Salon Night Brings Top Dancers to North Pine • Long Beach Post


This Saturday evening, August 24, the Long Beach Dance Foundation, in partnership with the Cultural Alliance of Long Beach, is presenting Salon Night at the Bungalow Arts Center. It will include live performances and films featuring choreography from Bobby Avalos, Gregory R R Crosby, Keith Johnson, Hugo Diaz, Alison Hart, Naomi King, Emily Leonard, Pony Box Dance Theater, Thomas Tsai, Kendra Ware, and the Foundation’s current President, Jessica Kondrath.

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Sander: How did the salon concept coalesce?

Jessica: A few years ago I was interested in bringing together a showcase of artists from San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and Long Beach – I am from Chicago and lived in New York previously – that would have been a group of musicians, dancers/choreographers, and visual artists. In 2010, I took over as president of the Long Beach Dance Foundation, which was founded and previously run by Jonathan Fly.

As there is a large community of dancers/dancemakers in the Long Beach area, I wanted to give an opportunity for those making work in our area to perform in Long Beach. Thus, the initial idea was reformed, and became Salon Night. The LBDF mission is to support dance and dance related arts in Long Beach and the surrounding areas. For this production, we have artists from LB and the greater Los Angeles areas participating. Due to various outlying circumstances, the show transformed to dance and dance film specifically.

S: What is the benefit of presenting work in non-traditional dance venues?

J: In this particular instance it allows the audience to view the work from various angles, and become a more active participant in the work as it is performed. It also makes the work more accessible for people, financially, but also takes an art form which is most often seen on the proscenium stage and places it in a pedestrian setting, allowing the viewer to interact with the work on a more personal level. Being in a gallery space mixes the high brow with the low brow and, in turn, frames the work differently. Additionally, I think that it’s exciting to see dance presented in venues that are different from the traditional.

Often I hear audiences say that they don’t understand what dance is “about”, and this also gives the opportunity for the viewer to talk with the choreographers and filmmakers about their work on a personal level.

There is something really interesting about viewing a dance from various angels, not just from the front. You always see something new, and the framing of the piece can constantly shift. Seeing dance in a gallery space allows this possibility.

S: Tell me about the program. What are some of the highlights?

J: Gregory R.R. Crosby and Keith Johnson (Fistbomb Films) are showing two dance films, Wander/lost and Life in Security. Both are on faculty at CSULB. I’m very excited to show their work because these films have been presented at American Dance Festival and Dance Conversations at the Flea (among others), and I’m excited to be able to present these beautiful films that have been shown nationally, here in Long Beach for our local audience.

Also, Kendra Ware will be preforming a solo of her work. She is a multi- disciplinary artist, actress, writer, comedian, and director that works in a variety of media including film/video, theater, performance and installation. She addresses gender and racial politics by creating animated assemblages of cultural imagery as a way of examining otherness. I am happy to have Kendra’s work in our performance because she blends many aspects of dance/performance into her work and it brings a different aspect of dance from what might be expected in dance concert.

There will also be more traditional modern dance from artists such as Hugo Diaz/HD Movement Project and Emily Leonard. My work (Jessica Kondrath | the movement) is a blend of modern dance with contemporary ballet.

That we have so many different aspects of the dance community represented in this performance is exciting! I think that Salon Night brings together performances and films from artists, both seasoned and emerging, that would normally not be seen on the same bill.

As a choreographer, I am very happy to have the opportunity to present my work here in Long Beach. Since moving from New York, I have shown work in Pasadena, Santa Monica, San Francisco, and New York, but not in Long Beach. As a Long Beach artist it is important for me to be active in my community, and I’m very glad to have the chance to show my work in my city.

I’m also excited to have Tom Tsai showing a piece titled MEAN that is a combination of modern, breakdancing, and spoken word. Tom has shown this piece previously at MixMatch in Santa Monica, and will be taking the work to Sweden in the fall. This piece brings together many parts of Tom’s background as a dancer, and I love that the work allows people to see how concert dance, spoken word, and street dancing can be brought together with beauty and style.

S: Do creative works in any medium need to be ‘about’ something? Is it possible, or meaningful, to remove meaning from the equation, and just let the form stand on its own?

J: For many artists there is a very clear “about” to their work. And I think this holds true for many performers as well. With others, such as myself, the work is more about the movement and choreographic form. Personally, when I create work, it is most often in relation to the musical score and the movement’s relation to the score, so that the viewer is experiencing the movement as a visual version of the music.

There are often other aspects folded into the work that live on a more subtle plane, such as the performer/audience relationship, the owning of female sexuality, or the use of the gaze, for example. Regardless, I think that whatever a viewer takes away from the work is what it is about. Perhaps the choreographer had other intentions, but the experience of the viewer, for me, is what is more interesting and perhaps important. The work can hold meaning for me, regardless of storyline or a more abstract nature, but what the viewer sees is an honest reaction to the form and can be very informative for the work.

I think that as humans, we are constantly looking for a storyline when we watch humans interacting and, thus, people often see what might not be there. Though this is often true, there are many dance makers that have created and continue to create work that is about the choreographic form and the movement of the body in space, from George Balachine to William Forsythe to Mark Morris, and most fervently Merce Cunningham.

S: What brought you to Long Beach?

J: I left NYC to attend graduate school at CSULB for my MFA in Dance. I finished in 2012. Coming to CSULB for me was mostly about working with Keith Johnson. I met Keith as undergrad at UCSB, and really enjoyed working with him. He and I would run into each other over the years in NYC and we would discuss graduate school and CSULB, etc.

Also, the department has many connections to UCSB’s dance department and I knew people who had done their MFA at CSULB. My time at CSULB was heavily shaped by my thesis committee members Keith Johnson, Lorin Johnson, and John Pennington. All are active members in the Los Angeles dance community, and run companies of their own.

I also knew John Pennington from UCSB, and it was really quite wonderful to continue to develop my artistry with choreographers for whom I have immense respect, and I have known and worked with for several years.

S: What do you see on the horizon for the Long Beach Dance Foundation?

J: Since there is not a dance festival in Long Beach, it was my interest to help give opportunities to Long Beach dancemakers to perform here. There has been some recent discussion in the community about doing an outdoor festival, and indoor festival. We shall see. It is my hope that Salon Night continues as a possible bi-yearly or quarterly event.

I think I’m just really hoping that the community of Long Beach comes out to see what the artists in their area are doing. I think it’s an exciting show, with a great deal of diversity, and I hope that it can be something that will continue on throughout the year.

Salon Night takes place at 7 PM at the Bungalow Arts Center, located at 729 Pine Avenue. Admission is $10 at the door.

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