REVIEW: ‘L.A. Dance Project’ closed Celebrity Series of Boston’s season with powerful, message-driven performances

Another spectacular season of Celebrity Series of Boston has come to an end, but not without an intriguing and dynamic finale by L.A. Dance Project, packing a punch with their surprising footwork.  The final performance also featured a free, interactive post-show talk with Ballet Master Sébastien Marcovici.  Celebrity Series of Boston’s 2017-18 season will premiere in October with multi-talented performer Alan Cumming.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Playful, vibrant, and at times haunting, L.A. Dance Project, closed out the Celebrity Series of Boston’s season at the Shubert Theatre from May 19-21. Led by Benjamin Millepied, an acclaimed dancer and choreographer known for choreographing the award-winning film, Black Swan, L.A. Dance Project’s three complex and contemporary dance segments offer its share of joy and conflict while inspiring strong emotions throughout the performance.

L.A. Dance Project

‘Harbor Me’ (Morgan Lugo, Robbie Moore, Aaron Carr) Photo courtesy of Robert Torres/Celebrity Series of Boston

Accompanied by a haunting oboe featured in a dynamic medley by Park Woojae, Harbor Me by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui delivers a powerful message about human nature and looking past what is on the surface.  Fragments of light stripe the floor as shadows sway ominously on the walls.  Dressed in fatigues and urban clothing in browns, blues and greens, Stephanie Amurao, Julia Eichten, and Lilja Ruriksdottir interact with each other in a ballet-infused variation of unity, imitation, reflection, and conflict.  They move in a fascinating flurry of abstract movement that both celebrates unity as well as emphasize the dark side of human nature as the music intensifies.

LA Dance Project Murder Ballades

Murder Ballades (Nathan Makolandra, Rachelle Rafailedes) Photo courtesy of Robert Torres/Celebrity Series of Boston

Worn sneakers possess a mighty significance as dancers, dressed youthfully in shirts and shorts, unite in a vigorous and charming performance, the second dance segment of the afternoon.  The lighthearted, violin-infused music possesses a mounting urgency set upon a vibrant water, gold, and black background.  The lithe men and women ensemble, featuring Stephanie Amurao, Aaron Carr, Julia Eichten, Nathan B. Makolandra, Robbie Moore, and Rachel Rafailedes, are blissful and uplifting in smooth, sweeping steps.  They perform pirouettes with zeal, twirl, dip, and hook arms in a display of sweet innocence.  In a particularly humorous moment, as the dancers exited the stage, rambunctious dancer Janie Taylor, carried away by the music, was yanked offstage at the last moment. The performance, entitled Murder Ballades by Justin Peck, is a response to real life, tragic events that children have endured in Aurora and Sandy Hook.  It is a beautiful, spirited tribute to youth, but not without a sense of foreboding.

LA Dance Project Janie Taylor

‘Murder Ballades’ (Janie Taylor) Photo courtesy of Robert Torres/Celebrity Series of Boston

The final dance, On the Other Side, is an intriguing compilation by acclaimed artistic director and choreographer Benjamin Millepied.  With an extraordinary emphasis of color by costume designer Alessandro Sartori and bright, multicolored background art by Mark Bradford, On the Other Side taps into a wondrous reverie featuring dancers Stephanie Amurao, Aaron Carr, David Adrian Freeland Jr., Morgan Lugo, Robbie Moore, Rachel Rafailedes, Lilia Ruriksdottir, and Janie Taylor.  Each color in the artwork seems to come to life in each dancer as they spin, twirl, and skip along.  The piano tune, by Philip Glass, also builds to a crescendo as duets perform a mix of traditional ballet and contemporary dance and then gather center stage, as if yanked out of a reverie.

LA Dance Project Rachelle Rafailedes

‘On the Other Side’ (Rachelle Rafailedes) Photo courtesy of Robert Torres/Celebrity Series of Boston

Click here to learn more about L.A. Dance Project and future performances.  Follow L.A. Project on Facebook.  Celebrity Series of Boston will be back for another stellar season featuring celebrity appearances, dance, comedy, and more.  Click here for more information, subscriptions, tickets, and how to support Celebrity Series of Boston.  Get further updates on Celebrity Series of Boston on Facebook.

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