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Luminario Ballet's Choose Your Identity Proves the Right Choice for Varied Entertainment

by Joanne Zimbler
June 15, 2019
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

The frustration of choice is real. If you live in Los Angeles and are trying to decide what to do on a Saturday evening, you know all about this. Should I go to the poetry reading, a concert, comedy show or perhaps a dance performance? The options can be daunting.

So why choose just one when there's Judith Judith "FLEX" Helle's Luminario Ballet whose show Choose Your Identity on June 14 offered storytelling and a performance by a celebrated live local musician in addition to their unique blend of ballet, modern and aerial dance performances. It even had a bar.

It was an eclectic evening indeed as Tawny Ellis and her band kicked off the show with two original songs. Ellis and her band were 1860’s chic dressed like characters from the 2003 film "Cold Mountain" with only their electric guitars and amps to remind us of modernity. Ellis’ supple and powerful voice set the tone for the wondrous evening.

The band continued into a third song while the inimitable Kelly Vittetoe, in white leotard and tights, danced a pared down ballet solo. Luminario, in their programs, often overload the senses with stunningly layered and varying styled pieces, so it was nice to momentarily be reminded of the grace, technicality and elegance involved in a strong solo ballet piece.

Vittetoe continued in that vein, but with some company in a pas de trois to Ellis and band's songs “Love Life” and “Pretend Love”. Two male dancers alternated in skillfully lifting Vittetoe in the air. She also made use of an aerial silk onstage to perform the gymnastic ballet's choreography. The loveliest moment came when David Kim pushed Vittetoe and dancer Corey Goei as they dangled together on the silk.

John Pennington, formerly a dancer and teacher with Bella Lewitzky, and now the director of his own eponymous company, reconstructed Lewitzky's 1992 piece “Turf”, which was inspired by the Los Angeles riots and which has a theme certainly not lost on today's audiences.

The highly energetic piece introduced its four male dancers Kim, Goei, AJ Abrams and Louis Williams individually aloft their own crates. Their opposition to one another was immediately palpable through animal like movements which articulated their suspicion of one another. It wasn’t long before the men were engaged in full out battles. The intricate, complex choreography was a breathtaking sight to behold against the sparse setting, costuming and music. Each defending their own turf, they encroached on one another’s in a truly thought-provoking statement on the impact of tribalism.

Next was Helle's aerial work “Lift Ticket”, which lifted the dancers as well as the mood after “Turf’s” heady theme.

A carnival of a dance, the piece’s quirky music and costumes first indicated a lighthearted jaunt. Its trio of women Vittetoe, Sadie Black and Jessica Delgado walked on pointe only to be suddenly flipped by one of the work's three men into the air where they were carried about in upside down splits. The music’s rhythm dictated their walking with attitude about the stage and sporadic bursts of movement. If there’s a balletic interpretation of strutting, these ballerinas had it down in the showy little romp in which the dancers seemed to say, “I don’t really care what you think, but hey, look at the cool stuff I can do.” And as if we weren’t impressed, the dancers left the stage and returned to taunt the audience with playful movements from behind a large piece of fabric that spanned the stage. Eventually they relented and let the viewer in on the fun that included more aerial silk work. The geometric shapes their bodies formed, together with their carnival-like leotards had the look of a painting by expressionist artist Paul Klee.

Dancer Dreya Weber then performed “Witch Piece,” a very different iteration than the one she’d performed last year with the company when it was then a work-in- progress. Instead of recalling her “witchy” ancestry, Weber began on stage rebuking an absent, unidentified lover. She then found a seemingly random male audience member who she brought up on a crate with her and began rebuking him as if in a lover’s quarrel before she removed her somewhat business professional looking costume to reveal a tiny black negligee underneath and immediately hopped on an aerial perch for some jaw-dropping feats on high to bluesy Led Zeppelin guitars

“Witch Piece” seamlessly led into “I Can’t Quit You” from Helle's LedZAerial, a full-length show I’d seen and written about in 2017. This piece though was no longer a solo performance by Weber but was reworked to include Abrams who partnered her on the perch in a performance as astonishing as it was sexy. The chemistry between the two was palpable as they together accomplished radical triumphs over gravity.

Finally, it was a full blast of LedZAerial to the song “Ramble On.” Luminario's performers did anything but ramble. They rollicked, soared, flew and contorted. Some twirled and twisted on hoops while ballerinas moved in piqué turns and jeté jumps across the floor providing a delightful feast for the eyes. Black, Vittetoe, and Kim were the dancers while Delgado, Kevin Scott Cannon and David Contreras were the aerialists.

In between performances Helle took the opportunity to read some stories from her book. The reflections of a dancer’s youth were entertaining and nostalgic. She told of a time when artists built communities and supported one another, recounted the time she met Andy Warhol in NYC, and when she worked in Berlin for a magician who turned out to be a mathematician.

It’s Helle herself though who is the magician with Luminario. The company excels at creating what often feels like a modern day carnival experience. Their productions are a pageantry of wonder and the possibility of what the human body can conceive of and do. Choose Your Identity confirmed that choosing in Luminario Ballet you’re never just choosing dance, you’re choosing a much more varied and grander experience.
Luminario Ballet

Luminario Ballet

Photo © & courtesy of Photographer Unknown

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