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The war within

Dance series at Brand Library Galleries allows expression through movement.

February 24, 2007|By Joyce Rudolph

Benita Bike begins her dance piece, "Eternal Encounter," with two warring spirits who battle and then collapse. The dance ends with them coming back to fight another day.

"It's an anti-war statement," she said. "The dance explores the historical hatred and desires that bring us back to war time and time again."

The dance piece, performed by her Benita Bike DanceArt company, is part of the program kicking off a contemporary dance series, which will take place on three nonconsecutive Sundays at Brand Library Galleries in Glendale's Brand Park.

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The impetus for creating the piece came from an ongoing battle Bike is having with her neighbor over a piece of land, she said, as well as the war in Iraq, which has upset her from the very start.

"Part of the reason an artist makes art is to make sense of the life they are living and the world they are living," she said.

Creating the piece was self-indulgent, she said, but it has helped her better understand her own feelings about conflict.

The dance represents any kind of relationship where there is some kind of fighting or someone who wants to dominate the other one, said Emma Julaud, of Toluca Lake, one of the dancers in the piece.

"You can find that in wars or in any kind of relationship," she said.

Each performance in the series offers a question-andanswer period with the dancers, so that will help educate the public about modern dance, organizers said. High school and college dance department teachers offer it to students for subjects of papers.

Bike has been involved with the dance series as a coordinator for three years and as a participant for 12, and continues to be part of the project because she feels the need to educate audiences about dance, she said.

"Eighty percent of my company's work is educational programs such as the ones at the Brand," she said. "I feel many people would enjoy expressive dance events more if someone would speak to them in plain talk and just tell them what they are doing."

The series is offered to the public for free through fundraising efforts of the Associates of Brand Library, a support group for the library for the arts, said Bonese Turner, vice president of the group.

"Benita Bike DanceArt is definitely at the forefront of contemporary dance," Turner said. "They are exploring and trying new things and it's very exciting."

The group realizes funds for free programs through membership dues, donations and a spring arts sale, she said. Last year members also produced their first visual-arts auction that was quite successful, she added.

"The dance series is wonderful and it's quite amazing that these things are open to the public," she said. "For free, people get a little touch of Broadway."

What surprises her, Turner said, is how many people in the Burbank, Glendale and La Crescenta area are unaware of the programs at Brand.

Lois Ramirez, of Burbank, became a member of the associates because she felt compelled to support the Brand Library and its services, she said.

"There are not many galleries in Southern California that can equal the Brand Galleries," she said. "And the art library, performances and other community services offered make the Brand facility a treasure."

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