At first glance, the scene in the terraced backyard with striking views of Los Angeles resembled any other casual house party at dusk. People in comfortable clothes milled around a deck, engaged in chit chat, ate oranges from a large tray perched on a ledge and took advantage of a nearby bottle of Tanqueray. It didn't take long, however, to notice that some of the house guests standing on the hillside below the deck seemed to be admiring the view with extra-special intensity. They stood completely still while several dancers, performing slow and liquid movements with their arms and torsos, moved deliberately in the zone of their peripheral vision.
The hillside happening, called "Peripheral Son" and created by choreographer Nick Duran, took place among 18 other site-specific performances at the inaugural event of "HomeLA." Some 180 people showed up last Saturday night to usher in the new grassroots dance series dedicated to the creation of art in private residences. They paid a $10 donation fee to roam the Mount Washington property of Chloë Flores and Tim Lefevre, owners of a stunning 3800-square-foot modernist home with a separate guesthouse that stands on nearly an acre of land.
Throughout the evening, Duran and 13 other choreographers presented works in a range of locales that included the couple's living room, garage, guesthouse and their empty swimming pool. The action even extended to an adjacent tree-filled property, where choreographer Amanda Furches could be glimpsed wearing an orange dress as she spun with arms outstretched towards the setting sun. Eventually, Furches disrobed and sprinted nearly naked through the woods, thoroughly jolting those participants who had made the journey to watch her up-close.
The brainchild of choreographer Rebecca Bruno, "HomeLA" has a highly purposeful mission in a city with limited dance venues and funding opportunities. Conceived in partnership with the local Dance Resource Center and the Pieter performance space in Lincoln Heights, "it's about creating more of a platform for experimental dance-makers," says Bruno, who moved to L.A. several years ago after living in San Diego and Israel. "My mission is to give artists the freedom to create what they want to create and make experimental dance relevant in a way that's unique to L.A."
With a longstanding interest in how dance can flourish in unconventional spaces and promote "social experience," Bruno grew up in a home where her father frequently hosted jazz performances under the guise of potluck get-togethers. She learned to "value how that brought together diverse groups of people. My dad would do these potlucks and people that wouldn't normally go to an arts performance were coming over to our house," she says, observing that some of the people attending "HomeLA" probably wouldn't buy tickets to more conventional dance shows.
Bruno hopes to stage "HomeLA" events multiple times a year in a variety of residences "from the tiny to the grand." For her first event, she provided the participating choreographers with one basic instruction: consider the architecture and ethos of Flores's and Lefevre's home. Over a three month rehearsal period, the artists took over the property to investigate its kinetic and artistic possibilities and the results proved strikingly eclectic.
Melanie Rios Glaser, for example, presented "Dreaming of Greatness," in which she lay completely still in an aero bed on the roof of the property's guesthouse for the duration of the three-hour event. Those who stopped to watch could be heard debating the possibility that Glaser had medicated herself to accomplish this feat. Meanwhile, those hanging out in the living room and kitchen munched on bags of popcorn and watched dancers in formal dress and heavy make-up engage in slow-motion yet non-stop movement. Often, spectators suddenly found themselves in duets with dancers, who carved the air around them using sinuous arm movements.
For Flores and Lefevre, the experience of opening their home to almost 200 people "is perfect for us. We feel this house has so much to offer and we're setting an example for other economic models in the arts, where you don't just have to write a check," says Flores.
An independent curator and arts producer, Flores has been committed to mining "the public possibilities of private space." For the last two years, she and Lefevre have operated "GuestHaus Residency," where visiting artists working with local institutions can stay in their guesthouse free of charge.
Lefevre observes that "HomeLA" allows him and Flores to substantially broaden their commitment to arts patronage that extends beyond financial support. "We're relieving artists of the burden of having to find a venue for their work, with the possibility that the venue might not be good," says Lefevre. "We feel our house has a wonderful personality. It really accepts people."
Lefevre's sentiment rang true as the sky grew dark and people fanned out around the house and grounds to watch Flora Wiegmann perform "Swimming Laps." Clad in a form-fitting gray sleeveless dress, Wiegmann promenaded, crawled and snaked her way along the ledge of the lit-up empty pool, stopping at times to dip her feet into the imaginary water. Audience members watched transfixed and some kept moving around to experience the performance in different locations. It seemed wherever one stood or sat, the property guaranteed a great view.
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