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Clockshop brings dance to the banks of the LA River

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L.A.-based arts organization Clockshop uses contemporary art to bring Angelenos back to the L.A. River. The area is set to become a California state park.

Along the eastern bank of the Los Angeles River, sandwiched between the 2 and 5 freeways, there’s a place where industry and nature co-exist. Large, nondescript buildings and a railroad track sit above a rare stretch of the waterway that actually looks like a river in its natural state. This property is also home to what may be the region’s most unlikely arts venue.

“The idea is to bring people to the site, which is an almost 20-acre piece of land that lies along the L.A. River right in the Glendale Narrows section,” says Julia Meltzer, director of L.A.-based arts organization Clockshop. That strip of land Meltzer is referencing is known as the Bowtie, and it’s slated to become a California state park.

“I think it’s beautiful. The more time you spend there, there are actually so many different species of birds that come there to that area of the river,” says Meltzer.

But even before the space officially opens as a park, Meltzer wants people to convene near the banks of the L.A. River for the sake of art.

“In that space, so many different things could happen,” Meltzer says. “So that’s kind of the goal of bringing people there, to experience contemporary art projects and to actually open up people’s imagination to what could be there in the future.”

The Bowtie Project is a partnership with California State Parks. For their latest project, Meltzer and Clockshop have collaborated with a multidisciplinary group of artists to bring art outdoors, like dancer and choreographer Taisha Paggett.

Sitting in view of a bend in the L.A. River, the Glendale Freeway — and some railroad tracks — Paggett takes a break from rehearsal to explain what to expect from a dance performance she calls "evereachmore."

“I’m actually really interested in taking up the whole site and part of that will be about bringing the audience into the work somehow,” Paggett says. “Not only do we have the railroad, we also have the freeway, we also have a bike lane across, and by moving the audience through the space I hope to draw attention to all of that choreography that’s just naturally happening here.”

Hayward Bracey is one of the performers taking part in "evereachmore." Taking the audience outside of the theater allows for a much different experience, according to Bracey.

“People tend to, even if just subconsciously, shift their expectations slightly. And direct their attention differently,” Bracey says.  

Bringing art to the Bowtie is another step for Bracey in getting Angelenos back in touch with the body of water that flows under our freeways and winds around industrial parks and condo developments alike.

“The L.A. River in general, it’s been overlooked,” says Bracey. “And there’s been an effort recently to draw some attention to it and to develop it, make use of it, appreciate it. To me it feels good to be a part of that.”

As Paggett’s performers snaked in a human chain, they resembled the flowing river just a stone’s-throw away. For Paggett, who has performed outdoors before, the Bowtie space is special.

“I’m used to working with lots of restrictions in doing work outdoors, and here it’s lots of openness,” she says, “Lots of ‘yes.’”

That freedom has allowed Paggett to create what she intends to be an interactive dance experience.

“I hope that the audience walks away feeling that they were part of the experience," Paggett says. "Not just viewers of something.”

Both performances of 'evereachmore' are sold out.

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