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Modern/Contemporary
State Playhouse Theatre at Cal State LA
United States
Greater Los Angeles
California
Los Angeles, CA
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Pennington Dance Group Celebrates 15-years with Concerts March 26 & 27

by Lucy Pollak
March 15, 2016
State Playhouse Theatre at Cal State LA
5151 State University Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90032
(323) 343-3000
Internationally acclaimed Pennington Dance Group celebrates its 15th anniversary with two concerts on March 26 and March 27 at the State Playhouse, located on the campus of Cal State LA (just east of downtown Los Angeles).

The Los Angeles-based modern dance company will offer a challenging program featuring a combination of new choreography, including three premieres, as well as the recreation of historical work such as a rare revival of Bella Lewitzky’s "On the Brink of Time" (1969) with music by Morton Subotnick (the first synthesized music to be commissioned and recorded for a record label).

“'On The Brink of Time" was Bella’s iconic solo that she danced until her retirement at age 61,” explains PDG founder and artistic director John Pennington, a dancer and master teacher with Lewitzy’s company for 14 years — and the only dancer in the world authorized by her to perform the piece. “With its synthesized score and a strobe light, this piece was on the cutting edge of technology when it premiered. Bella would have turned 100 this year. This performance is a tribute to her.”

In addition to "On the Brink of Time," PDG will present a second historical piece, the revival of an earlier PDG work, two premieres, and the premiere of a complete re-working of an older dance from the company’s repertoire.

Pennington and Li Chang Rothermich will dance "The Beloved," choreographed by Lester Horton and Bella Lewitzky in 1948 to an original score by Judith Hamilton. The piece will feature the original set design by Newell Taylor Reynolds, who was Lewitzky’s husband as well as a set designer for her company. Costumes, constructed by Laurie Donati, are based on Horton’s original design.

According to Pennington, "The Beloved" was inspired by a newspaper article about a religious man who beat his wife to death for a suspected infidelity. “It’s timeless in its message and a cautionary reminder about human nature,” he says. “Although there’s a later version credited only to Horton that is sometimes performed, we’ll be recreating the original version that Bella danced and helped create.”

Looking back at PDG’s 15-year history, Danae McWatt will perform "Hearing Change" a powerful solo choreographed by Pennington in 2004 that considers an individual’s course of action as she navigates a path towards her destiny. The work features music by David Karagianis and by San Francisco-based experimental quartet Thuja, and costume design by Karen Weller.

Looking forward to the future, the evening will also showcase three 2016 premieres choreographed by Pennington:

"In Ungoverned Spaces Part #1," dancers Montay Romero and Annalee Traylor expose the potential for risk and discovery in a duet about ungoverned spaces — those places void of central authority where anything can happen — to a score by Tom Peters.

Previously presented as work-in-progress and now receiving its official premiere, "Company of Orbs" is an abstract episodic work that takes its name from hanging globes that share the stage with dancers Danae Mcwatt, Li Chang Rothermich, Edwin A. Sigüenza, Michael Szanyi, Annalee Traylor and Tom Tsai. With their geometric design, the orbs are playful, circular, colorful, celestial, buoyant and mysterious — as is the dance. Music is by William Duckworth and costumes are designed by Diana MacNeil.

Finally, looking both back and ahead, the premiere of "Skins and Screens" is a completely re-worked and re-choreographed version of 2006’s "Skins, Screens and Trees." Using two trios of dancers — Rothermich, Szanyi and Tsai in "Skins," and Mcwatt, Sigüenza and Traylor in "Screens" — Pennington re-imagines these elements, often used as barriers or dividers, as agents of transformation, catching moments of physical metamorphosis through shadow and light and challenging us to rethink our multiple identities.

“Revisiting this ten-year-old piece feels appropriate for a milestone performance like this,” Pennington concludes. “Only the score by Edgar Rothermich remains.”

In addition to his role as artistic director of Pennington Dance Group and ARC in Pasadena, John Pennington serves as co-director of the Lewitzky Dance Gallery and teaches dance courses at both Pomona College and California State University Long Beach. His choreography has been presented at venues worldwide, most recently at the 2015 Beijing Dance Festival. His company has performed across the United States and abroad presenting new work, established repertory and historic reconstructions alongside classes, workshops, lectures and teacher training seminars. He is the recipient of numerous grants and awards including support from California Community Foundation, Pasadena Cultural Affairs, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, Princess Grace Foundation, Z. Clark Branson Foundation, the Durfee Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Lighting design for the 15th Anniversary Concerts is by Matt Schumacher. The concerts are made possible by the generous support of the College of Arts and Letters at Cal State LA.

Pennington Dance Group 15th Anniversary Concerts take place on Saturday, March 26 at 7:30 p.m.* and Sunday, March 27 at 2:00 p.m. (*Please note early curtain time on Saturday.) Tickets are $22, general admission, and $16 for students with valid ID. The State Playhouse is located at 5151 State University Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90032 (on the campus of Cal State LA). Parking is available for $3 on the rooftop level of Parking Lot C. For reservations and information, call 626-204-0331 or go to www.penningtondancegroup.org
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