Livingston Waltzes Through Time

May 12, 2000

Loretta Livngston’s premiere of Two Thousand Steps.
Photo by Dawson & Assoicates, courtesy Orange County Performing Arts Center

Livingston Waltzes Through Time

Loretta Livingston & Dancers, Imagination Celebration
Segerstrom Hall

Orange County Performing Arts Center

Costa Mesa, California

May 12, 2000

Reviewed by Pamela Diamond

The world premiere of Loretta Livingston’s Two Thousand Steps served up a visual smorgasbord of dance from past to present, with nods to Isadora Duncan and Louis XIV along the way. The main course: kinetically charged scenery and props that at times took on lives of their own.

Livingston, a former dancer with the Lewitzky Dance Company and an award-winning choreographer, works frequently as a solo artist?in last year’s Solo Traveler/Viajera Sola; in collaboration?1998?s Si, Se Puede/Yes, You Can with Gema Sandoval; and with her company, Loretta Livingston & Dancers. In late fall of 1999, she was commissioned by the Orange County Performing Arts Center to create Two Thousand Steps for an ensemble of guest dancers as part of its annual Imagination Celebration.

An evening-length work in six parts, Two Thousand Steps draws on humor, quirky pedestrian movements, evocative set pieces?including two huge, muscled calves and feet and a graffiti-covered talking television set?and poetic narration by Livingston to demystify modern dance for an audience weaned on classical ballet. It’s an imaginative journey through time that begins with eight lyric dancers clad in white?five women and three men?running swiftly through the dawn light of a Grecian temple in “Call to the Dance”.

Free-flowing hair and expressive limbs segued into scenes with powdered wigs and corsets when eighteenth-century costumes descended from the ceiling to literally encase the dancers in stiff formality for “The Past”. Like guests at a Mad Hatter’s tea party, the women curtsied and bourréed, blown about at the mercy of perilously tilted upswept hairdos before being wheeled offstage on dollies.

Posing as aviators, the dancers loosened up and took flight in the surreal “Age of Change”, which uses technique elements of breath, contraction, fall and recovery in creating arcs of movement through space. A gymnastic Keena Smith balanced atop a huge ball, rolling it around the stage as if chronicling the passing time.

“How To See Modern” opened with a playful game of musical chairs; as the mood darkened, the chairs turned to reveal tiny buildings lined up like tombstones, and the dancers shifted into a dramatic series of swiftly moving solos and dynamic duets punctuated by screams.

Sleeping figures in beige were wheeled about on dollies in “MultiLullabye”, their audible breaths forming a rhythmic backdrop for dancers telling children’s stories in different languages. It was here that Two Thousand Steps faltered: The nearly unrecognizable tales seemed unconnected to the overall theme, eclectic as that was.

came full circle with “Return to the Dance”, as dancers gamboled between columns as if they were statues freed from marble to play with fluid angles and boneless backbends, conveying a sense of airy abandon and joy.

In Two Thousand Steps, Livingston has created an entertaining work with choreography almost secondary to the concept and visual effects. One is left with vivid impressions of a modern dance dream, peopled with performers both animate and inanimate, linked together by light and color and themes of time and space.