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The Wallis is pleased to offer an opportunity for youth ages 12-18 to become a Student Arts Reporter. This program is designed for students interested in the arts and journalism or critical writing. The reviews below were written by members of The Wallis Student Reporters.  For more information about the program please contact Debra Pasquerette at dpasquerette@thewallis.org.


In Unison 
L.A. Dance Project 
By Liza Freiberg
 
An assortment of ages, backgrounds, and personalities all working as one – this is L.A. Dance Project. On November 3rd, 2017, ten brilliant dancers took the stage of the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, performing Benjamin Millepied’s and Noé Soulier’s choreography.  Their work is not solely a form of entertainment, but a method of self-expression through art, as is especially conveyed through the title of Benjamin Millepied’s In Silence We Speak – one of the two pieces performed for the first time on the West Coast. 
 
Millepied’s title is not a misnomer – the silent, still moments struck the audience mightier than the sporadic frantic episodes, demanding more attention to comprehend a deeper meaning from what seems to be a simple position. In these moments of stillness, the dancers exhibit a degree of total control over their bodies: a much harder task than moving without coordination. Bulging muscles and popping veins softened by a pleasant face, coupled with years of technique training – that’s the mark of an exceptional dancer; L.A Dance Project has ten of them.
 
Performing for one hour and fifty minutes, there’s no dispute that the show put the dancers to the ultimate physical test. The shortest dance reached an astounding fifteen minutes, what probably seemed impossible to some of the company members back in their two-minute-solo competition days. But what sets apart L.A. Dance Project from other dance companies is not the stamina; it is the unison with which the company performs. The dancers can be on random parts of the stage, moving at differing heights, presenting alternative movements of one theme, yet still breathing as if they comprised one entity. 
 
Attention to such minute details and their perfect execution amazes an audience, all the more when it lasts for the entirety of a dance as long as twenty eight minutes, the case of Soulier’s Second Quartet. How is it that an audience is not bored by a dance almost as long as a Seinfeld episode? Again, the audience marvels at the meticulousness of the choreography, not necessarily attentive to the meaning of the movement. Both the dancers and the audience members struggle to keep up with the detail, entertaining a challenge for Soulier’s masterpiece. 
 
 
 
L.A. Dance Project 
Chloe Clark 
 
L.A. Dance Project was a vibrant performance which showcased the dance company’s artistic, unique movement. 
The first piece, Closer, was performed by two dancers who relied on each other throughout the dance. There was a strong connection between the partners as they used each other’s bodies by leaning, hugging, or embracing each other. They made beautiful artistic shapes and lines with their bodies. The dancers had grace and strength, making the movements appear light and airy; the complex lifts seemed so effortless for them to execute. Even at times when the dancers were not physically connected, they danced separately but were still in sync with their choreography. Paired with the amazing technique, there was simplistic lighting and costuming which elevated the performance. 
The second piece, Second Quartet, was a more contemporary and stylistic movement. There was free form choreography which matched the unique musical beats, drums, and chimes. The dancers represented the different accents of drums and symbols through the quirky shapes they made with their bodies. Although there was four dancers altogether, the dancers would alternate on and off stage with different pairings. For instance, in one of the duets, the connections made with both of their bodies were creative and different, as they glided off one another for support. When all four dancers were on stage at once, they performed with no music which drew attention to their movement and allowed the dancers to make the music themselves. 
In Silence We Speak, two female dancers created a beautiful partnership. The ladies seemed attached to each other emotionally and physically, as they held and supported each other. The dancers also had a soft look in their eyes and meaningful expressions of care. Their movement could be felt as they fully extended through their fingers and arms. In the piece, there was a more urbanized feel to the music with hard hitting beats. When they danced without music, the art of the movement through shapes and lines were fully recognizable. Overall, the performance was angelic, which was created by the dancer’s relationship as well as the soft lighting and musical choices. 
The final piece, Orpheus Highway, was visually captivating because of the projection in the background that displayed videos of the dancers dancing. Most of the choreography in the background video mirrored the dancer’s choreography on the stage. The video in the background was not just dancing, but it also told a story; it was like a movie. This aspect made the overall performance more intense. This piece involved the whole dance company, as they performed in groups, duos, or trios. Most of the piece was contemporary movement, and as a group, they executed the choreography cleanly. Although the video projection the background was very captivating, and added to the intensity of the performance, it may be difficult to follow both the video and the live performance simultaneously. 
Overall, The L.A. Dance Project performance was captivating and dynamic, as all four pieces were unique, through display of different emotions and styles. 
 


The Wars Within Us
LA Dance Project
By Panna Gattyan
 
The LA Dance Project performed four dances on November 2-4 as the Wallis Annenberg Center’s first company-in-residence. The artistic Director, Benjamin Millepied (who choreographed the movie Black Swan), choreographed most pieces except one called Second Quartet, which is choreographed by Noé Soulier.
The first dance, Closer, intertwines two people in nightclothes. The man and the woman continuously touch as they move. Soft lights and movements, a live piano score accompanies the dancers. The man lifts the woman with ease, moving in sync, completing each other. Their shadows dance in the background while the music swells intensely then mellows out again. Towards the end the lovers increasingly dance on the floor, like puzzle pieces missing then finding each other again. 
Following this classical piece of piano and lovers is Second Quartet, which lacks both the traditional music and movements. In Soulier’s words, “The movements presented [in this piece] are not immediately recognizable. Rather, they are motivated by concrete goals—such as avoiding, striking, throwing, pushing, and resisting…[The] body parts used during the movements are ill-suited for their goals.” This statement perfectly encompasses the jerky, inhuman movements of the dancers. Some movements include trying to push invisible things using the throat, abdomen, or thighs. By not representing the targeted object, the audience pictures their own “physical memory.” The music accompanying the awkward movements is an even more awkward soundtrack of whirring, cracking, wave and clacking sounds. The dancers wear everyday clothes, leaving the stage randomly and often lying or flopping on the ground. Although sometimes in sync, there’s no intimacy between the dancers. At least, not until later in the piece when a man and a woman continue their pushing movements, but touching. They dance as if they can’t move without using the other person’s body. Sometimes there’s no sound at all, and all we hear is the movement of the bodies.
The third dance, In Silence We Speak, begins with two girls in pale onesies and a light tapping sound. The music sometimes morphs into a medieval choral with lyrics including “you will love me” and “you will turn to dust.” This piece has a lot of cool moves.
The last dance, Orpheus Highway, was the most powerful. Dancers performed on stage while a video on screen showed a similar dance but outside. The dance interprets the Ancient Greek myth of Orpheus.. His wife, Eurydice, dies on their wedding day, and Orpheus travels to the underworld to retrieve her, enchanting Hades, the god of the underworld, with his music.This piece includes some tap dancing, mostly used by the ‘devil’s horde’ dancers in an attempt to intimidate Orpheus and his wife. The desert represents the underworld in the video. Hades allows Eurydice to return with Orpheus on the condition that neither of them look back as they leave. Orpheus walks in front, with Eurydice behind him. When Orpheus makes it to the threshold of the underworld, he looks back at his wife in joy. At that moment, Eurydice gets sucked back and Orpheus loses her forever.
 
Dorrance Dance
By Canyon Clark
 
I recently saw a performance of Dorrance Dance (at the Annenberg Center for The Performing Arts) This was a phenomenal show that I recommend seeing . After the performance I was lucky enough to ask Michelle Dorrance a few questions. 
 
What is the inspiration for your choreography?
Dorrance responded that she wanted to “show the audience, particularly non tap dancers what I see hear and experience as percussion with the body” Dorrance focuses on creating sounds of rhythm in order for viewers to “hear” the rhythm. She paralleled this to rhythms and beats of today’s music with percussive beats. Dorrance’s goal was to “juxtapose tap sounds with no sounds” that would give viewers a different perspective on tap, while simultaneously and unintentionally telling a story about her outlook on life. For her third piece, called Myelination Michelle said she was interested in the brain and the fatty tissue that contributes to learning things. Through Myelination she expresses that “Anything you practice to become good at that becomes part of your natural instinct, whether you’re playing something or writing something …” She also explained that this could work in a negative way such as being quick to anger or having a bad attitude will also affect your natural instinct. 
 
How did you get into tap dancing?
“I grew up as a daughter of a dance school owner” Dorrance’s mom created a dance academy where she spent most of her time. This is where she found her love for tap and music. Her mom ended up being her mentor and teacher. 
 
Do you enjoy choreography or improvisation more?
She responded that her “heart lives with improvisation, but I love the challenge of executing choreography and I love the feeling of dancing with my crew” this is because of her love of music and the process of composing. 
 
When you dance do you portray more of your personal feelings or about society?
Michelle said, she believes that “many times those both intersect. I think you guys are in this generation growing up with a really outrageous political time… It enrages me personally what’s happening in this country in every direction.” Dorrance confessed that the problems in society keep her up at night. She then goes on to explain the history of tap dance and its origins from slavery. Tap dance is a “subversive language at its core, and that it’s an  art form that is not respected the way it should be. Tap is so sophisticated and music at the same time and people just write it off as entertainment.” She also talked about how she includes politics when she taps. The background of her including politics is because tap dancers have died without money because of racism and sexism. 
 
 
Feathers of Fire
By Kate O’Carroll
 
When you hear “shadow puppets,” you probably think of grade school birthday party. In Feathers of Fire: A Persian Epic, however, shadow puppets are presented in a whole new light - no pun intended. Feathers of Fire, created and directed by Hamid Rahmanian, tells the story of star-crossed lovers in ancient Persia through the use of shadow puppet headpieces that the actors wear while performing behind a screen and some handheld puppets used for transition sequences and wide-frame scenes. The unconventional medium of shadow puppetry resembles the art and design of ancient Persia, honoring the inspiration for the play.
Feathers of Fire, produced by ShadowLight Productions, is based on the Persian epic Shahnameh, written around 1000 C.E. by Ferdowski. Shahnameh, which translates to Book of Kings, incorporates mythology within history to chronicle the story of Persia. The hefty book - about 100,000 lines long - contains countless stories, and Feathers of Fire is an in depth retelling of a small portion of the epic. 
Feathers of Fire details the life of Zaul, who is abandoned at birth by his widowed father, a knight. Zaul is raised by a majestic bird, Simorgh, but re-enters civilization in his adolescence. The conflict centers on Zaul’s relationship with Rudabeh, a princess of Kabul. Political and familial tensions hinder Zaul and Rudabeh from being together. Rudabeh and Zaul’s star-crossed love is a familiar motif, but avoids cliche. Their romance feels fresh though predictable. 
The target audience for Feathers of Fire ranges from 5 to 85, and everyone is able to enjoy different aspects of the show. Children will delight in the colorful visuals, and can easily comprehend the plot through the narrative style. Some of the moments are even familiar to children, such as when Rudabeh, atop a balcony, like Rapunzel lets down her hair for Zaul. Adults in the audience will appreciate the humor in the scene, as Rudabeh’s ditzy maidens swoon over the handsome Zaul. 
When I saw Feathers of Fire, the entire audience was mesmerized by the ornate designs of the shadow puppets, handcrafted by Neda Kazemifar and Spica Wobbe. I myself felt as awestruck as the six-year-old next to me when Simorgh the bird appeared, multicolored wings pumping protectively over Zaul. Her gorgeous, intricate feathers resembled stained glass and took my breath away every time she flew onto the screen. The original, Persian-inspired score by Loga Ramin Torkian and Azam Ali also contributed to the trance that I felt throughout the show. Rahmanian’s passion for the story overflows through his directing, and his passion for Persia is evident through the visual homage to the time period. Although the original Book of Kings is over one thousand years old, Rahmanian’s innovative choices create an atmosphere that feels contemporary and reminds you of the magic of live theater.
 

Romance in Shadows
Feathers of Fire
By Panna Gattyan
 
Before the cinematic shadow play began, the creator, Hamid Rahmanian, walked on stage to remind us that the performance was live. Apparently, many people believed, having left the theatre, that they had seen a movie of the play. At first I thought that was quite foolish to think, but soon I understood where the confusion may have arisen. 
Feathers of Fire narrates one of the love stories in the Persian epic Shahnameh. In the creator’s words:
Shahnameh has four love stories, four tragedies, and endless battles. My goal was to create something that is in the universe of Shahnameh. This is the longest poem written by a single poet. His name is Ferdosi. In 1010 he basically collected and put together the old epic tradition of Iran into sixty thousand heroic verses. The reason we Iranians to this day speak in Persian is because of this book. The regions of Egypt, Syria..etc lost the language to Arabic. We kept the language alive because we had this book. 
In Feathers of Fire, a noble son—Zaul—raised in hiding by a bird goddess (because he was born with white hair) returns to the land of men, swiftly falling in love with the first woman he sees. This woman happens to be the daughter of Zaul’s family’s enemy, and thus their marriage appears doomed. However, through love, support, and courage, the couple marry with a happily-ever-after. Although some of the writing seemed stilted, there was also some extremely rich figurative language.
Using a complex web of shadow puppetry and shadow acting, as well as sound effects and screen graphics, I can see where people might have thought this was a recording. Nevertheless, the play clearly took a lot of effort, with thousands of puppets and only a dozen helping hands. After the play, Rahmanian brought the audience backstage via a camera which projected onto a large screen. The creator showed us how the play worked and how the puppets and costumes looked (since all we saw were their shadows). The puppets and costume heads are beautifully crafted, with colored panels and multiple layers. 
Plays performed behind screens are less understood and accepted by mainstream society than conventional plays, and unfortunately such risqué projects lack sufficient funding. Rahmanian explained frankly, “Idea is plenty but money is scarce. We have ideas but this project is very expensive to put together. We always suffer from the funding.”
Rahmanian has devoted a huge part of his life to bringing Shahnameh to wider and more modern audiences:
In 2013 I created a new illustrated edition of Shahnameh. 600 pages of illustration with a new translation, very accessible, very eloquent translation. So based on this illustration I made many offsprings. For instance we created a pop-up book, another puppet show, this one, a comic book, and an audiobook which is full 13 hours of sound effects and design with the dramatization of the entire text. So this is my last ten years.
 
Dorrance Dance
By Frederick Minser
 
From the masterful choreography to the live jazz band Dorrance Dance show is a treat. The rhythm of the music combined with the percussion incorporated by the dancers is enough to make anyone want to get up and dance. The show begins by different stories being told with the dancer’s expressions or specific movements they make. There are either couples hanging out at a party or using their bodies to become the Jazz instruments. The way the company uses lighting is phenomenal, using it to show only the dancers feet or nothing at all as you listen to the dancers in the dark. What makes these performers even more incredible is the fact that when they are doing solo pieces they are mostly improvised. This gives them free range to explore whatever they want and makes the show every time it’s performed. “Tap dance is a musical”, said Michelle Dorrance and that is definitely true in this spectacular show for everyone to enjoy.
 
Dorrance Dance
By Anna Polin
 
Dorrance Dance was a spectacular sight to see from the dancers’ fast movement and complicated tricks this show will leave you speechless.  The first act was my favorite. It resembled an 80's theme with fast beat jazz music.  The type of music used influenced the choreography.  If the music was slow the dancers danced slowly and calmly. What really moved me was the grace, accuracy, and most importantly the beat and rhythm the dancers created. The tipidy tapidy sound the tap dancers made produced its own song. It was a beautiful, catchy, wordless, song.
 

The Bastards of the Dance World
Dorrance Dance
By Panna Gattyan
 
We’re in the dark when the music begins. For a moment only sound exists, and we float in an abyss of melody, metal clinking and whirring to the beat. The lights come on. We are enlightened. The brightness illuminate three pairs of legs. The middle pair wears tap shoes. The two beside her move barefoot. 
 
Michelle Dorrance, with tap shoes, beats the floor into song. Side-step slick slack swish. Their movements imitate and echo each other. All three make music but only one makes sound. We can see their bodies, their faces now. The contrast of silent tap and sound tap create a pleasing complexity. Although the performance fuses the three together, eventually only Michelle Dorrance remains. The piece turns emotional, hands extending for things out of reach. Dorrance’s tapping inhabits her body, and in a wild way I see her feet detaching, continuing to tap without an upper-body, the rhythm rising, intensifying until the last nerve-endings lose their energy, fading into the darkness. 
 
Michelle Dorrance’s dance company performed at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts from October 12 to 14. Dorrance welds non-tap elements, such as facial expressions, crouching, some ballet, and even animalistic gestures, with tap in an intensely intertwined performance of beat, motion, and story. In the following edited conversation, Michelle Dorrance explores the choreographies and inspirations of the three dances her company performed, as well as the origins of tap and her own discovery of the artform.
 
Can you tell me about the inspiration to the choreography of “Jungle Blues”?
For “Jungle Blues,” the inspiration was entirely the music. I was a teenager when I first heard that song. I was on a plane, tuned to United Airlines radio, and I was listening to a jazz station. Those horns sounded like characters to me, and so most of those solos and duets I choreographed meticulously. I was very interested in picking out some specific dancers to represent the horns. So that was really just an interpretation of the music and the time period.
 
What about for “Three to One”?
The second piece was the oldest of three. In “Three to one” I was really interested in showing the audience - particularly non-tap dancers - what I see and hear and experience as percussion with the body. We're tap dancers but we’re also musicians. We’re equally responsible for being both. Our movement is music. In tap dance the form follows the function. What we are focused on is also creating very specific sound and rhythm. I also found myself falling in love with dancers that didn’t make sounds but I saw their movement as percussive. I could hear their movement. I wanted to juxtapose tap sounds with no sounds, and have those two different bodies doing different rhythms, one that you could hear, and the other that you could not. And then of course it turns into this really alienated sad solo. The emotional journey wasn’t the original intention. That was part of the artistic process. That piece became more a reflection of my life at the time.
 
And “Myelination”?
The third piece, “Myelination,” has to do with brain function. That fatty tissue is what helps you learn things. The more you do a certain movement, whether skill-based or just walking, the more this builds slowly around that particular nerve impulse. Literally, the electric nature of the thing moves more quickly through the fiber. I was interested in it because I read this book called The Talent Code that my dad recommended to me. It talked about how you become better at things through deep practice and the building of myelin. 
And so part of the process in building this with the dancers was making them do things in the piece that they couldn’t quite do yet. So getting better while learning how to do the piece, which I think is a great process. Some kind of abstract emotional narratives developed inside of it because anything you practice to become good at becomes part of your natural instinct. If you have negative reactions to things, or quick to anger, are destructive in any way, those pathways, everytime you build them, are becoming stronger as well. So there’s clearly a dark element inside of the piece. There’s a sort of battle with that. There are some people in the piece that are characters of human beings, and there are some dancers in the piece that are more like energies, or disorders, or bad feelings.
 
What are some of the most impactful improvisations in the dance?
Usually anytime you see someone dancing as a soloist in my work, they’re improvising. And the first piece is an exception because I choreographed most of it. I always give people some freedom inside of things, unless I am really dissatisfied with their choice with what I’ve given them. Anytime you saw a soloist in the last piece, which is the longest one, any of those solos are improvised.
A lot of duets, unless it’s clear that it’s choreographed, where we’re doing the same thing, those are also improvised. And so those things change drastically from night to night. That’s always really interesting to explore. Each dancer has a turn to shine in every performance. And some people have a great show one night and other people don’t. But it’s really interesting to see that come fruition on stage, and to have that freedom I think is what makes it successful. 
 
How long does it take to choreograph each piece?
I would love more time to develop work. As tap dancers we’re not as supported financially as other artforms. Ballet companies have a building, and they have class every morning and they have a salary and have a lot of institutional support. We have to make it happen ourselves. We’ve learned to create quickly out of necessity. I would love a space. We’re the bastards of the dance world. Tap dancers are not treated very well by institutions, not because institutions don’t like tap dance. A lot of times it’s just because it’s misunderstood, and there’s a lack of education about the form.
 
How did you get into tap dancing?
I was a daughter of a dance school owner. She was a professional ballet dancer, my mom. She started this school I grew up dancing in the year I was born. So I lived there essentially when I wasn’t at home. I studied ballet, jazz, and tap dance, but tap dance was so immediately something that sat with me. And I have pretty flat feet. I don’t actually have a ballet body. I’m really inflexible. But tap dance resonated with me, I think in part because it was so musical. It’s a musical language first.
 
Can you tell me about where tap dance comes from?
The origins of tap dance come from slavery. There was a period of slave uprising in the South. And they were organized largely from communication through drums, which was rooted in West African culture and alive on the plantation. So the drum was taken away from the plantation slave in order to stop uprisings from happening. From then they used their feet and bodies to communicate. And that’s the beginning of tap dancing in America. It started as a subversive form of communication. It is this form of necessity in so many directions. It is this art form that is not respected the way it should be. It is so sophisticated; it is dance and music at the same time, and people just write it off as entertainment. It is incredibly difficult and nuanced in this way. This history lives inside of the form, and lives inside of us as artists. I think the most important thing is to be honest on stage.
 
 
 
Dorrance Dance 
By Chloe Clark 
 
Dorrance Dance was a unique and skillfully choreographed performance that was both artistically and technically captivating. 
The first piece, Jungle Blues, was lively and it showcased dancers as they performed in smaller groups as solos or in duets. Although they danced separately, the dancers complemented each other as a whole. The dancers in the background represented a steady, simple movement as the main dancers performed downstage.  The dancing was very stylized and their bodies truly embodied the music. For example, if the music was sporadic, so was their movements, but if the music was more calm, their movements would become controlled. Dorrance explained how her inspiration was “entirely the music... because the horns sounded like characters”; the dancers were a visual representation of the horns. The dancers had amazing technique as well as stage presence; I was able to feel their emotions of genuine happiness. 
The second piece, Three to One, was simplistic yet very creative. In contrast to the colorful costumes worn in the first piece, the three dancers in the second piece wore all black.  This simple dark color enabled the intricate movements to be the center of attention. When describing Three to One, Dorrance explained that she choreographed the piece to “juxtapose tap sounds with no sounds and to have two different bodies doing different rhythms--one that you could hear, and the other that you could not.” There was an obvious contrast in movement and sound as Dorrance was centered and the only dancer in tap shoes; the other two dancers alongside her were barefoot. The two surrounding dancers did not make sound with actual tap shoes, but the movement was able to be seen as percussive. As a whole, the dance exuded raw emotion through alienated movements.  
The third piece, Myelination, was different than the other two pieces in that the majority of the performance was improvised by the dancers. There was a lot of movement on stage with different groups on different parts of the stage which highlighted the different layers of the music. Some dancers represented the bass with simple, whole beats, while other dancers represented the vocals/lyrics with faster beats. At the beginning of the piece, a dancer was taping without accompanying music which emphasized how the music was produced entirely from the sound of his taps. This piece was not entirely tap; a few dancers were in street shoes and were dancing a contemporary or hip hop style. The performance was unique because it expressed more than what was seen on a surface level. The word “myelination” involves the wrapping of myelin, a fatty tissue, which helps one gradually learn concepts. Through deep practice, comes the development of myelin. Dorrance explains that her interest of myelination inspired her to choreograph the piece and “a part of the process was making dancers do things that they couldn't quite do yet--getting better through practice while learning how to do the piece.” This creation formed an abstract narrative within the piece, for there was components of destruction or darkness that rooted from learning new aspects, essentially creating a battle between dancers or within themselves. Dorrance clarifies that “some dancers are characters or human beings while others are more like energies, disorders, or bad feelings.” The internal struggle was expressed by the dancers as they dealt with obstacles, whether it was internally or externally. 
Dorrance Dance beautifully highlighted the art of tap dance through unique concepts displayed by the dancers from their raw emotions to skilled technique. 
 
 


Thebes 
Chloe Clark 
 
Thebes was a captivating play performed by many talented young actors. The performers expressed raw emotion, emphasizing conflict, pain, sorrow, and more. The play recreated the story of Oedipus, so without any prior knowledge to the Greek myth, it may be difficult to follow and know which character is who during throughout the play. The overall stage set was simple, there were five trees in the background and the only props used were two large bowls filled with water and sand. These two elements can represent different themes of the play; water symbolized the renewal and purification the characters may seek, and the sand represented the passing of time and destruction of fate. The characters wore all white and, at times, chanted their dialogue in unison. This highlighted power and purity, especially at the end of the play when the characters lined up and spoke as one singularity. The characters came out into the audience which added more interaction and tension, for the audience felt as though they were in the midst of the play as well. The play touches on the fall of fate and how strength lies in people in order to overcome injustice. The characters attempted to maintain power and Antigone was the literal representation of any hope that remained; it was that hope which inspired the rest of the citizens to stand up against the government ruler, Creon. 
 


Battlefield 
by Emma Erenmark
 
The play Battlefield, based on The Mahabharata, an ancient Indian epic, and the play written by Jean-Claude Carriere, is a 70-minute journey into a society just torn apart by war in ancient India, and how difficult it is to lose people you love in battle.  
The play is simple in some respects.  The show is quiet, there are only four actors, the actors walk barefoot, and there is little set.  What is more complex is the dialogue.  The four actors discuss many deeply philosophical issues that we still struggle with today, thousands of years after The Mahabharata was written.  They discuss the point of war, and how the former King Dritarashtra can live on after many of his sons were killed and he is forced to step down from power.  
Throughout the play, the actors take on different roles as they tell different stories.  They mention traditional Hindu beliefs, such as reincarnation.  There is one scene where the actors proceed to tell a story about a worm who wanted to cross a busy street without getting killed.  Another actor asks the worm why it wants to stay alive, and the worm says he can change his own destiny by struggling to stay alive against all odds.  In the end, the worm ends up getting run over.  This shows how important destiny is to the writers of The Mahabharata; that no matter how hard one tries, one can never change destiny.
Overall, the play was hard to follow if one is not familiar with ancient teachings of Hinduism.  Yet the actors teach so much in the span of 70 minutes.  The actors had so much emotion and meaning to their dialogue.  Even the lone drummer watching from center stage has emotion and partakes in the plot.
This show is quiet, philosophical, monkish, interesting, and has bigger themes that take a while to sink in.  While it may not be the best show for children, the play is incredibly entertaining and definitely a learning experience for the audience.  Often people in America have little knowledge of important religious texts from other countries, so it was very interesting to learn stories told by ancient people around the world.
 

The Encounter
By Emma M. Taylor
 
“The Encounter,” is a work of theatre unlike any I’ve ever experienced. Performed by Simon McBurney, this one-man show is more than a drama, but a masterpiece of technical theater. The story tells of a National Geographic photojournalist’s journey into the Amazon basin in his hunt for the Moabi people, but works on three different time planes. His excursion takes him to extremes in the Amazon jungle, pushing him to his physical psychological limit all for the sake of adventure. But behind the story is a genius technical crew who make it possible for you to go along for the ride with him. Each member in the audience is provided a set of headphones to wear for the duration of the performance. Not only is it an ingenious way for everyone to hear the show in the same way, no matter the speaker placement or your seat in the theater, but it makes the performance so much more personal and intimate. The headphones give one the feeling that the narrator and the voices he hears are inside your head, fundamentally making the viewer one with the story. Beyond the fantastic and ingenious sound design, the lighting design contributes to the surreal nature of the show. The lights turn a simple, basic set of microphones on stands, a textured background and lightly “decorated” table, into a real jungle, with danger lurking around every corner. Thanks to this innovative staging, “The Encounter” pushes the viewer to experience a haunting and exciting voyage of life on the edge—but for a manageable two hours. 
 
 
Matthew Bourne’s Early Adventures
Frederick Minser
Matthew Bourne celebrates his company’s 30th anniversary showing off some of the performances that first started his career. The show consisted of five acts with two intermissions and a pause. The nine amazing dancers brilliantly performed each section. In the first dance they depict a school with the dancers dressed in uniforms. They then go through a large city and a farmland ending with a fun play on French films. Each act had its own set design with very specific costumes as well as new compelling stories. The audience views the dancers as they go through dramatic moments of a break up to a comedic play of folk dance. At times it was hard to focus on one specific dancer because they would have nine people out at a time. This may have caused some confusion for people invested in the plot of each tale. There was continually a distinct disconnect from the transitions from comedic to dramatic making long serious pieces seem unending to the light fun ones. Sometimes people couldn't tell whether a piece was comedic or not so they would laugh at something that should have felt deeper. The dances themselves are quite incredible with many clever plays on real life, such as taking a shower or using the restroom. Overall the show was a fantastic success that left the audience wanting more.
 
 
Matthew Bourne’s Early Adventures
Frederick Minser
Matthew Bourne celebrates his company’s 30th anniversary showing off some of the performances that first started his career. The show consisted of five acts with two intermissions and a pause. The nine amazing dancers brilliantly performed each section. In the first dance they depict a school with the dancers dressed in uniforms. They then go through a large city and a farmland ending with a fun play on French films. Each act had its own set design with very specific costumes as well as new compelling stories. The audience views the dancers as they go through dramatic moments of a break up to a comedic play of folk dance. At times it was hard to focus on one specific dancer because they would have nine people out at a time. This may have caused some confusion for people invested in the plot of each tale. There was continually a distinct disconnect from the transitions from comedic to dramatic making long serious pieces seem unending to the light fun ones. Sometimes people couldn't tell whether a piece was comedic or not so they would laugh at something that should have felt deeper. The dances themselves are quite incredible with many clever plays on real life, such as taking a shower or using the restroom. Overall the show was a fantastic success that left the audience wanting more.
 

The Encounter
By Fred Minser
 
The Encounter has three different yet connected stories going on at the same time. The first is the moment in which you are experiencing the show, the second is the layer of Simon McBurney telling his daughter a bedtime story, and the third is of the traveler stranded with a native tribe in the Amazon where he deals with overcoming materialism and time. The fantastic performance by Simon McBurney captivates the viewer through the sensation of sound. The entire audience is given headphones to experience the show. The use of sound is what engages the viewer and creates the world as no set is present. It also (as Simon McBurney stated) better connects him to the audience. The story is beautifully touching as you live through three different timelines with likable characters all portrayed by McBurney. Though switching through different times sometimes can confuse people the underlying message of consumerism and materialism taking over society leaves the materialistic world we live in up to question.
 
 
 
A Call on the People’s Duty
 
The Hero Within
 
By: Liza Freiberg
 
While society romanticizes war through video games like Call of Duty, it leaves out the psychological hardships faced by people who answer the call of duty. The Wallis Annenberg Center of Performing Arts depicted these hardships through a play directed by Greg Shane, co-founder of CRE Outreach’s Veterans Empowerment Theater (VET) program. This play is not your typical take on theater; most of the actors, Los Angeles veterans appearing as themselves, had little to no performing experience. Still, the performers brought to the stage their detailed accounts from their service in the U.S. military, and were successful in achieving their goal – raising awareness for the inability to combat post-traumatic stress disorder, racial discrimination, and sexual harassment.
 
The only thing worse than suffering one of the aforementioned challenges is dealing with two – that is the fate that veteran Judith Welch faced. A female in a male-dominant institution, Welch often clashed with her superiors. Even after she finished serving the military, Welch grappled with the sexist tendencies of society, which culminated into her battle with post-traumatic stress disorder. Though our actions may seem harmless, there is no way of predicting their psychological affects on people – a central theme of the play. 
 
An army is meant to reflect the strength of a nation, but it can also function as a front for the contentions that weaken a society. Jonaton Wyne recounted his life as a black veteran during the Vietnam War, an anticommunist military venture concurrent with the Civil Rights Movement. At home tensions among races surfaced on the battlefield, as black servicemen typically carried out the menial tasks. Even more intriguing was Wyne’s reenactment of an encounter he had with a fellow officer - played by Harold Boons - who did not approve of Wyne’s display of the Confederate flag on his office desk, signifying that enfranchisement does not ensure social equality.
 
After ninety-minutes of moving disclosure, Shane and the cast members sat down with the audience to debrief about the making of the show and its underlying messages. One of the audience members asked Shane how he wrote the play. Shane replied that he sat down with the veterans, listened to each of their stories, and found that no one experience held more weight than another, which is why he chose to feature all eight stories to embrace the hero within each veteran. The cast members also voiced their concerns about the ongoing discrimination and psychological trauma rampant in the military, hoping that their performance will incite reforms to safeguard servicemen and servicewomen alike.
 
 
Santa Cecilia Orchestra
By Frederick Minser
Santa Cecilia Orchestra draws in unique yet traditional music from the great classical composers. The four musicians Huan Zhao, Nunez-Mejia, Circe Diaz, and Arthur Omura made the audience smile with delight as they played many classical songs such as the Blue Danube and Oblivion. When they first walked out they professionally addressed the audience and gave a short introduction as to what they would be performing. Huan Zhao (violinist) said they would be taking us through different eras of dance music, and they did just that. They expressed earlier on that they would improvise parts of each piece as they have multiple versions memorized. The chemistry of knowing these improvisations was astounding to watch and hear.
 

Twelfth Night
By Anna Polin
 
This performance was a modern twist on Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night.  The story portrays a woman who previously experienced a shipwreck and believes her twin brother, Sebastion, has died.  She later dresses up as a man to be able to work for the captain who saved her life. This production includes several very comical touches that make it a bit easier for younger audiences to understand. What this performance lacks is focus on the real point of the story which is the romance. This story was a comedy but romance was a key part which unfortunately was not highlighted in the performance.  Another problem in the show was the lack in costumes. I feel that for such a strong show there should have been better costumes. It was difficult to tell the characters apart. All in all, I enjoyed the performance but there was definitely room for improvement. 
 

The Encounter
by Chole Clark
 
The Encounter, was unique and captivating because it truly put the audience in the mindset of the character, Loren McIntyre, played by Simon McBurney. The Encounter depicts a true story of  Loren McIntyre’s experience in Brazil as a National Geographic photographer. Although McIntyre traveled to Brazil for work, he uncovered much more. As he came in contact with a tribe, got lost in a rainforest, and even had his camera broken, McIntyre became exposed to a not-so-modern way of life that he had been used to from his home in London. The play was told through both first and third person narrative. Headphones were a unique aspect that enhanced the audience experience by adding precise sound effects and overlapping dialogue. The headphones made it seem as if you were actually in the setting; running through the jungle, surrounded by the tribe, or dancing in the rain. Although it was confusing at first, the additional dialogue placed the story into perspective and allowed the audience to understand the thoughts McIntyre was processing. The actor himself expressed raw emotions of distress, confusion, and anger through both body language and dialogue. Because there were minimal props, the audience was able to form their own mental images just from what McIntyre was describing. The animated background was also compelling; it added visual effects that represented camouflaged jungle leaves or the harsh rainfall. The minimal lighting was dark and dense which added to the atmosphere of the story. It created a sense of being lost, just as McIntyre was in the Amazon rainforest. McIntyre’s thoughts shifted from those of a civilized man with coherent thoughts, to a man who had adapted animalistic behavior due to his experience in the savage environment. By the end of the play, you may feel overwhelmed due to the rushing audio of thoughts while watching McIntyre run across stage, only to detect that savagery and civilization are not as far apart as they may seem. 

The Encounter Review
By Maegan Fellner
 
The Encounter is a beautifully written, exquisitely performed one-man play.  It tells the tale of a photographer from National Geographic who gets lost in the forest.  But there is a nearby tribe who keeps him alive - just barely.
 
There was only one person on the stage, but when I closed my eyes, it felt like there were many.  A clever use of microphones that funneled sound into headphones given to each playgoer made the performance feel very intimate.  Also, the little use of prerecorded sounds made each performance special and unique.  For example, cassette tape ribbon was used as the grabbing of bushes, and the actor's own body was used to make rain sounds.  Along with this, good synchronization of sound effects, from a technical perspective, really made the play smooth.  
 
Simon McBurney, the one and only actor, was not only excellent, but relatable, too.  His talent was obviously shown in the many times when he spontaneously switched characters, or conveyed feelings clearly and genuinely.  I would mention that there was some cursing, but in an emotional, versus derogatory way.  Overall, if the acting is not good, it can ruin the play.  When the acting is excellent, as it was here, it only enriches the play more.
 
The minimal use of backdrops was effective and not distracting.  The occasional use of lighting, more to indicate some part of the scene than to highlight the actor, was fairly good, and seemed well thought through.
 
The play was a delicious mix of sound effects, light, and most importantly, great acting.  The hints of comedy thrown in were refreshing, and when I stepped out of the theater, I felt a bit tired, and had a lot to think about.
 
I would recommend this performance to anyone 13 and older, who is mature and can handle mildly loud sound effects.  I really enjoyed this tale of hope, tragedy, loss, and a bit of magic.
 

946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips
By Noelle Trost
 
946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips follows the story of 12 year old girl, Lily, during World War II in the seaside village of Slapton where life is bliss, barely touched by the war, until American troops occupy the small town to practice D-Day landings. Told through a series of energetic songs and imaginative scenes only a bright 12 year old girl could possibly be capable of visualizing, 946 is must see for anyone. Whether you’re a history buff, enjoy high quality performances, or are looking for something to fill in your Friday evening, 946 is a delight for anyone. As much should be expected from the wildly talented group, Kneehigh, a Cornwall based theatre company that has been performing and perfecting the art of storytelling for over 30 years. Their incredible performing abilities are only matched by the magnificent production value of their presentation of 946.
 
The charm of 946 comes from myriad of unique characters, fourth wall breaks, and the storytelling of a deeply emotional story of devastating war from the perspective of the quirky 12-year-old Lily. Every character is well developed; from Lily herself, to her teacher, Madame Bounine, to the American soldiers that occupy the small town, Harry and Adi, to even the self-reliant cat, Tips. No character is left void of personal touch and viewpoint. Another delightful peculiarity of the show was the constant fourth wall breaks. Lily regularly converses and jokes with the jazz band playing in the background of the show and, at points, even confronts the audience. Little oddities like these add to the uniqueness of the overall production, making it a show of its own kind. However, despite these humorous variations, its core story is one of loss and tragedy; the director, Emma Rice, successfully captures these deeply complex emotions all while maintaining the show’s upbeat atmosphere. One can only imagine the difficulty that the casting crew had to deal with in order to find performers not only capable of spectacular dancing and singing, but also an ability to connect with the piece personally from their character’s perspective. 
 
As mentioned earlier, the cast’s stellar performance is only matched by the crew’s impressive ability. Upon walking into the theater, one is met with a row of bathtubs in front of double level stage, where on the top the jazz band is playing, and below people are sweeping away, begging one to question, “What exactly am I about to witness?” An impressive quality of the production was the way the crew utilized the entire space, guiding the audience’s eyes through lighting and choreography that showed off the breathtaking sets created for 946. At one point, when demonstrating the catastrophe of a naval battle, the cast used the bathtubs and toy ships to indicate the ships’ movements, a creative way of storytelling that maintained the lighthearted childish vibe of the show. Another such instance of this creativity was with the character, Tips, which was played by a puppet. Other characters were played by puppets, such as Lily’s grandson and his dog. Quirks like this signified the production’s attention to detail, a characteristic that made the performance distinct. Taking everything into account, with a combined splendor in terms of performance and production, one can’t help but fall in love with the must-see 946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips.
 


Ralph Kirshbaum & Shai Wosner: Beethoven
by Chloe Clark
 
The musical performance, Beethoven, performed by Ralph Kirshbaum and Shai Wosner was compelling and soothing. The performance truly highlighted the evolution of Beethoven's music and style through the years; the development shown through the different songs. For instance, in Op. 5, one of Beethoven's early sonatas, the music was more florid. In contrast, the sonatas towards the end of Beethoven’s career, such as Op. 102, were slow moving and dense. Later sonatas displayed each note’s meaning; the sounds were elemental and abstract. It was interesting to hear the evolution of Beethoven’s music over the hour and 45 minutes. Although there were musical improvements through the years, there are still areas that Beethoven kept constant. For example, there were similar balances between both cello and piano along with persistent rhythms and a dramatic quality. The piano and cello complemented each other nicely through melody and volume due to crescendos or emphasized accents. Some of the pieces were played differently through various tempos of andante and adagio, contrasting from slow to brisk. Overall, the musical performance was ravishing, filled with layers of rhythms, harmonies, and emotion. 
 


Twelfth Night
By Mei Higashi
 
“Twelfth Night” is a delightfully pleasing show that reveals a modern twist on the classic Shakespearean play. It focuses on the story of two twins named Viola and Sebastian who have been separated from a violent sea storm. The female twin, Viola, dresses as a man and therefore must woo the Countess Olivia for Duke Orsino, whom Viola herself loves. After meeting Viola, disguised as a young man named “Cesario”, Countess Olivia falls in love with her, thinking she is a man. Sebastian then finds his way to Ilyria, and Viola abandons her disguise to embrace her long-lost brother. The wildly humorous story as to how the characters are solving their problems with each other in Ilyria is enjoyably amusing.
 
Amazingly, the actors found a way to incorporate the audience members in the play. Some characters even ended up sitting in the audience and yelling their lines from where they were seated, using others’ volunteered coats and hats, and even throwing out large puff balls to pass around, throw, and parade around with! The entire interaction in the play was extremely surprising and you could see from the audience’s response the joy and happiness was already very infectious by the middle of the play.
 
Often times when going to a fancy theatre performance, you expect to see something completely perfected and clean-cut, but instead, here you will actually see more simplicity and less intimidation. You are able to witness the magic of raw scenes and footage with a real play, real actors, and even real mistakes. There is no extreme makeup, costume, or even an elaborate set - nothing too extravagant, yet nothing less of respectable, which makes it even more captivating.
 
Overall, the play has a unique and organic concept with a wild feeling. It was an alluring play that displayed a unique way of telling an ordinary, vintage story. After viewing this play, the classic tale of “Twelfth Night” does not seem to compare to the enchanting and fantastic live version. The “Filter Theater & Royal Shakespeare Company” had a special way of transforming the play into something new and fantastic, but yet still using the original idea of “Twelfth Night” by Shakespeare. 
 
Limón Dance Company
By: Julia Maisel-Berick
Elegant and strong are two words that come to mind while watching the Limón Dance Company’s performance. The skillful dancers were strong enough not to rely on each other for support, but did so to convey the beauty of their dances. 
The show, which consisted of five dances, was full of emotion presented through lighting, movements, and music. For the first dances, a large screen in the back shifted colors as the mood changed; a blue as the dancers happily bounded across the stage to a dramatic purple as their movements slowed down and then to a bright teal. The solo piece was lit in red, reflecting a performance so powerful it left the audience silent to the point that even those in the back row could hear the dancer’s steps and breaths. One thing that was extremely clear was how synchronized the performers were. Only a single collective sound was audible as multiple dancers came down from leaps or jumps at the same time. Even when only one person inhabited the stage, you didn’t notice the emptiness because your eyes were drawn to their beautiful movements.
The second half of the show featured two dances that dealt with relationships in different contexts and styles. The first was an Othello-inspired dance with balletic movements, which were more classical than the preceding selections. This dance of love, death and deception was centered around the play’s four main characters. The final dance was a group piece with war-like themes that contained duets and smaller groups as the company members entered and left the stage. No matter the genre, subject matter, or mood, all five performances were immensely enjoyed by the audience evident by the enthusiastic applause that each dance received.
 
 

Twelfth Night
By Frederick Minser
 
I was familiar with Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night because I had seen a production before. When entering the theater for this production I was perplexed to see a band set up instead of a traditional theatrical set. The show was extremely entertaining as they used musical instruments to progress the plot. The actors were all dressed in modern or black clothing except for one individual, Toby (played by Oliver Dimsdale). His Elizabethan style costume set him apart from the rest of the cast intriguing audience members to delve deeper into the reason the other cast members were in modern clothing. 
The most exciting parts of this production were when they included audience members. They invited people to dance on stage with them and brought pizza for the kids. The only issue I had with this production was I felt they seemed to lose the story by flooding the original text with political jokes and musical breaks. All in all it was a very fun show to watch.
 
946: The Amazing Adventure of Adolphus Tips
Julia Maisel-Berick
 
The seemingly endless blue sky and green fields painted on panels in the set of 946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips seem to foreshadow the comedic and playful aspects of the musical. Metal tubs of assorted shapes and sizes line the front of the stage which are first used for something as benign as washing clothes but later convey a bloody war scene, reflecting the darker themes of the show. Center stage, on a raised platform, sits a band that rolls into the show with a slow melodic rendition of John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane” (much like nose of the plane protruding from the bottom of the platform) and then the rock n’ roll tune “Born to Be Wild”. While both of songs came out at the tail end of the sixties, a majority of this show takes place during World War II, following the story of a young girl in a small town in England. Despite its funny dance numbers and humorous script, the show also deals with violence, loss, racism, and the toll war takes on people.
As the audience takes their seats, men and women dressed in beige jumpsuits sweep the stage and interact with the onlookers. Little do you know these people will turn out to be the actors of the show, whose plain jumpsuits act as a blank canvas as they shift between characters, morphing from pants into army uniforms. The actors are extremely versatile, switching from acting to puppeteering, singing to sometimes even climbing up to