Two years ago, in a fresh and gutsy program, the audiences at the Duncan Theatre in Lake Worth got to experience BodyTraffic, an upwardly-mobile contemporary dance company that hails from Los Angeles. Earlier this month, the company returned and presented a program of new works by different choreographers that was perhaps less fresh but equally gutsy.
Founded in 2007, BodyTraffic is a small group of dance artists that perform commissioned works by cutting-edge choreographers from around the world. The carefully selected dance-makers are invited to come and create a work on the dancers in the hope that the new work will not only enhance the repertory but enrich the dancers’ artistry.
On Feb. 17, the program got off to a confident start with a work that broke from this norm. The New 45 was not a commissioned work created for the dancers but a purposely selected existing work that the directors felt would be a good fit for the company.
Choreographed in 2008 by Richard Siegal (who had already done a commissioned work on the company), The New 45 was a duet set to a sampling of jazz music that included Oscar Peterson and Clark Terry and a bit of Benny Goodman and Harry Belafonte.
It was a relatively quiet and understated work that camouflaged how technically challenging it really was. Filled with idiosyncratic movement that adroitly rolled together, the 24-minute dance for two just flew by.
There was some playfulness and a sprinkling of competitiveness, but mostly there was some very wonderful dancing by Tina Finkelman Berkett and Guzmán Rosado and it successfully eased us into a good evening of good dancing.
Berkett, who is one of the two founders and artistic directors of the company, was totally in her element as a dancer in The New 45. It is no wonder that she pursued acquiring this piece for her to dance. Deliciously executing the quick transitions and succinctly anticipating the little changes in the movement phrasing, Berkett completely owned the fun movement.
Berkett and Rosado returned as a wife and husband in the next work which was a somewhat convoluted concoction called Private Games: Chapter One. Choreographer Anton Lachky used an odd potpourri of music that bounced from Joseph Haydn to an Icelandic band named Barnakor Biskupstungna and from J.S. Bach to Patriotic Drums of the World. It seemed that keeping us off balance was the choreographer’s main intent.
Private Games: Chapter One had the feel of one of those strange foreign films where guests gather and as inner thoughts are revealed, things start to unravel in a unsettling way.
Often things dramatically changed direction and even screeched to a halt like when Berkett, dressed in a bright red evening dress, verbally addressed us and introduced herself as Penelope. She explained that her husband Guzzy (Rosado) was very good at imitations. She then rather harshly directed him in a parlor-like game. “Do candle” then it was “do rotten avocado” but when she said “do piggy”, she delightedly join him snorting and cavorting. Then turning away from us, she told us that we smelled good.
The dancing continued and then abruptly stopped as the dancers applauded us and told us “You all look wonderful.” One dancer (Matthew Rich) introduced himself and then introduced his husband who turned out to also be Rosado. The performers were wonderful dancers and very versatile as they had no trouble slipping into speaking parts and holding their own as actors. Rosado in particular had a natural comic flair that was utilized in several of the dances presented.
Next up on the program was an excerpt from Fragile Dwellings, by Belgian choreographer Stijn Celis, which was substituted for another work listed on the program. Fragile Dwellings was dedicated to homeless Angelenos and in the program insert, Celis wrote that he wanted to create a work based on a dialogue with silence and emptiness.
Using the music of Arvo Pärt, the Estonian classical composer who is one of the most prominent living composers of sacred music, Celis created a choreographic work that had a clean and pure dance quality to it.
Four dancers, dressed in relaxed off-white clothing, were individually highlighted. In the solo that opened the work, Rich, a beautiful mover, was outstanding in his slow adagio movement. Lindsey Matheis displayed a natural elegance in her solo. Dancing to silence, Alexis “Tilly” Evans-Krueger mesmerized in her solo turn, and bare-chested Joseph Kudra was a powerful presence in his, which began with a series of manipulations of his extended right arm.
After the isolation of the four solos performed one after another, the dancers came together as a quartet, exchanging and breaking grips and contact. Fragile Dwellings had a sense of gracious intimacy and one didn’t want it to be over.
The last work was the fluff of the night. It was reminiscent of a 1950s prom with vintage costumes of tight-waisted, organza dresses on tnhe ladies and bright cardigan sweaters and bow ties on the men.
Ostensibly, the work called A Trick of the Light was inspired by the rare “green flash” that occurs at sunset just before the sun disappears from view. One wouldn’t have know this at all if the dancers hadn’t stopped moving to enact watching and waiting for the flash described in the program note. Choreographer Joshua L. Peugh filled A Trick of the Light with a kitschy randomness that gave the work a whimsical charm.
A trio of men danced to a French song and at various times, one man rested his foot on another’s shoulder and played footsie with his face. A man found a rope on onstage right and in a Charlie Chaplin manner pulled the rope until it stretched across the stage in front of the dancers. He exited with the beginning of the rope only to reappear moments later from the other side of the stage toting the end of rope. A woman in a pointy bra and tiered petticoat and a man in boxers and garters danced in a spotlight. A dancer riding piggyback on another scattered fake snowflakes on others.
And then: A silver streamer curtain dropped down and three couples danced in front of it until someone on a ladder stuck out a sign that said “The End.”