By Patricia Boccadoro
PARIS, 14 MAY 2014 Founded in 2012 by choreographer Benjamin
Millepied, principal dancer with the New York City Ballet until 2011, and
future Director of the Paris Opéra Ballet, the L. A. Dance Project
is less a conventional company of dancers than a group of young
creators ready to experiment and take risks to promote dance as a living
art. Based in Los Angeles and set resolutely in the American tradition,
the dancers, full of vitality and energy, interpreted an eclectic
programme of works by Israeli-born Emanuel Gat, by the Japanese
choreographer, Hiroaki Umeda, followed by the promising young Justin Peck,
soloist with New York City Ballet, as well as a duo by Benjamin
The all-American cast began with Gats Morgans Last Chug, an
abstract 2013 creation dealing with the passing of time, a series of
variations set to an unusual score of a monologue of Samuel Beckett taken
from Krapps Last Tape, spoken, or rather wheezed over a
soundtrack of Bach and Purcell.
The intentions might have been
good, but the five dancers, in jeans and brightly coloured T-shirts,
marching on and off stage, twisting and spiraling around each other showed
empathy neither with themselves nor with the audience. Fortunately one
could watch Charlie Hodges, a superb dancer but with little to say in this
particular work. Lasting 20 minutes, it seemed a rather aimless
Morgans Last Chug
Choreography: Emanuel Gat
In contrast, Peripheral Stream, created for the troupe by 35
year-old Hiroaki Umeda, proved to be a hypnotic display of complex optical
illusions which captured ones interest from the start. But the four
black-clad dancers, silhouetted against the luminous screen behind them
seemed to take second place to the goings on behind. Shifting black and
white vertical lines, concertina-like, came together, moved apart, and
overlapped, giving place to differing sizes of squares which in turn
transformed into wavy lines. Try as they might, the dancers, obscure
figures in the dark, were out-shined by the brilliant visual
The jewel of the evening, indeed the jewel of these past few years,
came with the sublime duo, Closer, created by Benjamin Millepied
in 2006 which he has since reworked. With effective costumes by Lydia
Harmon, and lighting by Roderick Murray, it was set to a piano score by
Philip Glass, Mad Rush.
It was a breathtaking sequence of dance for two interpreters who moved
as one. They held hands, lovingly enlaced each other, rarely if ever,
breaking physical contact, moving and breathing with lightness and grace.
Each step, each delicate movement and gesture flowed into the next in a
Man and woman became as one; music and movement
were as one. Time stopped still for this exquisite pas de deux, or duo for
two dancers, where, almost secondary to the beautiful visual images was
the emotion that emanated from the work and touched your heart. It was a
moment of grace, when the world went away.
Essentially classical, it was interpreted by guest artists, French-born
Céline Cassone, and Alexander Hille, an exceptional partner, both from
Ballets Jazz of Montreal. They interpreted the work to perfection, and the
fact that Closer was created by a choreographer who will take
over the Paris Opéra Ballet at the end of the year augurs only good.
It was obviously not an easy ballet to follow, and Justin Pecks
otherwise attractive piece, Murder Ballads, paled by comparison.
When the women arrived on stage in their T-shirts, shorts and sneakers,
kicking their legs in the air, no matter how joyously they danced, the
comparison was there.
Fortunately there was again the inimitable
Charlie Hodges, giving the work all hed got.
Set to Bryce Dessners 20-minute Murder Ballads against a
vivid backcloth of multi-coloured , paint-sploshed rectangles by the
artist, Stirling Baker, this was an all-American piece, more concerned
with the joy of living than with any violent murders. Fast-moving and fun,
more contemporary than classical, this athletic and energetic dance piece
brought a note of youth, freshness and gaiety to the end of the evening.
Patricia Boccadoro writes on dance in Europe. She has
contributed to The Guardian, The Observer and Dancing Times and was dance
consultant to the BBC Omnibus documentary on Rudolf Nureyev. Based in
Paris, Patricia Boccadoro is the dance editor for