Category: Dance

Los Angeles Dance Festival to debut in a busy April

February 9, 2012 | 10:20 am

Kybele Dance Theater
With the goal of highlighting local dance, Diavolo Dance Theater and Brockus Project are co-producing a new Los Angeles Dance Festival, April 14 and 15, at the Brewery Arts Complex just east of downtown.

So far, 16 contemporary dance companies have signed up to participate, including Barak Marshall’s dance company, Oni Dance, Kybele Dance Theater and Lula Washington Dance Theatre. Deborah Brockus, artistic director of Brockus Project, said she is awaiting word from several other groups.

“What I want to do with this festival is somewhat similar to the American Dance Festival in North Carolina,” said Brockus, speaking of the annual summer event that is an international leader for dance training of college students, and for presenting and commissioning contemporary work.  For the Los Angeles Dance Festival, “the companies are all going to be doing open classes in the day, and then there are performances in the evening.”

The classes will take place in Brockus Project’s two studios at the Brewery Arts Complex on Moulton Avenue, and the performances will be at Diavolo’s studio space, also at the Brewery, which can seat as many as 150. If the Saturday performance sells out, a later second show would be added, Brockus said. She based her selection on "strong working companies that tour to different places."

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Watch dancer Guillaume Cote kick it up in his film [Video]

February 7, 2012 |  2:58 pm

Guillaume CoteIf you’ve never watched the National Ballet of Canada, or the most recent "Kings of the Dance" tour, you may not yet be familiar with Guillaume Côté, a four-star principal with the stellar Canadian company since 2004.

But he’s recently sent out a fast-spreading international calling card in the form of an impeccable two-minute film called “Lost in Motion” that is the greatest evocation of a dancer’s springy ballon yet on record.

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Michael Jackson dance move from 'Billie Jean' gets kid in trouble

February 6, 2012 |  1:00 pm

Michael Jackson's dance moves

A 9-year-old student in Minnesota has been suspended from school for imitating one of the signature dance moves of the late Michael Jackson: the crotch grab. Naturally, footage of the incident has gone viral on YouTube.

The suspension, reported by the Winona Daily News, occurred after a lip-sync performance of Jackson's "Billie Jean" at a fundraiser for a Catholic school. Lenny Boberg, a student at St. Stanislaus school,  grabbed his groin more than once in imitation of Jackson during the performance.

After the fundraiser, the school principal reportedly approached Boberg and told him that his moves were inappropriate and that he was being suspended.

Boberg's mother told the newspaper her son had performed similar Jackson routines in the last two years without incident and that a parent-teacher organization had approved all performances during a recent rehearsal.

Since the incident, which took place Thursday, video of the offending dance moves has been posted on YouTube. (You can see two of the moves in the video below at the 1:15 and 2:15 marks.) Those who are offended by crotch grabs are advised to avert their eyes.

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La Scala fires ballerina over frank talk of anorexia

February 6, 2012 |  7:45 am


An act of whistle blowing has landed a ballerina at La Scala in Milan, Italy, in big trouble. The famed company has reportedly told her to hand in her pink tutu in exchange for a pink slip.

Mariafrancesca Garritano, who has danced with the company for about 17 years, has  been fired following an interview with a British weekly in which she said that one in five dancers at La Scala Theatre Ballet suffers from anorexia. The interview, which ran in Britain's Observer, contains an unflattering account of how the company pressures its dancers to lose weight.

"Some dancers were rushed to hospital to be fed through tubes, others were hit by depression and still need counselling today," Garritano was quoted as saying in the publication. She also said that seven out of 10 dancers at the academy had their menstrual cycles stop as they competed to eat less.

Garritano said that extreme dieting problems aren't confined to La Scala, but are found throughout the profession.

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Dance review: Diavolo's 'Fearful Symmetries' at the Valley Arts Center

February 3, 2012 | 11:49 am

DiavoloAfter its alfresco launch with live orchestration in 2010 at the Hollywood Bowl, Diavolo Dance Theater’s “Fearful Symmetries” was surely going to take a hit when it moved indoors. Yet it's hard to imagine a kinder transition for Jacques Heim’s exalted explorations of manhandling-architecture than to alight within the glowing glass-paneled grandeur of the year-old Valley Performing Arts Center’s Great Hall. 

Kara Hill’s ceremonious multi-story lobby -- with a soaring staircase that bisects the levels, creating framed containers for the moving pedestrians -- coolly ushered in Heim’s feverish explorations of bodies and art in motion Thursday evening, part of Diavolo's national tour, which will return to Southern California in March. 

PHOTOS: Diavolo Dance Theater at Hollywood Bowl

A full-tilt bill of ensemble fare, the tour (with recorded music) pairs the ever-shifting right-angled industrial landscape of “Fearful Symmetries” (2010) with the plunging, keeling galleon from “Trajectoire” (1999/2001), the troupe’s daredevil signature work set to Nathan Wang’s score. Shauna Martinez plays the heraldic figure in both works, which -- when paired -- make for a journey from the subtle (relative subtlety, of course; Heim is all about whipping energy into a frenzy) to the sublime.

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Movie review: 'Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance'

January 31, 2012 | 10:00 am

Ballet has become so culturally irrelevant that people need to be reminded that a century ago it was cutting-edge contemporary art, enlisting the titans of the age in choreography, music and design. Robert Joffrey loved the groundbreaking works of that era and not only revived and reconstructed them for his own company (founded in the late 1950s), but embraced and updated their guiding aesthetic.

His story and that of his partner Gerald Arpino is retold in the 82-minute documentary “Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance” through the reminiscences of former Joffrey Ballet dancers and associates. There’s a lot of valuable information here, but for all the archival footage on view, dance is rarely allowed to make its effect. It's nearly always shackled to voice-over commentary or dismembered by nervous editing. If “Ballets Russes” and the recent “Pina” made you understand the speakers’ enthusiasm, this film makes you take an awful lot of gush on faith.

Directed by Bob Hercules, the film will have its Los Angeles premiere on Wednesday at 8 p.m. in the Zipper Concert Hall at the Colburn School downtown. A VOD/DVD/digital release is planned for June.

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Before 'Pina': Memorable moments in dance on film [Video]

January 28, 2012 | 10:30 am


I once asked Alvin Ailey about a particularly unfortunate video shoot and he shrugged, saying that directors who can get the financing for dance projects aren’t always the ones who can do right by the artists involved. Wim Wenders’ "Pina" is an exception. It arguably provides a limited view of Pina Bausch’s importance as a groundbreaking theater artist, but otherwise represents a touchstone of dance-for-camera excellence.

The wonders of 3-D---and Bausch’s innovations---get all the attention in Wenders’ interviews. But if it’s true that most academy members will see "Pina" on the 2-D discs provided them rather than at any 3-D screenings, then, obviously, his Oscar chances in the best feature-length documentary category will depend more on how brilliantly he shoots dance rather than any stereoscopic wizardry. And, for audiences, "Pina" may be most valuable in reminding us of the dimensional vision informing some of the greatest 2-D Hollywood dance films.

Read more about "Pina" and the legacy of dance on film.

Most theater choreographies work across the stage-space but the greatest film dances rotate that axis for greater immediacy. An iconic example is "Cool," a rare dance in "West Side Story" (1961) actually shot by co-director/choreographer Jerome Robbins. (He was fired midway through production.) In a sequence full of in-your-face dancepower, watch the Jets’ oh-so-menacing yet oh-so-cool confrontation with the camera in the final shot.

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Dance review: La La La Human Steps with U.S. debut of 'New Work'

January 27, 2012 | 10:48 am

La La La Human Steps“Dancing in the dark” would make an impeccable subtitle for Édouard Lock’s provocative “New Work,” which had its U.S. debut at the Irvine Barclay Theatre on Thursday night.

The ultra-athletic artists of Lock’s company, La La La Human Steps, whirled, kicked and wriggled at highest velocity. This iconoclastic style has brought both celebrity and notoriety to the Montreal choreographer. In “New Work,” Lock has gone one step further, designing a nearly dark lighting scheme, brightened only by precisely angled overhead and side spotlights. The dancers' faces and bodies were obscured, allowing Lock to sculpt a fragmented stage of blurred bodies. It’s an ironic twist that in cloaking his repetitive and gestural ballet language, Lock takes it to a more satisfying and nuanced level.

For more than 30 years, Lock has been re-writing the rules of contemporary dance and forcing audiences to revise how they see and register movement. 

In “New Work,” the viewer was best served by looking at the bodies’ wavering outlines, the women in strapless black leotards and tights, the men in black suits (though sometimes shirtless; costumes by Liz Vandal). Observe the strobe-like effect created by the ferociously waving arms and flexed hands, or the reflections that bounced off the ballerinas’ skin and pink toe shoes. Notice the exaggerated contours of sinewy muscles. 

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La La La Human Steps returns to Southern California

January 26, 2012 |  9:00 am

La La La Human Steps
Now celebrating 30-plus years of high stature in the concert dance world, Montreal-based La La La Human Steps remains faithful to its trademark aesthetic -- an unfathomably fast, neo-communicative physical gesturing -- which ignited fascinating onstage collaborations in the '80s (Frank Zappa, David Bowie) and leagues of young imitators after that.  

Speaking from Vancouver, Canada, this week, La La La’s founding choreographer/director, Édouard Lock, struggled with bad cellphone reception at first, announcing at one point, “OK -- I won’t move from this place.” He immediately caught the irony of his pledge, “especially for someone who is known to move so quickly.” 

Appearing in SoCal for the first time since 2008, Lock will be bringing his “New Work” to the Irvine Barclay Theatre on Thursday, featuring a new score from frequent collaborators Gavin Bryars and Blake Hargreaves played live by an onstage quartet (piano, viola, cello and saxophone). The 95-minute piece takes musical and emotional cues from Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas” and Gluck’s “Orpheus and Eurydice,” including “the sort of fantastical relationship to love that both [plot lines] have,” Lock says. Why did he choose to leave the work untitled? “Because the two stories are so powerful that when I look at the piece,” he explains, “I don’t particularly find a desire to create a third title to overlap the other two.” 

Aside from composers Bryars and Hargreaves (who work independently from Lock, revealing their score to him just days before touring begins), Lock collaborated here with acclaimed Mariinsky principal ballerina Diana Vishneva, who’d sought Long out to choreograph something for her. How did Vishneva's Russian heritage influence Lock's choreography? On this North American leg of the tour, which Vishneva couldn't attend, we'll see her part split between two company dancers. 

Read more about Édouard Lock and his new work.

--Jean Lenihan

Photo: La La La Human Steps. Credit: Édouard Lock




Monster Mash: Nick Jonas back on Broadway; 'Book of Mormon' plea

January 24, 2012 |  7:50 am


Climbing the corporate latter:
Pop star Nick Jonas suits up to play Broadway's next J. Pierrepont Finch in "How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying," following Darren Criss' popular limited run. (Playbill

Sold out: Lawmaker pleads for Colorado homeboys Trey Parker and Matt Stone to extend "Book of Mormon" run in Denver. (Denver Post)

Money matters: The Stage Directors and Choreographers Society wins in dispute with "Spider-Man" producers. (Playbill

Crystal ball: Leaders in entertainment, academia and marketing gathered to predict what Broadway will look like in 2032 at the one-day inaugural TEDxBroadway. (Associated Press)

Spidey fashion sense: A cape made of spider silk — thanks to artist Simon Peers, designer Nicholas Godley and more than a million hard-working insects — goes on display at London's V&A museum. (The Guardian)

"Follies" follies: Even with a high demand for tickets, the critically acclaimed "Follies" ended its Broadway run without turning a profit. (New York Times)

Save the last dance: Financial woes postpone Oakland Ballet Company’s spring program. (Oakland Tribune)

Common ground: A museum devoted to Civil War, civil rights could come to North Carolina. (Fayetteville Observer

Stage hands: Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton have been tapped to host this year’s Olivier Awards. (Theater Mania

Passing: John Levy, first prominent African American jazz manager, dies at 99. (Associated Press

Also in the L.A. Times: Mark Swed reviews the Simón Bolivar Symphony Orchestra's performance of Mahler "Rescurrection"; highlights from this year’s Hollywood Bowl lineup.

-- Jamie Wetherbe

Photo: Singer/actor Nick Jonas as Link Larkin performs during the 2011 production of "Hairspray "at the Hollywood Bowl. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times



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