There is no question that the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted, uprooted and changed forever the lives of everyone around the world. Sadly, for some, it has ended millions of lives forever leaving a huge empty hole in the hearts of their family and friends. For dance artists, the same is true, and yet many of them have begun to find a way to heal, move on and to continue to find innovative ways to share their work. One such artist is Laura Karlin, the Founder and Artistic Director of Invertigo Dance Theatre based in Los Angeles. Karlin is more than a choreographer. She is storyteller, a poet, an activists for women’s rights and through her latest project Care Package Cinema, a healer.

Four of our writers joined together to write this article because after viewing Night 1 – Family Story, I decided that these very personal videos were meant to be written about but not reviewed as originally planned. Night 2 – On Location was to be reviewed by Joanne DiVito, Night 3 – Art House by Celine Kiner, and Night 4 – Holiday Special by Mary Pat Cooney. The only guidelines that I gave the other writers was to write about the event in the manner that they chose.

Just before the pandemic forced everything to shut down, Karlin had just had a highly successful premiere of her evening-length work Formulae & Fairy Tales at The Broad Stage, followed by the birth of her first child. The company was finalizing plans for it very first national tour along with other engagements. After her maternity leave, Karlin returned to her job as Artistic Director and choreographer only to be faced with everything the company had booked either being postponed or cancelled. Rather than feeling sorry for herself, Karlin did what she does best, move into action. Rather than just thinking about who could help her and her company, she thought of a way to reach out and help others through the art of dance. Thus, Care Package Cinema was born, and through it Karlin has helped brighten the lives of others as well as providing creative work for the dance artists in Invertigo Dance Theatre.

The company sent out notices asking for people to commission a dancer to make a short video to be sent to someone of their choosing. Once a dancer was chosen, the giver provided prompt words that gave the choreographer a sense of the person’s personality that was receiving the video or care package.  The company members each chose where they would perform the work, and they recorded the dance on their cell phones.  These videos were then sent to Karlin and she edited each one. She said that there are currently over 90 solos that have been commissioned.

Invertigo’s Care Package Cinema, Night 1 – Family Story

By Jeff Slayton

The majority of the seven short videos featured in Family Story were extremely personal and moving, and the word prompts ranged from outrageous to emotionally revealing. We had the opportunity to meet the choreographers and the majority of the senders and recipients of the dance care packages. There was laughter, tears and extraordinary gratitude from those who received them.

Mu sent a video choreographed and performed by Corina Kinnear. The title shared the names of the prompts missing Shakespeare,/wizards/sushi. Kinnear performed in front of a garage door with fancy chop sticks holding her hair in a bun leaving Elaine thrilled, touched and extremely happy to have a friend like Mu.

Corina Kinnear in "Missing Shakespear, Wizards, and Sushi" - Photo courtesy of Invertigo Dance Theatre

Corina Kinnear in “Missing Shakespear, Wizards, and Sushi” – Photo courtesy of Invertigo Dance Theatre

Sanna and Anna Sent a dance care package to their parents Galina and Alex. Choreographer Haylee Michele’s prompts were multigenerational family/grandparents/honoring love” to honor the passing of a loved one.  Dave requested a dance for Kim with the prompts Black Lives Matter/mother and son/love as an act of defiance. Titled Black Lives Matter: Love As A Radical Act, choreographer/performer Dominique McDougal it was a message that love can be used to express a radical idea when used in support of someone.

One of the most moving was titled For the Women filmed in Wyoming. It was sent by Chris to Heather, Carolyn, Valerie and Barbara – the women in his life who loved and supported him through an exceedingly difficult period in his life with the prompts self-destruction/family/rising above. One follows choreographer/performer Luke Zender the performer as he emerges from inside an abandoned shed, into the light and finally open space. It is a beautiful film of struggle, strength, love, and recovery.

Dominique McDougal in "Black Lives Matter: Love As A Radical Act" - Photo courtesy of Invertigo Dance Theatre

Dominique McDougal in “Black Lives Matter: Love As A Radical Act” – Photo courtesy of Invertigo Dance Theatre

Stepping into Strength at 40 was choreographed and performed by Chelsea Roquero. Sent by Sandra to Sahar with the prompt “My partner is turning 40 on September 3 and I am requesting this care package to mark this rite of passage”.  Nadia Maryam was the choreographer/performer for The Feminine Divine, sent by Amira to Yael, Tamar, and Mom with the prompts resilience/physical health and healing/the feminine divine/sisters, daughters, mothers.

Jessica Dunn was sent a message from sender Maren (they/them) that their father, Charles, was in the ICU fighting for his life with Covid. Healing in the LA Sunshine was performed in a park overlooking LA to perform a very moving and strong solo in the bright sunshine. At the discussion which followed, we got to see and hear from Charles who was home and making a full recovery.

Invertigo’s Care Package Cinema, Night 2 – On Location…A special Care Package

By: Joanne DiVito

After many months of seeing dance on video done on a shoestring, I believe many of us have seen more than enough of good and bad ideas  that either moved our spirit or not.  There were attempts at creative ways to do zoom in kitchens, backyards, unlit living rooms which resulted in a thimble full of stunning presentations that revealed the inner stories through a difficult year.   And because of the impulse to create, I began to realize that I had just begun to see the creativity that could come out of the heartbreak of the pandemic and manifest itself into gifts for the soul.

Laura Karlin, Artistic Director of Invertigo Company presented just such an interesting presentation of creative survival in its, On Location, a series of nine “Care Packages” danced and shot on video by selected artists of the companyEach video was commissioned by individuals as gifts of art for beloved friends and family.  This was done to comfort and support them during times that kept them apart.  Karlin explained that they came up with this idea during the depth of the pandemic which was only to last for a few months.  The Care Packages ended up being so successful and moving that it has now continued for eight months.

As an overview, when being commissioned to do a “Care Package,” (CP) the curators and dancers begin work with a “prompt” to get them started.   A title is invented that communicates the sentiment of the Sender to the Recipient.  Out of each new message from and to a friend, or beloved, or loved one, it often generates exciting and new ideas.  With these creative gifts, over 90 moving fun and poignant messages have been created and delivered.   These gems were shot on location, the general theme of  this section of Care Packages.  This added an additional element of interest to the moving art.

Hyosun Choi in "Flowers and the Symphony" - Photo courtesy of Invertigo Dance Theatre

Hyosun Choi in “Flowers and the Symphony” – Photo courtesy of Invertigo Dance Theatre

Karlin explained the On Location segment of the Care Package is a series of nine pieces, each were commissioned for a fraction of the cost of an art piece which usually costs 10’s of thousands of dollars.  This living, moving art in dance and music ranges from as little as $30 for a commission, all the way to $200+, and tasks the creators with the challenge of taking less than 1 ½ hours to complete the production of the video.  The Care Packages ranged from personal or intriguing, to humorous, or funky…to love letters for the lost and found.   If the commissions were challenging, the artists would opt to take more time exploring the ranges of possibilities.   Watching the result of these gems, so often brought the recipients and senders to tears as each explained in their zoom interviews.   This creative endeavor was often so personal and loving that it pulled even the audience into the relationship of the dancer, sender and recipient.  Because of the emotional impact these gems were irresistible in inspiring and spurring on new commissions.

This  evening included interviews with not only the dancers and how they interpreted the piece, but the Curator-Director/filmmaker, the Sender and the Receiver of each Care Package.

In this full evening, there were a number of outstanding submissions that are worth mentioning for their exceptional work.

Opening the evening was a wonderful piece that a friend, Galen, sent to a couple who loved concerts and flowers, Matthew and Cri, but because of the pandemic were unable to experience what had become a recurring pleasure for both of them.   The title was “Flowers and the Symphony”  performed by Hyosun, dancer and Laura Karlin who Curated the piece.  Schumann’s Symphonies Nos 1-4 underscored Matthews and Cri’s love for music.  This gift was a special tribute to them with the exquisite background of fields of yellow poppies.

A particularly moving favorite was “Next Year all my Troubles will be Far Away” with the prompt My Mom Loves the Beach, was sent by Rebecca to her mother Jaye.  The stunning Corina Kinnear performed the piece and was particularly poignant in her moving interpretation.     Her lyricism and pain came through having earlier lost her own father.  The piece was a pas de deux of sorts, with Corina’s long aesthetic lines working with and against the ocean’s ebbing and flowing, reaching and withdrawing.  The water seemed to wash away the sadness and loneliness of the times.  This excellent tribute conveyed the longing and love between mother and daughter when they could not be together.

A charming piece by Luke Dakota Zender Called “Snow” was on location in Wyoming.  He moved to the Jaunty tune by Bing Crosby, called – “Snow, Snow, Snow“.  Luke’s playful rolling skating movements with the snow covered mountains behind him stretching for miles as his backdrop was fun and stunning at the same time.  The crackling Snow, slow movements and double images moving together were intriguing.   He was disarming as he seemed to skate in his own pond of snow and kept us off balance but delighted.  His rolling body movement reminiscent of skaters getting lost in the fun of living off balance, replete with sounds of crunching snow.  Karlin admitted, she rediscovered this charming piece, having lost and found it.  She decided to add it to the evening.

All the pieces were impactful in their own right from the tribute to Friendship, Motherhood and flowers, on location in a rose garden with Jessica Dunn romping  through the vibrant colored flowers; and Hotlanta, made for twin sisters who were both on their way to Princeton,  another lovely piece was in two locations, letting an old friend know how much they care.

What creative gifts of art to give anyone who loves and cares.  It was truly remarkable how much was done with just desire to reach out, a theme, a prompt, and artists with imagination.  It shows the ingenuity of the creative community to build something of value, something uplifting and moving.  This was all built out of practically nothing.  It was a lovely evening of story and performance.  It was valuable to see and to help generate one’s own special gift to another, while helping this wonderful young company of dancer/creators/artists.

Invertigo’s Care Package Cinema, Night 3 – Arthouse

By Celine Kiner

Invertigo Dance Theatre’s third installment of Care Package Cinema: A Micro Film Festival was a welcome addition to my Tuesday night. To be quite honest, I haven’t been particularly enthusiastic about viewing dance on my laptop screen in month twelve, but I have been missing movement and music and the lively atmosphere of the theatre. On Tuesday, the presence of so many eager faces on the Zoom screen lifted the burden a little: how often is it that we, as audience members, get to witness that moment between creator and muse once the work is done?

After each short film, as the work’s creator spoke with the commissioner that prompted it, love and care poured through this simulated stage-door meeting. A tenderness flowed between dancer-creator Cody Potter and their care package recipient when Potter’s interpretation seemed to understand their childhood experience, though the two had never met. To view it without distraction was almost sacred, a peek into the way dance can affect each of its participants in completely different – but each still incredibly personal – ways. And this intimate forum felt like the closest thing I’ve felt to a bustling post-show lobby after an evening in the theatre.

Cody Brunelle Potter in "Playful Loving and Tender" - Photo courtesy of Invertigo Dance Theatre

Cody Brunelle Potter in “Playful Loving and Tender” – Photo courtesy of Invertigo Dance Theatre

This lovely offering from Invertigo is a sort of dance candygram; you know, like the once you used to send your friends and crushes in school. In these solos, it becomes apparent just how much we need other people – dancers have even dabbled in the editing room to split the screen so that they can dance with themselves. I think that sentiment alone sends the necessary message from commissioner to recipient: I wish we were together. Each of these films brought me closer to the achingly sweet feeling of dancing with my community, my people, my friends. It gave me a twinge of that joy that rewards us for endless hours of hard work: that shared language and warm connection between dancer and dancer, between dancer and maker, between dancer and audience.

Invertigo Care Package Cinema Night 4 – Holiday Special

By Mary Pat Cooney


I was impressed with Invertigo when I first saw their work a couple of years ago – the technical skill of the dancers, the imagination and creative direction are well honed.  There was/is an earnestness about the company that I admire.  And tonight, March 10, 2021, I experienced Invertigo’s Care Package Cinema Night 4. This was the finale of the Cinema series, but by no means the end of their care package program.  Their inventive approach the solving the practical problem of pandemic isolation, and cancellation of live performance melds choreographic creativity with deeply personal themes and messages. Care Packages of dance, choreographed and performed on video, are “commissioned” by anyone who wishes to share the gift of dance with a friend, the family or any other dearly loved one.

The work is structured to last up to 3 minutes and shaped by up to 3 “prompts.”  Words shared by the person requesting the gift. Words that give an image of the recipient.  “Juicy, Flowy, Lovely” for example, describing the qualities that are embodied by a woman with big spirit and big heart, in honor of Mother’s Day.

Each choreographer may dance themselves or engage other to fulfill the work.  They select the location, music, costume and other details. They engage someone to photograph the work if a static camera won’t do the job.

For me, these care packages were carefully tailored expressions of celebration, family – natural and chosen, love, honor, and togetherness. All in this time when we wish we could be together.

Dominique McDougal in "Queer, I'm Going Home" - Photo courtesy of Invertigo Dance Theatre

Dominique McDougal in “Queer, I’m Going Home” – Photo courtesy of Invertigo Dance Theatre


Upon reflection after seeing Invertigo’s Care Package Cinema’s final presentation on March 10th.

Personal dance
Not in theater. In the home, albeit on video
Truly the gift of dance, using a platform unlike theater, ballroom or small stage.
Celebrating holidays, transitions and connections among family members natural and chosen.

At first I felt like an outsider because the viewing group was clearly interconnected, but as I watched the dance I was enchanted.  At the end I had a chance to say hello and was warmly welcomed.

The program concept and execution were uplifting.  Each short work was rich in ideas relating to the words of inspiration provided by the individuals who commissioned the work.  The choreographers did not necessarily adhere to the mandate to spend a brief amount of time.  Whether they spent an hour or four, their hearts were fully engaged in their performances.

I attended to details like a good reviewer, but I also let myself just watch and let the series wash over me. Special moments, like dancing off into the sunset in the desert, spoke to me personally as much as they did to the theme of the care package. A dance about a father upon (and all over) his beloved couch touched me as it reminded me of the hours of dancing with props we spent studying dance at Ohio University. I was reminded that dance heals, saves lives, and replenishes the spirit. I enjoyed every movement and every Care Package story.

I only realized how it made me feel as I went to bed thinking of my dancing life, now mostly memory.  It is bittersweet because an injury stopped my time on the dance floor. I can dance for a short time, if I am careful and don’t do any jumping around. But I cherish every minute I spent as a dancer.  I had dreams of music I danced to over the years and felt bits of choreography that never leave my body.

My clock radio awakened me to the sound of music from an opera I danced in, and I found myself on stage at the Kennedy Center, amazed by the vocal dancing that took place there. Then my head and heart filled with thoughts and images of my first dance teacher, who fled Poland during WWII, and gave the gift of dance to youngsters in my home town for over 30 years.  She celebrated her 100th birthday this year.  These experiences, and all like them were bestowed upon me, and in turn I shared them with a variety of audiences. They form the core of my identity.

As I worked through the morning, I felt calm, more focused than I have been lately.  When I chose to listen to music, Paul Simon got me up from my desk and I danced around the living room.

The Invertigo Care Package programs that I witnessed were true explorations of people we hold dear, the times we enjoyed with them, and how we miss them during this pandemic.  They were celebratory, honoring holidays like Christmas, Mother’s and Father’s Day, and high school graduation. Each was personal, thoughtful and clever.  The wistful aspect of this work was intrinsic and did not need to be expressed with any deliberation. That they would be such a gift to me was unexpected, and a panacea.

I believe we need to remember to offer gifts of art, love, music, dance during this time, and in the future.  I shall request an Invertigo Care Package for Hedi Pope, my first dance teacher.  If anyone understands the value of the gift of dance, it is she.

To visit the Invertigo Dance Theatre website, click HERE.

Written by Jeff Slayton, Joanne DiVito, Celine Kiner, and Mary Pat Cooney for LA Dance Chronicle.

Featured image: Care Package Cinema – Heidi Buehler in Stand By Me – Photo courtesy of Invertigo Dance Theatre