Milka Djordjevich’s ANTHEM, presented by Los Angeles Performance Practice, currently on a three-night run at Ghebaly Gallery in Los Angeles, is a pulsing kaleidoscope of movement that is difficult to label. Maybe disco dressage comes close, a choreographed disintegration loop, something akin to the rising and fading blips on a Soviet-era heart monitor, performed by a distant artificially intelligent species programmed only with 1.44 megabytes of 20th century cabaret instruction. In actuality the dance is performed by four human women named Laurel Atwell, Jessica Cook, Dorothy Dubrule, and Devika Wickremesinghe.
According to Djordjevich, ANTHEM utilizes “existing and imagined vernacular dance styles” to explore “labor, play, and feminine-posturing.” You could say that this trifecta becomes a first, second and third act by which to break down the performance, and break down it will. Within the hour-long performance, an innocent playground clapping game turns into a cocaine fever dream that reminds you of Sydney Pollack’s 1969 adaption of Horace McCoy’s 1935 novel, They Shoot Horses, Don't They? It's about a Great Depression-era dance marathon the devolves into desperation, exhaustion, greed and death. ANTHEM is electric and existentially thrilling in the same context. It is a fragmented mirror reflecting an alternate reality that absorbs the viewer within Djordjevich’s enthralling matrix, helped maybe by the droning, undulating music of Chris Peck and theatrical communist bloc, discotheque-toned lighting by Madeline Best.
Each dancer, one with a full Petra Von Kant afro, arrive in a kind of centipede-like daisy chain, various lackadaisical rhythmic exercises turn into cavalier Saturday Night Fever dance moves performed with brilliantly stolid indifference. Soon, the dancers climb on top of each other, writhing double-deckers of velvet covered flesh. One chews gum, blows bubbles and makes awkward eye contact with the audience. Two of them lose their shoes. At points they all rehydrate and fix their hair as they fall into a hypnotic groove, one of which takes on a texture of movement that has a robotic, cool remove. Mascara, eye shadow and sweat glistens. The dancers slowly succumb to gravity and exhaustion, like bon vivants at dawn. They emerge from their stupor to return from whence they came. The fever has broken and no bitter tears were shed.
ANTHEM has three remaining performances in Los Angeles, Saturday 6/9 at 10pm, Sunday 6/10 at 3pm & 7pm. Ghebaly Gallery is located at 2245 E Washington Boulevard. photographs by Summer Bowie