The immensely talented LA-based dance troupe BODYTRAFFIC is back at the Chutzpah! Festival this year. Founded in 2007 by Lillian Barbeito and Tina Finkelman Berkett, the company has built up an impressive repertoire of original commissions by top contemporary choreographers. Four shorter pieces made up last night's program, each showcasing the incredible technique and musicality of the BODYTRAFFIC dancers.
The first and third pieces, Richard Siegal's The New 45 and Joshua L. Peugh's A Trick of the Light, had a similar retro vibe and bouyant tone, with each also making use of classic jazz and pop standards as part of their scores. Siegal's piece begins with an energetic solo by Finkelman Berkett, who is soon joined on stage by Guzmán Rosado (excellent, like Finkelman Berkett, in all four works) and Andrew Wojtal. All three dancers' fleet footwork, promiscuous partnering, and gyrating pelvises are a reminder that what popular American musical and dance idioms from the first half of the twentieth century mostly gave to the concert stage was sex and speed. Peugh's piece was more theatrical, taking as its organizing conceit couples at a 1950s-era prom, with the women in pouffy dresses and the men all sporting cardigans. In between smelling their own--and occasionally each other's--feet, the couples form, break apart and reform, with one among them always, and necessarily, late to the party.
In between these two works came Kollide, by red hot choreographer Kyle Abraham. Set to haunting, cello-heavy music by two contemporary Icelandic composers, one could sense immediately how the mood had shifted. Riffing on the classic quadrille, with its strict geometric formations and turn-taking couples, what was most fascinating to me about Abraham's choreography was how an overlapping canon structure was employed to disrupt and overtake different groupings of dancers. That said, I didn't find the piece, as a whole, all that emotionally engaging.
The evening concluded with Once again, before you go, by RUBBERBANDance Group's Victor Quijada. Although Abraham and Quijada both come from a hip hop background, it was in Quijada's work that the form's signature style was in most visible evidence. The floorwork by the quartet of men (Brandon Alley, Bynh Ho, Guzmán Rosado, and Andrew Wojtal) was especially strong, with various gravity-defying one-arm freezes held for what seemed like impossible lengths of time, and with the men repeatedly floating up from their knees onto the tips of their toes in perfect fluid unison, as if invisible wires were attached to each of their backs. At the heart of this last piece, however, is a beautiful duet by Alley and Finkelman Berkett, one that I hated to see end and that, when it did, ended a bit too abruptly for my liking.