Lula Washington’s website says it all: “Lula Washington is founder and artistic director of the Lula Washington Dance Theatre…a non-profit charitable organization…founded in 1980 with her husband Erwin Washington to provide a creative outlet for minority dance artists in the inner city…the Company has danced in over 150 cities in the US, as well as abroad…the founding mission is to build a world class contemporary modern dance company…that reflect(s) African American history and culture.” In 2020, the Lula Washington Dance Theatre comes to the Bram Goldsmith Theater at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills.
The current program reflects multiple African American experiences, including the effect of gangs in the “hood,” the life of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, the struggles of one black dancer, the role of the current Presidential administration on everyday life, and finally the important role of religion in the black community. The piece portraying Martin Luther King’s struggles performed in front of projections of life before the civil rights movement was especially involving. Each piece is choreographed by different members of the dance theater, including Lula Washington herself. Michael David Ricks handled lighting and projection design while the company performed to a number of different songs and musical arrangements reflecting the black community.
A very active and athletic dance troupe, Lula Washington’s Dance Theatre is comprised of enthusiastic and talented minority members who seems to be putting their hearts and souls into each number. Motion never stops, and positions of power abound. However, the current production appeared to be rather slap-dash and last minute. At least one professional dancer in the audience remarked that she loves dance but could not establish an emotional connection with the on-stage group – perhaps due to multiple “pauses” between pieces which broke the rhythm of the show and/or the apparent lack of coordination between dancers – with each seeming to do “his own thing” with little regard for his colleagues.
Given its history and mission, LULA WASHINGTON’S DANCE THEATRE is probably a must-see for the African-American community and should prove interesting for others fascinated by the role of dance in culture. The group definitely merits being seen and heard as a showpiece for the Los Angeles African-American community.
LULA WASHINGTON DANCE THEATRE runs through February 2, 2020, with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday 1/30, Friday 1/31/20, and Saturday 2/1/20. The Bram Goldsmith Theater is located at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA. Tickets range from $29 to $79. For information and reservations, call 310-746-4000 or go online.