Art Fest Reflections; Dance Bonanza Continues

April’s been a good month for dance, and the run isn’t over yet. The bonanza included two nights of Alvin Ailey at Copley Symphony Hall (April 9 and 10, both reviewed by and 12 nights of eclectic performances at the White Box Live Arts Fest (April 5-21).

Of the four nights I attended, the best performances were choreographed by Michael Mizerany, an artist who raised the bar from fest, to professional concert. Sexy and physically jaw-dropping, Mizerany’s “Tethered” is a masterful duet that the highest caliber dance company would be thrilled to have in its repertoire.

Blythe Barton arches back while balancing on Bradley R. Lundberg in "Tethered." Photo: Tim Agler

Blythe Barton arches back while balancing on Bradley R. Lundberg in “Tethered.” Photo: Tim Agler

In “Tethered,” Blythe Barton was red hot and dominating, balancing on the chest of Bradley R. Lundberg with the charm of a black widow spider.  Lundberg’s remarkable strength and restraint had viewers gasping.  We all want to know what nasty things she whispered into his ear.

Mizerany’s emotionally jarring work, “Tin Soldier,” which garnered a Horton Award in 1994, recounts the fortitude and fighting spirit of his brother who died of cancer.  Justin Viernes has inherited the role and his interpretation was visceral and heartfelt.

Risky lifts and tosses in the premiere of “Relentlessly Yours “were reminiscent of dances in the RAW series. Set to music by Zoe Keating, Lundberg, Andrew Holmes, and Stephanie Harvey swiveled, pulled, and rebounded fearlessly. Their stamina was staggering. Near the end of the dance, Harvey and Holmes glommed onto Lundberg like needy children. That image transcended to being overwhelmed by everything and anything, but too often the trio’s relationship was unclear.  Harvey is a charismatic dancer, a wild cat masquerading as a nice petite woman, who added the intrigue of a mysterious stalker.

Somebodies dance theater continues to present whimsical, curious works that linger, such as “a Spit of Wax” which choreographers Gina Bolles Sorensen and Kyle Sorensen describe as an examination of endings, survival and the urge to bond.

Joined by Desiree Cuizon, Anne Gehman, and Maria Juan, the Sorensens created eerie snap shots of an absurd farm yard.  Somehow, they figured out how to dance beautifully in muck-about-boots, and deftly use boots to delineate a landscape.

Gina Bolles Sorensen carries Maria Juan, Anne Geyman  carries Kyle Sorensen, in "a Spit of Wax." Photo: Tim Richards

Gina Bolles Sorensen carries Maria Juan, Anne Geyman carries Kyle Sorensen, in “a Spit of Wax.” Photo: Tim Richards

The windmill image of Bolles Sorensen rolling across the floor and simultaneously taking her boots on and off was magical.  So was her too brief singing about the stars.  Images abound, such as people rolling like tumble weeds and being moved as bales of hay, those obsessive chores, being a beast of burden, and suffering from cabin fever.

The dance would be almost pastoral if not for a very ugly portion. You can’t un-see or un-hear sections where women slurp up something from a cereal bowl and spit brown goo onto newspaper. In between the goo, (spit and chocolate powder) was their gloved hand, which made a design.  OCD?  Yes. Gagging? Yes, and it evoked thoughts of tobacco, stencils, and lonely folks struggling to get by.  But that is not where the “spit” in the title comes from.  The Sorensens say they think of the last bit of wax on a candle. Still, if they ever decide to edit, they might rethink the goo.

[php snippet=1]

A festival of any kind offers something for everyone.  Festivals are inherently unpredictable, and uneven. Every fest attendee has to know that going in, and  that’s part of the allure, the adventure.

The opening night performance of “Light in the Attic,” by UTurn Arts was especially unstructured. The jumble of elements – body painting, live music, and improvised dancing about loss –didn’t connect as much as drag on. The actual dance portion was slow to start, and without any program notes to explain the work’s design or inspiration, viewers were left to drift without a paddle.

The strongest sequences had women scrambling over the floor to place little lights on the extra-long train of a coat, worn by a stoic mature woman who portrayed a dying or deceased grandmother.  Powerful stuff, but except for insiders, who knew that several of the collaborators had suffered that loss in recent months? The audience needed a few clues. A simple introduction about the premise would have helped.

The dramatic multi-media work “33” La Ultima Cena” needed little introduction, but could have used a larger audience. Translated “33” The Last Supper,” the work reimagined the famous last meal, making Jesus a provocative and undulating woman, and everyone wore bright colored hoodies. Created by the troupe Ebert Ortiz and Contemporary Scene, of Tijuana, the dancers wowed the tiny crowd with tightly syncopated hand gestures in unison, and they posed perfectly to mirror those curved arm positions that we recognize in Da Vinci’s sacred painting.

While there should have been 10 dancers to accurately depict the event, (they were a few short perhaps due to border crossing problems), the troupe presented an engaging dark ballet that fit well in the intimate space.

Ebert Ortiz Escena Contemporanea, a troupe from Tijuana, performs "33" La Ultima Cena. Photo:  Tim Richards

Ebert Ortiz Escena Contemporanea from Tijuana performs “33” La Ultima Cena, a dance that reimagines the Last Supper. Photo: Tim Richards

Soloist Hugo Pinales grabbed our attention in the first few minutes.  His small framed held surprising power and the ability to move quickly and smoothly in the introduction.  A woman dressed in a puffy, over-the-top bridal gown, her face obscured by netting, sang passionately in Spanish about something.  You didn’t need to know the language to understand that she portrayed death and predicted betrayal.

Many of the artists who performed or presented work at the Live Arts Fest are also on the program “Seasons,” presented by Visionary Dance Theatre this weekend (April 26-27) at the 10th Avenue Theatre. The concert features choreographers Blythe Barton, Michael Mizerany, Khamla Somphanh, somebodies dance theater (Sorensens), Zaquia Salinas, and Spencer John Powell.

Also this month, The PGK Project presents “Dance on the Edge” (April 27-28) at Art Walk in Little Italy, on the UT stage.

For more dance events in the coming months, check out our calendar.





  1. Maria Juan on April 26, 2013 at 4:32 pm


    Many Thanks for your continued support of our local dance scene. As much as you enjoyed- or may not have understood :)- the performances, it was just as rewarding for us, the performing community, to be able to present and have an audience to present for. We can hope that April will become the dance month in San Diego as long as there are opportunities to present.

    I was able to attend the majority of the performances during the Live Arts Fest at the White Box and it certainly was satisfying to be able to see so many great artists in such a short amount of time.

    I am already looking forward to April, 2014!

    Maria Juan
    Co-Founder, youTurnArts,
    Performer, somebodies dance theater

  2. Michael Mizerany on April 26, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    Hey Kris,

    Thanks for the review and insight into the work.

    On your point, yes, some people were not clear on the relationship of the three main characters. I’ll be doing it again in September at a concert I am sharing with Khamla Somphanh called Common Ground, so something to work on.

  3. Gina Sorensen on April 28, 2013 at 9:00 am


    We have loved hearing the impressions and interpretations that audiences took away from “a Spit of Wax” these last weekends. Thank you for the beautiful interpretation you bring up here. This is what we love most about contemporary dance: there are always a multiplicity of meanings at work! Thank you for bringing your lens to our dance.

Leave a Comment