Glendale News Press – Celebrate Dance April 2008

Entertainment Breaking the mold: Choreographers infuse their classical training with modern stylings in works for “Celebrate Dance 2008” at the Alex Theatre.

By Joyce Rudolph

Glendale News Press

April 8, 2008

From ballet-inspired break dancing to an acrobatic aerial performance, contemporary dance will take the stage next weekend at the Alex Theatre for Celebrate Dance 2008.

Eight West Coast companies, featuring more than 35 dancers, will perform in this third annual production, which will exhibit cutting-edge choreography, executive producer Jamie Nichols said.

“The choreographers look at today’s issues, today’s life, and create works looking forward with new movement vocabulary and new ways of moving,” Nichols said.

Choreographers take what they’ve learned in their dance education and recreate their choreography in a new way, she said.

“Each of these companies create their movements in different ways,” she said. “They have different backgrounds and put their own brand on what they do.”

For instance, Burbank choreographer Jacob “Kujo” Lyons, 31, began his dance career at 16 as a break dancer.

Self-taught in break dancing, he’s created a dance form that incorporates other forms like ballet and modern dance, Lyons said.

“I have had many radical ideas of how breaking could be portrayed or how it could be redefined, and redesigned as I questioned the validity of the boundaries and definitions that have been established,” he said. “I perceived that those boundaries and definitions were much more fluid, whereas others perceive them as static.”

Lyons’ Lux Aeterna Dance Company will perform the premiere of his piece, “Metanoia” to the song “Credo” composed by Arvo Part.

“Metanoia is Greek for change of mind,” Lyons said. “In a religious or psychological sense, it means inner transformation.”

The dance illustrates the transformation of one man told through five dancers — three men and two women, Lyons said. They transform from comrades into antagonists and back again.

What impresses Nichols about Lyons’ work is how he takes his break-dancing ability and combines it with classical choreography, ballet and contemporary dance, she said. His choice of music is also interesting, she added — Part’s music is a liturgical piece.

“He doesn’t use commercial rap or hip-hop,” she said. “He chooses music that is extremely complex and usually has a deeper spiritual meaning ultimately. He does beautiful work, and it’s very heartfelt.”

Another choreographer whose work will be in the show, Viktor Kabaniaev, also pulls from a classically trained background for his modern interpretation, Nichols said.

Kabaniaev graduated from the Vaganova Ballet Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia, and has been a principal dancer with companies in the former Soviet Union, Germany and the United States.

Now living in San Francisco, he teaches and creates dance routines. His company, Viktor Kabaniaev and Dancers, will present a contemporary ballet titled “Episodes Of .?.?. ” Nichols said.

“He uses all of that training to his advantage in creating a new way of moving,” she said.

Other highlights of the show include the red silk aerial contemporary ballet, “Le Coeur Illumine,” restaged for the Alex Theatre by choreographer Marie de la Palme and her company Motion Tribe; and the debut of a new Los Angeles contemporary dance company, BodyTraffic.

In the aerial ballet, the dancer is suspended in the air on red silk fabric, similar to the acrobatics performed by Cirque du Soleil, Nichols said.

“[The dancer] leaves the floor and flies through the air,” she said. “I’m closing the show with that piece.”

Each dance company’s performance is so different, it draws audience members back every year, Avry Budka said. She has seen the first two performances and already has her tickets for the upcoming show.

“One of the things my husband and I appreciate is that every troupe has something very unique to present,” she said. “The variety is very exciting.”