Helios Dance Theater

April 3, 2009

Helios Dance Theater
The Eli and Edythe

Broad Stage
Santa Monica, CA

April 3, 2009
Reviewed by Victoria Looseleaf


Photo by Melissa Painter. Chris Stanley and Melissa Sandvig interlock in
The Lotus Eaters. 


Who knew that eating the mythical fruit of the lotus could yield such delectable results? For Laura Gorenstein Miller, artistic director of this Los Angeles-based company, her foray into Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem, “The Lotus Eaters,” via Homer’s classic, “The Odyssey,” has produced precisely that. A cornucopia of gorgeous dancing, divine choreography, dreamy music, and sexy costumes, The Lotus Eaters is a 10-part, 75-minute journey into sensual abandon and fierce physicality.

Helios, founded in 1996 by Gorenstein Miller, now features a new crop of indefatigable dancers—five men (Odysseus’ proverbial storm-tossed sailors stranded on an island) and five women (rapacious, lotus-eating movers and shakers). The original music (heard on tape) alternates between Rob Cairns’ percussive-dominant score and Grant-Lee Phillips’ plaintive songs. What could have been predictable and dulling instead is a perfect mash-up of sound and, well, glory.


Opening with a bang, the men, in hard-charging unison, stalked the stage with high kicks and in-your-face leaps, their shredded-looking tops and neo-harem pants decidedly un-Greek but über-hip. When the women appeared, slinky in silver lamé draped tunics (“Project Runway” finalist Rami Kashou designed the splendid garb), their stylized bent wrists and elbows reminiscent of Nijinsky’s nymphs in Afternoon of a Faun, the mood was heady.


After the seduction-by-fruit scenario, an array of potent group numbers followed, including dancers carrying other dancers on their backs—precious cargo, as it were. Solos and duets also thrilled. Chris Stanley partnered Melissa Sandvig in a daring pas de deux that was punctuated by intricate lifts and interlocking bodies, with Phillips’ sumptuous tune “Heavenly” the irresistible accompaniment. Sandra Chiu’s sultry back-bends wowed in “Illusion.” And Stanley, his arms outstretched, fingers splayed, feverishly lunged in a series of striking warrior poses in the penultimate scene, “Home.”


Kindred Gottlieb’s provocative lighting design also contributed to the evening’s success, as did Alison Van Pelt’s painted flowering tree backdrop. After taking time out to help raise her two young sons, Gorenstein Miller, in resurrecting Helios, has returned with a vengeance. Please pass the fruit!