For a Los Angeles Dance Festival, Reviving a Homegrown Modernist

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Mr. Millepied said he hoped to revive other works by Lewitzky, and by other significant California choreographers, like Ms. Forti and Ms. Halprin. “There has been an important, distinctive modern dance tradition here,” he said. “It’s vital for the young L.A. choreographers that I want to commission from to see the discipline, the focus, how much craft there is in this work.”

Mr. Millepied had been trying to find out more about Lewitzky’s choreography when he discovered the Twitter account of the filmmaker Bridget Murname, who is working on a documentary about her. Ms. Murname sent him several videos, and he immediately picked out “Kinaesonata.” While some Lewitzky works “need a little context,” Mr. Millepied said, “this clearly shows the level of her craft and imagination.”

He was less happy with the unitards and black backdrop of the original — “I wanted people to look at the dance without costumes that scream 1970s” — and commissioned the artist Charles Gaines to create new scenery and costumes. (This was apparently a bone of contention among Lewitzky loyalists, but the bright color-block shorts and tops, overlaid with transparent mesh, gave the piece a vibrant, crisp feel.)

“Kinaesonata” dwarfed most of the other works that I saw on programs A and B of the L.A. Dances festival. (Program C, which includes “Kinaesonata” and pieces by Tino Sehgal, Madeline Hollander and Mr. Millepied, opened in Paris last week, and continues in Los Angeles this month.) There were patchily intriguing moments in Shannon Gillen’s “Run From Me,” in Charm La Donna’s “Kora” (which benefited from its wistfully elegant music by Toumani Diabeté), and in the opaquely dystopian “Split Step,” by the visual artist Emily Mast and the choreographer and director Zack Winokur.

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More successful was Kyle Abraham’s “Chapter Song,” a skillful series of vignettes set to Philip Glass (“Einstein on the Beach”), Kendrick Lamar, Barbra Streisand and others. Mr. Abraham tucks ballet, hip-hop and a little humor into his piece, which has athletic floor work, slow, precise balances and enigmatic gestures. It doesn’t quite add up, but it’s never dull.

Two L.A. Dance Project company members, Gianna Reisen and Janie Taylor, also created chamber works for the festival. (Five of the festival’s eight commissions are by women.) Ms. Reisen, who has choreographed for New York City Ballet, didn’t help herself with a rather undifferentiated violin score by Andrew Bird, but the dynamics and timings of her trio suggested her talent for shape and composition.



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