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Jessica Abrams
Performance Reviews

Dancer-Choreographer Rebecca Bruno talks about Home LA performance series

by Jessica Abrams
December 5, 2014
From downtown loft to Valley ranch home, Los Angeles offers housing options to suit all tastes and styles (rents and home prices notwithstanding). Landscape informs dwelling which informs mood and style. We can be one person in a ramshackle cabin in Echo Park and another in a condo in West Los Angeles. We can be over the moon for mid-century furnishings in a Hollywood Hills house cantilevered over a hill, then rapt for a homey Craftsman feel in a cave-like bungalow in West Adams. Few cities offer this kind of shape-shifting that only a few minutes on a freeway allows. This is precisely what Rebecca Bruno sought to explore with Home LA, a coming together of dancers and choreographers for performances in different Los Angeles homes. Bruno asked that the choreographers shape their pieces around the different settings in which they were presenting work.

I caught up with Bruno during a unique performance in a downtown loft in which only she was performing. I walked in late to find about twenty-five people sitting on the floor, all meditating, as per Bruno's instructions. After she had us up on our feet moving around the room with a partner – each of us taking turns emulating the other's style of movement - Bruno began to dance.

She began by lying curled up on the floor facing a wall, with audience members sitting around the room. Then she started to move, at times prancing and at times ambling slowly around the room. She took time to stop and stare into space the way one does when their home or, more specifically, as one does when faced with an empty apartment. She took long "naps", snuggling close to audience members, conscious of us and yet in her own world.

The piece, done without music, seemed to speak to a level of comfort. I spoke to Bruno about her work as a dancer and choreographer and Home LA in particular.

Jessica Abrams: So what inspired Home LA?

Rebecca Bruno: That's a good question. My father hosts jazz concerts in his house and he's been doing it since 1992. It started in Santa Barbara and now he lives in Davis. He plays piano and he's a computer scientist [laughs]. He loves jazz and he's invited jazz artists that he really likes to come and play in the house and they invite friends and neighbors. It's a potluck dinner with two sets of music. It's been the same exact format for over twenty years so I think that when I was younger and I was at those events, I noticed that various people were in the room: my dad's colleagues, my mom's friends, my friends' parents, neighbors. It was really fun for me as a kid to see everyone together and I think that's probably why I gravitate to doing things in homes. I studied dance and so when I moved to Los Angeles I wanted to continue this – performance in the house. I did it a couple of times in San Diego when I lived there. I think the inspiration is about sight-sensitive dance and the way people live in this city. How the dance process affects domestic space and what it's like to do a dance rehearsal in your home. How does dance affect interior space? What are all the things that unfold out of that?

JA: Do you want to talk a little but about how people live in this city?

RB: We've been in Mount Washington, Pacific Palisades, Highland Park, El Segundo and now Downtown. So we've seen a number of small bungalows and rolling expansive outdoor properties as well as tiny boxes where people live and work.

JA: What kinds of work are you focusing on now?

RB: This work I've been doing for the past seven months and it has to do with empathic viewing, the unknown and the possibilities of space. So the first half is me guiding the audience. I'm attempting to bring it into a state of mind or a kind of way of being in their bodies in relationship to other moving bodies that I will then perform. So it's a practice that I've developed in the studio alone and in this format which I'm calling "Beginning," I'm hoping to bring people into a more open space – like the abyss of the unknown and how do we experience that? How do we view someone empathically by feeling rather than thinking?

JA: And when you say "empathic viewing," is that a concept someone else developed or is that your idea?

RB: It's not my idea. I'm sure it exists. I'm a craniosacral therapist and it's something that I'm engaged with in that practice. Empathic viewing has come out of doing this a number of times and doing that exercise where we're walking behind someone and wondering, what is it like to be in this body, or this system? Without analyzing, without judging. Just coming back into your own physical experience. But this [today's performance] was a unique experience. My practice today was inside ofHome LA, but that's not generally what Home LA is about. Home LA is about activating the dance community here, connecting with residents in various neighborhoods and making connections.

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