A Selective Guide to the Arts in Los Angeles

Guest contributor Colleen McLellan gives a preview of Lineage Dance’s fall lineup. She blogs about dance at www.ladanceblogger.blogspot.com.

Lineage DanceIn a handily symbiotic event, Lineage Dance will be holding a performance to benefit (it) magazine this Sunday, Oct. 4, at the Colony Theater in Burbank.  An online publication, (it) focuses on “solutions-driven stories,” working to support and encourage pro-social action on a local and global scale by spotlighting “social causes, charities, innovations, and people making a difference” — a cause not lost on the Pasadena dance troupe. Its own mission is to make dances that are accessible and purposeful, putting local and global issues at the forefront of its work. From the Lineage website:

“We seek… to support our community through dance, by partnering with, and raising awareness of, the service work of many diverse organizations.”

Sunday’s program will be a retrospective, kicking off the impressive 10th anniversary season for Lineage. As founder and artistic director, Hilary Thomas has choreographed all of the company’s works being performed.

With degrees in psychology and dance from Santa Clara University, Thomas established the company in 1999 alongside her father and her sister (hence, “Lineage”), and has seen it grow steadily ever since. The dancers are now paid per performance, making the company a professional one cast entirely with women who have other, mostly full-time jobs. (Thomas’ is teaching science and dance at Flintridge Prep in La Cañada-Flintridge.) But as their pleasingly pointed feet will tell you, the dancers all have a ballet background. The apparent technique and the impressive touring history make the company’s professionalism clear.

Parts of Thomas’ “Healing Blue” are included in Sunday’s program. Inspired by stories of experiencing cancer, the evening-length series began in 2005 and has since become a signature piece. According to Peggy Burt, the company’s managing director and an early member, it has grown and changed with the company. A lovely duet in Sunday’s program, “From a Sister’s Length,” is one of its parts. Based on the story of Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles photographer Annie Wells and her sister, this dance retells a familial battle with cancer. The frontal facing and virtuosic tics don’t always mesh with the piece’s more charming idiosyncrasies — arms up-flung like a child’s, subtler indications of mortal threat. But Thomas’ work nevertheless satisfies expectations, meeting the Lineage goal to make dance accessible and cause-oriented. (As Burt points out, “Healing Blue” remains an effective tool for cancer research awareness and fundraising.)

Sunday’s program also includes preview sections of “The Brain in Motion,” which will be performed in its entirety (on Friday, Oct. 30, Thursday, Nov. 5, and Sunday, Nov. 8, at the Pacific Asia Museum) as part of the Pasadena Art and Ideas Festival. The final work will be an evening-length piece about the human brain, complete with the sequential motion of a firing synapse in dance form. And this is much of the Lineage appeal: because of its objective and the simplification it entails (frontal presentation, situational pantomime, extensive pre-performance clarifications), the Lineage approach to dance and dance-making creates a unique experience. A brain saves some effort by having dances explained to it, but reconsidering the community role of dance is a mental exercise in itself. In mission and in work, Lineage makes it clear that approachable art can be a tool for awareness and for change. With that in mind, proceeds from the full “Brain in Motion” performance later in the season will go toward Alzheimer’s research through the Travis Research Institute.

The retrospective Lineage Dance concert will kick off the company’s 10th season on Sunday, Oct. 4, at the Colony Theater, 555 N. Third St., Burbank. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door.