A string of firsts ran through The First Time, The PGK Dance Project’s ambitious production with 12 different choreographers, starting with the venue, pace, and more.
The troupe led by Peter G. Kalivas has been dancing in alternative spaces around San Diego since 2002, but the Sept. 18-20 run was its first time performing on the Lyceum Theatre stage, home of the San Diego Rep, under Horton Plaza downtown.
Most PGK productions are condensed and move warp-speed fast. This was perhaps the first PGK show to run longer than 90 minutes, with an intermission and several pauses.
“And then, one day…” choreographed by Boroka Krisztina Nagy started with percussion and whispers that grew to whip-snappy jumps for a punk army of dancers. Desiree Cuizon Fejeran was a standout in horsey foot work. Unison sequences needed sharpening.
“Listen” was a polished collaboration between Kalivas and dancers James LeMaster and Nicole Lee who pounced with cat-like strength.
Blythe Barton, a well-known dancemaker known for expansive ensembles, presented “Cinema of a Certain Tension,” which suffered from a slow start. Lop off the first section and voila – the work took off after a musical shift and dynamic trio. Sections with five dancers in the background and Cuizon Fejeran moving forward oozed with tension and tight unison.
“Beginning to End” by Kalivas was inspired by an operetta – with gay characters in relationships and originally staged for Diversionary Theater. Two men and two women changed partners. Hints about orientation began to feel overly long and obvious.
Alyssa Junious performed a theater snippet based on memories of going to her Grandma’s house, and messing around with her stuff. Clever and pumped with youthful energy, the silly fun began to wear.
The production also included works by Andrew Pearson, and Kevin Jenkins.
Kalivas was an original member of Sean Curran Company/NYC (1997 – 2002). According to program notes, he performed “Folk Dance for the Future” at The Joyce Theater New York, and The Jacob’s Pillow, and on dozens of tours.
At the Lyceum this month, Curran’s work closed the show and sent the crowd out into a warm summer night with an extra jig in their step. Men and women on the rounded stage leaped in plaid skirts akin to naughty school girls. Lively is an understatement. The comic collision of traditional folk and modern dance became a Riverdance parody.
The athletic entertainment was well suited to a cabaret club, or a basement theater like the Lyceum. Still, the work would have been better received an hour earlier or a few cocktails later.
The two-act show ran too long, which was the last thing one expected from a Kalivas produced show. He also sang a Tom Petty song to accompany a duet. He has a broad range and sings with professional tours.
The production succeeded most with the return of “The Sound of Dance,” an unusual mix of Flamenco, Bharatanatyam, and tap. Dancers Kristina Cobarrubia, Divya Devaguptapu, and John Paul Lawson proved a sonic treat of the show. Rhythmic call and responses grew to a rare and complex conversation of stomps and jingles, riffs and claps. First time or not, seeing and hearing the different styles merge was a rewarding process.