Lavina Rich has been constructing dances for decades, hip-hopping to Motown and deconstructing glamour set against irreverent projections. She’s known as a smart and unorthodox choreographer, and directs some of San Diego’s top dancers in American As…, a program of new works inspired by feminism, politics, and housewives, as well as tap dancing and an expanded version of her breakthrough work Universal (Marvin’s Remix).
“I was focused on themes of feminism and solidarity when making ‘Calm Waters,’” Rich said, “and then the presidential election hit us. It’s set for five women, and we all had different reactions. The dance asks questions: What if you don’t agree with your other sisters? What does it mean to be an American? What is a feminist?”
When Rich premiered her dance company Push Process Movement Theory at the Live Arts Festival in 2014, dance critic Janice Steinberg remarked: “Rich can be hilarious and camp, yet there’s deep-down seriousness.”
Rich has danced with the best in town, many from UC San Diego and professional troupes. She holds a history degree, and a masters in forensic science, and proudly describes herself as “weird and awkward.” She asks fellow dancers to tell stories.
“We’re not telling new stories, but telling them in a new way,” Rich said. “My dances project my philosophy, and my perspective, and people can respond in surprising ways.”
The American As… cast includes:
Calm Waters Remodeled: Beth Calarco, Jessica Curiel, Cecily Holcombe, Madeleine Schoch, and Rachel Torres.
Pop Wives: Lauren Dockweiler, Aurora Lagatutta, and Lavina Rich.
Counterpoint: Jerrica Bettancourt, and Christiane Villescaz.
Universal (Marvin’s Remix): Viviana Alcazar, Beth Calarco, Jessica Curiel, Cecily Holcombe, Ian Isles, and Minaqua McPherson.
In the second half of the program, Rich revisits Universal (Marvin’s Remix.) The complex work opens with irreverent juxtaposition: Gaye’s heavenly voice singing The Lord’s Prayer while dancers seductively twist in front of what appears to be a casket.
The mood shifts when women flap giant wings, angel wings that are molting, and feathers cover the stage. Dancers break into go-go shimmies and hip-hop syncopation. They shock the eye with giant leaps backward. Stinging imagery contrasts good and evil. Read my full review from 2012 here.
“’Universal’ and its dark humor is a good fit right now, because it links our shared humanity,” Rich said. “It’s a work that I spent a lot of time on, and once I confirmed Sunset Temple, I was inspired to expand it to 40 minutes.
“The Sunset Temple in North Park is the best setting for this show, and it feels good to venture into new neighborhoods of the city. We’ll have about 75 general admission seats, and 20 more in the VIP balcony. There will be drinks and apple pie, which is American as…”
American as… runs Thursday and Friday, May 11 and 12, 2017. Sunset Temple. 3911 Kansas Street, San Diego.
www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2907945 $20 pre-sale. $25 at the door. Use code PUSH for $5 discount on general admission tickets.