The Art of Choreography: Exploring Site Specific Dance

In designing programs for GRoW @ The Wallis, we first look to the artists and art forms on our stages for inspiration.  We then consider this question – “what does the LA area need that does not already exist?”

The Wallis is fortunate to present leading dance companies from around the world and showcase the work of ground-breaking choreographers.  In considering the local landscape for dance education, we noted there are very few opportunities for high school and college age dancers to explore the discipline of choreography in real depth.  This led us to create The Art of Choreography program for young dancers in our 2015-16 season, led by our GRoW Artist-in-Residence, Madeleine Dahm.

The program continued in 2016-17 with a focus on site-specific dance.   With more and more companies and choreographers creating work for unique spaces outside the traditional theater environment, we thought it timely to look beyond our stages and instead explore the entire Wallis campus as a canvas for creating dance.  The program culminated with a public performance of the work (entitled “here and now”) over two evenings for a small audience that followed the dancers from space to space.  We are pleased to share the video of these performances with you.

This is how Madeleine Dahm described the program for the audiences that attended: “here and now is a site specific dance concert that investigates and celebrates movement in non- traditional spaces at The Wallis. Since November 2016 five young choreographers from ‘The Art of Choreography’ Lab have been examining ways to create movement and dance in and around our historic building. Their charge: to work with the uniqueness of each space, overcome its challenges, and discover a movement vocabulary that compliments it. Drawing inspiration from marble hallways, angled staircases, sweeping skylines and tiered gardens, they have integrated these physical structures into their dance compositions, as well as drawn meaning from them.    As dance continues to expand beyond theatrical stages and concert venues, dancers and choreographers are regularly called upon to devise and perform work in non-traditional spaces. Rather than creating the work in a studio setting and then transferring it to a non-traditional setting, this unique opportunity has afforded each young artist the chance to develop and rehearse their work entirely on location..

The first piece was presented in the Jim and Eleanor Randall Grand Hall.


Choreography by Jayde Kief

“Four dancers intersecting in the Wallis’ Grand Hall proved exhilarating and complex – the experiment of filling the giant space, consuming the grandiose details and echoing the Wallis’ Post Office history, pushed my limits as a choreographer.  I wanted to capture movement that traveled, raced and relayed – imagining dancers traveling to unknown destinations and transferring messages, as they seek a way to relate to one another.”

Dancers: Jazz Hayes , Brianna Ortiz, Bianca Ortiz, Charlotte Samuels
Music:  “Walt” by Yoko Kanno, from the Zankyou no Terror OST1

The audience then came outside to the Promenade Terrace.

Observance Rituals

Choreography by Jayde Kief

“The curves and juts of building tops, the trees standing as sentries to a mystical garden, the overture of a full super moon – all inspired me to focus on the space and ‘happenings’ around.  ‘Observance Rituals’ began as a solo, confined to a small concrete box surrounded by grass.  As the piece developed and grew, my vision expanded, as movement began to transform the surrounding concrete jungle from a place or ordinary splendor to one of extraordinary reverence.”

Dancers: Jazz Hayes, Brianna Ortiz, Bianca Ortiz, Charlotte Samuels

South Santa Monica Blvd meets Cannon Drive

Choreography by the Dancers and Madeleine Dahm
Dancers: Jazz Hayes, Jayde Kief, Brianna Ortiz, Bianca Ortiz, Charlotte Samuels
Music: Reich Ensemble

Tisch Sculpture Garden


Choreographed by Charlotte Samuel

“When I was choreographing, I focused mostly on the importance of the dancers performing as a unit rather than simply dancing as individuals, the sense of them connected to each other, as the elements of the garden are connected.”

Dancers: Jazz Hayes, Jayde Kief, Brianna Ortiz, Bianca Ortiz.
Music: “S.T.A.Y” Composed by Hans Zimmer from 2014 film Interstellar

The audience then entered the lobby to the Bram Goldsmith Theater.

One or All

Choreographed by Brianna Ortiz

“This piece explores the impact of circular movement in a very square plane. I used levels and speed to elaborate the intention of the dancers. It has been a great opportunity to challenge my tendency towards larger movements, fitting movement into the blocks of the stairs”

Dancers: Jazz Hayes, Jayde Kief, Bianca Ortiz, Charlotte Samuels
Music: Joe Henderson, El Barrio

Controlled Collapsing

Choreographed by Jazz Hayes

“Controlled collapsing is a piece that is based on the concept of a higher power slowly losing control over the things or beings under its command. This dance also closely follows the idea of an organized life or environment that is slowly falling apart or losing stamina. As a dancer that has mostly trained on a completely flat surface, dancing on stairs was difficult. I had to keep in mind the dangers of working on the stairs, but try to create as many innovative movements as I could, discovering what can and cannot be done on a staircase. At first I was timid in my approach but the more I worked with my dancers, the more confident I became, and I started to do more complex movements on the staircase. One of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with while creating this dance was also remembering to get off the stairs, not forgetting there was an abundance of flat area around me also.”

Dancers: Jayde Kief, Brianna Ortiz, Bianca Ortiz, Charlotte Samuels
Music: Soundscape


Choreographed by Bianca Ortiz

“I believe the elaborate use of arms and flailing movements create a contrast with my specific site, The Bar, which is very rectangle and exact. My choreography depicts the tendency of people to follow along rather than lead. I incorporate the touch and connections made to the bars surface as almost a nudge of encouragement to lead”

Dancers: Jayde Kief, Brianna Ortiz, Bianca Ortiz, Charlotte Samuels
Music: Jazz Jamaican All Stars medley theme from The Godfather.

The audience was then invited inside the Goldsmith Theater for a talkback with the students and Madeleine Dahm.