In light of multiple natural-disaster events — Hurricane Matthew ripping through the Atlantic Ocean, for example — Los Angeles–based Invertigo Dance Theatre’s (IDT) revival of its multidisciplinary dance show After It Happened could not be timed better. Named “#1 L.A. Dance Show of 2014” by L.A. Weekly, IDT’s story of rebirth will come to life at the New Vic on October 22-23.
Set to original compositions by Toby Karlin and Diana Lynn Wallace with a live performance of two musicians, After It Happened explores the breadth of emotion and physical trials a community faces in the wake of a natural disaster. It dives deep into visual storytelling, drawing on theater, spoken dialogue, and puppetry, in addition to athletic and highly kinetic movement.
“It’s a piece I feel very strongly about,” said artistic director Laura Karlin. “I think it’s a story worth telling, and I think this is a topic of increasing relevance for all because of the rising instances and severity of natural disasters, as well as our heightened awareness through social media.”
When visiting Barcelona in 2011, Karlin saw an exhibit of photos depicting the destruction of Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. She was particularly taken by the images showing moments of transformation — from post-traumatic stress disorder and grief through hope and coming together; “by the images of life carrying on,” she said. Children and adults playing soccer, a woman wearing a dress made out of blue tarps — these elements from the exhibit are represented in After It Happened, as the dancers play a “stylized version of soccer” and have a blue plastic haute couture dress. “Out of destruction, we have the capacity to rebuild,” Karlin said.
Drawing on different theatrical elements, such as a monologue, used specifically to create an emotional connection, Karlin worked closely with brother and composer Toby Karlin to make the atmospheric, beat-driven music and virtuosic dancing cohesive to allow the audience to connect viscerally to the story and movement. This includes a dual role for performer Hyosun Choi, both talented dancer and cellist, who plays the music onstage and also gets swept up in the movement. “I rarely get to do both in one performance,” explained Choi. “I feel fortunate I have this familiarity with both dance and music, which as a cellist allows me to simultaneously visualize dancing while I play, and then while I’m dancing allow myself to be affected by the music. Overall, it’s been a lot of fun transitioning between the two disciplines.”
Playing the cello and dancing are just two of Choi’s responsibilities; she also manipulates the puppets and has some speaking and singing roles. Her myriad participation is representative of all the performers involvement in this highly collaborative production.
The show follows the same story and structure of the original 2014 performance, but this time the dancers collaborated with Karlin to create new scenes and delve deeper into the characters. “It’s a lot tighter; the piece has been molded into a more cohesive unit,” said Toby. Because the dancers also transformed personally since the previous show, and the story itself was more concrete, “the process of discovery could be more detailed,” added Karlin.
Founded in 2007, IDT has a mission to use dance to create connections and cultivate community. With our country divided politically and socially, experiencing a rise in natural disasters and conflicts creating mass destruction, After It Happened provides hope of regaining what was lost. “Dance theater is the lens through which we better understand our world,” said Karlin. “It seemed as if really now more than ever is a good time to show a community rising up to create empathy to celebrate humanity and to share stories.”
Invertigo Dance Theatre’s After It Happened shows Saturday, October 22, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, October 23, at 2 p.m., at the New Vic (33 W. Victoria St.). For tickets, call (805) 965-5400 or see ensembletheatre.com.