Kevin Williamson takes the stage, dancing solo to Janet Jackson’s “Control.” The song pauses as a troupe of three men joins him dancing in silence. Their rigid moves and jagged slices come to an abrupt rest, as electronic sound suddenly begins to fill the quiet space.
Exploring body forms and movements like these, “The Lost Boys” is a modern dance theater concert choreographed and directed by Williamson, a graduate dance student at UCLA. The show highlights the physical partnership and proximity between male bodies through the incorporation of theatrical elements, vocalization and dance movements. The concert, which will run from Friday to Sunday at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica, also speaks about gay ideals and issues of internalized homophobia.
The dance theater concert follows the journey of Williamson, who has explored the sociological impact of the AIDS epidemic on the gay community. Through both vigorous and tender movements, the concert portrays him reconnecting to the internalized stigma and renegotiating the rules that once constrained him.
“The movement in this dance theater is a metaphor for some of the rigid lines and rules I put on my own sexuality because of stigma or fears based on a lot of different things,” Williamson said. “There was a correlation between my sexuality and the AIDS crisis. I call it ‘The Lost Boys’ because I’m finally taking the time to reflect upon the impact of the AIDS crisis on my life as a gay man.”
Although this dance theater concert is inspired by a profound and individual recollection by Williamson, it aims to relate to the audience emotionally, said David Roussève, a professor and former department chair at UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance who has also worked closely with Williamson as his Master of Fine Arts committee chair.
“‘The Lost Boys’ is about memory and people’s desire to connect (with themselves) within the social confines that they live,” Roussève said. “And I think (Williamson) translates those ideas beautifully to movement.”
Roussève said combining the use of choreography and theatrical props, such as milk that symbolizes masculinity, creates an emotional conversation between the dancers and the audience.
Roussève also said the fact that it is an all-male troupe renders “The Lost Boys” a distinct piece of dancing.
To layer the choreography with original and contemporary scores, the dance theater concert features UCLA alumna Jeepneys (Anna Luisa Petrisko), an emerging experimental music artist, as background music in the concert, Williamson said.
“Because the dance should feel like it could happen at any temporal or spatial scale, Jeepneys’ otherworldly music helps to achieve such an effect,” Williamson said.
Aside from experimental music, human vocalization is another key sound element to the dance theater concert.
“Some of the vocalization includes remixing lyrics and the shifting of lyrics so they take on different meaning,” Williamson said. “I’m using language to layer different complex meanings.“
This multilayered modern dance theater concert has come into being through different stages of creation.
Kevin Le, a fourth-year dance student and one of the four dancers, began working with Williamson two years ago while preparing for another dance concert that eventually led to the development of “The Lost Boys.”
“When we first started rehearsal, it was for another show, but from there, Kevin (Williamson) wanted to develop more,” Le said. “He gave us scores and tasks, and we just went onstage improvising based on those tasks. That’s the starting point where he wanted to develop ‘The Lost Boys.’”
While most of “The Lost Boys” is choreographed by Williamson, the three collaborative performers have also contributed creative input to the dance theater concert, Williamson said.
“The dance was a collaborative process (in that) I put forward questions and specific ideas. Together, then we worked on movements and intention, and we improvised,” Williamson said. “I certainly set a large amount of the movement inventions, but there is a big portion of the duet that (Raymond Ejiofor and Julio Medina) choreographed themselves.”
As intricate as the conceptual idea behind “The Lost Boys” may seem, Williamson said the dance is in fact very simple.
“I hope the message is that by taking the time to look back, you can start to re-establish how you feel about yourself in the present,” Williamson said. “(You can) start to fortify (a) healthy new relationship that’s fit for you.”