Method Contemporary Dance, Off the Hook at LA’s Bootleg Theater

Method Contemporary Dance and its hard-hitting artistic director, Bradley Michaud, have just closed a successful three evening run of Then See If You Still Love Us at Bootleg Theater in the Rampart District and while Swan Lake won’t be coming to this gritty venue of torn up streets, Pentecostal store front iglesias and bars with names like Linda’s and Freddie’s any time soon, it may be just the place for this new evening length work by Michaud, which delves into the world of bruising urban relationships and other challenges.

Method is known for its very physical style of dance clearly on display here with its six-member company. Also added to the mix however is more than a little humor and a structure that pieces together large ensemble sections and re-combinations of the cast in ones, twos and threes. The choreography alternates sections with and without music and a spoken text all performed to a prerecorded sound score. While there is no real story or even characters Method tries to get at the nature of personal relationships by acting or dancing them out physically and here it seems to be mostly a world of hurt.

The opening finds Nicole Cox moving a la burlesque center stage with company members looking on as the moment shifts into an incongruous and self-parodying Latin groove. After that things begin to explode with an ensemble section that will define the boundaries of what is to come. The costuming – hoodies and dark cut pants – spells out the kind of anonymity that Michaud seems to be after to make his point. While feeling almost improvisatory, the dancers work all manner of pairings in this section which flies on high energy pacing, jumps, dives, off center lifts and throws, crashes and rolls to the floor. But just as quickly they pull back for a moment of recovery.

Subsequent sections offer a hit me, kiss me scenario convincingly played without music by Jay Bartley and Michaud. A women’s trio to a techno sound score provided the most dance driven and dare I say beautiful movement of the evening. Nicole Cox is joined here by Jessica Harper and Chelsea Asman much of it in a very affecting unison. Kalani McManus and Chelsea Asman are front and center in a duo notable for its use of counter balanced, gravity defying positions that produced a clever and visually provocative hands-free partnering. The section for three men begins in suits and ties but quickly devolves to briefs as they disrobe to Hope Tato’s interpretive reading of the personals. Here, “looking for sex, smooth, six inches, cut” becomes a kind of haiku or mantra for a very impersonal world. In the end the men gather their clothes and walk away as passively as they approached. Michaud seems to be saying that the world of the quick hook-up is not going to fly either but it may be a substitute for the high risk of emotional involvement.

The concluding ensemble sections reprise more of Method’s take-no-prisoners movement style. Michaud makes real poetry out of his off- center dancing which tellingly verges on falling before being swept in a new direction with a subtle shift of weight. Dancers at times fling themselves with such force that an unintended fall becomes an issue. Repeated patterns throughout give the evening a sense of continuity and an identifiable cohesion of style. Special mention goes to Kalania Mcmanus for his especially nimble airy jumps and inaudible gravity defying landings, and the company as whole for what was certainly a bruising three-day run. The program credits the company with collaborative assistance for both choreography and costuming. The Music, credited to Bradley Michaud, Brad Lindsay, and Mike Robbins offered a background to the movement but didn’t deliver in the sense of being a stand-alone composition in its own right. The motet like composition at the conclusion offered the most interesting musical ideas of the evening. Lighting by Kristie Roldan offered a conspicuous spare palate of darkened scenes mostly without color. An enthusiastic audience showed its appreciation with sustained applause and vocal support for the company and especially Michaud.

(Method Contemporary Dance flies again in Fracture, an evening of dance at the Ford Amphitheater, September 16th)

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