Luna Negra Dance Theater | Dance review
Luna Negra company members perform in Diana Szeinblum's Brasilia.
Consider it the dark side of the moon. Luna Negra Dance Theater took the stage last night at MCA’s Edlis Neeson Theater, launching its new “Luna Nueva” initiative with a barrage of work rooted in darker themes and staccato phrasing. The program’s three pieces depict varying degrees of anxiety, control and existence, among other things. It’s a headfirst dive into rather murky waters.
Collectively speaking, it can be hard to distinguish the differences, as all three works utilize similar emotional cues that ultimately result in the same styles of movement. But that shouldn’t deter dancegoers. Individually, the choreographers give the audience enough energy to last a three-hour show, and they do it in roughly an hour and a half. The dancers show tremendous stamina and skill, finding anatomical organization in movement that depends heavily on the ability to change direction on a dime. Two particular standouts were Joesph Kudra and Eduardo Zuñiga, both of whom appeared in all three pieces.
Opening the show is artistic director Gustavo Ramírez Sansano’s engaging En busca de (In search of), a perpetually frenetic piece that sets the pace for the evening. With a nine-tiered chandelier-like contraption hanging overhead, six dancers weave in and out of dark space, gesturing with sharp movements, abrupt turns, jumps and tightly woven partnering that mimic feelings of uncertainty and anticipation. An arranged mix of original music by Sansano capitalizes on the physicality with a series of incessant violins, akin to a buzzing beehive—always active.
Guest choreographer Diana Szeinblum briefly changes pace in Brasilia, possibly inspired by the insomnia affliction of Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector, as mentioned in the program. A well-crafted piece, Szeinblum opens with methodic, repetitive movements that slowly progress to something more up-tempo, then back to methodic. Though insomnia is an affliction that can’t be fully understood unless experienced, Szeinblum paints a realistic portrait of a mind in constant activity—sometimes slow, sometimes fast, never at rest.
Rounding out the evening is Réquiem by Luna Negra dancer Mónica Cervantes. In her choreographic debut with Luna Negra, Cervantes made the most of the opportunity. Keep an eye on what she does next. Though Réquiem opens somewhat melodramatically—from no sound to Mozart’s Réquiem Mass in D Minor—the middle picks up, presenting the evening’s most comprehensive unison phrase and structural organization of shapes. That’s not a knock on the other choreographers, just a note of accomplishment for a piece that could have taken a much different turn, considering the way it begins.
“Luna Nueva” continues through June 10, 7:30pm at the MCA’s Edlis Neeson Theater.