Look at her now.
Olivia Letelier-Lieteau hopelessly shed tears during auditions, yet she won a lead role in this dance production.
This dance production Brandee Harris and Kareem Griffen have titled Abstract.
“She was in tears during auditions, because she couldn’t keep up with the choreography,” Griffen said. “But she stuck it out to the end, and look at her now.”
The 10-year-old doesn’t disappoint. She nails every move and doesn’t miss a beat.
“She is amazing,” Griffen said.
Griffen will say this about every dancer in this production. And he means it.
“Because every individual has talent, and we’re here to draw that talent out,” he said.
Griffen and Harris are founders, owners and directors of Lenore’Kamere dance company. They also are co-directors of this production, which will be performed Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 4-5, at Independence Park Theatre.
The company has been performing an annual summer production since 2007. Many in the cast are returning members.
“But at least half are new,” Griffen said. “And this is exciting, because we get to discover some amazing new talent.”
And it all meshes with the theme of Abstract, which Griffen described as a journey of self discovery. The first half of the program looks at how people allow themselves to be defined by others. The second half explores how the true boundaries are really set by the people themselves.
“Others can only box you in if you allow them,” Griffen said. “Which means that we are the ones who are really setting the boundaries for ourselves, and this show looks at that, and it looks at how we can break out of that box and away from those boundaries to be who we really are. And that is ourselves.”
So, when Letelier-Lieteau couldn’t keep up with the audition choreography, it was only natural that she was upset.
“But her mother encouraged her to stick it out,” Griffen said.
And in the end, Letelier-Lieteau broke through the boundaries to win a part. Not just any part, a main part.
She’s the fairy whose magic wand links together this production’s stories. She appears onstage with wings, fluttering about, using her magic to change the course of a story and transform characters.
And among those characters is Jarvis Langster. Those who regularly attend dance productions will recognize this 13-year-old, especially from Debbie Allen’s Baton Rouge shows.
Langster has been dancing with Griffen’s company since its inception. His constant smile is natural on stage and off.
“I love dancing,” he said. He follows his statement with a laugh.
It’s all that needs saying, because the dances tell the rest of the story.
Langster has actually helped choreograph some of these pieces.
“I usually do all of the choreography,” Griffen said. “But Jarvis has been with us for so long, and he has such good ideas, I asked him to help with the choreography this year.”
This is really going to be impressive on his resume — a choreographer at 13.
“It’s something I would like to do one day,” Langster said. “I want to dance, but I would like to do both.”
Still, some of the most powerful choreography is found in the piece, Like Blood, Like Honey. Griffen choreographed this himself, and ran through it on this particular afternoon in the recreation building at BREC’s Drusilla Lane Park.
The center is equipped with mirrors and bars along the wall, as is any dance studio. The company has been rehearsing here on Saturdays since February.
The show features singing, as well as narration.
But again, the power is in the dancing, especially in such numbers as Like Blood, Like Honey.
Here, a girl is addicted to alcohol, and Griffen shadows her moves in the role of her addiction. He eventually stops shadowing her and controls her moves, grabbing hold of her at rare moments when she tries to break away.
And the most jarring moment comes near the end of the piece, when the girl hits her addiction in the head.
Audience members will be able to hear it when the girl’s hand makes contact with the addiction’s forehead. The altercation may cause a few gasps.
And the power of it all will linger long after the dance has come to an end.
“Yes, she hits me,” Griffen said. “I told her that she had to, because it wouldn’t be believable if she didn’t. When you are addicted to something, you have to fight it, you have to be strong.”
Then there’s the spiritual piece, I Made it Through, where cast members dress as circus clowns. Now, Griffen isn’t mocking Christianity or spirituality with these costumes.
“I just see life as a circus, and we’re all performers,” he said. “We always have a spiritual song in each of our productions, because God created us, and he is in our lives.”
There are so many other pieces in this show, maybe too many to mention in one sitting. But at least one of them will be performed again in the fall at the Black and Orange Social.
“We’ve been invited to perform a dance for them in October,” Harris said. “The social is hosted by the 10/31 Consortium at the Woman’s Club. This is the second time we’ve been invited.”
But Abstract takes priority for now. It’s fun. It’s powerful. It’s victorious.
And, when Letelier-Lieteau waves her wand, magical.
- CAST: Anushka Green, Bianca Spurlock, Brian Watson, Bryan Bonfiglio, Cameron Moore, Chelsea Davis, Christina Honore, DaLannie George, Emily Roy, Gabrielle Lewis, Gaquane Coleman, J’niah Smith, Jarvis Langster, Kyla Ester, Laterial Sawyer, Mary Bryan, Nadia Kennedy, Nicole Sawyer, Olivia Letelier, Shamira Cummings, Trinesha Wade.
- DIRECTORS: Brandee Harris and Kareem Griffen