Life, service and loss in the military, a salute to dance pioneer Lester Horton and a whimsical interpretation of flamingos are a few of the works that will be on display when the 8th So Cal Dance Invitational, presented by South Coast Dance Arts Alliance, hits the stage at the Martha B. Knoebel Dance Theater at Cal State Long Beach.

Featuring 12 choreographers and about 50 performers, the event, founded by longtime Long Beach choreographer Nannette Brodie, brings some of the best regional modern dance to Long Beach.

Each year, a panel of dance experts combs through applications and auditions from top local dance troupes between San Diego and Ventura before choosing the lineup. Although national dance groups have expressed interest in participating, Brodie has kept it a locals-only affair.

“I try to limit it to Southern California,” she said. “There are not enough high-end festivals.”

“I think she’s doing a great service, providing a platform for existing companies and newcomers,” said John Pennington, who will perform a duet. “She finds venues where the work can be presented in a professional way. She’s gone the distance.”

Over the years the event has been staged at Golden West College, where Brodie was chair of the dance department and a teacher for 43 years, the John Anson Ford Theatre in Los Angeles and now, for the first time, in Long Beach at the Knoebel, an intimate space with seating for about 230. The theater boasts a large stage and state-of-the-art production facilities created with dance in mind.

Nannette Brodie premieres “Every Soldier Has A Story,” Saturday, at So Cal Dance Invitational

Among the performances will be “Beloved,” a dance originally co-choreographed by the late, legendary Lester Horton. Considered a pioneer in modern dance, a mentor to Alvin Ailey and namesake of the “Horton technique” dance training method, Horton was a giant in dance before dying of heart attack at the age of 47.

The dance, a duet, is one of Horton’s best known and was shocking in its time. The piece, created in 1948 with another California dance icon, Bella Lewitzky, is a disturbing look at domestic abuse and was inspired by a newspaper article about a man who beat his wife to death with a Bible because he suspected her of infidelity. When the piece was debuted, in the early years of the McCarthy era and a climate of rising conservatism and religious zealotry, it caused a stir.

John Pennington, artistic director of the Pennington Dance Group, learned the dance first-hand from Lewitzky and will perform with Li Rothermich. The personal sessions with the dance’s originator make his presentation original and authentic, Pennington said. He believes that the piece was ahead of its time and maintains its importance today, particularly in the wake of the “#Me Too” movement and numerous high-profile domestic and sexual abuse cases.

“I think it’s extremely relevant,” he said.

The San Pedro City Ballet, founded by Cynthia and Patrick David Bradley, who discovered and trained American Ballet Theater star Misty Copeland, will perform “Before the Fall.” Choreographed by Patrick David Bradley, the dance reflects on life before the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York’s World Trade Center.

Not all the works are quite so dark. In fact, the show closes on a delightfully frothy note with a piece called “Flurry.” Choreographed by Stephanie Maxim, it features nine dancers and is inspired by flamingos.

Headlining the event will be “Every Soldier Has A Story,” choreographed by Brodie and her dance troupe colleagues at the Nannette Brodie Dance Theatre, Maxim and Erica Villalpando. Clocking in at 28 minutes, it is the longest production in the show.

Other choreographers at the show are Christine Baltes, Hyoin Jun, Kindra Windish, Michelle Shear, Patrick Donald, Deborah Brockus, Chelsea Johnson and Evan Rosenblatt.

So Cal Dance Invitational happens Saturday, March 23, 8 p.m., at Martha B. Knoebel Dance Theater, 6200 Atherton St.

Tickets are $20 – $25. For more information click here.