Flipping Things Inside Out and Upside Down

Invertigo at the Ford

By Brian Sonia-Wallace

“Invertigo means flipping things inside out and upside down,” Laura Karlin tells me. “It’s about finding new perspectives.” Laura is the Artistic Director of Invertigo Dance Theatre and she’s setting out to challenge the paradigm of how dance is presented with her evening-length work After It Happened.

The piece follows a community recovering from a natural disaster as they rebuild and decide what kind of world they want to make. Inspiration came from an exhibition of photos Emilio Morenatti took in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. “There was a quality in Morenatti’s photographs that I found so compelling. He did cover a lot of the trauma and struggle but his pictures also captured moments of sweetness, compassion, a bunch of grownups playing soccer, kids playing with bubbles. And then there is one photograph of a woman who had taken one of the blue tarps that you see in a lot of recovery zones and had fashioned it into a dress.  She looked so fragile, so strong and so beautiful and it really made me want to tell this story, to dive into it. I want to honor the grief and the trauma, but I want to celebrate our resilience and our capacity for hope and transformation,” Laura says.

The blue tarp dress in After It Happened.

In 2014, After It Happened had a successful three-week run at the Odyssey Theatre, a bold move in the dance world. When I speak with her, Laura is thinking about how the art itself has to adapt to the context of a new space. “Any work we create is site specific,” she tells me, alluding to the idea that dance evolves to respond to wherever it’s presented. “The Ford is a venue with its own story and sense of place. The fact that it’s outdoors means it adds a sensory component that makes it intimate despite its size.”

In addition to being the central theme of After It Happened, transformation factors into the work Invertigo does in communities. No mention of the company would be complete without a nod to their Dancing Through Parkinson’s program, which helps those struggling with the disease to reconnect with their bodies. This production has tapped into that same transformative community spirit through a storytelling workshop at the West Hollywood World Refugee Day and communal set building event at the Los Angeles Craft and Folk Art Museum with participants responding to the question, “What would you grab on the way out?”

Invertigo Dance Theatre’s one-night-only production of After It Happened takes place at the Ford on Friday, September 30. To get a taste of the live music, go here.

Live music accompanies the dancing in After It Happened.

Read Brian’s review from the 2014 production here.