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Review: Laguna Dance Festival gets off to a mixed start at LAM

April 12, 2012|By Heather Youmans, Special to the Coastline Pilot
  • UC Irvine students Vincent Hardy, right, and Jessie Ryan, dance together during a performance in the main showroom at the Laguna Art Museum for the Laguna Beach Dance Festival on April 5.
UC Irvine students Vincent Hardy, right, and Jessie Ryan,… (KENT TREPTOW, Coastline…)

The Laguna Beach Dance Festival last week kicked things off with performances by UC Irvine dance students during the First Thursdays Art Walk in Laguna Beach.

There were several people strolling down Coast Highway and exploring the row of art galleries, with some stumbling upon the Laguna Art Museum. Once inside, a majority of onlookers moseyed their way into the museum's largest room, the Steele Gallery, where the student dancers were to perform.

It was all part of an effort to promote this weekend's upcoming events, which include performances from renowned companies like the New York City Ballet and Colorado Ballet. Such dancers are in a league of their own, but Orange County dance students demonstrated their potential.

At first glance, the Steele Gallery space appeared strikingly atypical of characteristic dance performances. This left the audience scattered about the room confused, as the spectators tried to make out where the performance would take place.

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Statues positioned at the room's center obstructed the view for some in the standing-room-only crowd. Excessive neck twisting and leaning can make people uncomfortable and irritable, yet the audience eventually warmed up to the space and learned to look at the dances from a new angle.

Following Artistic Director Jodie Gates' suggestion, audience members attempted to look at the performance through gaps in the statues before them. The altered perspective gave the dance a new dimension.

In effect, the statues framed the dance to match the collection of impressionist paintings hanging from the gallery's four walls. However, the insufficient frontal lighting in the gallery could not be ignored, as it caused the performance's overall quality to suffer.

Luckily, the three-dance lineup was brief and to the point with little standing, which preserved smiles on the audience's faces.

Jodie Gates' "Mein Zimmer," German for "my room," opened the showcase and will be part of the "Stars of Dance" shows Saturday and Sunday. However, the four-minute teaser of the full-length piece, which is set to music by Bach, was less than appetizing, leaving onlookers hungry for the entrée.

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