Ate9’s Israeli-born and currently Los Angeles-based Artistic Director/Founder/Choreographer Danielle Agami has said “I was born in a country of conflict and I moved to a country that avoids conflict – now I’m looking for new habits.” Performed at The Wallis, the world premier of Agami’s three act work “Joy” explores, with deep emotion and humor, the individually intimate and shared collective struggle to create moments of excitement and delight amidst despair and hopelessness. The beautifully rich and euphonious musical score performed live on stage by cellist Isaiah Gage, who electronically loops tonal phrases, exquisitely and creatively interplays with the range of meticulous choreography throughout the work.

Photos by Rob LaTour / Shutterstock

Act I – NOW is an energetic and frenetic presentation of individual and group impressionistic scenarios of environment struggle.   Admonitions are projected on a backdrop screen alluding to “rules” and a “simple manual” and that “you will be completely passive.” The contorting and shape shifting dancers play out scenarios posed within cardboard boxes, strutting a fashion walk wearing plastic cone collars, an electric car moving across stage, a football-like scrimmage, a dog easily trotting around,  a mass of trash bags thrown on, and eventually pushed to be piled at the front of the stage, and culminating in a rain of organic debris falling from above as the cello emits a siren-like wail.

Act II – THEN takes on a more tribal beat with the uniquely costumed performers. Featured are a ballet-like solo and an impressionistic group follow-the-leader section that highlights the complex movements that integrate Agami’s own practice called Oomi.  This rigorous training approach opens the dancer’s communication between their body and the space they inhabit in dramatic expression of physicality and coordination.

Act III  – WHEN  begins with a screen projection reference to  a Palestinian child living in Israel who has inadequate food. The dancers seat themselves in a circle after which each of them takes to the center for a personal ceremonial revelation solo as the group reconfigures to support their expression as again the dog comfortably moves amidst them. To ease any perceived tension, the finale has the dancers pass around pies that are then and pushed into Danielle’s face.  A final screen message tells us that “Dogs keep watch over people so they don’t lose their integrity.”

In an after performance discussion with the Wallis Artistic Director Paul Crewes, and Agami spoke about the challenges of these times and how it is to be an artist living on the edge, with life being both so horrible and so good. The ultimate challenge becomes to admit love for the struggle and not letting fear manage us, to develop trust and to feel safe to go wild.

The ten exceptionally talented performing artists are Paige Amicon, Chris Hahn, Cacia LaCount, Bronte Mayo, Jobel Medina, Evan Sagadencky, Jordyn Santiago, Montay Romero, and Nat Wilson. Lighting Designer Scott Bolman and Costume Designer Joel Medina. 

For information about Danielle Agami and Ate9, go to

For upcoming performances at The Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts, go to