Heidi Duckler mixes the kinetic and the static, having choreographed contemporary dance performances, since 1987, in Angeleno urban spaces, ranging from Laundromats to private Modern houses. Her most recent venue is the 51st floor of the the Paul Hastings Tower in former ARCO Plaza complex, now City National Plaza*, which she has recast as a backdrop for Cleopatra, CEO. This is a retelling, partly inspired by Stacy Schiff’s new book, of the story of Cleopatra, her lovers Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, and the ancient battle of Actium, and is on show this month.
This past Thursday, 80 or so friends and supporters of the company gathered for the opening performance, following dancers as they pounded their way through the eerily empty office spaces overlooking downtown Los Angeles, to the periodic, and spirited, accompaniment by young soprano Zoe Johnson (daughter of LA architect, Scott Johnson; I am no opera expert but she seems amazingly talented).
It was, said hubby Bennett Stein, aka Good4Nothing Connoisseur, “Outer space meets Glee meets Ancient Egypt, all set to a funky disco opera electronica musical smorgasbord.”
Dancers interacting with architecture and design in an empty office space on the 51st floor of the Paul Hastings Tower in downtown Los Angeles is quite a breathtaking experience.
In this performance, audiences are lead through the office space, room by room to watch scenes where dancers move within the spaces with the objects around them. In doing so they bring life to their surroundings–walls, door frames, counters–all amidst the backdrop of the Los Angeles skyline of skyscrapers, shimmering lights from the street and moving cars on freeways below. Elements of the corporate world – briefcases, office chairs, conference rooms, glass walls are incorporated into the choreography. The carpet, worn and bumpy from years of use, begins to resemble sand in which the dancers move across in a battle-like dance.
The use of structural and design elements creates an additional dimension in the space in which the dancers’ movements create a multidirectional stage.
In addition to the original choice of space and the well crafted use of theatrical elements–lighting, costumes, and make-up–the dancers of various body forms demonstrate emotion, strength, and grace in their movements as well as technique and form. Seeing the extension, the leaps of bodies across the spaces and over furniture in such proximity to the dancers makes it an intimate experience.
A mix of reality and fantasy in a dance with the built environment. It is an intersection of an ancient world in the modern city that is Los Angeles.
Cleopatra, CEO Feb. 9-11, 16-18 and 23-25. heididuckler.org
*The location on the top floor of the Paul Hastings Towers is now used for events and film shoots (it seemed familiar to me as the office of time thief Philip Weis, in In Time.) On the ground and lower floors of the twin-tower City National Plaza complex you can also find Gensler and SAA’s impressive new offices. Altogether, they add unexpected sizzle to this once moribund tower.