Fine & Performing Arts

Velocity picked up the pace

The dance faculty at Cal State Long Beach put on a show over the weekend that was not without a little craziness.

Velocity, the dance program presented by the CSULB College of The Arts and the Department of Dance, featured work by guest artists Mike Esperanza and Regina Klenjoski, and dance faculty Lorin Johnson, Susan McLain, Sophie Monat and Andrew Vaca. The dance concert, held in the Martha B. Knoebel Dance Theater, had something for everyone, even those a little off-beat.

The opening piece by Johnson, called “Identity Theft,” was filled with sharp, cutting arm movements and nervous breathing. The piece opened with an image of a woman projected on a large screen, walking to the sound of her quickened breath. The dancers moved across the stage as images continued to be projected on the screen. The choreography was fantastic, and the images on the screen were an interesting additive to the performance.

“Landscape,” the piece following “Identity Theft,” was choreographed by Vaca and was enjoyable but not as uniquely crafted as “Identity Theft” or some of the other pieces. The piece opened with one dancer moving to the sounds of wind, and the dancers moved similarly throughout the piece. The opera they danced to set an elegant tone, and I imagined the dancers as flowers in a landscape. The piece ended with the dancers losing their breath, folding back into themselves as a flower might at nightfall. It was a sweet and flowy piece with graceful choreography and soft music.

Klenjoski’s “Captured” came next, and this piece also used images projected onto the backdrop screen. The dancers moved to the sounds of static and base, until the beat changed and an alarm sounds. The images rotated throughout the piece, highlighting each dancer. The photos in the background were interesting, but very distracting and took away from the choreography of the piece. I can recall some beautiful movements, but I think I would have paid more attention to the dancers if there wasn’t the distraction of the photos displayed.

Out of all of the pieces from Thursday night’s performance, McLain’s “Frankfurt” was the most fascinating. The piece premiered in 1983 and was re-envisioned for stage and film this year. The idea behind “Frankfurt” was inspired by the happenings in the red light district of Frankfurt, Germany in 1980 — during the rise of neo-Nazism and the punk culture. In this piece, Vaca and Eloise DeLuca were anarchist punks, and Victor Robles was a Nazi, dressed in a solid gray outfit and donned a red armband with a swastika on it. Movements in this piece were out of control — Vaca and DeLuca danced together, making head movements like they were pecking each other, shaking their heads around as if to get water out of their ears, and hitting themselves by flapping their loose arms around rapidly.

German music played, and on the screen in the background was an excerpt from the film “Susan, A Dancer’s Life” by David Viera. Robles began dancing halfway through the piece and continued to the end. He raised his arm as to hail Hitler numerous times and marched around to the music making sharp, slower movements. The scene ends with Robles sitting in his chair, alternating stretching his legs out and back from his seated position, leaning forward with a sinister look in his eyes. This was one of the craziest, creepiest things I’ve seen in a long time. I was blown away by this piece, and I am still unsure of whether or not I enjoyed it.

“Trio” was a soft ballet piece by Monat, a classical performance by three ballerinas. Each dancer had a solo, moving with elegance across the stage. These women made ballet look effortless.

Velocity ended with “Mold” by Esperanza. The curtain rose to reveal the dancers as they waited offstage. It was neat to see the sides of the stage and the lights, but I think it was a distraction to the choreography. I caught myself thinking why offstage was being shown instead of watching the dancers move a few times. A part that stood out to me was when all the dancers stood still except one, and she moved around the dancers and touched one dancer. That woman began to dance too, and then she touched two of the dancers. Those two started dancing, and so on. It was a beautiful roll off and appeased the eye.

Overall, Velocity was an eclectic compilation of choreography and had something for everyone — slow, flowy pieces, artsy pieces, and a piece about German punk.

The next dance concert is informal, with pieces by MFA students, on Dec. 2 also in the Martha B. Knoebel Dance Theater.

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