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7 Dance Videos That Helped Us Get Through 2020 

Chloe Arnold and Syncopated Ladies perform a "Savage" remix at the Sepulveda Basin | Still from "Dance Break" Southland Sessions
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From bathtub ballets to TikTok dance challenges, our screens have exploded with dance videos since the coronavirus pandemic forced us to dance together but apart. The restrictions of lockdown have forced dance artists to get even more creative and encouraged live dance junkies to explore the world of movement on the web. 

Increasingly, we’ve turned to dance on film to unplug from the news or another rabbit hole binge of TV dramas. With these videos, we’ve found an avenue to shift our frame of mind into a Zen state of contemplation or escapist joy. With these films, we have found solace, hope, moments of happiness, and a digital space to retreat from the daily struggles of prolonged isolation. Here a few with SoCal connections that helped us get through 2020.  

Syncopated Ladies' 'Savage' Tap Remix

Emmy-nominated, Los Angeles choreographer Chloe Arnold took the TikTok “Savage” dance challenge to a whole new level with her all-female tap group’s take on Megan Thee Stallion’s 2020 pop anthem featuring Beyoncé. Arnold ambitiously set her choreography to the song in the Sepulveda Basin at the L.A. River, where her ensemble of five tap dancers stunningly shuffled and stomped with vivacious attitude to Megan The Stallion and Beyoncé’s fierce rap rhythms.

“Our ‘Savage’ remix was a whole art piece,” Arnold told KCET’s "Southland Sessions", sharing that she chose the Sepulveda basin for its stark remoteness. “You can’t even understand how crazy we are ... Those tap boards, we carried them, I think, for a mile in the sun on one of the most scorching days in the valley.” 

Watch Chloe Arnold describe the process behind the performance in the "Southland Sessions" clip below.

Chloe Arnold, Emmy award-nominated choreographer and founder of the Syncopated Ladies, recounts the challenges of filming the "Savage" remix dance in L.A.'s Sepulveda Basin under the scorching heat of the sun during a pandemic. She gives her perspective on how dancing can be a much-needed release in this age of quarantine.
Chloe Arnold on Filming the 'Savage' Performance

But the final product was worth it. The Syncopated Ladies’ unbridled joy and impeccable rhythm radiate throughout the minute-long viral video, which has gained over 170,000 views on YouTube. 

“I want to embody the ferocity of what we’re feeling right now. Everybody needs a release,” said Arnold. And this video certainly provides that catharsis in a catchy, uplifting and empowering way.  

Versa-Style Dance Company’s ‘Flow Within’

“Waves,” “curves” and “surges” have become part of 2020’s lexicon describing the spikes and arcs of the deadly coronavirus pandemic. Yet in Versa-Style’s “Flow Within,” filmed at El Matador Beach in Malibu, the curves of the body and waves of the ocean take on a meditative and restorative quality as an ensemble of six barefoot hip-hop dancers pop, lock and undulate across an isolated beach. The score of mixed breathy vocals by multi-hyphenate artist d. Sabela Grimes plays like a hypnotic lullaby as the group shifts from angular V-shaped formations and diagonals to more fluid, rippling ramblings across the beach that remind of seaweed wiggling through waves. 

More from Versa Style Dance Company

Watch the full performance below.

For the Love of L.A. - "Flow Within" Versa-Style Dance Company

“The waves of the Pacific, the street dance activism movement … inspired us all to develop our internal pathways to self-development, our ‘flow within,’ and reach higher vibrations physically, mentally and spiritually,” writes the group in an artists’ statement on The Music Center’s website, where the video is featured as part of TMC’s For the Love of LA webpage. Similarly, “Flow Within” invites viewers to get on a different wavelength and escape from the frenetic energy of the home office to the calming shores of the Pacific through dance. 

Jade Charon’s ‘Recharge’

The events of 2020 have reminded us that we are living with two pandemics, COVID-19 and the scourge of racism. UCLA-trained choreographer Jade Charon’s “Recharge,” originally created in 2015, interweaves the pain and tragedies that birthed the Black Lives Matter movement with a spirited, soulful and searching dance through rocky beaches and clifftops. To Nina Simone’s energetic jazz anthem “Sinnerman,” a woman in a silky orange frock smoothly spins and exuberantly thrashes with a duo clad in white until finally reaching the shore for a baptismal dunk in the ocean. George Floyd’s brutal death has forced our country to confront racial injustice once again, and “Recharge” thoughtfully allows us to contemplate the complexity of that reckoning by taking a step back and taking it all in. 

Watch the full performance below.


Barak Ballet’s ‘Breathe In’

Los Angeles-based contemporary ballet choreographer Melissa Barak unleashed her creative energy for “Breathe In,” a short dance film that arrived in my inbox like a breath of fresh air earlier this summer. Barak’s buoyant mini ballet, which weaves through the geometrical architecture of Pan Pacific Park, follows an ensemble of sneaker-clad ballerinas and danseurs as they frolic through the urban space to a score by David Lawrence filled with the sounds of rushing strings and pulsing woodwinds. The music bursts with optimism as the dancers move with abandon, reveling in luxurious extensions in the sun, bounding through spongy grass turf and sprinting through the tiers of an outdoor amphitheater.  

Watch the full performance below.

Breathe In

If the work-from-home grind has got you down, take a five-minute breather with Barak Ballet for an afternoon pick me up. 

Lineage Dance Company’s ‘Gamble Ramble’

If your own four walls have become just too familiar, take a tour of Pasadena’s Gamble House with Lineage Dance Company. The Pasadena-based group’s “Gamble Ramble,” filmed for an all-online version of the city’s ArtNight celebration and directed by Hilary Thomas, takes viewers inside the iconic San Gabriel Valley abode for a dynamic dance performance. Get lost in the Gamble House’s architectural lines and sinuous swirls of Lineage’s dancers as they dash through the famous craftsman’s rooms and corridors. Home takes on a new meaning in their hands. 

Watch the full performance below.

Gamble Ramble

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company’s ‘D-Man in the Waters’

“D-Man in the Waters” was created 30 years ago in the midst of the AIDS epidemic in New York, but its themes of collective reckoning with a lethal disease, survival, grieving, community and healing speak to our contemporary moment as we confront the public health crisis of our time, COVID-19. Bathed in abundant swimming imagery, with the strains of Felix Mendelssohn’s hopeful “Octet for Strings” as background, an ensemble of nine joyously leaps, dashes and belly dives through an invisible body of water, occasionally collapsing into each other’s arms for somber reprieves. Costumed in greenish fatigue-like apparel, they could be uniformed to fight war or illness, but the collective striving of the group to overcome whatever tragedy that sits at the center of the dance — its creator Bill T. Jones has long asserted that the work is not about AIDS but suggests that its meaning shifts — is what makes this timeless postmodern masterpiece a balm for the soul as we enter the coronavirus pandemic’s dark and wintry second wave. 

Watch a clip from the 1989 performance below.

D-MAN in the Waters - Bill.T.Jones.mp4

I recently returned to the 1989 work after watching the new dance documentary “Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters,” co-directed and produced by Southern California dance professor Rosalynde LeBlanc, the chair of Loyola Marymount University’s dance department, whose students feature in the film as they learn the steps and origins of the work for a 2016 recreation

LeBlanc danced in “D-Man” while she was a member of the Bill T. Jones/ Arnie Zane Dance Company between 1999 and 1993, and her film — born before the pandemic and finished during  — reminds us of the parallels between 1989 and 2020.  With this in mind, the film invites us to return to its source material — an excerpt of which is available on YouTube for free. The full-length “D-Man” is 38 minutes, but these 14 minutes are packed with its joyous, heartbreaking and daring movement. The dance is a beautiful, life-affirming metaphor for the struggles we face now and a reminder of the human spirit’s ability to overcome even the most daunting of obstacles.    

The final toss during “D-Man in the Waters” performance. | Courtesy of Rosalynde LeBlanc
The final toss during “D-Man in the Waters” performance. | Courtesy of Rosalynde LeBlanc

Take a dive with “D-Man in the Waters.” Let it wash over you and restore your soul. 

Martha Graham Dance Company and Wild Up’s ‘Immediate Tragedy’

The echoes of the past resonate once again in the Martha Graham Dance Company’s digital reimagining of the American modern dance pioneer’s “Immediate Tragedy,” with reconstructed music by L.A.’s Wild Up. Based on Graham’s response to the Spanish Civil War and recovered photos of her original “Immediate Tragedy” dance solo, the 10-minute dance film commissioned by The Soraya at California State University, Northridge is a contemplative montage of tiles showcasing Graham company dancers in their living spaces. 

Watch the performance below.

Immediate Tragedy: Martha Graham Dance Company and Wild Up (10-minute version)

Though the barriers of COVID-19 physically separate all, the dancers magically perform together in duos and trios thanks to video editing by The Soraya’s Ricki Quinn, reminding us that despite the isolation we may feel because of social distancing, we are in this endeavor to beat the coronavirus together. Endless scrolls of elegant dancers move across the screen, building up to a euphoric stream of movement reminiscent of a teeming crowd, or to quote the Martha Graham Dance Company’s Janet Eilber, “a sea of people at a crowded protest.” We are reminded of humanity’s collective power if we’re wise enough to wield it in the service of humanity. 

Top Image: Chloe Arnold and Syncopated Ladies perform a "Savage" remix at the Sepulveda Basin | Still from "Dance Break" Southland Sessions

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