Monday, June 22, 2015

"Mouth to Mouth" Resuscitation!

Ate9 dancers in Danielle Agami's "Mouth to Mouth"
photo by Tim Summers
I was cranky last Friday evening.

I’d had a long and difficult work week. I didn’t want to use my brain. And I was inching south on I-5 to a dance performance for which I had absolutely no expectations.

As I said, cranky.

But I have to say, two hours later, I was soaring, electrified, and incredibly pleased that I’d ignored my inner grump and headed to see Danielle Agami’s “Mouth to Mouth” at Velocity Dance Center.

The Israeli-born dancer/choreographer originally founded her company, Ate9, in Seattle. But she relocated to Los Angeles before I ever got a chance to see her work. So what unfolded last Friday was surprising, amazing, and ultimately, a welcome gift.

The dancers entered the theater one by one, each carrying a chair that he or she set down on the floor’s perimeter before taking a seat. Quietly, they surveyed each other. I still had no idea what I was in for, the energy they’d unleash like a volcanic eruption.
Ate9 dancers in "Mouth to Mouth"
photo by Tim Summers

Action began slowly, as a dancer in a short blue dress rose up from her chair. A fellow dancer approached, pulled out a scissors, and sheared off a blue sleeve. Another dancer scissored up the dress from the bottom. Hmm.

Blue dress was an outcast; she tried to wedge herself between two other women, like an eager preschooler on the playground. Their rejection didn’t phase her. In fact, this scene was like a long fuse. Eventually, it ignited an explosion of movement.
Ate9 Dancer in "Mouth to Mouth"
photo by Scott Simock, courtesy Velocity Dance Center

The Ate9 dancers twitched and vibrated in a sort of stage version of the robot. They leaped straight up off the floor as if it was a sprung trampoline. They used every part of their bodies, from splayed toes to twisted facial features.  At one point, the most elegant David Maurice vainly attempts to stop the madness, clutching at the heads of three seated women. He’s powerless to stem this river.
David Maurice tries to soothe the savage breast in "Mouth to Mouth"
photo courtesy Velocity Dance Center

All eight dancers were fearless. They bounded across the stage, landing in a beat on the floor in splits, or supine, only to launch themselves straight up to standing with what seemed like just a push from their toes. One woman crabwalked across the floor…in a backbend! At this point I scrawled in my notebook, ‘can humans actually do this stuff?’

It wasn’t just the ferocity that had me smiling. Agami’s movement vocabulary, based on Ohad Naharin’s Gaga technique, requires precision and prowess. Every movement undulates out from the dancer’s core; those dancers must commit fully to what they are doing, to give themselves completely to the performance. And it’s their commitment, along with the technique, that engages the audience.
Ate9's David Maurice shows he is part gazelle
photo by Tim Summers

Agami uses the dancers’ technical skills to great effect. She marshals her company members into complex patterns, like shifting electrons that seem to draw energy from each other. Sometimes the patterns were fugue-like; dancers performing sequences of movements in staggered groups. Other times, two or three dancers performed in unison. Particular standouts for me (in addition to Agami in black leather shorts, only the nipples of her breasts covered with black tape) were super-human Thibaut Eiferman, and the incredibly long and graceful Micaela Taylor.
Danielle Agami in her creation "Mouth to Mouth"
photo by Scott Simock

Even as this dance was unfolding, I wanted to see it again. And again. “Mouth to Mouth” is complex; I’m not sure of everything I saw. But I do know that when the dance ended,  I was slack jawed with awe and appreciation for the bravado, the spirit, the prowess that Ate9 brought to Velocity. I’m still thinking of this dance, three days later.

And I’m kinda wondering if Danielle Agami knew that her creation was a bit of mouth to mouth resuscitation for my crabby Friday soul?

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