Category: Dance

Distinguished dancers and companies celebrate Donald McKayle

March 9, 2012 | 12:57 pm

Matthew Rushing and Renee Robinson, stars of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, joined local students and a cast of other celebrated dancers in a concert Thursday night to pay tribute to the art and life of Donald McKayle.

Rushing and Robinson kicked off the UC Irvine-organized event at the Irvine Barclay Theatre with an excerpt from McKayle’s “Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder,” a seminal modern dance work about the wasted lives and crushed dreams of men on a chain gang.  McKayle, an active 81-year-old, was a distinguished professor in the UCI dance department for two decades. He still directs the university’s dance company, Etude Ensemble, which performed the premiere of his latest piece, “The Americas: North and South,” for the show.

PHOTOS: Donald McKayle, a dance career

In welcoming remarks, director Debbie Allen called McKayle “one of the great choreographers and delightful human beings.” McKayle was her teacher at the American Dance Festival, where he was, she said, “the tallest and most handsome man I’d ever met in a pair of tights. He wore us out … but he made us laugh.”

He later launched her career in “Raisin,” the Tony-winning musical that he choreographed and directed. Predating today's crossover choreographers, McKayle worked in musical theater, television and film, adding to his renown as a creator of significant modern dance pieces, such "Games."

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Dance review: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at Segerstrom

March 7, 2012 | 11:52 am

Alvin Ailey
This post has been corrected. See note below.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, touring for the first time under new artistic director Robert Battle, delivered a heady, reverberating concoction of pieces -- including the company premiere of Paul Taylor’s Baroque pure-dance classic “Arden Court” (1981) and the California premiere of hip-hop choreographer Rennie Harris’ “Home” (2011) -- on the first of three distinct repertory programs playing through Sunday at Costa Mesa’s Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

A variety of movement techniques and thematic echoes made for a rare, unflagging mixed bill -- one of the first in recent memory that didn’t ask Ailey’s masterpiece closer, “Revelations,” to rouse the audience from programming that hammers with just too much energy, nobility and muscle and not enough subtle challenge. 

PHOTOS: Alvin Ailey on camera

Stylistic range has always been a tenet of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; even when founding choreographer Alvin Ailey was alive he commissioned work from other artists. But nothing of late has put these dancers to the test like the simple lyricism of “Arden Court,” one of the great confections by Taylor, the 20th century’s most slyly crafty pioneering choreographers, set to William Boyce symphonic movements. Under a massive pink rose, a wave of six bare-chested men flood the space with lunging Martha Graham-like runs (heads darting, arms rising and blossoming overhead), giving way to grand allegro spinning jumps and tumbles, all unfolding in unexpected patterns that ebb and circle and collapse elegantly in on themselves.  

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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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Spring dance preview: Ballet Preljocaj, Savion Glover

March 2, 2012 | 12:15 pm

Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève performs “Les Sylphides"

The dance season picks up steam with some tantalizing "firsts": Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève makes its debut appearance and introduces Los Angeles to works by Benjamin Millepied of "Black Swan" fame, who is artistic director at L.A. Dance Project. In addition, American Ballet Theatre premieres a new production of "The Firebird" by one of the world's most exciting choreographers, Alexei Ratmansky. 

Here's a look ahead at these and other notable dance engagements this spring:

Ballet Preljocaj

 French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj answers to an eclectic -- some might even say fickle -- muse. Since establishing Ballet Preljocaj in 1984, he has given audiences a dystopian “Romeo and Juliet” on the one hand, and an abstract “Helikopter,” with Karlheinz Stockhausen’s noisy quartet for helicopters as a score, on the other hand. The company’s upcoming Los Angeles performances highlight a well-known story in “Snow White” (2008). But this being Preljocaj, and with costumes by Jean Paul Gaultier and a score culled from Mahler, don’t expect Disney. (For ages 12 and older.)

Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Music Center, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. 7:30 p.m. March 23-24, 2 p.m. March 25. $28-$110.

Savion Glover

The boy wonder of Broadway’s “The Tap Dance Kid” and “Black and Blue” has matured into Savion the inscrutable artist, often dancing with head bowed. His unquenchable thirst to explore tap dancing as percussive sound goes on. In “Bare Soundz,” he explores flamenco rhythms. Glover is always mindful of tap dancing’s roots and the hoofers who came before him, and he pays tribute in this show to the late Gregory Hines.

Valley Performing Arts Center, California State University, Northridge, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge. 8 p.m. March 24. $25-$70.

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Mikhail Baryshnikov snaps his camera for 'Dance This Way'

February 24, 2012 | 10:47 am


Mikhail Baryshnikov has turned his focus to fellow dancers. The ballet legend’s solo photography exhibition, “Dance This Way,” opening Friday at the Gary Nader Art Centre in Miami, serves up shots of hip-hop, ballet and modern dances from around the world.

The Latvian-born dancer, now artistic director of the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York, is also the subject in several images.

Baryshnikov’s career with the New York City Ballet among other major ballet companies offered an understanding and access that surpasses most photographers.

Instead of static images of dancers seemingly frozen in time, the 64-year-old creates layers of movements mid-dance in a single frame, blurring his images so they appear more like a live performance.

Not all dancers in the exhibit photos are professionals -– the Miami show has barely dressed women in nightclubs alongside Hawaiian hula dancers, plus a handful of images from Baryshnikov’s previous collections “Dominican Moves,” shot in Dominican Republic cafes, and “Merce My Way,” his collaboration with the late American choreographer Merce Cunningham.

But one theme remains throughout: The dancers are far from holding still.


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Art review: Jocelyn Foye at Armory Center for the Arts

-- Jamie Wetherbe

Photo: Mikhail Baryshnikov with two of the photographs he will be exhibiting at the Gary Nader Art Centre in Miami. Credit: Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press


L.A.'s Body Traffic wins $25,000 Joyce Theater Foundation grant

February 16, 2012 | 11:35 am

Body Traffic
In flagrant disregard of its own name, Body Traffic, the Los Angeles contemporary dance company, is racing ahead, as though on a congestion-free commute across the Santa Monica Freeway. The 4-year-old troupe has just been awarded a $25,000 “commissioning grant” from the New York City-based Joyce Theater Foundation.

Let’s shift to reverse gear, and back this story up. Last January, Body Traffic’s close collaborator, choreographer Barak Marshall, in tandem with the dancers, garnered first prize in “The A.W.A.R.D. Show,” co-produced by the Joyce and REDCAT. The $10,000 prize got earmarked for a new Marshall-Body Traffic collaboration. 

The Joyce is now doubling down on the Traffickers, extending an additional $25,000 to underwrite Marshall’s piece. It will premiere June 5-6, during Body Traffic’s two-night stint at the Joyce Theater’s annual Gotham Dance Festival. 

Body Traffic represents the dance company of the future, according to the Joyce. The theater’s executive director, Linda Shelton, said by phone from New York: “We are a bit concerned by the model of the single artistic director company. In many, many cases it’s absolutely fine, but we see cracks in the model.” 

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Dancer and actress Zina Bethune, 66, dies; founded TheaterDanse

February 13, 2012 |  1:20 pm

LeadZina Bethune, the dancer, actress and advocate for disabled children, was an L.A. artist with a long resume and a long list of admirers. On early Sunday, she was killed in a road accident when she got out of her car near Forest Lawn Memorial Park and was struck by an oncoming vehicle.

The L.A. Now blog reported that she was struck by two vehicles after she apparently stopped to help an injured animal on the side of the street.

Bethune, whose real name was Zina Feeley, was 66. In L.A., she was perhaps best known for founding Bethune TheaterDanse in 1980. The organization, located at the L.A. Theatre Center downtown, brought together multimedia visual art and dance in innovative ways.

In addition to her dance career, Bethune had the distinction of acting in Martin Scorsese's first feature film, "Who's That Knocking at My Door?" in 1967.

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Dance review: 'Cleopatra, CEO' by Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre

February 12, 2012 | 10:40 am


Johanna Sapakie as Cleopatra

The 51st floor penthouse suite at 515 S. Flower St., the site of Heidi Duckler’s latest dance-theater piece, “Cleopatra, CEO,” is a scenic design come true for the Los Angeles choreographer.


At “Cleopatra’s” premiere over the weekend, audiences were guided through dance-theater scenes spread across 30,000 square feet of marble, burnished wood, beige carpeting, exquisite cabinetry and executive boardrooms with floor-to-ceiling windows, and one with a fireplace.

What more could a site-specific artist want than these rambling hallways and power chambers — once the opulent headquarters for oil corporation Atlantic Richfield — as settings for seduction, legislative mischief, war and suicide? 

PHOTOS: "Cleopatra, CEO"

For the most part, Duckler unleashed her imagination for a poetic riff on events from Cleopatra's life and mythology. Johanna Sapakie, a charismatic Cleopatra, climbed atop the furniture and upon the shoulders of her servants while yards and yards of fabric unfurled across the chamber. Greek attendants, with clipboards attached to their paddles, “rowed” their stationary boats (two stone secretary cubicles). The battle between Greeks and Romans for control of the ancient world was a mad dash through a hallway, while viewers pressed against the walls.

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Grammy-nominated Pilobolus gets ready for the big night [Video]

February 10, 2012 |  2:17 pm

As the leadership team of Pilobolus Dance Theater readies itself to fly to Los Angeles for Sunday’s Grammy Awards -– the group is nominated for best short form music video for “All Is Not Lost” –- the dance troupe’s co-executive director Lily Binns is feeling “really, really nervous” (“we’re up against Adele!”) and quite celebratory about the way the troupe is expanding its artistic reach.

This is not the company’s first foray into music videos. Rather incongruously, Pilobolus dancers appeared as background elements in Marilyn Manson’s 1999 “The Beautiful People” video.

But this Grammy nod, shared with OK Go’s frontman Damian Kulash Jr. and his videographer/choreographer sister Trish Sie, was based on “truly a full collaboration for us,” Binns says. “We share a similiar sensibility with OK Go and Trish Sie,” she explains. “We all like making the impossible look possible.”

For “All Is Not Lost,” Pilobolus and OK Go set up shop for five days in a small town hall near the dance troupe’s Connecticut base (“the Woodbury Town Hall didn’t know what hit it,” she says) and shot the dancers and musicians from beneath a large glass platform atop which they undertake vintage Pilobolus contortions and organize their bare standing feet to spell out Roman letters and Japanese Katakana syllabary.

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Dance review: Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo's 'Cinderella' in O.C.

February 10, 2012 | 12:28 pm

Anja Behrend is the barefoot Cinderella in the Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo productionJean-Christophe Maillot’s three-act “Cinderella” for Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, seen Thursday at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, just might be the only ballet of Charles Perrault’s fairy tale with a barefoot heroine. 

Who needs a glass slipper when you’ve got lovely high arches that sparkle like gold, as did the evening’s gracious and warm Cinderella, Anja Behrend? Maillot has no use for a fireplace or ashes, either (though he makes fun of all that in a ballet-within-the-ballet). While other “Cinderellas” exist as an excuse to open the trapdoor and rev up the theatrical machinery, Maillot focuses on underlying allegories. Take notice of the Sisters’ rotted black toes. 

This is not a children’s ballet, though the little princesses seated near me grinned contentedly. Maillot crafts steps with cold precision, using a contemporary dance language of whip-fast classicism, scooped torsos, oversized gestures and exaggerated pantomime. He saves the flowing, exultant pas de deux for Behrend and her quite charming Prince, Asier Uriagereka, for the ball, in the night’s most rewarding apotheosis. 

PHOTOS: "Cinderella" in O.C.

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