Category Archives: Movement Techniques

The Aeroplane Is a Hell of a Ride at LOFT Ensemble

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move
The Aeroplane


 

Wildly enthusiast and completely over-written, The Aeroplane, or How Low: An Autobiography (sort of), now playing downtown Los Angeles at LOFT Ensemble, with all of its crammed dialog, occasionally messy stage craft, and actor performances that need emotional reigning, thoroughly captures the inner machinations of a millennial mind on the verge of total implosion.

It’s a crap shoot as to whether Vince (played by Kristian Maxwell-McGeever) is going to emerge unscathed in his journey of witnessing key character-shaping events of his life, while in a self-induced alcohol and downers near-overdose, on a flight home to face his beloved grandfather’s death.  

A lot of ‘stuff’ happens in order to get to the final act, ‘payday’ in this little bit of everything soup.  When it comes, it actually turns out to be extremely moving.  

Each scene is an increasingly sinister rewind of Vince’s destructive childhood and teenaged then college aged past, guided by a psyche fabricated Al (played by Jon Tosetti), who on one hand controls the pace and action but yet, convinces a confused Vince that the entire episode is of his own making — in his head.  

Post Super Bowl Sunday night’s show, writer/director Mitch Rosander explained that there [‘were so many words in my brain, so many ideas’].  That is clear.  It was obviously difficult for Mr. Rosander to choose which parts to leave out.  A little less would be perfectly fine to serve the piece a lot more.  Most of the tamer dance transitions could be shaved entirely for a single presentation of powerfully strategic impact.  The device of the Fog character is not always clear.  And Vince’s many outbursts could be held back for a more intense arc.  Mr. Maxwell-McGeever’s character, despite all the outwardly bad behavior, is very empathetically written  especially young Vince played evenly by actor Leon Mayne.  And Maxwell-McGeever himself certainly has the range, power and skill to be directed for scopic emotion. 

What The Aeroplane does achieve, undeterred, is phenomenal risk in the writing and presentation.  Impressively so.  

Mr. Rosander has penned quite a story that on one hand, exploring isolation, fear and self-worth, is simplistic, and on the other, exercises imaginative spectacle, which, in fact, in some aspects could indeed go farther into the extreme, including in the lighting and sound design, beautifully crafted by Math Richter and Suze Campagna and Dean Hovey respectively.  

The Aeroplance

For the full program and cast list click the image >>>>>>>>>>>>>

The Aeroplane or How Low: An Autobiography (sort of)

Now Playing Until March 6th

Sundays: 7:00pm
Saturdays: 8:00pm

Loft Ensemble
929 E 2nd St #105
Los Angeles, CA

For tickets and information call the Box Office: (213) 680-0392 or www.loftensemble.org

The Explosive Urban Identity of Black Girl Linguistic Play at REDCAT

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move
BGLP Image #3 - Photo by Christopher Duggan gia-on-the-move dance

Photo by Christopher Duggan

Director and Choreographer Camille A. Brown was careful to stress the complexities of Black Girl Linguistic Play – substance over mere style and what it meant in the societal spectrum for Black Women – how they move, how they feel in their own bodies, not to be ashamed of themselves. To be aggressive, strong, playful, meaningful, resilient — and not just sexual.  

The history of communication, evolved over time, once outright forbidden, couched in natural physical syntax, played out in jiggling, jumping, bounding, sliding and shuffling, loud and explosive-as-a-cannon ringing across a harbor, at REDCAT earlier this month with a special performance by Camille A. Brown & Dancers, a group recognized for its introspective approach to cultural themes through visceral movement and socio-political dialogues.

In #BlackGirlLP, found is an absolute vocal power of the spoken word without uttering a single sound.  It is the willingness to be challenged and to challenge the very idea of identity of a black female in urban American culture within the framework of dance.   

As I witnessed a raw, naive energy throughout the piece, I couldn’t help but feel that although #BlackGirlLP could continue its discussion in the academic refuge of the downtown Los Angeles space, or in any other enclosed tour venue, its voice, its very existence demanded a ubiquitous, “Liberté!” in the zeitgeist. A resounding and final, “This is we” in the face of commercialism and stereotypes, classifications or tightly constructed boxes.  

With original music compositions (live music by pianist, Scott Patterson and electric bassist, Tracey Wormworth), Brown uses the rhythmic play of the African-American dance vernacular including social dancing, double-dutch, steppin’, tap, Juba, ring shout, and gesture to evoke childhood memories of self-discovery.

Intimate and exciting, I’m hoping this piece makes a quick return or goes viral somewhere online.  No young African-American girl, in truth, no girl at all, should miss this opportunity although specifically here unique to African-Americans, to celebrate all the facets of what a female really is.  Utterly organic and above all clear, every familiar, excessive, tricky, edgy, fun moment is a transporting experience.

CABD - Mora-Amina Parker by Matt Karas gia-on-the-move dance

Photo by Matt Karas

Gia #HFF15 #Reviews The Three Musketeers: Clowns with Swords

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

Clowns with Swords: The Three Musketeers

I admit clowns are not my thing.  They kind of scare me. I don’t always think they are funny.  And Clowns with Swords, although most distinctively contrasted from other mere buffoons, and immeasurably nonsensical are no “merry-andrews” either.

Imagine Alexandre Dumas’ adventurous heroes in what you may have assumed till now a romantic classic thanks to many cavalier film versions brought to life with beautiful dashing casts, elaborate costumes and awe-inspiring court scenery.  Then pause…

Clowns with Swords has definitely not only deconstructed this tale through the twisted lens of a clown, but in fact through extreme absurdity has lent a more accurate character portrayal in the way Dumas wrote them in the novel – less appealing infantry men willing to commit violence over slight insults and treating those they assume are their social or moral inferiors with contempt and cruelty.

Proportionately tangled the expertly orchestrated mechanics: aggressive physical movement choreography, stunts, mime, aerial and wire work, go a long way in telling their version of The Three Musketeers.  Fooling around, silly gags and slapstick diversions drive this piece in the capture and attempted execution of their female nemesis all for a magical paper that will create anyone’s own ending to a story.  The hot pursuit of their own outlandish brand of justice actually turns them into the villains they are supposedly hunting and we ultimately route for the bad girl as she thwarts them.

As billed – vulgar and irreverent, hilarious and poetic – The Three Musketeers: Clowns with Swords is a much meatier enterprise than most.  No simple jesters allowed. Belly laughs will be scarce.  Expect instead to be sufficiently captivated and sometimes appalled but well entertained by this piece.

Mixed.

One more performance!

Sunday June 28 2015, 5:30 PM | 1hr

Actors Company (OTHER SPACE THEATER) 916 N.Formosa Ave map

Tickets: http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/2238?tab=details

Modern Dance Legend Mary Anthony Dies at 97

The Floor Is Your Friend: The Model Critic Reviews

Zena Rommett–Floor–Barre Technique–For Teachers
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Reviewed by Carlos Stafford, The Model Critic
Zena Rommett, movement techniquies, rehabilitation, floor-barre
 City Center, NYC, recently hosted a teacher’s training program for the Zena Rommett Floor–Barre Technique. Teachers, and those wanting to be certified, came from many places on the globe to review their methods and to learn anew. The morning I attended, master teacher Charlotte Furst from Sweden gave a very clear and calm class to attentive students.
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Zena Rommett Floor–Barre Technique has been with us for almost fifty years. A former ballerina, Ms. Rommett first taught her methods at the Joffrey School of American Ballet; the technique essentially gives ballet dancers barre training on the floor, thereby eliminating the intrusion of gravity and balance in developing neurological pathways in the body.
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Ballet, and dance in general, requires certain physical necessities– alignment, turnout,  and lengthening, for example.  Tendu’s, coupe’s, passe’s, and degage’s with pointed or flexed feet can be slowly practiced on the floor to give the dancer the desired placement.
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I sat and watched class with Camille Rommett, Zena’s gracious daughter who heads up the Foundation.  Camille schooled me on some of the finer points as the class progressed, and told me that Zena always gave dancers what they needed, not what she knew. They never use the term “stretch” as I inadvertently spoke, but preferred the term, lengthening, as in the spine, back of the legs, and arms.
The devotee’s since the 1960’s have continued to be enthusiastic, and the technique has been a favorite of many past and present stars: Judith Jamison, Lars Lubovitch, Tommy Tune, and Patrick Swayze, to name a few luminaries. At present, Camille said this method is being taught worldwide, and on numerous colleges campuses and national dance studios.  Next month they’ll offer another teacher’s training in Florence, Italy.
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Basically, while working slowly on the floor, nothing is set to chance.  At the barre, things may move quickly and the student may get used to working improperly, and develop bad habits; on the floor there is a lack of tension, and without music, the dancer, along with an aware teacher, can focus of his or her needs.  Incidentally, this technique has been used  as a rehabilitation method for those who have injuries too. It’s easy to see how effective this method would be for someone who has had a knee or ankle injury, for example, and wants to activate and strengthen those areas.
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Camille also said that Zena emphasized transitions as well. Having been a ballerina, she well understood the necessity of linking movements together with proper alignment. Ms. Furst underscored this by coaxing the students to relax during their movements, not to struggle, and to become more fluid, with a strong center and relaxed face.
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For those who don’t have studios nearby that offer these classes, many DVD’s are available for the young dancer, the professional, elders, and injured.  I’m a convert, and consider this technique very valuable for dancers and non-dancers alike.  Why would anybody not want the effects of a longer, stronger, and balanced body?
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Dance Finds You, You Don’t Find Dance–Martha Graham Graham 101

May 11, 2012 marks Martha Graham’s 118th birthday anniversary.
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This year as a gift for Martha, I asked for something special.  Since the mid 1910s, when she began her studies at the newly created Denishawn School of Dancing and Related Arts, Martha Graham has been influencing dance on an iconic scale and far greater on a personal level with dancers and non-dancers around the world.
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Such has been the case with our very own, Model Critic Carlos Stafford, who I begged to finally talk about how he came to know and love and thrive in a modern art form to triumph over a life changing set back as a traditional athlete with a sports career glistening in the future.
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~ getting personal with Martha Graham, Carlos Stafford, The Model Critic
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At 9 AM Monday, I walked tentatively into the church on Cal Berkeley’s campus. It was now a bare converted dance space with a large beautiful oak floor and high windows, light streaming in.  First thing I see is RT, a former baseball pitcher on Cal’s great team, in a black leotard and tights. Wow!  Really!  What is he doing here?  He looks over. I was shocked.  Class was in session and I watched.
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As I looked around, I was bombarded with the dancers moving across the floor in athletic unison–moves that were totally foreign to me.  It looked difficult and strange but lyrical and challenging.  There were beautiful girls, finely toned bodies, and strong men.  The teacher was demanding and energetic, getting the best from the dancers, like coaches I had all through my previous 15 years of organized baseball and football. I was drawn in.  If RT is doing it, it must be OK.  But is this me?
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Backing up a couple years earlier, I was sitting pretty, everything going like magic, my college team winning, late in the game.  I was the starting fullback, felt strong, and was having a good game–the position was mine on a deep roster of players.  Forty seconds left, then pow, and awkward hit from the side.  Surprise, blown knee; that, along with bad trainers, poor advice, no safety net, see ya!  That ended it all.  Alone.
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I needed something physical, hard and non-contact.  Lieing around stoned in our communal house years later, Marjorie, one of my more aware friends from NYC, suggested dance.  It was a leap of faith.  It was the Martha Graham Technique–everyone knew but me.  The program was run by Marni and David Wood, dancers from the actual company back East, which of course was the Mecca of dance I kept hearing.  Their mission seemed to be to bring this technique, in all authenticity and dedication, to the great unwashed West.
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The Woods were adamant and disciplined as they imparted their ethic to the program.  They reminded me of Coach Kovacs, a former Marine, barking out commands, no hand holding. “If you don’t think dance is about bringing your complete energy to class, then leave right now,” Marni would yell.  Silence. We all got the message. Dance was serious business.
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Martha Graham once said, as I remember, that dancers were like race horses, dance them or they’ll sit around eating all day.  That said a lot, and squared up with me–it was the kicking of reluctant nerves, and as the stories revealed, Martha did a lot of kicking.  So did her proteges.
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I was drawn in, had no choice really.  Dance chose me.  Although a little old to be starting dance, I never cared. You started too late, you’ll have a hard time getting into a company, I’d hear.  I didn’t care, it was all white noise, irrelevant.  In those days, in my bailiwick, you weren’t searching for a career, but for something else.  Dance was part of a quest, self authenticity.
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As a football player you are trained in a certain way, and it carried over. At first pass, if didn’t get a dance combination I would smack the wall.  No, not that kind of expression, this is a different emotion, slightly more subtle, please!  Had to refocus, or be embarrassed by that one, strange dignified girl who was perfect every time; the one who studied The Royal Syllabus since age nine, and had weirdly perfect feet, scary placement, and fluid.  Or Allison, who was perfect, and didn’t even realize it; however, the teachers knew better and had a keen eye on her.
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The Graham Technique loomed larger and larger.  I learned about the impact she had on dance, how she was regarded as one of the most influential artist of the twentieth century, up there with Picasso, Stravinsky, Balanchine, and Frank Lloyd Wright  I became familiar with bits and pieces of her masterpieces, and began to realize her prolific choreographic output (Acrobats of Gods, Clytemnestra, Seraphic Dialogue, Errand into the Maze, Appalachian Spring, to name a few), stories of her struggles, past dancers, and those she inspired.  When we entered the studio after a time, we entered reverently and with respect. The dancers knew that precision and attention to detail were paramount, and that the contractions and releases were to be performed correctly, hands, torso, diaphragm, shoulders, head all expressing the movement. Eventually, the style and intent naturally worked its way into our psyches and bodies, and it became more and more relevant. Our bodies changed, our attitudes changed, we were getting connected to a new way of standing, feeling, moving and breathing. That was class!
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Never did get into a company.  They were right. Never aspired to it, it mattered little.  But studying Graham pushed me into all kinds of dance, ballet leading the way.  Later on, Jazz too.  Yes, crazy and backward, but really perfect–it was really all about the movement, and a whole world opened up.  At the end, in Cal’s student production, my friends from our commune showed up, Carl, Ron, Marjorie, Denise and Cheryl, and I received a boisterous Bravo.  That was like scoring a touchdown. Thanks Martha, like many others, I have some special memories.

From Martha Graham to Agnes DeMille

There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.  And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.  The world will not have it.

It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is, nor how it compares with other expressions.  It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.  You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work.  You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you.  Keep the channel open.

No artist is pleased…there is no satisfaction whatever at any time.  There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.