Jacob “Kujo” Lyons
The September night was cold. The water in the pool was colder.
But artistic vision had brought Jacob Lyons, his Lux Aeterna dance company and a film crew to Tustin for a two-night shoot. So, camera rolling, Lyons and company shivered, dove in and morphed into his and director Alex Mercado’s vision of marine creatures in a primordial soup.
For Lyons, it was especially difficult. Born deaf in his right ear and now nearly deaf in the left due to infections and injuries, the break-dancer-turned-choreographer was unable to clearly hear the beats and melodies, much less the director’s instructions. “Alex had to kneel by the water’s edge and yell into my ear,” said the 31-year-old Lyons, a CSUN kinesiology major.
All the suffering for art’s sake was rewarded in April at the Lester Horton Dance Awards ceremony, the SoCal dance equivalent of the Tony or Grammy awards. Lyons and Lux Aeterna were saluted for the year’s outstanding performance by a company in “Underwater/Beached,” part of a larger work—co-directed by Lyons and Amy Campion—called “Breaking the Cypher.”
Developed with CSUN kinesiology professor/mentor Paula Thomson and opera professors David Aks and Ann Baltz, Lyons’ improvisational piece “telescoped the process of evolution into seven minutes,” combining the filmed underwater sequence with a live onstage dance performance that included opera singers.
For Lyons, long familiar to Los Angeles’ B-boy/break-dance scene, the award was sweet affirmation of Los Angeles Times dance critic Lewis Segal’s prediction of his “breakout success in 2008.” Lyons’ “inventive crossover choreography,” Segal said, introduced “a dimension of lyricism” to the athletic energy of break-dancing.
Lyons had come close to allowing his hearing impairment to smother his potential. When Thomson urged him to take up choreography, Lyons resisted. “Onstage,” he said, “nothing is hidden. You’re forced to display your vulnerabilities.”
But he got out of his own way. “The music is in me,” Lyons said. “The timing and rhythm are so deeply engrained that I don’t have to depend on hearing.”
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