A colorful & festive gala celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre in DTLA’s Produce Row.
Called the “reigning queen of site specific performance” by the LA Times, her productions often combine two of my most favorite things, dance and interesting historic spaces.
I was first introduced to Heidi Duckler back in the 90’s when a friend of mine worked as a set decorator on a few of her productions. I ended up seeing the following productions during that time:
– Liquid Assets (1998) set in California Plaza’s massive fountain in DTLA
– Locker Rumors (1999) set in the locker room of Valley College in Van Nuys, CA
– SubVersions (2000) set in the Old Subway Terminal Building in DTLA.
This particular performance was very special, since it allowed me to explore the underground station and tunnel of LA’s first subterranean transit system known as the “Hollywood Subway,” which moved its first passengers under the city in 1925 via electric interurban rail cars. Access to this underground history is no longer granted, so I’m happy I got to see it when I did.
I had been wanting to see another one of Heidi’s performances over the years but just never got around to it. So I was extremely excited when my friend Sandi from Avoiding Regret asked me to be her plus one date to “Fresh & Fancy”, a $250 per person gala celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre. The Gala included a live musical performance by Grammy Award-winners Quetzal…
…and featured original dance performances—including the epilogue to Duckler’s dance telenovela, “Sophie & Charlie”…
…as well as handcrafted local cuisine, an open bar with aguas frescas, and a raffle.
The most exciting thing about the performance for me, was the space, which was located in DTLA’s Produce District. LA’s Wholesale Produce Market is split into two distinct areas. The new market borders Olympic and sells primarily to large supermarkets. The old market borders Central and sells smaller quantities to markets, restaurants, and individuals who are buying in bulk.
Since the gala was held on a Saturday night, the normal hustle and bustle of the market was nowhere to be seen but if you were to come down here between 1am-5am, you would see lots of action.
Welcome to the Duck Truck. The trailer paired with Heidi Duckler’s near 30-year commitment to the creation and education of site-specific work has provided a vast foundation for her Duck Truck Residency Program. A curriculum-based initiative for schools, after school programs, and community centers built for the company’s 1961 Oasis Duck Truck, the program focuses on the generation of original choreography — rather than acquiring the codified movement of a specific genre of dance and has become a conceptual ambassador for participation in the arts.
It was a beautiful night for a gala, and after a few formal introductions and announcements, it was time for some live music by Quetzal and a dance performance by HDDT.
The performance was an epilogue to Duckler’s recent 4-part series, “Sophie & Charlie,” or, what the choreographer likes to call, the first “dance telenovela.” The premise concerns a pair of lovers whose story unfolds over four consecutive weeks, in four different L.A. neighborhoods.
After some food and drink it was time to get down…
…and with the sounds of Quetzal’s bilingual Chicano rock, that wasn’t hard to do.
They played a mix of Mexican and Afro-Cuban rhythms, jazz, rhythm and blues, and rock music, supercharged by the dynamic vocals of lead singer and composer Martha Gonzalez. The band began in 1993 in a Chicano owned cafe, “Troy” in the Little Tokyo neighborhood of Los Angeles.
The band had been instrumental in developing Fandango Sin Fronteras, a dialog between Chicanos and Chicanas from California and Jarocho and Jarocha (musicians from Veracruz, Mexico). They helped catalyze the Seattle Fandango Project in 2009 when Martha Gonzalez moved to Seattle to complete her PhD in Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies from the University of Washington.
Martha’s research on the transnational music movement across the Americas and Europe, with a special focus for innovations of women in the music and dance of son Jarocho awarded her a Fulbright-Garcia Robles Award and a Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship. Martha released her Fulbright research project Entre Mujeres: Feminine Translocal Music Composition, as a CD compilation.
The Produce District just happens to be right next door to the Pinata District.
The guests sure seemed to love it.