Jazz, contemporary, acrobatic and ballet comprise the program’s fifth year.
In their aerial duet “Guiding Rings,” which they’ll perform Saturday night at the annual Celebrate Danceshowcase at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, husband-wife team Nehara Kalev and C. Derrick Jones perch 15 feet above the stage in interlocking aluminum spheres while executing intricate choreography.
“If there’s one quick shift, then the whole structure gets rocking back and forth . . . and we could fall out quite easily,” Jones says. This vulnerability, however, is an integral part of the show. “When you’re an aerialist, it’s all about making it look effortless and easy and safe. And so people don’t realize the actual training and strength and trust that goes into it.”
The same might be said of putting together Celebrate Dance, the brainchild of producer Jamie Nichols, now in its fifth year. In organizing a crowd-pleasing, cream-of-the-crop roster of concert dance that runs the gamut from ballet on pointe to jazz, acrobatic, and contemporary, Nichols pulls a demanding balancing act of her own.
She handpicks the nine companies she invites to participate each year. “I don’t have a panel,” Nichols says, “and I don’t take submissions. I go see everything. I go to other people’s festivals. I look on YouTube. And I follow my instincts.”
Those instincts have earned her back-to-back sold out shows and three consecutive Lester Horton Awards for Production of a Festival or Series. And they’ve also led her to inadvertently piece together a common theme for Saturday night’s program: relationships.
In addition to Kalev and Jones’ piece (together the duo is known as Catch Me Bird), which explores the inner workings of a real-life marriage, there will also be a premiere by Macarena Gandarillas’ Vision Dance Theatre, a “story ballet” about a love affair cut short by war; a restaging of Motion Tribe/Marie de la Palme’s “The Cage,” a relationship-exploring duet that’s danced in and around a cage; and a contemporary entry from Josie Walsh’s MyoKyo called “Found,” which illuminates love’s confrontational aspects. Body Current Dance, JazzAntiqua Dance, PTERO Dance Theatre, RhetOracle Dance Company, and BARE Dance Company will also perform.
BARE’s Mike Esperanza addresses the ever-shifting nature of relationships in “Drift,” a quartet piece he’s reworking for Saturday night’s show. “It’s about these four people who introduce each other to each other,” he explains. “It’s about mingling . . . and finding out which connection works.”
Onstage and off, Celebrate Dance provides local choreographers — who often work in geographic proximity but frequently end up isolated from one another — the chance to do some mingling and connecting of their own.
“I would never be able to meet these choreographers in person and experience their work if it weren’t for what Jamie’s doing bringing us all together on that day,” Kalev says. “That’s only going to lead to more support for each other, more access to each other’s knowledge and resources, and also an artistic community here in the L.A. area.”
For audiences, this eclectic meeting of the minds offers a rare chance to sample many styles of dance in one curated program.
“Not everybody’s going to like everything,” Nichols says, “and that’s the whole point. I just hope the audience feels that they’re entertained or moved or maybe made uncomfortable sometimes about what they see. That they feel something.”
Kalev believes that the show promises audiences rewards far beyond the typical night of family entertainment. From her vantage point, which on Saturday night will be somewhere high above the Alex stage, she notes, “Movies and TV are out there, but we have the potential to reach people and have them reflect on their own lives in a transformational way.”