Falling Man at San Diego International Fringe Festival
Falling Man. In his one-man, completely improvised dance/theater piece, Leonard Cruz tackles topics that range from 9/11 to his own days as a troubled frat guy searching for acceptance at UCLA. Wildly different themes? Sure. Do they all work in a one-hour show of seamless synthesis? Absolutely.
Cruz begins with traditional dance moves. His short, muscular stature has been an impediment in his career, but that’s only obvious because he tells us. Throughout the seven-part piece, he talks to the audience through each transition like a tour guide into his creative process.
His lines are clean. He uses his powerful frame to create moments of portraiture with his hands and arms. His extensions, kicks, and leaps are tightly controlled as he moves, using the whole space – even the walls – as his palette.
Cruz’s most enthralling piece, inspired by a mix of expressionist Max Beckmann’s “Falling Man” and the iconic photograph of a man plunging to his death at the World Trade Center, interprets the terror of death with nothing more than a spool of white paper and red paint. He screams, chokes, spasms, and is consumed by his prop. The desperation of his movement is evocative.
Keeping the piece from being too stark, Cruz juxtaposes pantomime and Southeast Asian dance forms, adding fluid beauty to raw themes as he explores self-loathing, eating disorders, obsessive consumption, and, ultimately, self-acceptance.
Hikari at San Diego International Fringe Festival
Hikari. The Mexico City-based dance company Komorebi presents a tale of creation, destruction, and metamorphosis, all in about 30 minutes.
Accompanied by an electric guitarist playing industrial rock riffs (bring earplugs; the space is small and the guitar is LOUD), a solo dancer covered in lights punctuates a darkened room to begin the show.
Her movements recall geometric shapes. She reaches, poses, and forms lines with the lights. It’s fascinating to watch, though I wished the space would have been darker, bigger, or both. At times natural light washed the space, killing the mood.
The second act of the triptych was the most jarring. From the darkness that birthed the light, a gruesome, mummified creature emerges: same dancer, scarier outfit. A large hump rests atop her back. Bloodied wraps adorn her. She wears a disfigured mask that she tears. Movements are labored and violent. Standing in place, she contorts her body into awkward poses and shrieks in pain. Images of ruins and graveyards flash on the screen behind her. The energy in the room is tense as the dancer comes apart physically.
A bit of peace returns in the final act. The dancer emerges from a cocoon of flowing fabric and fans what she uses to create curving, ethereal lines. Her movement is confined, simple, slow, and thought-provoking.
The pace of the final piece allows for reflection, which was helpful. After being kicked in the gut by act two, calmly pondering my own mortality didn’t seem so morbid.