The inaugural SB-ADaPT Festival took over Center Stage Theater last weekend with two full programs—Alpha and Omega—that brought together dance and physical theater companies from as far away as Istanbul and as close by as Long Beach to create a magical atmosphere of excitement and aesthetic adventure. Organized in a thoroughly grassroots manner by dancer/choreographer Misa Kelly, SB-ADaPT contributed not only a beautifully executed set of programs to the community but also an example of how much can be accomplished on a small budget by like-minded artists willing to take chances and engage in genuine international exchange.
The Omega program began with “Wallflower,” a witty piece by Kelly set on a larger group that involved dancers of all ages. Against a dramatic soundscape created by the choreographer, dancers interacted playfully with chairs, the audience, and each other, filling the black-box space with teasing humor and a sense of freedom. From there, the program proceeded through four strong dance performances: “Requiem” by Rain Ross Dance of Philadelphia; “Atesh, Bayan, Ghuzal Adam,” a brilliant trio choreographed by Stephen Kelly; “Exited,” a disturbing solo by Marcos Duran that concluded with the dancer sucking his thumb; and “All That’s Left,” a riveting piece choreographed to Mumford & Sons by Fusion Dance Company’s Ashley Kohler, and performed on Sunday by Kohler and Melanie Johnson.
After the intermission, we saw six acts—three companies from elsewhere in California, a solo by E. Bonnie Lewis from Santa Barbara’s DramaDogs, and pieces by Treeline Dance Works from Muncie, Indiana, and IGEN from Celje, Slovenia. First, congratulations to Lewis and her collaborator Patricia Frank for stealing the hearts of everyone in attendance with her tender, lyrical evocation of her childhood relationship with her grandmother. From laughter to tears, this piece had it all, illustrating perfectly how accepting the challenge of incorporating techniques from dance can transform theater. Other highlights included the Regina Klenjoski Dance Company of Long Beach performing elegant lifts while wearing latex costumes for an excerpt from “Emoticons,” and the amazing Mojca Majcen and her collapsible bench in “Lady of the Camellias, Part Memories & Death,” a fully realized piece that combined acrobatics with narrative.
Program Alpha was just as rich and varied, with visitors from as far afield as Tel Aviv and Istanbul. Clairobscur Dance Company from Los Angeles is an athletic and disciplined group of young dancers coming out of UCLA, and their dance got the program off to a distinguished start. Bodysensate from Salem, Oregon, followed with a rollicking, seemingly beach-themed piece called “Thripple.” Dancers Amy Highfill and Joe Komara from L.A.’s Hart Pulse Dance Company performed some of the festival’s most athletic lifts and daring duo tumbles in “Melt” by Amanda Hart. After the intermission, Misa Kelly’s SonneBlauma Danscz Theatre performed “Under No Certain Circumstances” to another flowing soundscape, this time filled with gamelan and ending with laughter. Nickerson-Rossi Dance from Long Beach contributed the evening’s most romantic work, a big ensemble called “Remembering the Unremembered.”
Receiving funding from the Turkish Ministry of Culture, Simya Samat from Istanbul is a practitioner of meditative dance, and his piece “Beyond Borders” merged solo dance with video in a consideration of Istanbul, the cosmos, and “beyond.”
For this viewer, the two most thrilling pieces offered were both on toward the end of the Alpha program. “The Pitch” by Regina Klenjoski featured Anna DeVuyst and Samuel Propersi and a pair of wooden soapboxes in a battle of gesture, dance, and synchronicity that was nothing less than a continuous revelation. This is what performance theater should be like—funny, irreverent, tender, and brilliant. Another duo, “Dinner,” by Maya Stern and Tomer Sharabi from Israel (with support from the Consulate of Israel in L.A.), was just as good in an entirely different way. Verging on the erotic, and using some highly unconventional points of contact, the pair took the audience on a startling journey far into the mental lives of a couple.