There’s No Place Like Home: One Collective’s Take on Suburban Solace

HomeLA, Eagle Rock

HomeLA, Eagle Rock, Los Angeles (photo by Andrew Mandinach)

As private site-specific dance performances go, the ones produced by Rebecca Bruno’s HomeLA are pretty special.

The last installment (in Highland Park) featured six pieces showed at both dawn and dusk of the same day, with art, food and fun activities scheduled for the afternoon hours.  The morning began with solo in the street outside the house and ended with a ghost story in the living room, not to mention a fire eating ceremonial duet on the roof in between.

The often improvised interpretive movement lent a fourth dimensional feel to the otherwise ordinary structure.   Like ghosts materialized, the dancers animated the spirit of the house for special inhabitants of the day (the audience).  The rising sun turned the surrounding dark solid mountains into twinkling silver apparitions. The merging of artistic intent with naturally occurring transformations made for many a memorable moment.

Photographs of the event are on Instagram, and the event was live streamed to participants off-site.  Other than digital artifacts, the dances happened in that particular place on that particular day  and can not be experienced again.  The houses for all three installations so far have been lent to the group for rehearsals and shows and then returned back to the owners.

HomeLA, Eagle Rock

Jeremy Hahn, HomeLA, Eagle Rock, Los Angeles (photo by Andrew Mandinach)

People are obsessed with their homes in Los Angeles, and with good reason.  For an east coaster like me, backyards wrapped with flowering bougainvillea or porches set with two wooden arm chairs ready for sunset watching caused me to ask: you can live like this?  In LA, the answer is yes, but not without a new challenge: to learn to be at home in your own body.

The downside of so much space, as anyone living here will tell you, is that many a day can go by without talking to anyone that you are not required to interact with transactionally.  Your own private intimate circle can get as small as a unit of one.  Some days, you might not talk to anyone at all.

The balm to this isolation is to find a quiet peace within yourself.  This was made clear in the second piece, when Nick Duran cozied up in a wooden cabin-like guest house on the property.  He began hidden in his hoody and moved slowly through the first song. The needle on the record broke a silent darkness around us all while he gave himself a tender hug.  He swayed softly, as if entranced in a memory of something beautiful or in a slow-dance with his beloved, until he felt ready to pull his hood down off his head to reveal his face to all of us watching from outside.

That’s when it struck me that I was learning something that long term residents of LA share only with each other; the serenity of solitude is what makes this city theirs.

HomeLA, Eagle Rock

Maya Gingery, HomeLA, Eagle Rock, Los Angeles, photo by Andrew Mandinach

Inside, Maya Gingery opened the curtains from a skylit room on the side of the bedroom, and peered at the audience members through the glass doors and a set of binoculars.  We watched her from our spots on the bed as she moved in a tai-chi-like animal shaped infused dance, suggesting a dissolving of barriers between ourselves and our natural environments, another trick to surviving this urban sprawl.

After, we moved into the living room where we circled around Jennie MaryTai Liu who told us a ghost story, fireside.  On either side of her were two nymph like men, who moved and spoke in unison like a greek chorus, lifting her tale up from mere gossip to time-worn legend.  In a kind of southern, rhythmic drawl, she lilted out the details of a murder and when we all shivered a little with fear.

The three outside performances were less intimate, not on account of the dancers as much as because of the space around them.  While the deck gave Phoebe Osborne a tremendous background, the magic of the mountains at sunrise almost overpowered the movement of her body.  Similarly Anna Martine Whitehead moved passionately on the street outside the house, but a tar-paved hill before sunrise is a challenging palate for any barefooted, translucently dressed individual.  The fire-ritual (with Jeremy Hahn) on the roof added a serious wow-factor, and was a fun addition to the collection of of the six distinctly risk taking pieces, all successful parts of this experimental theatre.

photo by Andrew Mandinach

photo by Andrew Mandinach

The group’s next installment will be in El Sereno, on March 2nd, 2014 from 5pm-8pm at Summercamp: an artist space founded by Fatima Hoang, Elonda Billera Norris & Janice Gomez. 

Participating Artists: Maya Gingery, Anna Martine Whitehead, Andrew Mandinach, Nick Duran, Jennie MaryTai Liu, Jeremy Hahn, MAK, Lynn Bathke, Eugene Ahn, Samantha Margherita, Phoebe Osborne, SF

homeLA, Eagle Rock, Los Angeles

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by Emily Kramer
in Focus on the West Coast

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