickets: $16 to $36

Info: celebratedance.org

Copyright © 2019, Glendale News-Press
EDITION: California | U.S. & World