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Zari Leon unleashes creative force

Mills College Weekly

When Mills alumna Rosario Lionudakis was seven, she began formal
dance training with her mother in a community dance studio. Today,
she has her own dance theater group, Zari Le’On Dance Theater. On
Saturday, Jan. 24, ZLDT performed “Languages of Energy” at the
Temescal Arts Center in Oakland.

The gathering was large, yet intimate. Over 40 people packed
into the small and well-hidden center to witness the expressive
kind of dance performance ZLDT is known for. Golden lighting,
hardwood floors, and black curtains gave the room a sepia tone, and
suited the mood of the dance perfectly.

With most expressive dance, it’s best not to arrive for a
performance with any expectations. “Languages of Energy” was no
different in this regard. When the lights dimmed and vocalist
Kaylah Marin stepped onstage with a guitar and began singing
“Summertime” from Porgy and Bess, nobody seemed especially shocked.
It fit, and fit well.

After two beautiful songs from Marin, DJ Divinity, the “Melodic
Storyteller,” faded in with a mellow track to which the dancers
entered the stage. Clad in different costumes of burgundy and
black, dancers Sarah Bolton and Lionudakis began a slow and
rhythmic dance, making use of both the floor space and the
proximity to each other.

The dance was well choreographed, though not always well
synchronized. However, as Lionudakis explains, “The obvious visual
impact of the performance is that we are two different styles of
movement, interacting and celebrating on the performance

After taking turns with dance solos, Bolton and Lionudakis
joined each other again and after another short dance together, sat
in the middle of the floor as if in front of a television to watch
Marin engage in live painting and another enchanting vocal
performance. Marin finger-painted a screen and the words “media,
free, thought, and war.”

The colors of the lighting, costumes and the muted tones caused
the movement of the dancers to trail behind them, as if in a photo.
This gave their performance a lingering effect since the audience
could see not only where the dancers were at a given moment, but
also where they had just been.

While the performance was a short 40 minutes, it was chock full
of movement, music, and positive energy-all things, according to
Lionudakis, ZLDT members are committed to providing.

“Requiem for a ‘Ho” was ZLDT’s first performance and Lionudakis
considers it a “catalyst” for the dance theater. She believes
“artistic outlets are a forum that save lives,” and it’s a
“necessity that humans are able to express themselves.”

Last September, ZLDT performed “To Effect, Create & Quake
Energy” at Lisser Hall. “Languages of Energy,” is essentially an
encore of that performance, Lionudakis said. What it provides, she
adds, is “two women of different origins sharing and exchanging
energy, which is certainly impactful [sic] in this day and age,
where media, institutions, social settings, etc. separate people
based on identity. …If you relate to someone, fine, but don’t
segregate yourself because you look different.”

As for upcoming performances, ZLDT will be sharing the bill at
Venue 9 during the last weekend in March.

Lionudakis will be performing with fellow Mills alum Leyya
Tawil. ZLDT also performs in the Bay Area in September and