LAGUNA BEACH, CA — The edges of the Steele Gallery at the Laguna Art Museum were packed with people at 6:30 pm Thursday for an Art Walk performance. The waxed parquet floor reflected the colors of the paintings hanging on the walls, all treasures of the permanent collection. Soon three dancers entered the room, the music started, and they spoke.
Tea Devereaux, Chryssa Hadjis and Justin Pham began to wake up their bodies by stretching, rolling and casually recognizing each other. Suddenly, Simron Player, who was working on the computer’s music application, rushed over to join them, kicking off the warm-ups in a dance party among the spectators.
The player returned to the computer to applause, then each of the dancers performed a solo.
Devereaux danced on “Just Piano”, Pham on “Girl Crush” and Hadjis on “Frozen Away”. All three exuded confidence and joy as they moved around the space for an up close audience. They were familiar with their music, which makes it difficult to tell if their choreography was improvised, prepped, or a combination of the two.
The presentation was billed as “inspired by the visual movement of the museum’s Steele Gallery”. But the movement of the dancers seemed firmly anchored to the floor, rather than to the high walls or the ceiling. Their elegant arabesques stretched far from the ground. Multiple rotating jumps were glimpses of time that defied the pull of the ground. Not heavy, the dancers seemed rooted and strong, as if graceful mountains were coming to life.
Their work was dynamic, propulsive and professional.
Overall, the 15 minutes of live dancing was a celebration of being on the move again, and it graciously took those watching in that joy.
Throughout the evening, the museum hosted an Art Walk art creation project, which we hope will be repeated in one form or another every month. The inaugural activity, “Big Little Watercolor”, was inspired by master watercolourist Marion Kavanagh Wachtel (1973-1954), whose “Sierra Madre Mountains, La Crescenta” hung nearby. The expansive scene is so detailed and precise that it’s quite astonishing to wonder about the artist who rendered it in watercolor.
Participants were excited to create a large scene on a small piece of quality paper. As we demonstrated the use of watercolor pencils followed by wet brushes, we learned that Kavanagh Wachtel preferred to use oils but left this more noble medium to her husband. At least, that’s what Janet Blake, LAM’s retired historical art curator, argued about the artist’s switch to watercolor after her marriage to Elmer Wachtel.
On the horizon of the Laguna Dance Festival, the hot September nights on September 26. The museum’s three current exhibitions will remain in place until October 24, when preparations for its annual Art & Nature festival, scheduled for November 4-7, are shifted into high gear.