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Home > Dance Events Review

Hysterica Dance Benefit Review

Hysterica Dance Company & Friends Benefit Los Angeles

Hysterica Dance Company
LA Contemporary Dance Company
"Bloodstone", "Pinky Swear", "Earth Intruders", "Paintbox"
Shakespeare Festival Theatre
Los Angeles
March 22

If there was ever a good reason to get lost in downtown LA this was it. I rarely venture out that way but there are slim exceptions…and this night it was for a Hysterica Dance Company Benefit. I’ve seen this company before so I already knew I’d be in for a treat; Hysterica is no ordinary dance company. They come from the gut and don’t let up until they knock the wind out of you. This benefit was like a lost treasure hidden in the ghost-town of LA. MapQuest did me wrong as usual, but eventually I spotted an industrial building with a small hand-painted “Hysterica Dance Benefit” banner on it.

Of course I was late, so I found myself rushing down a dark little side street laced with homeless men and abandoned couches. I hurried toward the sound of music, which poured from the destined building. As I walked up to the building I could see the dancers warming up through the windows: they looked like a different species, donning neon colors, eccentric body languages, let's just say they had quite the unique vibe. I rushed up the stairs expecting a stage, box office…you know, the usual set-up. Instead I was greeted by a large warehouse, high school bleachers, fold out chairs and a gigantic stage that was only maybe three inches off the ground. The lighting was fixed: ground flood lights and a few overhead ones did the trick. It was very raw lighting that was unforgiving and revealing. For some reason that was perfect.

Hysterica Dance Company

After I finally got settled into a seat I was ready to soak in the phenomena happening ten feet away from my face. I was especially excited to see the works of Nina McNeely and Kitty McNamee; those two women rock it out. Despite all the shows I’ve seen, they had somehow distorted the meaning of dance into a bizarre and twisted but magnificent pretzel. Personally, I don’t think I’ll ever recover (nor do I want to). All this was flying around in my head which after awhile made me realize I had a bad case of A.D.D.…I wasn’t able to pay true attention to some of the remarkable performing going on! I was missing it, in the sense that it seemed like a dream that I couldn’t grasp, and it was fleeting fast.

What snapped me back into the moment, or shall I say harsh reality, was Bloodstone, choreographed by none other that Nina McNeely. This was her eerie rendition of a parent-child relationship. It seemed to portray emotional neglect, exploitation, manipulation and possibly least that’s what I interpreted. Two parent/authority figures (Nina McNeely and Andy Acosta) walked out in silence like a brick wall, with a young, fragile, caged soul (danced by Denna Thompson). Nina was dressed in a black veil wedding gown get-up with Andy Acosta escorting her. Denna Thompson, who was visibly shaken and distressed, was dressed in doll-like garb that was falling off as she inched her way out under the control of the figures. She was their little doll soldier, eyes glazed over, and was seemingly ready to endure whatever they inflicted on her. As they controlled, chased, prodded and ignored her, she began to grow restless. The victim soon retorted as she heaved herself at, ran from, rebelled against and ultimately suffered from. It was wild to see the threesome evolve and escalate in fast forward. Denna’s interpretation of the role was intense and maniacal. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She fought for her life and instead was left wilting and jolted as the "abusers" moved on looking for their next victim. It was a very sad and dark reality of a not so happy ending. It was just...left in the air to marinate in everyone during their week ahead.

Bloodstone, Nina McNeely, Denna Thompson, Hysterica Dance
Bloodstone, photo by shabsoasis

I was luckily refreshed with the next stand-out piece. It was as if I had been in the great depression and needed to watch a chummy musical to wipe the murk off my brain. This much needed comedy relief came in the form of Pinky Swear, a satire choreographed and performed by Kate Hutter of LA Contemporary Dance Company and Kevin Williamson. These two had the audience rolling. They dug into the age old issue of relationships. Man versus woman, seeking individuality in the face of “coupledom”. With movement spanning from hugs and holds to head pushes and lulls, they twisted and turned through each other...while invariably trying to hog the spotlight from one another. It represented opinion, dueling idealism, exasperation and attachment. These two earned a standing ovation speckled with giggles and hollers. Loved it.

LA Contemporary Dance Co., Kate Hutter, Pinky Swear
Pinky Swear, photo by David Schwep

After this witty amusement, I was getting prepared for another ride on the roller- coaster of emotions. I secretely believed that they were putting the pieces in a specific order that would provoke that "ride" (my conspiracy theory). But…I was dead wrong when I noticed the Earth Intruders (choreographed by Galen Hooks) charge out to the sounds of Bjork. This was a complete riot. Three space age chicks march out (Galen Brooks, Jillian Meyers and Davinia Tornero) in bright colored shiny lycra pants, space boot tennis shoes and beaded bullets strapped diagonally across their chests. They literally charged out of a Japanimation cartoon and attacked the space! Galen's choreographic animation was jovial, brisk and pulsating. It really did pop out like a sore thumb from the concert. And that is pretty hard to do considering the ideas Hysterica comes up with! I mean, I wanted to take home stuffed animal souvenirs of these characters. Enough said?

Galen Brooks, Hysterica Dance, Earth Intruders
Hysterica Dance Company, photo by shabsoasis

After being treated to a kaleidoscope of various other movement patterns and energies, the grand master daddy rolled out onto the stage in the form of Paintbox, choreographed by Kitty McNamee. The casting of the dancers was immaculate, or so I decided at the end. I loved the pairing and twisting of fates, the carrying and floating of souls. I took away from it, the idea that we all mesh together whether we like it or not, and we can either lift each other up and guard each other in this life, or we can watch each other suffocate. Kitty portrayed the former. Her fresh and abstract choreography portrayed life almost as if it were water. The dancers seemed to be literally rousing in liquid, at times even gasping for air or opening their mouths for a breath of relief. Dancer Mecca Vazie Andrews powered through the choreography in a way that almost stole the entire piece, while Marlon Pelayo balanced out the ensemble with his generous and solid movement. Every dancer was a force in their own right: Tara Avise crept through the movement in all her luminous splendor, while Nina McNeely and Denna Thompson set the audience in rapture for the umpteenth time. Kitty McNamee is brilliant, and she most definitely chose the best for last.

Hysterica Dance, Paintbox, Kitty McNamee
Paintbox, photo by shabsoasis

Getting lost downtown and dealing with the perpetual traffic ended up adding to this whole experience in

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