LED Journeys to 'This Side of Paradise' 

Lauren Edson and Andrew Stensaas of LED

Harrison Berry

Lauren Edson and Andrew Stensaas of LED

In theory, a two-hour multimedia exploration of the relationship between F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald sounds less than idyllic. In the skilled hands (and feet) of husband and wife duo Andrew Stensaas and Lauren Edson, however, LED's Oct. 10 debut of This Side of Paradise was an emotional production of remarkable dance, live music and video projections, which earned the new arts organization an enthusiastic standing ovation from the packed Morrison Center audience.

Among its goals, LED wants to "reawaken the performing art experience with live original music, movement, sound and visual design" through collaboration, a concept writ large with Paradise. Edson, a Juilliard School alum and former Trey McIntyre Project dancer, began establishing herself as a consummate (and award-winning) choreographer since leaving TMP a few years ago. Meanwhile, Stensaas, an accomplished musician, has a fan base through his work as an instructor at Boise Rock School but in recent years, has become better known to the over-21 set as a member of local band Edmond Dantes. Both Edson and Stensaas drew from those connections, forming an all-star band and cast to realize their vision.

The Fitzgeralds' notoriously rocky relationship and untimely deaths, as well as balletic snippets from F. Scott's autobiographical novel This Side of Paradise, provided ample content for LED, and the performance delighted the audience with its emotion and boldly drawn characters of well-known historical figures. Edson was mesmerizing, her movements a testament not only to her virtuosity but to the seemingly limitless capabilities of the human form. The audience was also drawn to dancer Jason Hartley (another former TMP dancer) for his energetic performance and the physical humor of Idaho Dance Theatre dancer Evan Stevens. The men's choreography was noticeably less kinetic and visceral than we've seen in the past, though, particularly from Hartley and IDT's Yurek Hansen. The subdued physicality of the male dancers was purposeful—they were portraying literary figures, not action heroes—but for people used to seeing Hansen's and Hartley's fireworks on stage, the choreography felt sluggish at times. 

The music, written and composed largely by Stensaas, combined big band, soul, funk, rock, electronic and jazz united by Stensaas' pop sensibilities and was realized by a collection of local musicians from bands and ensembles. The music illuminated Paradise's emotional content and, after the show, the lobby was filled with people asking if and where they could find a recording.

The projection design by former TMP staffer Kyle Morck added ambiance to Paradise but also served a structural purpose by slowing the movement on stage and keeping the dancers' action in time to the music. Costumes were designed by Project Runway season 11-winner Michelle Lesniak, whose flapper-inspired trousers, dresses, women's bikinis and men's undergarments helped set the scene.

One of the primary achievements of This Side of Paradise was balance. Edson and Stensaas have said LED is not simply a dance troupe and after Paradise, the trajectory of the co-operative is clear: Dance is but one component, which will share the stage with other art forms. It's a new balance, and it is right and good.
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