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Arts and Entertainment

Heads Up! LA Improv Dance Festival This Week!

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Jazz performers improvise in front of an audience all of the time. At each sitting, different combinations of instruments and players create unique variations of existing sounds and tunes or develop something brand new to our ears. It’s thrilling to listen to the artists search for their individuality within the known arrangement of tones, scales, rhythms and meters. Or, it can fall flat. Still, when you bring the best together, even flat can be amazing and beautiful.

The Los Angeles Improv Dance Festival (iD Fest 2008) is a gathering of movement improvisation specialists from all over the country. They’re here for a week long event at the Diavolo Performance Space in the Downtown Brewery Arts Complex. With classes for movers of all levels during the week, the festival culminates in three different open-to-the-public performances this Friday and Saturday nights and on Sunday afternoon (January 18-20).

What I find great about watching dance improvisation is that I get to witness the performer in her/his unscripted nakedness. I watch as she discovers movement and other solutions to real or pre-arranged scenarios. I get to look at the stage from her perspective and see how she deals with the challenges there. Sometimes a title in the program will tell me what her motivation is; other times, she will announce a concept I can hang my hat on and marvel as she explores that idea. Music may be a collaborating element, or the space, itself. There’s no limit to the jumping off points that each artist chooses.

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Questions may arise like "How can I interestingly fit my body in the space beside that person already on stage? Or, "Now that I'm lying on the floor, what new and different way can I discover in order to stand up?" And, all these internal monologues happen spontaneously in nano-seconds. Whereas the lay(wo)man's responses to these questions may be limited, these local and internationally-renowned improvisers have played these games before, have refined their mental and physical thinking and super-tuned their instruments (bodies) to sometimes yield striking, breathtaking and, perhaps, shocking results. All very entertaining.

Or, maybe not. Some days, as we know, nothing works and traffic has been hell. But, it's totally worth the risk. Check it out. This year's festival focuses on site-specific work and ensemble performance.

What: The 4TH Annual Los Angeles Improv Dance Festival (iD FEST 2008)
Where: Diavolo Performance Space, The Downtown Brewery Arts Complex, 616
Moulton St., Los Angeles, CA 90031
When: Begins Tuesday, January 15, 2008 with performances Friday & Saturday January 18 & 19, at 8:30 p.m. and Sun. January 20 at 2 p.m.
How much: $20. Students and Dance Resource Members, $15, Friday performance is Pay What You Can.
Reservations: Brown Paper Tickets, (800) 838-3006 ask for In-Site Collaboration Performance
Info: Making Faces Productions, (818) 618-4772.

photo of Kim Epifano by Andy Mog