Arts & Culture

'Love' in a new space

CORE Dance Company’s ‘Confessions of a Love Junkie.’
CORE Dance Company’s ‘Confessions of a Love Junkie.’ COURTESY PHOTO

CORE Dance Company’s production of “Confessions of a Love Junkie” explores such adult themes as virginity, being gay and getting divorced. Presented at The Spot in Arroyo Grande last year, the show was so popular that it has been remounted and tweaked for the stage at Cal Poly’s Spanos Theatre.

“It sold out last year, and we couldn’t accommodate all of the people who wanted to come,” said Zheila Pouragabagher, co-creator, director, producer and performer. “Now it is on a much bigger stage. Last year it was crowded into a small space. We have added dancers and background props, and it will be the way we wanted it to look.”

Pouragabagher and Emmy winning choreographer Suzy Miller co-wrote and designed the production with adult audiences in mind. The director said, “We don’t have any of that. We wanted to provide for adults at that mature emotional level.”

Because of the themes, the production is not recommended for audience members under 16.

The writer/directors visualized the show, wrote the segments, and designed the dances with appropriate music for each piece. It’s structured like a play. Pouragabagher plays the role of a therapist who is writing a book about case studies of people in various situations fueled by love. The principal dancers have moments of acting as they spend three to five minutes telling her their stories before they transition into dance pieces. There are four main segments.

Virginia, played by Megan Casady, is teetering between remaining a virgin until she is married or taking the plunge into sex. The lively dance number that describes her fantasy was choreographed by Jesus Solorio, formerly from Paso Robles. He has been a finalist on “So You Think You Can Dance” and is now a dancer and choreographer in Los Angeles.

Roxanne and Paul, played by Leah Rutledge and Edgar Garcia, come to the therapist as a married couple in the throes of breaking up.

Todd LeMay, co-producer of the show, plays Benjamin, a gay man who is coming out of the closet and is struggling with identity issues as he tries to fit into the world of openly gay men.

Courtney Winder is Judas, a kid with a wild lifestyle who is brought to the therapist by his mother, who wants him to settle down. Judas defies her as he returns to a club and does a wild hiphop dance.

Some of the changes in this year’s show came from the feedback from last year.

“People wanted to see more of the gay man,” Pouragabagher said, “So we expanded his scenes. The good news is they wanted more.”

The role of the therapist has also been expanded, giving her more background. Other changes include making Virginia a Valley Girl, and changing the couple’s decision from a separation to a divorce.

The larger performing space has enabled Miller and Pouragabagher to add 15 dancers. There are now 21, ages 18 to 55. In between the four major pieces are short numbers the director calls “palate cleansing.” Though not directly related to the main stories, they are also on the theme of love.

Pouragabagher describes them as interpretive dances based on the therapist’s journal. Dance styles include hiphop, Flamenco, contemporary jazz — all contemporary, energized and hip. There is humor, joy and a bit of sadness, she explained, “to give the audience an emotional ride.”

Most of the 17 numbers are choreographed by her and Miller. Solorio, Edgar Garcia and Eddie Gomez are guest choreographers. Garcia and Gomez are scholarship choreographers whom Pouragabagher has taught and mentored.

Creating “Confessions of a Love Junkie” has been exciting and satisfying, she said.

“I have a message for local artists. Start with an idea as we did, go out and try something. Create a team, and perform in a local venue.”

Instead of depending on traveling shows that come to the Central Coast, we can create our own artistic community, she said.

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