Dance

deFineArtsLA Exclusive: Now is the NOW!

Picture-1Late July and we’re knee-deep in festival season. You’ve likely hit a few events from the Slamdance, the LA Film Fest, the Fringe Fest, Outfest, Comic-Con, the Middle Eastern Comedy Fest, Lilith Fair…the list goes on and on. The urge to see it all keeps us coming back, but I know, festival fatigue is strong. Hang in there, though—we’re at the home stretch. The REDCAT’s NOW Festival, which kicked off this weekend, should bring festival season to a spectacular end.

The New Original Works Festival features new dance, theater, music, and multimedia performance works by artists who are known for their often radical and unconventional approaches. While Week One (with work from Maureen Huskey and Killsonic) may have past us by, there’s still time to catch Weeks Two and Three, beginning this Thursday, July 29th.

Three artists make up Week Two of NOW: Christine Marie & Ensemble, in the expressionist theater piece “Ground to Cloud,” uses projections, electric light and shadowplay to unfold a multidimensional mythology of nature and human intervention. Systems of Us, from choreographer Rae Shao-Lan Blum & composer Tashi Wada, explores the disruption and transformation of relationships in a dance collaboration that may call to mind those early experiments of Cage and Cunningham. Finally, master of Breaking and hip-hop dance innovater Raphael Xavier’s “Black Canvas” explores the body of the Breaker in relation to the stage and life.

Week Three, beginning August 5th, features theater, dance, and animation. Alexandro Segade’s “Replicant vs. Separatist” depicts Segade himself calling the shots on a live sci-fi film shoot in which two male couples navigate the murky waters of state-mandated marriage. Hana van der Kolk’s “Once More, Again, One (Solo)” uses familiar pop music as the background for her solo dance adaptation of a work originally conceived for four dancers. To close, animator Miwa Matreyek (of Cloud Eye Control) uses animation with live projection to explore fantastical worlds in “Myth and Infrastructure.”

- By Helen Kearns

Each “week” of NOW is really only a Thurs/Fri/Sat, so budget your time accordingly. If you only attend one more festival this summer, consider the power of NOW. For more information, please visit www.redcat.org, or call 213-237-2800.

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Posted in Art, Conceptual, Contemporary Art, Dance, deFineArtsLA, Downtown, Festival, Mixed media, Music, Neighborhoods, Performance, Personalities, The Social Scene, Theatre, Video Art No Comments »

Extra! Extra! Win Tickets to Legendary Count Basie Orchestra!

count-basie-orchestra-0011Jazz remains one of the few indigenous, American art forms, in that nothing quite like it ever existed before Buddy Bolden and Jelly Roll Morton started mixing up ragtime with the blues in an early 1900’s city called New Orleans. And to understand the history of jazz, as well as its incredible influence on our culture, is to understand the history of America and American music from slavery on up. Simply put, no artist you listen to today could exist without jazz. Which is why the genre makes its sudden flares of resurgence from time to time, and why you can still walk into most hip coffee shops around the city—notably, the Downbeat Café on Alvarado—and find a slick laptop-er or two subconsciously tapping their heels to the likes of Duke Ellington or Count Basie.

This Wednesday, July 28th at 8:00 PM at the Hollywood Bowl, jazz proves its not dead with the internationally renowned Count Basie Orchestra—still going after eighty years. Known for popularizing the Kansas City-style of big band jazz, as well as initiating some of the greatest artists in history (including Billy Holiday, Jo Jones, and Charlie Parker), Basie, himself, passed away in 1984, but his band plays on under different direction and with a regenerating cast of musicians. The current Orchestra doesn’t strictly adhere to its Kansas City roots (i.e. rhythmic riffs under improvised solos), but instead incoporates more of the East coast, neo-classisist style of big band jazz, with complex arrangements by director Bill Hughes.

That’s not to say, however, that such Count classics as “One O’Clock Jump” or “April in Paris” won’t be bouncing through the Bowl on Wednesday—along with the Dave Holland Big Band, the Dave Douglas Big Band, and yes, maybe you. Due to the overwhelming response of our last giveaways, FineArtsLA.com is once again raffling off two tickets to the Hollywood Bowl to see the Count Basie Orchestra live at 8:00 PM. Just enter your first and last name into the form below, as well as your e-mail address, and you are automatically entered into the running to win not just Wednesday night’s tickets, but also the next three FineArtsLA.com giveaways. So brush up on your two-step, and dust off those dancing shoes; even if you don’t win our contest, you can still buy tickets here.

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Posted in Dance, Extra! Extra!, Hollywood, Jazz, Music, Neighborhoods, Old School, Performance, Personalities, Tickets No Comments »

Chills of Recognition

6a00d8341c630a53ef01156f223ac4970c-500wiThe best thing about A Chorus Line—and there’s a lot of good things—is that there’s a moment every ten minutes or so when chills run up your spine. You know these chills, too. They are the chills of recognition, chills of connection. They are the cells inside your body racing alongside your bones, like an excited dog, at the mere thought of meeting something or someone like them.

A Chorus Line—which opened at the Pantages Theatre this past Tuesday, and runs for two weeks only until June 13th—comes loaded with history. Michael Bennett’s visionary piece, since 1975, has been a staple of Broadway, off-Broadway, and high-school productions alike. It has won numerous prizes, including the Tony and Pulitzer Prize for Best Musical. It spawned an awful film adaptation, and a wonderful documentary. In 2006, the show was revived on Broadway by the original co-choreographer, Bob Avian. It broke all sorts of box office records. And the cousin of Avian’s revival still tours today, occasionally to Los Angeles for brief, two-week runs.

But for all the bombast, A Chorus Line is best when it sticks to its roots—the loose grouping of Broadway dancers that Michael Bennett brought together in 1974 at the Nickolaus Exercise Center to tell their stories on tape. The show often veers from this core focus, unable to restrain from bits of bravado, much like the character Cassie (Rebecca Riker) does when told by her ex-boyfriend/director Zach (Derek Hanson) to stick to the choreography. These hardly un-enjoyable departures, however, only allow for the true moments—when Paul (Nicky Venditti) has his monologue, when Sheila (Ashley Yeater) starts to sing “At the Ballet,” and of course when Diana (Selina Verastegui) leads the cast in “What I Did For Love”—to shine all the brighter.

As far as this particular production goes, it’s pretty much what you would expect, which, when talking about A Chorus Line, is a good thing. Because you expect to be thrilled, and to be sad, and be privy to that oh-so rare sight in musical theatre: honesty on stage. Without a doubt, actor Andy Mills, who plays the show-stealing character of Mike, steals the show. Mills is so good-looking he stands out from the mezzanine, and his dancing is so flawless you find yourself using him as the bar for other dancers. I also enjoyed Derek Hanson, who’s interpretation of Zach—the fictional director that remains in the shadows for most of the show—was complex enough to support the facets of the for-sure Michael Bennett stand-in character. Other notables include Rebecca Riker, Ashley Yeater, Donald C. Shorter, and Nathan Lucrezio.

A Chorus Line is a musical that kind of begs to be updated or adapted. I’d love to hear one of the dancers talk about bulimia, for instance. Or have a character make a comment on gay marriage, or the economy. But seeing the show live, and with such an excellent cast makes me realize this is not the way to go. Every line and every step of Bennett’s masterwork holds up, and though it wouldn’t exactly be sacrilege to change a few things to make it more topical, there’s really no need to change what still gives me those chills up my spine. 

A Chorus Line runs until June 13th at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. For more information, please call 323-468-1770, or visit www.broadwayla.org.

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Burlesque Part II: Cherry Boom Boom!

KeyClub_14-1When my friends first dragged me to a Cherry Boom Boom show late one night at the Key Club on Sunset, I was more than reluctant.  I’m the type of girl who fights for women to keep their clothes ON in the entertainment industry.  More depictions of powerful women prosecutors, professors and presidents please; not more docile eye candy for the power-bloated male.

But what I discovered at the Key Club that night broke through my ridged outlook of propriety and introduced me to a new era of women’s comedy, creativity, and right to strut their stuff.

Although the leggy ladies of Cherry Boom Boom do embrace some of the imagery of the 1950’s pin-up girl, they are a bevy of powerful 21st century women whose passion and power will overwhelm you and leave you grasping at your seat.  The group combines nouveau cabaret dance vignettes with the gimmicks and humor of old time burlesque and a healthy dose of ‘don’t mess with me!  I’m proud of my body and who I am’. The Boom Booms’ intelligence, flair for storytelling, skill with a whip, and perceptive comic timing, enliven and enlighten the genre I had labeled as ‘stripping’ and judged so harshly from outside the Key Club doors.

Artistic Director and choreographer Lindsley Allen created the group two years ago and began touring small LA venues with the show.  They got such a buzz that Allen was invited to choreograph and co-direct a piece for Dancing With The Stars, starring Cherry Boom Boom and featuring Carmen Elektra. Allen, one of the original Pussycat Dolls, received her BFA in ballet and has had a successful career as a dancer and choreographer.

Cherry Boom Boom’s new show, “The Rendezvous”, opening at the King King Hollywood in May, also utilizes Allen’s background in Commedia Dell’Arte, the 16th century Italian clowning style. Allen studies commedia with Tim Robbins’s world-renowned theater company, The Actors’ Gang, and she chose to bring elements of that style to “The Rendezvous” to utilize the unique characters each of her dancers developed over the past year.  Rather than being a typical dance review, “The Rendezvous” brings to life the timeless commedia story of the thwarted LOVERS.“You get to go on a classic journey,” Allen explained, “All the dance numbers support the story.  I’m so excited to bring dance and commedia together. This show is a love affair between my two favorite worlds”.

The King King’s performance space is ideal for the piece. The multi-leveled stage, VIP lounge seating, and bar accentuate Cherry Boom Boom’s fusion between nightclub cabaret and Broadway show. You will definitely see me in line at the King King, this time dragging some new skeptics along with me.

- By Stephanie Carrie

“The Rendezvous” will perform at the King King on the last Thursday of every month, May-October.  Opening night is Thursday, May 27th.  Doors open at 8pm for a 9pm show. Be sure to stay for the dance party afterwards! For tickets www.kingkinghollywood.com or call (323) 960-9234.

Advance tickets highly recommended.

http://www.cherryboomboom.me/

Posted in Art, Bring Your Flask, Dance, Fashion, Music, Musical Theatre, Neighborhoods, Performance, Personalities, The Social Scene, West Hollywood No Comments »

Sassy, Classy, and Proud

Until I got to LA, the world of burlesque was somewhat foreign to me. I had a vague notion of 1920’s showgirls doing Bob Fosse numbers for over-excited guys in trench-coats and fedoras, a lot of nasally yammering and two-note whistles. But even this general notion of burlesque was gleaned from Looney Tunes and old movies, not real life.

Then in LA, I realized there was an actual burgeoning scene, filled with human beings, or at least the Hollywood equivalent. It seemed everywhere I went, there was some amateur poster or postcard hanging up, featuring a scantily clad woman in heavy make-up, teasing me to visit the “Saturday Night Follies” or “Beatrice’s Boudoir.” Thus I developed a kind of adverse reaction to the ad saturation. I felt these so-called burlesque girls were simply suburban strippers in disguise, lacking the fortitude to go the whole way. To me, it was post-feminism imploding in on itself.

Still I hadn’t yet seen a burlesque show with my own two eyes, and had very little idea what it entailed. So this past Sunday night, I decided to get up off my hypocritical, ivory-stained tuchus, and check out “Red Snapper’s Sassy, Classy Burlesque Revue” at The Sherry Theatre in North Hollywood.

I held some hesitation over whether to bring a notebook or not. Normally I always bring a notebook to any event I review, whether it be a gallery or a film screening, but the idea of taking notes while a girl is showing off her tasseled breasts seemed somehow creepy to me. In the end, I decided to take notebook, but keep it on the down-low.

Right from the start of “Red Snapper’s Sassy, Classy Burlesque Revue” I realized how ignorant I’d been. There was a giant, inflatable bottle of Absinthe set up on the stage, three guys in sharp suits and slicked-back hair sitting behind me—each toting a bottle of champagne and going by the monikers of Frederick O’Hollywood and Patrick the Bank Robber. Burlesque, it seemed, was a kind of costume party, a carnival, a renaissance fair for those who preferred jazz with their coffee. And everyone was happy.

The first performer, one Mr. Snapper (aka Andrew Moore), the emcee of the night, got things going with a cute ukulele rendition of Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies,” pitch-perfect trumpet scat-singing and all.  But in burlesque, there’s no such thing as cute—or even perfect—without raunch. So Mr. Snapper told a dirty joke before bringing up the premiere dancer: How does a college man propose? Answer: You’re having a what?

Bebe Firefly, the first lady as it were, was the reason for the inflatable Absinthe bottle. She was dressed as a dolled-up green fairy, the kind that supposedly pops up every once in a while under the influence of the nationally illicit spirit. To the tune of a jazzy, speed-guitar riff, Bebe proceeded to mix a glass of alcohol with sugar on stage, consume it, and promptly shake her hips and bust until all that was left was a thong and some tassels. The crowd, both men and women, all hooting and hollering, loved it.

Next up was Iona Vibrator, donning an elaborate, Asian/New Orleans fusion outfit, which came off in a similarly ritualized fashion to that of Bebe’s. After her: Ms. Jessabelle Thunder, who’s David Lynch-esque number made me realize the hypnotizing effect of such dances. It’s mostly just simple back and forth, some turns and winks thrown in, but for some reason it’s just enough to keep you swaying along with them.

The show’s producer and name-sake, Red Snapper, arrived on stage next, ushering the audience into the second half of the night—the more experienced girls. Snapper was obviously a crowd favorite, more than comfortable strutting around in a pair of garters and stockings, doing a kind of naughty 50’s housewife parody. The supposed female empowerment associated with modern burlesque became more apparent in Snapper’s performance. She possessed a definite control over her own teases, an excited familiarity with her routine that translated into a kind of feminine pride.

Panama Red followed, with Costa Brava not far behind, each showing off their own expertise with unique additions to the basic ritual of the formalized strip-tease. Whether it was Panama Red’s jungle-themed chest-shake, or Costa Brava’s feathered fan dance, these girls clearly knew what they were doing, and found ways to make playful what could become tiresome.

The show-stopper, both literally and figuratively, was Evie Lovelle, the seeming celebrity of the group, appearing in her last performance before a European tour. As she came out from backstage, wearing a tight corset which practically choked her tiny, tiny waist, the audience went nuts. And I could see why. She had long, black hair; gorgeous, pale skin; and a knowing smile that’s typically reserved for starlets of the silent film era. She’ll fit in just perfect in Europe.

Leaving the show, I talked to two female members of the audience, both of whom expressed interest in trying out burlesque themselves. They said they appreciated how the medium applauded real women, and how even conventionally “flawed” body-types could be made beautiful and powerful. As for me, I’m still not quite convinced of the transformative value in burlesque—after all, every number ends with what’s known as the “final reveal”—but I will say that I had a fun time. And as it tuns out, my note-taking didn’t feel that creepy at all. I suppose that’s because nothing seems that creepy about burlesque. It’s a celebration, rather than a perversion, and for that, I’ll hoot and holler with the rest of ‘em.

Photos by Holly Go Darkly

To find out about any and all upcoming burlesque shows in Los Angeles, please visit www.losangeles.Burlesque411.com.

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Extra! Extra! Time to Discover the Kings of the Dance

 

Glorya Kaufman’s contribution to dance in Los Angeles, and specifically at the Music Center, has already begun to impress.  They recently presented the Joffrey Ballet’s Cinderella and up next, on February 16 – 17, we Angelenos have a chance to see the critically acclaimed Kings of the Dance at the Ahmanson Theatre.

If you haven’t heard of Kings of the Dance, you’ve more than likely heard of its components (hint: some of the world’s most phenomenal male dancers) like Guillaume Cote, Marcelo Gomes, David Hallberg, and Denis Matvienko.  Spoiled as we are in Southern California, and now by Glorya Kaufman and her welcomed and generous contribution, the performances will also include special guest appearances by Desmond Richardson, Jose Manuel Carreno, Nikolay Tsiskaridze, and Joaquin DeLuz.  These dancers have graced the stage with some of the world’s most prestigious companies like the American Ballet Theatre, Kirov Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, and New York City Ballet.

Admittedly, when you think of ballet, the first images that come to mind are of pointe shoes, beautiful ballerinas in tutus in a perfect arabesque, or dancers with their hair pulled into tight buns and wearing enviable tiaras.  Finally recognizing the beauty and strength of male dancers, Kings of the Dance celebrates these virtuosos in some of dance’s most incredible choreography by such inspiring artists as Roland Petit, Sir Frederick Ashton, Christopher Wheeldon, and Leonid Jacobson.

Because we’re so generous (and because we want to have someone to gush over the performance with), we’ve got tickets to give away!  Enter below to win a pair of tickets to the performance on February 17 at 7:30pm and then let us know what you thought after – we’ve got a good feeling your email will be filled with exclamation points and many synonyms for amazing.

Here are some Extra! Extra! details you’ll want to keep in mind here: by entering into this giveaway, you’re also entered into our next three giveaways! All we need is your first name, last name, and email address, and voila – you’re a connoisseur of dance.  Or, at the very least, you’re on your way to watching some of ballet’s most muscular (er, talented) examples at the height of their careers.

(Click here if you feel like you need to witness what’s on stage and can’t risk the whole giveaway thing.)

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Happily Ever After Means Never Having To Turn Into A Pumpkin

I headed downtown, sniffling and sneezing the whole way, determined to revel in the magic of the Joffrey Ballet’s production of Cinderella at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.  With a pounding sinus headache and hot soup calling my name, I knew that if there was one reason to leave the house on Thursday evening, this performance was it.  A ballet dancer through most of my life, I had never seen Cinderella performed and more importantly, this was the Joffrey!

To say that the Joffrey’s performance is a delight would be a gross understatement.  The inexplicable energy that comes from an impenetrable technique and preparation was abound on opening night; you focused not on the choreography itself, instead you were invited to focus on the story the choreography was telling.

As Cinderella, Victoria Jaiani was convincingly transformed from poor maiden to princess – her first scene having been dressed by her fairy godmother was performed with a shopoholic level of excitement.  The new, white, sparkling tutu redefined her as a veritable, although expiring, princess in every sense of the word.  It seemed her posture even improved.  In a refreshingly aggressive move during the famous “glass slipper” scene when the prince approaches Cinderella’s stepsisters first, Victoria practically throws her partnering shoe at the Prince to prove herself – quite unlike the demure, embarrassed display of politesse in the book.

One of the more joyous characters of the ballet, and simultaneously one of the most scarily talented on the stage, was undoubtedly the Jester, played by an enormously flexible Derrick Agnoletti.  Prior to the roar of applause given to him by the audience, he moved us through each scene at the Prince’s ball with huge leaps and great comic timing.  Likewise, the two gentlemen (yes, men) playing Cinderella’s stepsisters are so entertaining and flailing, it convinces you that while their roles are significant, these dancers aren’t being used to their full potential as stepsisters.

To put it plainly, the style of ballet performed in Cinderella is a kind of anomaly, at least when it comes to ballet performed in Los Angeles of, say, the last 5 to 10 years.  It does not fall into either of the most widely performed styles of ballet: Russian and Balanchine.  (Yes, balletomanes, I am generalizing.)  Choreographed by Sir Frederick Ashton, who was born in Ecuador and whose Cinderella premiered with Sadler’s Wells Ballet at the Royal Opera House in London in 1948, the style and movement has much more fluidity than Russian choreography, but isn’t nearly as esoteric as a George Balanchine choreographed work.  It’s accessible, comedic, and yet no less impressive.

On for two more performances (well, three if you hurry), Cinderella is a gorgeous display of how well technique, set and costume design, and wit come together on stage for such a grabbing, beautiful, and entertaining performance.  Even the little girls sitting with their parents were on the edge of their seats at the end to see the prince and his princess walk off into the gold and glittering future.  As was I, actually, which was impressive considering my sickly condition pre-performance.  My evening had ended happily, after all.

Cinderella is on for three remaining performances: Today (Saturday) at 2pm and 7:30pm and tomorrow (Sunday) at 2pm at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.  For more information, please call (213) 972-0711 or click here.

Click here to watch a Joffrey Ballet produced video introducing their Cinderella.

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We’d Better Keep an Eye on This One, She’s Tricky…

In an outburst of song, dance, and color, Center Theater Group, Disney, and Cameron Mackintosh present a rare touring production with electric showmanship, mesmerizing production design, and powerhouse orchestration.

On a faint wind of nostalgia, “Mary Poppins” floated into the Ahmanson Theatre with her magic carpetbag of endless marvel.  The excitement was palpable as audience members, old and young (even if it was just at heart), awaited a promise that anything really can happen. No one could disagree that “Mary Poppins’” timing was, for lack of a better phrase, “practically perfect in every way”.

Based on the stories of P.L. Travers and the 1964 Walt Disney Film, the performance features  original Academy Award winning music and lyrics by Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman as well as new music by Olivier Award winning team George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. Director Richard Eyre and Co-Director/Choreographer Matthew Bourne (he of the famed all-male Swan Lake production in London) introduce a kaleidoscope of whimsy that ranges from the over-the-top (a nanny who flies out over the audience and into the rafters with her magical umbrella, then returns to center stage, landing primly atop a chimney) to the old-fashioned (a simple magic trick involving a bouquet that appears out of thin air and a cheeky, knowing smile).

The production opens upon the set of the Banks family household where we find Mr. and Mrs. George and Winifred Banks and their two children, Jane and Michael in the midst of their daily navigation through marital issues and family dilemmas. Kezler is appropriately gruff as a regimented banker, who later finds his compassion at home after his career takes a turn for the worse; Grey and Thomas are the epitome of textbook battiness and childhood curiosity, while Osterhaus is heartwarming as the empathetic mother holding her family together.

The carnival heaves into view with the first act’s “Jolly Holiday”, where the Banks children follow new nanny Mary Poppins (played by Ashley Brown) and an animated jack-of-all-trades named Bert into sidewalk paintings, through pastel gardens, and over rooftops of tap dancing chimney sweeps. Brown plays Mary with the perfect air of self-assurance, and Gavin Lee masterfully harnesses comedic horseplay in his spot-on rendition of Bert. Valerie Boyle’s performance as Mrs. Brill, the Banks’ overly burdened household maid, is wildly entertaining and a definite highlight of the production, and Ellen Harvey as Mr. Banks’ former nanny, the “holy terror” Miss. Andrew, nearly steals the whole show with her operatic performance of “Brimstone and Treacle”.  While each musical act is guaranteed to delight, the second act’s “Step In Time” delivers some serious razzle-dazzle with melodic tap dancing and a jaw-dropping re-creation of Fred Astaire’s gravity-defying “walking-on-the-ceiling” act.

With noteworthy talent (on and off the stage), a little Disney magic, and a pleasantly tolerable amount of cheese, “Mary Poppins” proves to be an all around crowd pleaser and a must-see. If you aren’t already on your feet after the 78th repetition of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” then you certainly will be by curtain call.

- By Harper Flood

“Mary Poppins” will run through February 7, 2010 at the Ahmanson Theatre.  For more information, please call (213) 628-2772 or click here.

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Every Ballerina’s First Love

As a young ballet student, it’s not easy to forget the first time you see an unparalleled performance – on tape, on stage, or in the studio.  I won’t forget the first time I saw the pointed toes, spectacular leaps, and turns of one Mikhail Baryshnikov, easily classified as unparalleled in every sense of the word.  Sitting in the ballet studio all huddled around the TV in tights and ballet shoes, we watched a video of Baryshnikov in a pas de deux, lifting Gelsey Kirkland with grace, ease, and his boyish charm.  It was one of those moments where, even as young boys and girls, we realized what we were working toward. Even those who aren’t ballet fanatics will remember fondly when they saw Baryshnikov light up their screens as the elusive artist Mr. Aleksandr Petrovksy in Sex and the City.

Kicking off the Broad Stage’s second season is a performance that, like Baryshnikov himself, inspires the word  ‘unparalleled.’  Dancing with Ana Laguna, the performance will see the start of their limited engagement tour of “Three Solos and a Duet” across the US.  They’re performing new works by contemporary choreographers like Mats EkAlexei Ratmansky (formerly of the Bolshoi Ballet), and New York City Ballet’s Benjamin Millepied.  

If there was any way to otherwise convey my excitement about a performance as groundbreaking and enticing as this one, I’d take it.  Once you move past Baryshnikov’s casual good looks, confidence, impeccable technique, and spectacular artistry, you’ll be faced with the performance itself, which marks four premieres as danced by a living legend. Ana Laguna, truly not to be overlooked, will hold her own next to Mr. Baryshnikov with ease – she’s long been Mats Ek’s muse (and wife),  danced with the Cullberg Ballet, and staged a number of Ek’s works at the Opera de Paris and the Compania Nacional de Danza in Spain.  Her career has also been studded with awards from around the world.  I’ll reason with you – they’re not exactly lithe twenty-year-olds up on stage.  But remember how good Something’s Gotta Give was?  Enough said – certain things really are better with age (and the wisdom that comes with it.)  They say that youth is wasted on the young for a reason…

Mikhail Baryshnikov and Ana Laguna are performing their “Three Solos and a Duet” at the Broad Stage on Friday, September 4 at 8pm and on Saturday, September 5 at 7:30pm.  For more information, please call (310) 434-3200 or click here.

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Don’t Call It a Renaissance… Quite Yet

slide1In the midst of galleries closing and various art programs being cut (that is, except for the film program at LACMA – victory!), Los Angeles has against all odds been able to support its growing, newly thriving art scene through some trial and error, a lot of financial support, and even more elbow grease.  Pre-recession, many of our institutions and artists were beginning to make their way in the world of art that has long left Los Angeles on the back burner.  Not to make it sound that we’re a world apart, although it may be wise to start requiring passports to get in and out of this crazy city – but until recently we were one of the only major, metropolitan cities, for example, without its own ballet company.  As we all know, the city and its talents have attracted some very well known names that have done much to make our presence known around the world.  Without beating a dead horse, Placido Domingo at LA Opera, both Esa Pekka Salonen and Gustavo Dudamel at the LA Philharmonic, the Annenbergs for photography, and the Broads for theatre and contemporary art have all made strides on behalf of the City of Angels that have not only secured us a spot on the map, but have tried to make sure that our spot accurately reflects our city.

Regardless of our “earthquakes, riots, fires” and that pesky recession, Los Angeles has stepped up to the plate and maintained its stance on art as a worthy, necessary part of our cultural fabric.  On LACMA’s campus, for example, we’re getting a new building in 2010 donated by Lynda and Stewart Resnick.  Designed by master architect Renzo Piano and currently under construction, the building is adjacent to the Broad Contemporary and will look out onto the planned Jeff Koons piece Train – a seventy-foot replica of a 1940s train car.  It’s not a stretch to imagine that what Frank Gehry did for the Walt Disney Concert Hall, so Renzo Piano will do for LACMA once again. 

Our surviving and championing ballet company, Los Angeles Ballet, is headed by Co-Artistic Directors Thordal Christensen and Colleen Neary, the latter of whom is a member of the George Balanchine Trust – a group of dancers with exclusive permission to stage Balanchine’s works.  It’s an opportunity to perform pieces that no previous incarnation of an LA-based ballet company has been afforded.  So far they’ve successfully staged Serenade and Rubies among others and will continue with See the Music, Hear the Dance in February 2010. 

Eli and Edythe Broad continue to change and illuminate LA’s artistic landscape by announcing plans to build a contemporary art museum in Beverly Hills.  The decision came when the Broads decided last year to keep their illustrious collection rather than donate it to MOCA – the new museum will house said collection.  Not to mention, they saved the day for MOCA last winter.

Even as galleries are closing and museums are going bankrupt, LA has seen the expansion of a number of spaces including Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills, Blum & Poe, Roberts & Tilton, and Cherry and Martin in Culver City.  Our little nook of a neighborhood, Culver City, has become the nexus for the international art world right before our eyes. January will see the start of the Grant for New Projects, which will be born from Sandroni.Rey, a contemporary art gallery also in Culver City.  The new organization will support and raise funds for curators as well as emerging local artists. It comes at a time when not-for-profits are closing, California’s budget is a hot mess (and not in a good way), and arts and music programs are being cut from schools across the country.  Is there a more vital time to not only recognize, but also support the burgeoning arts scene in this city?  How do I love thee?  Let me list the ways…

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