Saturday, December 2, 2023
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“This Thing Called Love”

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In the weeks leading up to Friday, September 29; equipment troubles plagued the Irvine Barclay Theater. However, everything was up and running in time for the first performance of the theatre’s 28th season. The opening night show, “This Thing Called Love” was an eclectic two hour performance showcasing some of the creative choreography imagined by Jessica Lang. Within this time, a wide array of her selected works were presented by the performing group, named Jessica Lang Dance.


The costumes in the first performance were muted, placing emphasis on the movements and the interlinking synchronization between the dancers. The entire performance was backlit by a screen with subdued colors, allowing the performers to blend into the stage. Accordion-like structures were employed gracefully within the performance, adding a bit of special effects and a sense of fluidity between transitions in performer movements. This continual expanding and collapsing mirrored the events of the evening. The performers constantly contorted and built tension only to diffuse it gracefully within a few more choice movements and flair.


The final movements before the pause were filled by an enchanting duet by Kana Kimura and Thomas Ragland and a brief ensemble thematic reprise. The movement following the pause was visually distinct from early performances due to the great vivid colors that flashed across the stage. Julie Fiorenza, Eve Jacobs and Rachel Secrest donned bright red in their impactful yet brief performance from the “Aria” (2010).


Following another pause, the energy level was turned up a few notches by the performance of a piece originally co-commissioned by Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. The explosive energy involved a spectacular light show, where a single twisty beam of light on the left side of stage changed colors in sync with the movements of the performance. The green shoes of the dancers added another focal point for viewers. A whirlwind of spiraling feet movement became a supportive canvas, contrasting a singular dancer who wore light up shoes near the piece’s climax. The lights on his shoes often matched the beam, clashing at certain counterpoints in the melody, dramatizing the effect. With this new dancer’s every jump, another color changed in the light. The impeccable timing was stunning and it all ended with a final jump with both stage lights and shoe lights turning off to close the first half of the show.


The rest of the performances during the night continued to explore different choreography work by Jessica Lang. “The Calling” which is an excerpt from another work is remarkable for its austerity yet brightness. Kana Kimura does well to capture a feeling of stasis and gradual movement, punctuated by twists and culminating in a sort of cocooning. She’s like a gem in the midst of black, gleaming as she turns and spins. Another performance of note would be the premiere of “This Thing Called Love,” a mellow, and romantic performance meant to celebrate the works of Tony Bennett. It did well to evoke feelings of longing and completion and love through its expressive use of shadows and lighting in the visual performance. The final performances were dance performances not necessarily ones that left their interpretation to the viewer, rather, they were accompanied by voiceovers and song that delineated the actions occurring onstage. Regardless, the performances still continued to be strong into the finishing movement “For Once in My Life.”


Overall, the performances encompassed a variety of excerpts and highlighted the versatility of Jessica Lang’s vision in choreography. The performances were done justice by the spectacular performing artists and serve as a testament to Lang’s ingenuity in manifesting these emotions.

Photo Courtesy of Karen Drews