The Joseph Allen Decker Dance Company

The Joseph Allen Decker Dance Company made its debut in February 2004 to mixed reviews. The Los Angeles Times described their work as 'eminently watchable', while the LA Weekly wasn't quite so sure, praising the dancers' technique but calling into question the 'shallow, predictable, crotch-grabbing strutting.'
 

Joseph Decker and Erin Ann Lamont

This season's performance is described by its artistic director Joseph Allen Decker as 'really, really amazing', and the Saturday night audience certainly seemed to agree. 'Storm', choreographed by Decker, resident choreographer Murray Phillips and guests Terri Best and Adam Parson, is described as 'an eclectic blend of modern and jazz molded into a style of choreography that is both eloquent and explosive'. Exploring themes related to the human experience with 'a modern twist and sexual edge', it starts dramatically with the premiere of a piece entitled 'Elements', in which male and female dancers burst onto the stage to a thumping North African dance beat.
 

Danny Davalos and Tina Tsunod

The show holds your attention throughout. Pieces are all short, and the overall performance just over an hour in length, so it packs quite an intense punch. The stylized pieces are the best, combining excellent dancing with tight choreography and a vibrant soundtrack. The closing piece, 'Storms', in which dancers of both sexes swirl in long blue skirts to a techno beat, is a spectacular, even exhilarating take on the beauty and wrath of nature.
 
Those pieces that try to tell a story (including one about domestic violence where a woman in a filmy slip wrestles with a semi-naked man, and another about a sexually voracious man wrestling with three women and a rope), are slightly cheesy, perhaps too literal. But, as the descriptions should imply, they have their appeal.
 
As does perhaps the most memorable piece, 'Kinda I Want To', which describes female adolescent confusion between religious morals and sexual desire. Imagine a raunched-up Britney Spears video, featuring a stageful of female dancers in skimpy schoolgirl outfits, gyrating and crotch-grabbing, and you'll get the general idea. The audience certainly loved it - and not just the men.
 
The other most notable piece, 'Elation', is remarkable in its complete departure from the rest of the performances. Just into the second act of the show, three dancers in stilts thrust themselves onto the stage, decked out in huge fluffy legwarmers and feathery plumes. Part bellydance, part Cirque du Soleil, it's an extraordinary sight. Although slightly out of context, it's exciting to watch, especially as one of the male dancers twirls his female counterpart around by the arms - without falling over.
 
'Storm' has clearly set out to be sexy as hell, and succeeds - very well in places. And it's refreshing to see that this sexiness is produced by dancers of varying sizes and ethnicities, both male and female. As the company's remit is to describe the human experience, this nod to humanity's many and varied forms is very much appreciated.
 
'Storm', Sunday March 11 at 7pm, The Ivar Theatre, 1605 North Ivar Avenue, Hollywood, tickets $30, reservations (310) 535 4940.

 

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