On the evening of May 16th, Ate9 welcomed us to their “living room” at The Ruby Street– a church turned event space with a family beach house atmosphere. The dancers circulated the venue, catching up with friends and attendees before finding their places among the audience. Ate9 choreographer and founder Danielle Agami commanded our attention with a solo that began in silence as audience members settled in their seats around the perimeter of the space.
Agami’s repetitive convulsions were highly musical as if her body were a sonorous instrument. She drew the dancers from their seats to gather around her rhythmic articulations like a family gathering around the piano for after dinner entertainment. The playful assembly soon ended, leaving Montay Romero alone to set a more somber tone that would carry through much of the evening. His movements were markedly sultry in contrast to the staccato opening number. Mesmerized by his own fingers and toes, he searched for something at the end of his extremities as they stretched and recoiled.
Dancers Rebecah Goldstone and Sarah Butler took over the space for a punchy duet that brought a touch of playfulness back into the environment. Their cat-like movement was reinforced when they took a momentary cat nap mid-piece just to have their ears perk up and immediately continue their antics. While both dancers were unique movers with their own intrigue, the most exciting moments were their dynamic unison sections which would travel aggressively across the space then disperse into individualized phrases.
After the duet resolved, Danielle Agami took a moment to talk about her mission as a choreographer in Los Angeles. Namely: to heighten the profile of dance in the city and prove its value to venues, investors, and audiences alike. Mention of Agami’s opinion of Americans being threatened by the elusive, ambiguous nature of dance painted my context for the piece that followed. Alex Quetell, a stunning mover, was accompanied by a talking track that discussed humans’ need to label animals in order to be comfortable with them, harkening back to Agami’s suggestion of dance as misunderstood, and therefore a threat. The audio also confirmed the animal influence on the movement being presented that evening as Quetell explored his own body and the space in a confused haze.
Once Jobel Medina joined him, Quetell’s curiosity was transformed and transmitted between himself and Medina as they took turns observing themselves and each other. The seamless movement between ideas with qualitative virtuosity demanded our attention. The animal theme suffused the atmosphere of the piece with squawking and wing flapping sounds acting as a foundation for the score.
“It’s a taste of the potential.”
The final piece of this section was an all-male quartet to a cover of Cindy Lauper’s Girls Just Want to Have Fun. This piece best showcased Agami’s architectural prowess and trademark casual tone juxtaposed with technically challenging movement. Here, I saw the family thread come back as the dancers went through an array of emotion- from fighting, to hugging, to shaking with anxiety; the family member’s true feelings were unleashed. The piece was intended to be humorous, but the humor didn’t quite land because the audience was not primed for it. By the time the audience was open to laughter, the piece was over.
Agami stepped in to answer audience questions and reiterated her frustrations around the lack of appreciation for dance in the United States. She deemed the evening “a taste of the potential”. A quote that perfectly encapsulated my grasp of the evening.
The third section of the evening was the least coherent. It contained three solos performed by Montay Romero, Rebecah Goldstone, and Sarah Butler. While the solos were all captivating on their own, the connection between them was not apparent. Goldstone stood out as a performer. Her expression emoted some internal story being lived in front of the audience unlike any other moment, piece, or performance that evening. Her and Montay’s solos complimented each other in a sort of freeze-dance while Butler’s evoked a puppet ballet that broke down to the floor as she slowly collapsed in on herself.
The final set of questions took on a bitter tone as Agami went into greater detail about her frustrations with the Los Angeles dance world. I carried this tone with me into the final pieces of the night which made me acutely aware of how what I’m bringing to (and experiencing at) the theatre influences my interpretations of the work. Agami’s movement phrases showed great attention to detail, but her words spoke louder than the dance.
Dancer Jordan Lovestrand kicked off the final set with an athletic solo accompanied by heavy, strained breaths and a pained aesthetic. He danced with fervor and strength that kept collapsing to the floor. A desire for resistance, but ultimately giving up.
The evening culminated in a gorgeous duet between Rebecah Goldstone and Jobel Medina that wavered between playful and desperate with graceful moments of tender connection. Goldstone fell into a deadened dip in Medina’s arms as he pounded his forehead into her chest, trying to revive her. I couldn’t help but parallel this desperate attempt at revival with Agami’s calls for a revitalization of modern dance in America. To make it all the more poignant, the final image of the night consisted of Goldstone silently screaming while Medina supported her cries.
Agami’s choreographic instincts are phenomenal, but the message was lost in the movement. “1 to 3” is more a string of unrelated vignettes than a unified work. Though, the movement phrases and the phenomenal dancers held our attention giving us plenty of beauty to take home. It’s rare to see dance of this high caliber in such an intimate setting.
The evening was full of the unique, dynamic movement qualities I’ve come to expect from Ate9 over the years; animal-like fierceness and quirkiness; vigorous, rhythmic articulations; and luscious adagios. There were missed opportunities for the dancers to have more moments of human connection with the audience in the form of eye contact and other types of intimate interaction, but it was exciting to witness their virtuosity and dedication up-close.
My biggest takeaway from the evening is a new awareness of how our interior worlds and adjacent interactions impact our understanding of what we’re experiencing when standing witness to a performance. For this reason, I expect every show to be an entirely different experience. So, whether you’ve seen the show or not, you’re in for something new.
Where can you see “1 to 3”?
There are two more shows of “1 to 3” this month at The Ruby Street on the evenings May 23rd and 30th. Tickets are $20, street parking only. Don’t miss this intimate opportunity and even join Ate9 for their season wrap party after the show on May 30th! They have an additional show tonight (May 20th) as well. To echo Danielle Agami’s expressed dreams and desires, SUPPORT LOCAL DANCE and go see the show.
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