Los Angeles Ballet: Let’s Make It Official

It is a shame that, in Los Angeles, a ballet company has yet to survive for a full decade.  Don’t the powers that be realize that little Angeleno children need to experience the spectacle that is The Nutcracker year after year?  With Los Angeles Ballet comes the glimmer of hope that indeed children lucky enough to be born in the city of angels will get to see the magical world of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker year after year.  Now kicking off their fourth season with their annual production of The Nutcracker, Los Angeles Ballet is becoming a staple of our city – finally.

While the company has seen a great many changes in the past four years – the good including their new rehearsal and office space as well as the introduction of new dancers, the bad including the loss of some truly gifted company members – all seems to be going well in their favor.  And they’re set to change a few more children’s lives this winter with Colleen Neary and Thordal Christensen’s beautifully choreographed Nutcracker.  Find me one little girl or boy who sat through The Nutcracker with grandma at the tender age of 7 and didn’t beg for ballet lessons for Christmas.
We recently snuck our camera into their studios (and their opening night performance) to get a sneak peak at what’s on offer this year.  Catherine Kanner’s set design and Mikael Melbye’s costumes enhance the magic inherent in this classic ballet that ignites a holiday spirit in a way that nothing else can.  Their schedule includes four performances at Royce Hall on Dec 19 and 20 followed by three at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center on Dec 26 and 27.  Plenty of opportunities to remember what the holidays are all about – sugar plum fairies, harlequin dolls, fighting mice, and little toy soldiers.

Los Angeles Ballet’s The Nutcracker performs at Royce Hall on Dec 19 and 20 and at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center on Dec 26 and 27.  For more information, please click here.

Click here to have a listen to Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite… Berliner Philharmoniker & Mstislav Rostropovich - Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker Suite

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Gunpowder, Guy Fawkes, and the Geffen…

Contrary to what we all might think, political dramas and fabled truths didn’t start with George W. Bush.  Those in power have long controlled the versions of the truth that end up in our news reports or history books.  Back in the day, Shakespeare’s day to be precise, there was once a foiled plot against the established government, known as the Gunpowder Plot, in which the houses of Parliament would be blown up while King James and his largely Protestant cabinet were inside.  Brits now celebrate the day as Guy Fawkes Day because it was Guy Fawkes who was sent late at night on November 5, 1605 to light the fuse beneath the house of Parliament.  It was also he who was captured and killed on behalf of his team.  It seems that we can all relate to the events that followed…

King James told his emissary, Robert Cecil, to hire the best playwright around to tell the story of the Gunpowder Plot.  Shakespeare, who was currently rehearsing King Lear with his troupe, was approached and accepted the challenge of telling the world King James’ version of the truth.  As he and his troupe struggled with the difference between fact and fiction, they come to realize the real power of the establishment.  And so did playwright Bill Cain in his Equivocation opening this week at the Geffen Playhouse.

All about this storied event (in more ways than one), Equivocation touches on Shakespeare himself, his troupe, and his relationship with his daughter. We were recently lucky enough to sit down with the entire cast of the show.  Our video interview is chock full of the cast’s favorite scenes, how they feel about Guy Fawkes Day, and how they feel about yours truly…

We’re not the only lucky ones, though.  The Geffen Playhouse is offering Fine Arts LA readers an exclusive ticket offer!  In the interest of killing two birds with one stone (drinking wine, seeing the play) our readers can purchase tickets for $35 to see the play on one of the Geffen’s Wine Down Sundays – you get tickets to the show and a chance to enjoy complimentary wines beforehand.  Talk about enhancing your theatre-going experience!

The following Sundays are eligible for this sweet, wine-soaked deal: Nov 22, Nov 29, Dec 6, Dec 13, and Dec 20.  To enjoy this offer, call the Geffen box office and mention this code: FAE35 – enjoy!

Bill Cain’s Equivocation runs at the Geffen Playhouse from November 10 – December 20, 2009.  For more information, please click here or call (310) 208-5454.

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A Whole New (LA Art) World

We’d be very surprised if this is true of any of our readers, but it seems that some Angelenos are less than familiar with the art scene in Atwater Village.

Okay, so we are admittedly less than familiar with how to even get to Atwater Village not to mention how we’d start exploring it’s art scene.  The problem is that, well, it’s far.  Then, we don’t know where to go once we’re there – what if we miss the best spot? After all that stress, we’ll surely be hungry and we’re at a loss for where to get a good snack in the neighborhood.  Alas, we tend to just stay in our close environs.

This weekend, November 7-8, however, none of us have a good excuse to skip out on the “spaghetti side” of town, so called because once you get over there, the streets are so windy and confusing, they’re akin to driving around a plate of spaghetti.  The 12th Annual Silver Lake Art Crawl is here again to present you with a whole bunch of things you’d likely not do otherwise: spend time scouring the more eastern side of our fair city, try freshly harvested fish tacos as a result of an art/food experiment, and, well, actually walking somewhere.  There’s also a big celebration at Barnsdall Art Park on Sunday at 1pm, which will feature music, art, dancing, and plenty of food trucks like Cool Haus, Let’s Be Frank, Dosa Truck, Tiago Coffee, and a host of others.

To give us a better idea of all that the Silver Lake Art Crawl has to offer, we recently sat down with the festival’s director Drew Baldwin.  Lucky for you, we taped the whole thing.  Check out our video and definitely head east this weekend – you won’t regret coming across some new local artists nor will you be able to forget the deliciousness that is Lamill Coffee or Café Stella.  Turns out, it’s worth braving the eastbound traffic from time to time.

The Silver Lake Art Crawl is this weekend, November 7-8 from 11am to 9pm both days.  For more information, please click here.

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When You Wish Upon A Star…

Think back to a time when, whether or not you were asked, you’d explain that when you grew up, your name would be all lit up on Broadway.  No matter where you’re from (except New York), you were headed straight to the city that never sleeps to prove the adage that if you can make it there, you’d make it anywhere. Somewhere along the way, for any number of reasons, those dreams changed – perhaps your name is now written in sky blue on personalized stationary or is embossed on your business card.  For a select few, that dream has become a brightly lit reality.  Those are the ones who, while singing in some very green makeup, for example, keep the dream alive for kids of every ilk.

Everyone from the ingénue to the witch has a role to play in the theatre and this Saturday night, there are some big names coming together to make sure kids are still dreaming big.  Make-A-Wish Orange County president Mark Pilone and theatre producer Robert Krueger have joined forces to not only raise money for Make-A-Wish, but to do so in a way that, as Pilon says, “goes beyond the chicken dinners in a hotel ballroom.”  Their lineup includes Broadway heavyweights like Norm Lewis (Les Miserables, Little Mermaid), Laura Bell Bundy (Legally Blonde), Kate Shindle (Legally Blonde), Tim Howar (Rent), and the girls from Wicked that we recently sat down with: Megan Hilty and Eden Espinosa.  According to associate producer Elyse Barton, their opening act will be a “very special performance by a local star.”  We are sure that Saturday night will be the truest form of wish fulfillment!

Make-A-Wish Orange County is one of the hardest working chapters in the country.  With 300 local wishes a year and 425 wishes they coordinate for kids across the nation, the organization decided to branch out with this “Broadway Wishes” concert in order to reach new supporters and a new audience.  They developed a team of local volunteers, producers, and familiar names to come together and remind Southern California how worthy and inspirational this cause really is.

Each performer will get on stage and do just what it is that he or she does best; Megan Hilty and Eden Espinosa will be singing tunes from Wicked, Kate Shindle and Laura Bell Bundy,we have a hunch, will perform a selection from Legally Blonde, and so on – think of it as their “greatest hits.”  What better way to make sure kids are inspired by the performing arts – get a bunch of brightly lit names on stage, give them all microphones, and by the way, they’re here to support Make-A-Wish.  They say we should all dream big… Mission accomplished.

P.S. We got a chance to chat with Megan Hilty and Eden Espinosa from Wicked about why they’re passionate about this performance, what made them want to do what they do, and why they still love it.  Check it out!

“Broadway Wishes” is on Saturday, October 24 at 7:30pm at the Orange County Pavilion.  For more information, please call or click here.  To buy your tickets, please click here.

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Freddi Cerasoli On What You Need To Know About Art

Like anything worthwhile, finding art that you love and really respond to takes time.  It also means not only loving those pieces you keep going back to see at LACMA – to fill your home with beautiful pieces is an exploration.  Some collectors are avid watchers of the emerging artist market, others will employ an art adviser to scour the scene for them,  and still others may fall prey to the trendiest artist of the moment, hoping the piece they bought will go up in value over time. 

Freddi Cerasoli, owner of Cerasoli Gallery in Culver City, knows all about putting on display just what you love.  She recently opened her doors to the Fine Arts LA team and chatted to us about how she became involved with art, how exciting LAs art scene is now, and how grateful she is for this new, vibrant scene in Culver City – she was getting pretty bored of all the same old restaurants!  After opening her gallery six years ago and watching the Culver City art scene grow around her, Freddi has really developed a style and reputation for showing not only emerging artists, but emerging styles of art. 

The Cerasoli Gallery is currently showing Meggs, an Australian graffiti and graphic design based artist alongside Pure Evil and a host of others.  Opening August 22 is an exhibit of Roy Nachum’s work, which will take over the entire space.  Check out our video interview here and then plug the address into your GPS, you’re going to want to see what she’s got up her sleeve!

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Cole Sternberg Tells Us What He Knows…

Who knows what goes on within an artist’s mind? Well now we’re getting closer to knowing… Cole Sternberg, a quickly emerging local artist, has given us some valuable insights. 

Recently, we had the pleasure of suffering heat stroke, er… touring Sternberg’s (hot) Downtown studio in which he’s preparing for an upcoming show at the American University Museum and for a month-long residency with e105 Gallery and Art Lab 21 in Germany in August.  With a recent show at Kinsey/Desforges in Culver City under his belt, we were very excited to see what he’s got coming up and here we’re giving you a sneak peek at the man and his work. 

Born in Richmond, Virginia, Sternberg has lived in LA for five years, which almost makes him able to say he’s “from” here.  Working with oils, watercolors, and spray paint, his works have an organized chaos to them that’s actually quite appealing.  Once a lawyer, Sternberg uses many topical issues as his inspiration for his upcoming museum show and he’s also influenced by such variant art icons as Claude Monet and Cy Twombly.  From issues with the U.N. to a look at how Twitter helped shape the voting conflict in Iran, Sternberg’s pieces explore some rather dark places in a comprehensive, creative manner.   Needless to say, he’s one to watch (and we don’t just mean in our video interview)!

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Your Senses Need Flirting With

You’re about to be inundated and you don’t even know it.  You’re so lucky that we’re here to give you a heads up.  Cati Jean is a name you’ll likely be very familiar with by the year’s end and for good reason.  Her French cabaret, L’effleur des Sens (meaning “flirting with the senses”), has slowly infiltrated the minds of anyone daring enough to head to the King King club in Hollywood.  Her choreography and her penchant for “flirting with the senses” are creeping up all over the place now and you’ll likely not be able to escape it – not that you’d want to. 

Now in it’s fourth season performing at the King King club, L’effleur des Sens is a group of classically trained, gorgeous dancers headed by Cati Jean.  They perform a number short vignettes that pack quite a punch inspired by Bob Fosse’s style and the tease of Parisian cabaret acts.

Jean, originally from Grasse in the South of France, came to the US to learn more about American dance.  She’s quickly become a fixture of dance in this country, with appearances on shows like “Step It Up and Dance,” the creation of L’effleur des Sens, and having provided choreography for an array of recent and upcoming TV shows and movies.  Her show at the King King encapsulates her goal of merging French style with American dance.  It mixes comedy and sensuality with the beautiful technique of classically trained dancers. 

Last week, I got a chance to check out the King King club and chat with the ladies and gentlemen (the lucky few) behind the scenes of L’effleur des Sens. All dolled up, I headed to Hollywood Blvd just east of Highland.  Nervously, I spotted the King King, which looks from the front like a shop of some sinister sort.  Once you park behind the club and show the menacing (but sweet) Russian your ID, however, you’re transported into a place that makes you forget you’re steps away from tourists snapping photos of Grauman’s Chinese.  You instantly feel like you just hopped over the pond and found yourself in a speakeasy in Paris.  When your emcee enters the stage with an accent that defiantly refuses to acknowledge he lives in America, you’re ready for anything.  Well, you need to be.  The show is a dazzling hour and fifteen minutes that ends too quickly and has only intermittent pauses during which the emcee comes out to chat with (or more often embarrass) the audience.  It’s all in good fun!  Check out our video interview! (It includes some footage of the show.  Just a taste for your senses, though.) 


L’effleur des Sens performs every other Thursday night at 9pm at the King King club in Hollywood.  For more information, please call (323) 960-5765 or click here. 

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From the ‘Streets’: New Orleans to LA

Last week, I was asked to accompany a friend to an art gallery opening in Beverly Hills. Getting dressed, I decided to step it up and wear khakis (so rare for LA, right?) and a pressed button down shirt with a nice thin summer sweater on top. I felt just right as I approached David Streets’ gallery on Little Santa Monica. I turned, smiling, to enter the soiree and saw that nearly every man inside was dressed in black tie: my jaw dropped.

It is customary in these situations to run away as quickly as possible before being stoned for any sub-par attire, but unfortunately I was trapped.  My “friend” assured me that I was fine and that there were other underdressed folk who also hadn’t gotten the memo. At the first sight of another pair of khakis, I relaxed and remembered I’m in LA – he who has never been underdressed in LA can cast the first stone.  I was safe. 

David Streets is one of the most interesting people I have met since living in Los Angeles. Originally from Louisville, Kentucky, he has a slight southern drawl that tends to calm you, allowing his eloquent vocabulary to flow smoothly. “When it comes to entertaining, black tie is the norm in the south,” he explained to me.

Returning to interview him the following week, I assumed he’d been in LA for years, especially considering the Oscar-esque crowd he drew. I was shocked to find that he has only lived here for three years. David began and built his career in New Orleans on Royal Street in the French Quarter over twenty years ago. He started as a director in a gallery and eventually worked his way up in the New Orleans art world to own a 22,000 square foot gallery space that represented 45 different artists. 

On August 28th, 2005 his world was turned upside down, along with hundreds of thousands of others, when Hurricane Katrina struck.  In something he could only describe as a scene from Armageddon, he found his gallery ravaged and stripped of all its artwork– even the toilets had been ripped from the floors. Ironically, his gallery’s neighborhood, the French Quarter, sat on a plateau in the center of the city and was untouched by the flood- instead it was destroyed by the animalistic behavior of looters and thieves.  

Struggling with the decision to leave New Orleans, he was approached by friend and sculptor Richard MacDonald about moving to Los Angeles to open a gallery for him. David hesitantly took the offer and moved to LA in December 2005 and he hasn’t left us yet..

He left Richard’s Gallery, among other ventures, to open his own gallery. He opened the doors to both of his new spaces last week. David Streets Gallery is composed of a contemporary art and photography space, as well as a traditional and conventional space with a truly diverse array of artwork. His gallery doesn’t feel empty like so many others in LA – there is a sense of hospitality in its character that makes you feel welcomed and appreciated.  

Overall, David has built an empire (though humbly he wouldn’t say so) of A-list clients and artists from around the world that all value his unique vision, praising the educational and exciting “experience” of art.  

Please check out the video interview to hear more about how he has secured his place in  LA’s art world.

- By Gray Malin

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Great Lake

slswans1mAmerican Ballet Theatre is recognized as one of the world’s great dance companies. Considered a living national treasure since its founding in 1940, ABT is the only major cultural institution to annually tour the United States. Probably the most representative of American ballet companies, during its nearly 70-year history the ensemble has appeared in 126 cities in 42 countries, often sponsored by the U. S. State Department.

Los Angeles audiences have enjoyed regular opportunities to see productions of the venerable institution. This Thursday through Sunday, March 27 through March 30, ABT brings 5 performances of Tchaikovsky’s immortal “Swan Lake” to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The tragic love story of the enchanted swan princess and her hapless prince has been part of the ABT repertory, in one form or another, since the 1960s. This production, staged by ABT artistic director Kevin McKenzie, had its world premiere at Washington DC’s Kennedy Center in 2000.

“ABT will present five different Swan Queens and four Prince Siegfrieds in Los Angeles,” Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director of American Ballet Theatre, tells FineArtsLA. “The supporting casts will be equally diverse. That should keep things fresh and exciting for dancers and audiences alike.”

Opening night will feature McKenzie protégés Michele Wiles and David Hallberg as the star-crossed interspecies couple. In something of an understatement, Barbee says, ”The technical and artistic challenges for the dancers are remarkable.” Dramatically, Wiles has the arduous task of bringing to life both the fragile and tormented Swan Queen Odette, and her evil arch rival, Odile.

Wiles was promoted to Principal Ballerina less than three years ago, after a decade of careful nurturing. A statuesque 5’8” in her slippers, Wiles has always stood out. During her long, slow ascendance, critics couldn’t fail to notice her technical brilliance and classical perfection. But, in among the kudo’s were observations that the young artist lacked passion or emotional connection to the dances. All that changed when Kevin McKenzie sent Wiles and Hallberg to compete for the International Erik Bruhn Prize, given every two years. Ms. Wiles and Mr. Hallberg soared through a bravura ”Grand Pas Classique,” and Ms. Wiles won first prize.

Critics have waxed eloquent over her new dramatic maturity and depth. Wiles earns consistent praise as Odette/Odile, for both the tender lyricism and stupendous athleticism required of a prima ballerina in this quintessential Tchaikovsky “white ballet.”

For over a hundred years, companies large and small, serious and irreverent, have mounted their own versions of the work. As Victor Barbee says, ”Swan Lake is synonymous with classical ballet for very good reason: it’s magical.”

Below is a sampling of that magic, from a previous ABT production:

- Penny Orloff

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Alternate Reality

The Norton Simon’s latest exhibit features the work of Russian painter Alexei Jawlensky, a member of the Expressionist group known as the Blue Four. The artists rejected the notion of objective reality, as evidenced by the image at left.

The exhibit features more than 100 paintings by Jawlensky (1864-1941) and will run through November 5.

“Motivated by an inner response to their subject matter,” writes the museum in a release, “and influenced by sources such as medieval art, folk art and non-Western art, [the Blue Four] created subjective, highly emotional and spiritual images composed of distorted forms and non-naturalistic colors.”

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