Dancing Days – Danger Zone, Donna Sternberg and Fumbling Towards Ecstacy

108482dance_homepage_slide2The AVPA Danger Zone Dance Concert on Friday Nov. 7 was entitled “To Be on Holy Ground,” a take on the quotation from the unique choreographer Martha Graham, “Wherever a dancer stands is holy ground.” For student dancers and choreographers, this kind of presentation can be a visit to paradise: a supportive audience, a wide stage and a moment to take off into flight.

The AVPA students never fail to impress. Since I first began attending their performances, the art that these very young people create is consistently thrilling. The platform that supports their exploration is essential, and giving these kids the time and the place to do this seems to be both utter common sense and completely miraculous. The Danger Zone is the exemplary of this standard, with four classes working together, students creating choreography with other students, and dancers of every size and shape moving magically through the music.

To see the way the dancers worked together, and those who solo’d out on their own, was such intense pleasure to watch, I could hardly keep from dancing in my seat.

The very next evening at the Ivy Substation, I got to see “One Song, Many Dances” by Donna -1Sternberg and Dancers – a brilliant idea, and brilliantly executed. Sternberg commissioned composer Yuval Ron to create a song, and then offered it to four other dance companies as well as her own to create an evening of international texture.

The music itself was filled with multicultural sounds, using instruments from all over the world, never settling into a familiar pattern. The artists took on the cultural flavors of belly dance, traditional African, a blend of Spanish and Mexican, and an Indian temple-style of dance. To see the wide variety of expressions all set to the same piece of music opened the concept of interpretation into a long hall of mirrors.

The Donna Sternberg company offered the most energetic and powerfully passionate presentation of the theme. The bodies falling to the stage, the lifts, the rhythms; they were inspirational.

dSo, they only thing to do was – go dancing. At the Masonic Temple on Venice Boulevard, just on the border of Culver City, there is a group run by Jo Cobbett that does ecstatic dance on Wednesday and Sunday mornings. There is a $15 cover charge, and I have always felt it was money well spent.  Fumbling Towards Ecstasy offers the ‘sweat your prayers’ approach with a big room, some beautiful music, lots of partners and no rules at all. Also known as 5Rhythms, most dances go two or three hours, and you can dance by yourself, dance with a partner or with a group for any length of time, and break out into another solo or connection. The music ranges from Indian sitar to classic R&B to new arrangements of familiar melodies. I once danced to the most heart-opening horn interpretation of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” ever heard. The playlist is endlessly surprising. The dancing is pure pleasure.Some of the dancers are clearly professionals – ballet lifts, jitterbug jumps and classic choreo are all common sights. Everyone is just there to move and feel good.

The thing is just to dance. As the proverb says, dance like no one is looking. When you get the chance to watch wonderful dancers, let your eyes remind your feet – you have a body too. Wherever you stand is holy ground.

Danger Zone Dance Project, directed by Julie Carson www.AVPA.org

Donna Sternberg & Dancers www.dsdancers.com

Fumbling Towards Ecstasy 9635 Venice Blvd culver city  or www.facebook.com/groups/movinground/

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