On Nov. 12 and 13, Jacob Jonas The Company is bringing its boundless energy and visceral storytelling performance style to Water Garden Santa Monica, an outdoor garden oasis at the premier tech hub of the Westside. Photos by Jacob Jonas

Dance company explodes into non-traditional spaces

By Bridgette M. Redman

Dance isn’t limited to a stage or a hall or a conventional performance space. At least, not for Jacob Jonas The Company (JJTC).

They’ve been out activating Los Angeles by bringing their new dance numbers to non-traditional spaces around the region. On Nov. 12 and 13, they’re coming to Santa Monica’s Water Garden with a piece they developed during the pandemic, “At Work.”

“For me, ‘At Work’ is about how the performing arts and arts in general (function),” said artistic director and founder Jacob Jonas. “The assumption from society was that they stopped working during the pandemic, but for us, we were always at work. The hunger and the drive to keep working was there even though we weren’t being acknowledged.”

The Water Garden, described as the premiere tech hub of the westside, is an outdoor garden oasis where JJTC dancers and a group of musicians will take the stage. CBRE manages the Water Garden and brought in this partnership with JJTC.

In early October, JJTC premiered “At Work” at Century Park in Century City. They had 400 to 500 people each night, people who were enthusiastic about experiencing dance where there had never been a dance concert before. “At Work” was accompanied by a 16-piece orchestra with a new composition by Steve Hackman.

“There were not only eight dancers on stage, but 16 musicians playing live,” Jonas said. “It was an exciting interaction and experience between the audience and the artists.”

Those two locations bookended the Activate LA series that is a partnership between the dance company and the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. Other shows were at the Sepulveda Dam, Greg Lauren LA Fashion Week, and on a rooftop in downtown LA where they premiered “Juxtapose.”

Their goal is to bring live dance back by performing in open-air spaces that allow them to perform their signature, energetic dance style that mixes contemporary ballet with breakdancing and acrobatic movement.

“Prior to the pandemic, we were always interested in performing in non-traditional spaces,” Jonas said. “We’ve done works around LA in theaters and self-produced in outdoor theaters. During the pandemic, we just had the motivation to share art coming out of this time and produce it in new ways to activate spaces and bring audiences back to the live arts.”

He said they worked with different partners to find ways to transform such spaces as rooftops and gardens.

“The whole initiative is to activate LA, to bring work to spaces that don’t traditionally have performing arts,” Jonas said.

Jonas said they did a lot of work during the pandemic to create these different dances. While some of their physical processes were halted and they weren’t performing much on stage, they were meeting at the basin near the dam twice a week for many months creating their work.

“We did it there because it was outdoors and all the dance studios were closed,” Jonas said.

The Water Garden is a corporate campus, a place where people work 9 to 5 in tech, finance or business, which is why it is such a good place to perform “At Work.” Jonas is glad that he can place it in a corporate environment where they can take advantage of such things as fluorescent tubes, which they try to imitate in their lighting design.

He also said that by having these experiences outdoors, people can feel safe, not have to wear a mask and breathe fresh air. He expects there will be great weather for the performances.

His hope is that Santa Monicans will greet the show with the same enthusiasm as they were met with in Century City.

Jonas founded JJTC in 2014 as a 21-year-old who wanted to tell his own story. He was born and raised in LA.

“This city has informed me growing up to finding dance and being around the ocean, the desert and the mountains.” Jonas said. “There were few others that were combining styles and telling stories the way I wanted to do.”

What: “At Work” dance performance
Who: Jacob Jonas the Company
When: 7:30 p.m., Nov. 12 & 13
Where: Water Garden, 1620 26th St., Santa Monica
Tickets: 2 tickets $100, 4 tickets $160, 8 tickets $280
Lawn seating, bring your own blanket