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Luminario Ballet Soars to New Heights

by Joanne Zimbler
April 30, 2016
Fais Do Do
5257 W Adams Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90016
(323) 931-4636

Featured Dance Company:

Luminario Ballet
Luminario Ballet (office)
PO Box 252122
Los Angeles, CA 90025
818-395-6506
www.luminarioballet.org

Look up in the sky: it’s a dancer, an aerialist, no - a superhero - with superhuman abilities. To learn that the performers of Luminario Ballet’s LedZAerial are indeed mortals like you and me seems harder to explain than the fact that they are indeed actually superheroes! The flying feats of fancy leave the mere spectator dizzied and confused. Are these people who I may run into in Ralph’s shopping for normal human food, or walking down Ventura Boulevard on a chilly winter day, in a human jacket, cold like the rest of us? That they are like the rest of us I would argue is impossible. I would also contend that what they do is impossible, in the abstract, if I had not seen it myself.

But I did see it myself this past weekend at the 10th anniversary of 2006’s debut of LedZAerial (although I tend now to question if it wasn’t just a dream…). According to Luminario’s founder and director Judith FLEX Helle, it was on her back at Laurel Canyon looking up at the sky one afternoon, years ago, that she conceived of an aerial show set to Led Zeppelin music. Which makes sense because it must have been a diurnal dream, a transcendent reverie which produced such a vision, as the nights’ meditation on preternatural qualities proved.

Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog”, was performed by a string quartet to open and to set the mood for the dream to come. If it’s hard to imagine such a hard rocking song interpreted by strings, you understand the dominant impression of the evening. If not experienced personally, one would have trouble conceiving, in the abstract, of the night’s performances! The quartet continued throughout the evening punctuating the dance/aerial performances, mercifully giving us a moment to recover from the spectacle witnessed prior before returning to the funhouse.

The first performance was a premier piece, not part of the original show, by famed aerialist, choreographer, and filmmaker, to list but just a few of her roles, Dreya Weber. In a skimpy black dress, Weber, on her trapeze, showed us why she was the featured performer. Not to a Zeppelin song but to Willie Dixon’s “I Can’t Quit You” performed by the string quartet, Weber made her way across the empty space around which the audience sat, to the stage where she perched on a stool listening to the music. As if compelled by the sensuous sounds, and dressed sumptuously in her own little sensual dress, she seemed forced to abide and eventually move her incredible limbs along with the music. Her seduction of the audience was immediate as we sat agape at the impossible upside-down splits and the general physical phenomenon that is Ms. Weber. She writhed sylph-like, exquisitely demonstrating her prowess, reminding us through every ascension how she has ascended to aerial royalty. As it ended, it was as if there was an audience consensus that the feeling of watching her walk off of the stage was the feeling of being jilted by a lover, thrown over and left with a broken heart.

Luminario reminded us with it’s next piece that it is indeed primarily a contemporary ballet company, with a performance to Zeppelin’s “The Battle of Evermore”, a Celtic-like song featuring Robert Plant’s famous voice along with guest vocalist Sandy Dennis, accompanied only by a mandolin and guitar. In the flirty light-hearted jaunt of a dance, donned in harlequin stripes, two men and two women on pointe gamboled playfully. The women were lifted and twirled; the group pique-turned in a circle; they hopped and smiled. Their cavorting was so cutesy as to be in conflict with the emotionality of the pared down seriousness of the Zeppelin song. The effect of the juxtaposition though was powerful, the dichotomy highlighting the song’s beauty and vice versa, a potent emotional resonance almost palpable in the audience.

The subsequent performances were aerial, featuring some ballet. “What is and What Should Never Be” was an acid trip come to life in dazzling twirling human form. Watching this as well as performances to “Ramble On”, “Ten Years Gone”, and “Kashmir”, it’s difficult not to imagine that these performances are exactly what Led Zeppelin had in mind when they wrote their music; this was the visual manifestation of the sound. The performances featured frenzied activity, earth bound dancers suddenly alighting in thrilling explosions of movement on rings, ropes, and silks which morphed into billowing white curtains. Hushed brooding moments ceded to the fevered deliriousness of the performer’s harrowing triumphs of heights and bodily control. Especially in the final performance, as the aerialists moved higher and higher up their silks, it was hard not to wonder about the possibility that these were not indeed mortals but rather gods ascending towards heaven. When it was over, it seemed necessary to confirm with your neighbor whether what you thought you’d seen had really occurred.

Luminario’s courage to go beyond the confines of ballet into the lofty world of aerial affords them the opportunity to experiment with unique artistic achievements. With LedZAerial, they claim their singular spot in Los Angeles’ dance world. Luminario is still a young company, but its talent, innovation, and vitality enables them to attract guest performers such as Carrie Lee Riggins and Dreya Weber and are what make them so successful. It’s not as if we needed it, but LedZAerial is a vivid, inspiring, and luminous reminder that Luminario is here to continue to illuminate the dance company constellation of Los Angeles. All you have to do is look up.
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