Revving up contemporary dance on the West Coast

Dance Affiliates presents BodyTraffic

2 minute read
"A Trick of Light": comedic storytelling. (Photo by Bill Hebert, courtesy of Dance Affiliates [NextMove Series])
"A Trick of Light": comedic storytelling. (Photo by Bill Hebert, courtesy of Dance Affiliates [NextMove Series])

Los Angeles-based BodyTraffic is the most-talked-about contemporary dance company to emerge from the West Coast in a while, maybe ever. Named one of Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch” in 2013, BodyTraffic returned to Philadelphia with commissioned pieces by some of today’s most prominent choreographers. Under the direction of Lillian Rose Barbeito and Tina Finkelman Berkett, the company performed four Philadelphia premieres at Dance Affiliate’s Next Move series, showcasing the athleticism, versatility, and the technical ability of its dancers.

Gaining notable reputation in the dance world, BodyTraffic’s success is in part due to the caliber of choreographers they’ve worked with, including Hofesh Shechter, Kyle Abraham, Zoe Scofield, Sidra Bell, and Barak Marshall. This eight-year-old company is thriving in a place where concert dance has not saturated the scene — a place that some would call the mecca of commercial dance.

Personality and showmanship

Due to an injury, the trio of The New 45 was performed as a duet between Tina Finkelman Berkett and Guzmán Rosado. A spirited jazz piece, 45 was a vessel for both personality and showmanship, allowing both dancers to display their control in quick jumps and slides that took them to the floor and back up, like the supple rebound of a slinky.

Two pieces truly showcased the dancers’ artistic range and theatrical capabilities. With music by Jasper Gahunia and choreography by Victor Quijada, a well-crafted balance of ballet and street dance made Once Again, Before You Go a success. Transitioning seamlessly between genres, James Gregg and Joseph Kudra appeared almost spineless as they fluidly moved from back walkovers to off-centered balances, proving their bodies are prime canvases for Quijada’s choreography.

Joshua Peugh’s Trick of Light was a lighthearted (no pun intended) comedic blend of storytelling and animated gestural steps. A group piece that had ballroom sensibilities, Light was the perfect piece to end the show as it pulled laughter from the audience when the sign “The End” was presented through silver streamer curtains.

On the wrong coast?

At a time when modern dance was thriving on the East Coast with pioneers like Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham, Lester Horton was on the West Coast, creating and developing a technique that is still being taught in schools today. Decades later, concert dance is still synonymous with the East Coast, especially New York City. Having their fingers on the pulse of contemporary dance, BodyTraffic is energizing the West Coast dance scene with innovation and fusion, while continuing to diversify their repertory, showing that concert dance can, and does, live in the City of Angels.

What, When, Where

BodyTraffic. Lillian Rose Barbeito and Tina Finkelman Berkett directed. November 4-8 at the Prince Theater, 1412 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia.

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