If “architectural concert dance” were a genre, that is how KCRW’s Anna Scott would categorize choreographer Heidi Duckler’s latest work, “The Groundskeepers,” set in the historic Linda Vista Community Hospital in Boyle Heights. Read her review of the performance, which continues through this weekend. Photos by Ashley Thayer.
The audience gathers on a dirt lawn after dark in front of the spooky, hulking, abandoned building that once housed Linda Vista Community Hospital. A 60-something man wanders out in front of the assembled group and recounts a story about his time as a patient in the building, some four decades earlier.
Instrumental, minor-key music begins to play. Dancers, dressed in neon shirts and gray slacks, pop out from doors and windows onto the four-story fire escape that hugs the nearest facade and perform a contemporary number, walking and balancing, cat-like, along the stairs and rails. The arresting scene is the opening number is choreographer Heidi Duckler’s latest work, created specifically for the 1904 Boyle Heights medical complex.
The two-hour performance follows this template all the way through. As the audience is led through eye-popping tour of the 100-year-old hospital — from the boiler room to the roof to the hospital chapel — each new location comes with a monologue (fictional recollections of the building by author George Moreno) and a dance showcasing both the surroundings and the dancers’ athleticism.
Heidi Duckler, the artistic director and founder of Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre, has been creating site-specific work for nearly 30 years. Linda Vista is an especially fascinating venue, and this architecture-inspired performance offers a rare chance to see it before it’s transformed into affordable housing. Built in 1904, the building was originally designed by Charles Whittlesey, and rebuilt in the Mission Revival style 20 years later. The building has been the setting for plenty of TV and film shoots in recent decades, and the subject of numerous paranormal investigations.
Halloween might be over, but the show’s not. It still runs for one more weekend.