The Da Camera Society of Mount St. Mary’s College recently kicked off MUSIC+DANCE: LA, an innovative series in partnership with American Contemporary Ballet that combines live chamber music with original ballets. Amid the cheese and conversation between Tuesday night’s two concerts, musicians, dancers, and patrons mingled to discuss what had happened on stage and what would happen next. The performance highlighted the experimental nature of MUSIC+DANCE: In order to immerse the audience in the experience, an all-black stage was set at ground level and situated only a few feet from the first row of seats.
With a jazz trio playing in the corner of the dimly lit warehouse, it felt more like an underground club than the setting for a traditional dance recital. The festivities commenced when Kelly Garrison, general director of Da Camera, took the stage. After introducing the musicians, Garrison said, “Tonight is the nexus of dance and music.”
The first round of performances featured dancers Abby Avery, Zsolt Banki, Marie Buser, Theresa Farrell, Lexi Howerton, Sara Stockwell, and Regina Park Suh; violinists Martin Chalifour and Mitch Newman; cellist Tao Ni; harpsichordist Edward Murray; and pianist Bernadene Blaha (a.k.a. my mom).
Igor Stravinsky’s “Suite Italienne,” a flirtation with antiquity and neo-classicalism, was the night’s opener. Blaha and Chalifour took the audience on a roller coaster of frenetic tempos and soothing, melodic lines before introducing the audience to the dancers.
After the “Minuetto – Finale” movement, which brings Stravinsky’s violin-piano piece to an exciting and faux-dissonant end, the dancers (dressed in all black for the following piece) readied for their premiere—also by Stravinsky.
Stravinsky’s “Serenade in A” for solo piano showcased a funky but lively dance, courtesy of ACB artistic director and choreographer Lincoln Jones. Throughout the piece, dancers seamlessly meshed with strident piano lines in a combination of avant-garde and traditional tableaux.
Jones lent the “Cadenza Finala” cinematic qualities. Like a shot from a Wes Anderson film, the four dancers split off into pairs, performing abstract, flexed movements in the foreground and background of the stage. The result was a multifaceted snapshot of beautiful choreography crisply integrated with music.
While the dancers took a break, Newman, Ni, and Blaha gave the audience a playful and delicately articulated rendition of Mozart’s “Piano Trio in C, K. 548,” highlighted by the locomotive regality of the “Allegro” movement and the whimsical close of the “Allegretto.”
Taking the stage for the final piece, François Couperin’s “Le Parnasse, ou l’Apothéose de Corelli,” were Chalifour, Ni, Newman, and Murray, along with the seven dancers. The work was written to pay homage to the legendary Italian composer and violinist Arcangelo Corelli and depicts his ascension of Mount Parnassus to become a god.
The dancers, now dressed in gold for a more baroque flavor, reflected the softer style of Couperin’s music in Jones’ fluid, sparkling dance. The juxtaposition of French and Italian styles was synched up perfectly, creating a moment of meta-music-art: Audience members watched as Corelli (played here by Banki) asked the Muses of Mount Parnassus to raise him up. The result was a seductive and engaging synthesis of dance and music. After Corelli expressed his gratitude, it was time for another reception with the artists. “It’s fun,” Newman said. “It feels like we’re making music for [the dancers].”
The mini-festival staged four performances Monday and Tuesday and will stage four more in June. The next installment occurs Friday, June 29 and Saturday, June 30.
MUSIC+DANCE: LA II
ACB Warehouse Studio, Los Angeles
Friday, June 29, 7 and 9 p.m.
Saturday, June 30, 7 and 9 p.m.
Catered receptions: 8 and 10 p.m.
For more info: 213.477.2929 or DaCamera.org