Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Born Dance Company Presents New Works

Rendering – At the Moment, the Born Dance Company’s current show playing at the Unknown Theater in Hollywood, engages viewers as soon as we step inside the theater lobby. The delightful opening (too much fun to give away) of artistic director Won-sun Choi’s “Rendering III: Tal” blurs boundaries between audience and performers and thereby references its roots; “Rendering III” draws upon the traditions of Tal-chum, a Korean mask dance drama characterized by this kind of active and informal exchange between viewers and performers. In Rendering – At the Moment, the Born choreographic collaborators present five works, four of them premieres, that explore diverse cultural practices and perspectives.

Audience members eventually settle into plush velour seats under the whirring fan of the Unknown’s black box, and Won-sun Choi’s dance continues. A willowy figure with an eerily blank white face performs a floating meditation beneath a cluster of dangling masks, establishing reflective distance from the more traditional masked performance that surfaces elsewhere. Later on, masked dancers in the long white sleeves of buddhist monks strike and stomp gloriously with splayed limbs, their voices occasionally adding a wonderfully human element to the percussive musical score. In a witty and fitting re-interpretation of the socially rebellious Tal-chum practice, one dancer emerges from the shadows wearing several masks – on face, arm, bottom – and playing with the irreverant possibilities.

In Byoung-ju Yoon’s “Yeo” we peek into the private emotional life of a techno queen, fraught with palpable tensions and frustrations and peppered with moments of vulnerability. This dramatic diva slinks along walls, languidly draping limbs then aggressively shooting legs through the cloud of introspection that follows her. It is a mysterious piece – partly because I couldn’t see the image on the sheet of plastic properly – but mostly because the character intrigues with a combination of assured sinuous actions, shakey stumbles, and subtle and sensitive fingerings.

“Sandival’s Story: three chapters,” choreographed by Sue Roginski, is a moving reflection on a real-life encounter with a woman waiting, breathing, fixing her hair, crossing her legs, and sipping water at the downtown Riverside bus terminal. Four women start, halt, gesture, and traverse the space in parallel, populating a lonely world together. Eventually they reach into the audience and tell the story of the movements with their own bodies and voices, breathing a welcome respite of human connection into the work and enacting a soothing ritual of collective remembering.

A highlight of the evening follows intermission, Ji-young Jung’s “Just Look at There.” Dancing a pleading duet with Seong-chul Kim’s film – a stark, skeletal face that turns and nods, alternately prodding and ignoring its partner from an on-stage computer screen – Ji-young Jung falls into spasmodic, twitching ticks; crawls and drags her body in frustration, demanding to be seen; and is pulled toward the unfeeling image by her own robotically swiveling feet. Apparently unconscious moments of unison between Jung and her digital partner, as well as their ability to predict one another’s movements, suggest the depth of knowing and relational closeness that allow us to wound each other with ghastly visciousness. All too soon, Jung draws the work to a beautifully hopeful but not quite emotionally healed conclusion.

I won’t reveal the final sensual treat in “Rendering II: Life Journey v. 2,” a reworking of the original piece, first performed in 2006. Go see the show.

Performances continue this coming weekend (Thursday the 23rd through Saturday the 25th at 8:00 pm, and Sunday the 26th at 6:00 pm). The Unknown Theater is located at 1110 N. Seward St., just off Santa Monica Boulevard. Tickets may be purchased for $18 online at, or for $24 at the door or by phone (323-466-7781).

Other responses to Rendering - At the Moment:

Reading the Dance

An Introduction

Greetings! I'm a dancer and writer from Massachusetts and, more recently, Columbus, Ohio. I just moved to LA and am beginning to explore the dance scene here. As a disclaimer, I should note that because my own experience is mostly in contemporary, or modern dance, the performances I write about will likely be predominantly of that genre. I'd be grateful for notice of any upcoming dance event, however, so please pass along.