Category: Ballet

Benjamin Millepied discloses details about his L.A. Dance Project

April 16, 2012 | 12:37 pm

Misty Copeland, Jillian Vanstone and Benjamin Millepied at Walt Disney Concert Hall
Benjamin Millepied revealed more information about the first season of L.A. Dance Project, his new company that will kick off its first season in September at the Music Center. Millepied divulged that the organization will feature a total of seven dancers, none of whom is from L.A.

"Casting was really, really hard," he said at a press conference Monday at Walt Disney Concert Hall for the announcement of the 2012-13 season of Dance at the Music Center. Late last year, Millepied held an audition session in downtown L.A.

"It would've been my wish" to hire local dancers, Millepied said. But he said he was looking for dancers of a certain quality and caliber, and "most people that great usually have jobs."

He added that L.A. Dance Project is close to finding a permanent space in the city, and that "the goal is to have a home."

As previously reported, L.A. Dance Project will perform a world-premiere piece by Millepied, featuring music by Nico Muhly. It will also perform William Forsythe's "Quintett" and Merce Cunningham's "Winterbranch." Millepied said he will be dancing in "Quintett" in what will be one of his final dance performances. The L.A. Dance Project is scheduled for Sept. 22-23 at Disney Hall.

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Dance review: Ballet Geneve debuts Benjamin Millepied works

April 15, 2012 | 10:15 am

"Le Spectre de la Rose"

Touring with contemporary, soft-slippered ballets, Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève made its West Coast debut at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Friday with a trio of eye-catching works set to canonical ballet music choreographed by Benjamin Millepied, now known widely for his work in “Black Swan.” 

Heretofore unseen in the U.S., “Amoveo,” “La Spectre de la Rose,” and “Les Sylphides” gave weekend concertgoers a taste of the bright designs, group dynamics and knotty, weighted movement lexicon that stand to be a fixed point in Los Angeles' dance future. (Millepied has plans for a new “L.A Dance Project” arts collective in alliance with the Music Center next season.) Stimulated by humor, sexuality and surprise, these dances never sagged. But they had some off-flavors. 

In “Amoveo” (2006), set to four excerpts from Philip Glass’ “Einstein on the Beach,” relationships moved from delineation to unreadability in seconds, while Paul Cox’s Op Art scrim filled with two slow-moving lines of color that multiplied into a dizzying crosshatch. Tangled, exhaustive partnerings echoed the ceasless looping organ. Finishes were casual, even ugly.

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Lourdes Lopez to be new artistic director of Miami City Ballet

April 4, 2012 | 10:00 am

Lourdes Lopez will be the new artistic director of the Miami City BalletThe imposing task of succeeding founder/artistic director Edward Villella at Miami City Ballet will go to Lourdes Lopez, the company announced Tuesday. Lopez, a former New York City Ballet principal dancer who was with that company from 1974 to 1996, is currently director of Morphoses, and was previously the executive director of the George Balanchine Foundation.

Villella, who founded the Miami troupe in 1986, announced last fall he would retire at the end of the 2012-13 season. Lopez will become artistic director as of May 1, 2013.

The selection of Lopez retains the company’s strong association with the Balanchine’s ballets, which have formed the core of its repertory, and in which the company has gained an international reputation for excellence.

“It’s clearly the rep that I know and that I love – that I’ve been an advocate of,” Lopez said from the Morphoses office in New York, hours after learning she had the job. “Their board is very interested and committed to the Balanchine rep -- as I am. I said, absolutely that would not change. But there is the possibility of introducing other works -- and certainly commissioned work. They started this year with Liam [Scarlett] and Alexei [Ratmansky], and it would be great to continue that."

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Dance review: Misty Copeland and new dancers in ABT's 'Firebird'

April 1, 2012 |  1:01 pm

Misty Copeland and Herman Cornejo Photo by Gene Schiavone _DSC4312 (2)
Igor Stravinsky’s sensational “Firebird” ballet demands a vivid design, and Simon Pastukh’s scorched, metallic forest (ignited by Wendell Harrington’s projections), along with Galina Solovyeva’s haute-goth costumes, deliver a strong pop vision to Alexei Ratmansky’s new ballet for American Ballet Theatre. But on opening weekend at the Segerstrom Center, a number of ABT’s world-class dancers mixed poorly with the costumes and struggled with their mechanics. Performances varied a lot, and backstage tinkerings (the princesses' wigs came and went) were ongoing.

In the first and third cast, neither Firebird transformed beyond human form, though the previously reviewed Natalia Osipova and Isabella Boylston both danced bravely. But Boylston --  struggling for the right balance of attack -- came off like a curious, Gaga-esque guest. As the Prince with Boylston, Alexandre Hammoudi was regal and somewhat stiff.

Ratmansky’s revised storyline and forward-backward movement idiom finally emerged clearly with  second cast leads Misty Copeland and Herman Cornejo, a hypnotizing pair. Cornejo masterfully sustained tension and contained his energy, thus giving even more force to Copeland’s abandoned, creaturely performance. With them, the audience’s standing ovation was absolutely spontaneous. Too bad Ratmansky wasn’t onstage that night, for he deserved it too.

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Dance review: American Ballet Theatre premieres 'Firebird' in O.C.

March 30, 2012 |  1:06 pm

With his characteristic blend of sensitive classicism and impish humanity, choreographer Alexei Ratmansky has updated the iconic “Firebird” into an extravagant and fanciful adventure for American Ballet Theatre. 

The one-act ballet had its world premiere Thursday at Segerstrom Center for the Arts on an abundant triple bill that also featured the local premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s “Thirteen Diversions” (2011) and “Duets” (1980) by the late Merce Cunningham.

PHOTOS: 'Firebird' at the American Ballet Theatre

It was “Firebird,” however, that was most anticipated, both for its theatrical significance and for Ratmansky’s past successes in re-envisioning the Russian repertory. Choreographer Michel Fokine’s 1910 original –- sometimes called an anti-classical ballet for its then-unorthodox steps and costumes, and for Igor Stravinsky’s masterful score -– was one of the glory productions of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. 

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Dance review: Ballet Preljocaj's 'Snow White' at the Music Center

March 25, 2012 |  9:01 am

Snow White
Ballet Preljocaj’s “Snow White,” seen Friday at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, was Grimm indeed, with the ballet hewing to the fairy tale’s original ending of macabre justice for the evil Queen: Forcibly strapped into coal-fired iron shoes, she danced to her death.

Such retribution was to be expected from French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj, whose imagination is far more simpatico with the Brothers Grimm than with Walt Disney. His 25-member company from Aix-en-Provence has presented a diverse repertory at local theaters since 1998. That oeuvre of balletically tinged modern pieces unblinkingly depicts humanity in full spectrum. In the choreographer’s naturalistic and messy world, humans are crude, naive, joyous, sexual and violent, in equal doses. It’s part-Pieter Bruegel, part-Henri Rousseau and, at its most edgy, part-Quentin Tarantino.  

Despite some slow passages, Preljocaj has successfully turned “Snow White” into a poignant and magical adult story, one that's definitely not for small children. There are the familiar elements: The Queen has her magical mirror. Snow White finds protection with seven “dwarfs,” who played clapping games with her when not scuttling up and down a sheer rock wall — some exceptionally nifty aerial stunts were seamlessly blended into the choreography. 

For his score, Preljocaj stitched together recorded selections from nine symphonies by Gustav Mahler, usually an unsatisfactory musical treatment. It worked here because each interlude was framed by an electronic soundscape from new-music group 79D. The overused Adagietto still packed a punch as accompaniment for Snow White’s awakening scene.  

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Matthew Bourne’s 'Swan Lake,' filmed in 3-D, one night only

March 19, 2012 | 11:13 am

There is much to anticipate from this spring’s exciting roster of live and pre-recorded international ballet concerts showing in area cinemas -- including a handful of performances by Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet and London’s Royal Ballet. But nothing quite pumps the adrenaline like the quiet news that there’ll be a one-night-only cinema rebroadcast Tuesday of Matthew Bourne’s fantastic, male-driven 1995 re-envisioning of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.”  

Bourne is said to be pleased with this 3-D film, starring principal dancers Richard Winsor and Nina Goldman, which was recorded at Sadler’s Wells in 2011.  Cast with threatening male swans, the high-intensity ballet (glimpsed at the end of the film “Billy Elliot”) features camerawork shot from above and below that is said to capture and enhance stage patterns, momentum and the ballet's menacing tone.

Of all the “Swan Lake” offerings turned out recently to satisfy the excited thirst for balletic drama created by Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan,” this one is surely the favorite to satisfy. Twelve Southland theaters will be screening it. 

 7:30 p.m. Tuesday: Matthew Bourne's "Swan Lake" at Rave 18 with Imax (Los Angeles), Burbank 16 with IMAX (Burbank), Del Amo with IMAX (Torrance), Ontario Mills 30 (Ontario), Orange 30 with IMAX (Orange), Citywalk Stadium 19 with IMAX (Universal City), Cinemark 22 with IMAX (Lancaster), Cinemark 14 (Long Beach), Orange Stadium Promenade 25 (Orange), Huntington Beach 20 (Huntington Beach), Ventura Stadium 16 (Ventura), Irvine Spectrum 20 with IMAX (Irvine). Tickets are available at participating theater box offices and online at


Bolshoi and London Ballets, coming to a theater near you

Theater review: 'Once' on Broadway

Mike Daisey, the theater artist behind the headlines

-- Jean Lenihan

Photo: Richard Winsor in Matthew Bourne's "Swan Lake." Credit: From NCM Media Networks.


Bolshoi and London ballets coming to a movie screen near you

March 14, 2012 | 10:09 am

The Bolshoi's "Le Corsaire."
Ballet lovers who haven’t yet seized the opportunity to experience the enhanced view of detail and artistic interpretation inherent in cinema-casts have a slate of interesting opportunities from London and Moscow this spring, plus an even larger roster down the road.

Similarly to Metropolitan Opera and National Theatre cinema-casts, performances are first seen live, via satellite, and with repeat screenings.

Emerging Pictures co-founder Barry Rebo, whose company presents the ballets, said his audiences have been steadily growing "week by week, show by show" this year, with an overall 35% rise in ticket sales for combined ballet and opera offerings across the U.S. and Canada.

Numbers spiked noticeably when David Hallberg performed live with the Bolshoi Ballet in November, a performance in which the American actually danced after twisting his ankle early in the first act, said  Emerging Pictures publicist Raymond Forsythe. 

Almost like mini-residencies, this spring's offerings from London’s Royal Ballet and the Bolshoi Ballet from Moscow will each bring three unique concerts featuring some of the most beloved and stylistically demonstrative choreography born from those institutions. Participating cinemas include the  Monica 4-Plex (Santa Monica), Town Center 5 (Encino), Claremont 5 (Claremont) and Playhouse 7 (Pasadena).

For 2012-13, Rebo said, his company has gained exclusive rights to Paris Opera Ballet performances and Opera Australia’s “Opera on Sydney Harbour” series.

First up this spring is the Bolshoi's presentation of "Le Corsaire," screening Tuesday. This performance, along with a later presentation of comedic "The Bright Stream," offer viewers the chance to see the robust Russian company perform works that choreographer du jour Alexei Ratmansky brightly re-imagined for the Bolshoi dancers during his award-winning tenure there, before he brought it to his current home, American Ballet Theatre. (These screenings will bracket the real thing: ABT brings Ratmanksy's newly created "Firebird" to Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa on March 29-April 1.)

Lastly from the Bolshoi is Yuri Grigorovich's staging of "Raymonda," a three-act dramatic classic with a sample of Marius Petipa's finest choreographic morsels.  

From London, the Royal Ballet will present some of the creme de la creme of British choreographers -- Frederick Ashton, Kenneth MacMillan --  on a set list that includes live cinema-casts of “Romeo and Juliet” and “La Fille Mal Gardée” plus an encore presentation of “Giselle.”

Here are the dates and times of the spring shows, some live via satellite (as noted), the rest replays.

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Arts on TV: Placido Domingo; Oscar Hammerstein; Il Volo; 'Phantom'

March 8, 2012 |  6:00 am

A rundown of the arts on TV inlcludes "Phantom of the Opera," Placido Domingo, Oscar Hammerstein and Il Volo
"Open Call" 9 p.m. Thursday, KCET: Kenny Burrell 

"SoCal Insider With Rick Reiff" 7:30 p.m. Friday, 11:30 a.m., Sunday, KOCE: "Greatest Living Tenor": Interview with opera legend Placido Domingo.

"The World's Greatest Musical Prodigies" 8 p.m. Friday, KLCS: Alexander meets and auditions four pianists age 8 to 12.

"Great Performances" 8:30 p.m. Friday; 12:30 p.m. Sunday; 7 p.m., Wednesday, KOCE: "The Phantom of the Opera" at the Royal Albert Hall : Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess star in a fully-staged production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera," from London's Royal Albert Hall.

"Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" 12:37 a.m. Friday, NBC: Actor Paul Rudd; actress Gabrielle Union; performance from "Sister Act."

"The Voice" 4 p.m. Saturday, E!: The Blind Auditions, Part 5 : More vocalists audition for the judges. (Part 5 of 5)

"Il Volo Takes Flight" 5:30 p.m. Saturday, KOCE: The Italian teen vocal group performs classical and traditional Italian songs at the Detroit Opera House.

"The Artist Toolbox" 8:30 p.m. Saturday, KLCS: American Ballet Theatre principal dancers Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky discuss the rigors of being a professional dancer.

"Yanni -- Live at El Morro" 9 p.m. Saturday, KOCE: Yanni performs with his 15-piece orchestra at El Morro, a 16th-century citadel in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

"Oscar Hammerstein II -- Out of My Dreams" 7 p.m. Sunday, KOCE; 8:30 p.m. Sunday, KVCR: Lyricist and librettist Oscar Hammerstein II worked in theater for more than 40 years, writing lyrics to more than 1,000 songs and the books of 45 operettas and musicals.

"Idina Menzel Live -- Barefoot at the Symphony" 8:30 p.m. Sunday, KOCE: Menzel performs Broadway classics, her own selections and contemporary songs with Taye Diggs and composer Marvin Hamlisch.


"Oscar Hammerstein II: Out of My Dreams" details Broadway pioneer

-- Compiled by Ed Stockly

Photo: "The Phantom of the Opera" stars Ramin Karimloo as the Phantom. Credit: Alastair Muir

Dance review: Los Angeles Ballet opening weekend of 'Swan Lake'

March 4, 2012 |  2:05 pm

Swan Corps de Ballet in Los Angeles Ballet's Swan Lake_Photo by Reed Hutchinson (3)
Bird-watchers flocked to UCLA’s Royce Hall over the weekend as Los Angeles Ballet, now in its sixth season, continued to prove its pointe shoe prowess with the premiere of “Swan Lake.”  And while everything was not always picture-perfect Saturday, husband-and-wife directors Thordal Christensen and Colleen Neary, who choreographed the four-act work after Petipa and Ivanov, continue to confound balletic naysayers with their little company that could.

A classic bipolar drama of joy and tragedy set to Tchaikovsky’s sweeping score (heard here, alas, on tape), “Swan Lake” lives and dies -– literally –- by its Odette/Odile, the sweetly vulnerable white swan/cunningly malevolent black swan. (Additional performances with cast changes are on tap in four other venues).

A sturdy, stylish corps is also a must.  And though Allynne Noelle’s Odette captivated with fragile, fluttering arms and superb footwork (Allyssa Bross alternates in the role), the dancer’s Odile was more smiles than seduction, her Act III fouettés less a study in surety than traveling –- or was it fatigue?  One hopes, over time, that Noelle will come to fully embody both avians.

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