The LA Dance Project returned to the Wallis Theater in Bev Hills. Now that Benjamin has installed them in their own space in the Arts District, these forays to the west side might become less frequent. He did not pander however to any ‘westside mentality’ in programming this stand which includes two Martha Graham duets, Helix, an LADP commission by Justin Peck, Millepied’s own Sarabande and Ohad Naharin’s Yag, an early Gaga piece.
The Grahams are Graham, her signature ‘crunches’ on full display and as I am not so much a Graham girl, these not my favorite, but they are as contemporary as ever and shocking to believe they were created in 1948 and 1952.
The Peck is a slender work, after seeing his Rodeo at NYCB recently, you can see that Peck has really matured as a choreographer. He knew he was working on a small company, perhaps that is the reason for it feeling less than.
But Benjamin’s own Sarabande looks better all the time. It smells and tastes of Jerome Robbins so clearly, yet has the twirls and hand movements of Millepied. It has Bach, and that makes its connective to a piece like Goldberg Variations even stronger.
Yag was a revelation. I had heard Naharin speak at Rolex Berlin and have his protégé demonstrate some of his Gaga theories. It was just after his father died and he appeared subdued and exhausted. But this piece about a family—who “loved loved loved to dance”—and the fractures and togetherness that tear them apart and bring them close summoned all kinds of narratives—in our group alone words like abuse and holocaust were tested. It’s very compelling, very original and made me understand in a deeper way what Naharin and his no-mirror philosophy of dance training is all about. He is a brave choreographer.
Benjamin did a Q and A after with some of his dancers (there are some new dancers, some older ones were missing, the company remains strong). He is clearer than ever about being “done” with ballet, ballet companies (I guess he is not going to take over for Peter Martins) and that what for him seems to be a hermetic, airless tradition. Yet Sarabande is so full of Robbins that it’s hard to recommend him dumping the baby out with the bathwater. (He says his new piece going up in Paris in a few weeks has toe shoes so...) Whether he can pull off the hat trick of remaining an LA company with the modest philanthropic base for dance in LA remains to be seen. I can only commend him for trying.