From a dance-lover’s vantage, 2017 was a good year. Yes, a really good year in L.A. Thank you to all the dancers, choreographers, directors, scenic and costumes designers, presenters and others who made it so.
And, as I said in this same space two years ago, I wish I had made it to more performances. I winced as I looked back through my calendar, reminded of the shows I missed: Simone Forti with Carmela Dietrich, Meg Stuart, Jonah Bokaer, ODC Dance, Trisha Brown, Limon, The Assembly, Compagnie Hervé Koubi, Syncopated Ladies, Aszure Barton, Dorrance Dance (big regret), Mariinsky Ballet and NW Dance Project. Then there was Dance Camera West…next year for sure.
The increasing number of concerts and diversity of the dance here, is a big part of the ongoing L.A. story. And while there is still no such thing as a Joyce Theater West, there are an increasing number of presenters, joining mainstays like Highways, that have recognized the local gold. I was happy to see the growth of the Los Angeles Dance Festival, which added dates at Theatre Raymond Kabbaz. There are smaller presenters, too, such as Meg Wolfe and We Live in Space and more. L.A. Dance Project moves soon into its downtown home at 2245 E. Washington Blvd. and is promising performances and workshops in 2018. Will it become a hub for the larger dance community? We’ll be watching. I’m thrilled to be witnessing it all and dedicated to sharing your stories.
These were some of the memory-making performances for me, in random order, in 2017:
Alexei Ratmansky’s “Whipped Cream,” at Segerstrom Center in March. I loved this ballet with a nearly ridiculous passion. I’m not much for Richard Strauss (not being a Viennese waltz type), and yet I was listening to, and humming along with, his neglected score from a much earlier production every time I drove south for three of American Ballet Theatre’s five performances. ABT’s dancers performed with the energy that comes from having work of the highest quality made for them; the sets and costumes by artist Mark Ryden were eye-poppingly fantastical; and Ratmansky was at his best, delivering a rich classical vocabulary crafted with cleverness and humor, to tell a whimsical story full of heart and soul.
Jacob Jonas The Company, at Wallis Annenberg Center in January. Watching this newbie as it lifts off is exciting. So, too, are Jonas’ dances, which mix urban street moves with contemporary modern dance. His video work, too, shows off his artist’s eye. He introduced me to talents like Lamonte “Tales” Goode and Anibal Sandoval, and reminded me how much I like Marissa Labog.
Jessica Lang Dance, at Carpenter Performing Arts Center in October. This company has circled through town a lot, and yet, Lang’s spatial design, her painting with bodies in space, in pieces such as “Lines Cubed” and “Glow,” blew me away anew.
L.A. Contemporary Dance, at Diavolo Dance Space in May. This mix of new dances and works-in-progress from various choreographers was a grab bag in many ways. But it made me want to return when the works were more fully finished. (And sorry I didn’t make it to the September show at LATC.)
Barak Ballet, at Broad Stage in June. Melissa Barak premiered the riveting “E/Space,” a three-way equal collaboration for Barak’s choreography, David Lawrence’s original score and media artist Refik Anadol’s digital imagery. Barak just announced that the company, celebrating its fifth season, will make its New York City debut in July 2018 at the Joyce.
Garth Fagan Dance, at Nate Holden Performing Arts Center in October. Fagan is a master, a national treasure, and so is his company. Watching dancers barely out of their teens sharing the stage with veterans Natalie Rogers Cropper and Steve Humphrey was among the rewarding moments of this concert, which combined new and old dances.
AteNine, at UCLA’s Royce Hall in November. Moving to a big stage, AteNine artistic director Danielle Agami found the perfect partner in percussionist Glenn Kotche. “Calling glenn,” was at times opaque, at others right on the money, but always kept your attention.
Ballet Now, at Music Center in July. New York City Ballet star Tiler Peck put together three bang-up programs. Best moments: Peck and a corps de ballet from City Ballet in “Allegro Brilliante,” Lauren Cutherbertson and Reece Clarke in the “After the Rain” pas de deux, Bill Irwin, Michelle Dorrance, and the Jerome Robbins-Leonard Bernstein ballet “Fancy Free.”
Malpaso Dance, at Music Center in December. This 5-year-old company from Cuba has been supported by a project from the Joyce Theater, including paying for a new commission from Aszure Barton. That piece, called “Indomitable Waltz,” along with a heartfelt performance style, made this company the season’s sleeper surprise.
“Tesseract,” Rashaun Mitchell + Silas Riener, at REDCAT in December. Charles Atlas’ wildly imaginative first-act 3D movie was the creative heart of this evening-long piece from two former Merce Cunningham dancers.