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BODYTRAFFIC delivers puzzling performance at DPAC

| Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Emma Kirner | The Observer
Image source: Facebook

This weekend L.A. based contemporary dance company, BODYTRAFFIC, performed at the Debartolo Performing Arts Center. The troupe delivered a two-hour show comprised of four shorter pieces, and I would say that my thoughts are mixed after seeing them.

Before anything else, I need to say that the dancing itself was phenomenal. The contemporary dance was clearly based on strong ballet techniques. Every single dancer was a master of their craft and made difficult and complex movements look easy and effortless. Each piece had choreography that was packed with movement and saw the dancers transitioning from one step to the next quickly and precisely. All the steps were sharp and beautiful to watch. I could not believe the strength and control that was evident in each of the movements.

The dancers also succeeded emotionally. They were able to convey a wide range of emotions and moods. They expressed anguish to carefree joy through their interactions with one another and with the music. The larger group numbers did a great job of seeming frantic and chaotic when all the dancers were interacting with each other, while still making it clear that each dancer knew exactly what they needed to do and when.

The staging, however, was a bit odd, and there were several points where I was very, very confused. This show was contemporary dance and not classical ballet, so I went in expecting something a little bit out there. However, there were points where I could not figure out what was going on. As an audience member, that detracted from the experience because it took me out of the dancing.

The first piece they performed was a preview of a piece called “The One to Stay With,” and this one was the most confusing. It opened with three dancers standing in silhouette with their backs to the audience surrounding a bowl of water catching drops from the ceiling and lit from below. As the dance progressed, the lights grew brighter, and more dancers joined them onstage. All wore costumes that looked somewhere between a maintenance worker’s uniform and something from a post-apocalyptic, teen dystopian movie. There was clearly some sort of implied message, and I spent the entire dance trying to figure out what it was. The staging was interesting and the dancing breathtaking, but I was lost as to what the piece meant.

A similar thing happened to in the second piece, “SNAP,” which opened with a soloist performing to hip hop music, who was then joined on stage by more dancers wearing color-coordinated, stylized streetwear. The music then cut out in a record scratch, and all the dancers froze before continuing to dance to the record-scratching sound. The piece continued like this, and at one point they were dancing to motorcycle noises. Again, it was cool, very artsy and made no sense.

The third piece, “(d)elusive minds,” was explained in the program as showing a man with Schizophrenia who had killed his mother and was now writing letters to her. This one had an explanation and made sense, which meant instead of trying to figure it out, I could enjoy it. And I did. It was a duet where the two dancers alternated between acting out the scene of the murder and the various visions and thoughts from the man. It was thought provoking but comprehensible, and the two dancers did an amazing job of portraying the wide array of characters and scenes in the piece, making it my favorite of the three.

The final piece, “PACOPEPELUTO,” featured nothing but three nearly naked men dancing to songs including “That’s Amore” by Dean Martin. It was fun but odd, and it left me thinking “Why?”

Overall, I would call the performance puzzling. It showcased stunning dance talent in several, rather confusing pieces. I personally did not get it, but it received a standing ovation on Friday, so maybe I am missing something. I would give it four out of five shamrocks, mostly because the dancing itself was so good.


Performance: BODYTRAFFIC

Starring: Cast of BODYTRAFFIC

Directors: Tine Berkett, Lillian Barbeito

Where: DeBartolo Performing Arts Center

Shamrocks: 4 out of 5 shamrocks

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