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Battle of the Dance, sort of a Medieval Times with a stomp and a shimmy

March 9, 2011 | 10:00 am


Before launching his latest business venture, dinner-theater mogul Andres Gelabert studied the demographics of Southern California and concluded that “this is the best place” to put on a show featuring international styles of dance. “You can reach 24 million people here,” he says. “You have tourists but you also have so many people who live here who are really from somewhere else.”

'Battle of the Dance' photo gallery Perhaps best known as the founder of the Medieval Times dinner theaters, Gelabert has brought a new act to Orange County. Called Battle of the Dance and located prominently on Anaheim’s Harbor Boulevard (it’s hard to miss the strobe-lighted accented sign), the 40,000-square-foot venue has hired some 200 employees and has been touted by its developers as a much-needed stimulant in a region still suffering from economic downturn. With dance as its centerpiece and “battle” in its title, the dinner theater also seems to be counting on the art form’s continued prominence in the zeitgeist and popularity on television as a competitive spectacle.

Modeled after Gelabert’s Son Amar dinner theater show in Majorca, Spain, Battle of the Dance features troupes of Flamenco, Irish and Bollywood dancers with the versatility to also knock out pop-inflected jazz/contemporary dance numbers.

“It’s a great opportunity to expose people to all kinds of cultural and ethnic dance,” says Michelle Painter-Larson, one of the show’s choreographers and an Irish step dancing expert. “With our show, we want to create the feeling that we’re traveling around the world, picking up different types of dances.”

Battle At a performance preview last month, the audience sat in a newly minted tiered theater with a seating capacity of 950, dining on a three-course dinner at long, banquet hall-style tables. The show interspersed dance performances with acts by ventriloquists, jugglers, an acrobat and a man with a knack for creating silhouettes of famous people using only his fingers and tricks of shadow puppetry.

The dances, which alternated between flamenco, Irish and Bollywood and a fusion of musical theater and contemporary styles, emphasized large, unison numbers, included a tribute to Michael Jackson’s music and attempted to express the “battle” theme in a sequence in which flamenco and Irish step dancing performers engaged in a rhythmically propelled dance-off.

“The show is still a work-in-progress,” says Painter-Larson. “We’re hoping to add even more styles of dance, and we’re hoping that people will come because they’re interested in seeing a battle of dancing.”

To read more about Battle of the Dance and the popularity of live commercial dance shows, click here.

-- Susan Josephs

Photos: Scenes from Battle of the Dance. Credit: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times