Category: Dance

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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Alvin Ailey, Joffrey and ABT part of Music Center's 2012-13 season

April 16, 2012 | 10:15 am

Alice in Wonderland
This story has been corrected. See note below for details.

Christopher Wheeldon’s acclaimed version of “Alice in Wonderland,” danced by the National Ballet of Canada, plus an array of repertory programs by Alvin Ailey, the Joffrey Ballet and the American Ballet Theatre, are among the highlights of the 2012-2013 Music Center season being announced Monday morning at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.  

Also on the bill are some firsts for the 10-year-old Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at the Music Center: a rare onstage collaboration between two acclaimed contemporary companies -- Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet; the first inclusion of a musical theater hybrid piece, “Traces,” by the Montreal-based troupe 7 Fingers; and the center’s funding role with the L.A. Dance Project, a newly formed arts collective by choreographer Benjamin Millepied. 

The bill for L.A. Dance Project's first performances, which will kick off the Music Center season (Sept. 22-23), includes “Quintett” by William Forsythe, “Winterbranch,” by Merce Cunningham plus a new work by Millepied with composer Nico Muhly, graphic artist Christopher Wool and the fashion house Rodarte.

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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: 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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Influences: Dancer Savion Glover

March 21, 2012 |  9:00 am

Savion Glover

For Savion Glover, tap dancing is about rhythm, about taking the beat of the drum and bass -– originally, African instruments -– into the body. He’s had plenty of time to think about his take on the tradition: Now 38, Glover was already appearing on Broadway as a child, making his debut with “The Tap Dance Kid” and following it with “Black and Blue,” “Jelly’s Last Jam” and “Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk,” which he helped create and which landed his choreography a Tony Award.

Much of his work as dancer, choreographer and teacher –- he runs the HooFeRzCLuB School for Tap in Newark, N.J. -– has involved taking some of the showbiz and Hollywood out of tap and and reconnecting it with black history going back to the earliest days of slavery, when slaves were forbidden to play drums.

Glover’s California tour, which brings him to the Valley Performing Arts Center on Saturday, is called “Bare Soundz” and will involve two other dancers as well as elements of flamenco. He says his goal for this show is “to give people a chance to hear the music in dance.”

Here Glover talks about his influences, including his teacher, the late Gregory Hines, who once said that Glover might be the finest tap dancer who’d ever lived, and the dancer Jimmy Slyde, who became one of the most visible exemplars of the jazz side tradition in the '80s through performances in “The Cotton Club” and “Round Midnight.” But, says Glover: “It goes beyond what their profession is: It’s people who’ve brought awareness to the world.”

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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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Dance review: Ronald K. Brown's Evidence at the Ahmanson Theatre

March 11, 2012 |  1:48 pm

Choreographer Ronald K. Brown flashed a startling, broad smile while performing Friday night with  Evidence, a Dance Company. His Brooklyn-based contemporary dance troupe enjoyed its second-only Music Center appearance this weekend, courtesy of Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at the Music Center.

Pacing through his latest work, “On Earth Together,” to the music of Stevie Wonder, Brown's glowing expression caused us to consider what a grim business most contemporary dance has become. Beauty radiated from the Ahmanson stage, as Evidence, a wonderful troupe of 10, boogied through three of Brown’s sensual, sweet-natured works.

Born in the fabled Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood 46 years ago, Brown belongs to a generation of black choreographers who toggle easily between the contemporary urban vernacular, its African roots and dance post-modernism. He’s got Alvin Ailey’s distinct sense of place and Katherine Dunham’s Afro-Cuban earthiness; in his zeal for steady-state locomotion, he evokes the minimalist Laura Dean.  Most recently,  he choreographed the new Broadway revival of "Porgy and Bess."

In the first piece, “Ebony Magazine: To a Village” (1996), company members -- mostly African American, one West African, and the superb Arcell Cabuag, born in the Bay Area of Filipino descent -- gave the simple dance walk luxuriant reading. They sank into their hips and chugged their arms alongside, sometimes tossing a hand in the air. Dressed by costumer Omotayo Wunmi Olaiya (a great look, the men’s flowing white pajamas neatly clamped by dark vests), they primped and vogued.

Their soft parade, padded and lush, led them to the stage apron for some top-notch action. Up and down, then in and out, they undulated their spines, in waves, frissons, sometimes a body hiccup. To rap music, the dance enacted a village’s communal rites (Brown has spent considerable time in Africa). Hands clasped in prayer position, church bells chimed, the ocean and its seagulls sounded. Three women, heads bent solemnly, circled a white-frocked dead body.

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