Category: Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

Dance review: American Ballet Theatre dances 'The Bright Stream' at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

July 15, 2011 |  1:00 pm


Part cartoon, part silent movie, part lyric, folk and heroic ballet, Alexei Ratmansky’s “The Bright Stream” is a dizzying romp. American Ballet Theatre opened a five-performance run of this attractive work Thursday at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion as part of the Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at the Music Center series.

EntBlog_Photo330 Still, “Bright Stream” has a dark history. The ballet, given its premiere in 1935, and its creators fell victim to Stalin’s anger. Choreographer Fyodor Lopukhov saw his professional career suddenly stall. His co-librettist, Adrian Piotrovsky, was arrested and sent to one of the gulags, where he died. Composer Dmitri Shostakovich — who had been attacked in Pravda for his opera “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District” no less than 10 days earlier — felt terrorized and expected immediate arrest. But he and the score survived, although the ballet, like his opera, at once vanished from the stage.

When Ratmansky heard a recording of the music, he fell in love with its colorful, diverse, witty and fast-paced qualities. So he revived the work for the Bolshoi Ballet in 2003. A year later, the company danced it at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. ABT’s performances are the first in Los Angeles.

Ratmansky followed the original scenario but had to devise his own choreography. Perhaps remembering Shostakovich’s early days playing piano accompaniment for silent films, Ratmansky turned to that era’s many moments of madcap fun. Certainly, his characters are shallow, more types than individuals, but he tells the story clearly.

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ABT's bright choreographer, Alexei Ratmansky

July 9, 2011 |  7:45 am

AlexeiConsidered by many the leading ballet choreographer of today –- the man most likely to enrich the art form in the 21st century -- Alexei Ratmansky represents a distinctive blend of traditions. Trained at the Bolshoi Ballet School in the late Soviet era, he went on to dance in Canada and Denmark before being named artistic director of the Bolshoi in 2004.

Now comfortably and productively settled in as American Ballet Theatre’s artist in residence (he recently extended his initial five-year commitment there for another 10), Ratmansky is rapidly expanding that company’s repertory with works that reflect his personal experiences as well as his deep fascination with ballet history.

For “The Bright Stream,” his robustly comic 2003 ballet that ABT performs this week at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, he closely followed the original libretto from the original 1935 version of this ballet, which was banned by Stalin and never seen again. Along with its distinctly Russian setting (a Soviet agricultural collective) and characters, the ballet’s engaging sense of community reflects Ratmansky’s experience dancing for six years with the Royal Danish Ballet, where older mime artists are crucial to the venerable  ballets.

“The Bright Stream,” set to a long-neglected Shostakovich score, not only features four prominent principal roles, but gives former ABT members such as Martine van Hamel, Victor Barbee and Susan Jones a chance to showcase their comic timing amid the ballet’s boisterous romantic misadventures. “Copenhagen was fascinating, a great place for me to develop. What other place, besides Paris, has that classical historical tradition?” Ratmansky said during a recent interview in New York. “I tried to learn everything that I could there – the whole Bournonville tradition, telling stories through dance and miming.”

Above all, it was encountering the Shostakovich music that motivated him.” I thought it was the best score I’d heard in quite a while. For me, the most important thing was honoring Shostakovich.”

For the Arts & Books profile of the choreographer, click here.

--Susan Reiter

 Photo: Alexei Ratmansky in rehearsal in New York. Credit: Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times



Dance review: Final Ballet Nacional de Cuba 'Don Quixote' at the Chandler Pavilion

June 27, 2011 | 11:33 am

La magia de la danza DON QUIJOTE (Viengsay Valdés y Alenadro Virelles) 005 Foto Nancy Reyes For the final performance of its first North American tour since 2003, Ballet Nacional de Cuba danced a thrilling, go-for-broke “Don Quixote” on Sunday at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Corps unanimity proved much stronger than at the Thursday opening, and nearly every soloist exemplified ideal Cuban incandescence. Highlights included Dani Hernández as a brilliantly sinewy yet aristocratic  Espada, Jessie Domínguez as a sparkling Mercedes and Osiel Gounod exploding into star-is-born virtuosity  as the Young Gypsy.

As Basilio, Alejandro Virelles contributed gorgeous floating jumps and a stylistic purity that would be welcome in any ballet of the repertory. And, as always, Viengsay Valdés as Kiri stopped time cold by coming out of supported turns into miraculously sustained balances on one pointe -- often with  changes of position midway through. There was one standing ovation before the solos in the grand pas de deux and another at the end. Unforgettable.


Dance review: Ballet Nacional de Cuba opens at the Pavilion in 'Don Quixote'

Dance review: Ballet Nacional de Cuba at Segerstrom Center

Alicia Alonso, Cuba's living legend of ballet

-- Lewis Segal

File photo: Viengsay Valdés and Alejandro Virelles in "Don Quixote." Credit: Nancy Reyes


Dance review: Ballet Nacional de Cuba opens at the Pavilion in 'Don Quixote'

June 24, 2011 | 12:26 pm

DelgadoHas Ballet Nacional de Cuba been on the road too long? Opening in the full-length “Don Quixote” at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Thursday the company displayed the extraordinary depth of training, technical bravado and expressive warmth that make it unique -- indeed, a joy. However, unison execution proved problematic throughout the first half of the ballet -- especially among the men. Even in the generally sharp final divertissement, the pas de quatre found Roberto Vega and Osiel Gounod badly mismatched.

The group dancing ought to tighten up with repeat performances (through Sunday). But the rumpled cloth scenery by Salvador Fernández  also suggests a shabby touring compromise. Created in 1988, the production by Alicia Alonso, Marta Garcia and Maria Elena Llorente adopts much of the familiar Petipa/Gorsky choreography but sets the action during the French occupation of Spain. Thus, as always, Don Quixote seeks his vision of the perfect woman, but now also exemplifies native resistance to the invader.

BalletcubapromoThis social/political context conditions but never obstructs the celebratory nature of the work, 
or the star performances at its center. Indeed, for Latin fire, high-speed bravura and drop-dead exactitude, Anette Delgado's performance of Kitri owned the night. The balances, the extensions, the turns, the flying splits, the freedom in the lifts -- here was a virtuoso dancer in her element. Her only failing: a rather constricted, emotionally vacant lyricism in the dream scene.

As Basilio, Dani Hernández looked so young that he probably needed a note from his mother to stay up as late as Act 3. But he partnered Delgado strongly, danced every demanding solo faultlessly and exhibited exemplary classical line down to the tips of his long, long feet.        

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Dance review: Ballet Nacional de Cuba at Segerstrom Center

June 16, 2011 | 12:30 pm

Swan Lake
Those who have followed Alicia Alonso’s Ballet Nacional de Cuba, know to expect a specific kind of classicism in its performances. 

It’s a style unearthed as if from a decades-old time capsule, revealing well-articulated, generous and exuberant dancing.

Ballet-gallery Sadly, the Cuban group was in a wan state Wednesday evening at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, where it began a two-part Southern California engagement. The dancers -- ever gracious, still polished and even occasionally vivacious -- have had their personalities wrung out. Economic conditions have long deprived them of the decent sets, costumes and toe shoes they deserve. But genuine human warmth, rather than empty grinning, used to percolate in every step, from the principals through the corps de ballet. One saw few bubbles and little individuality the other night.

Undoubtedly, Alonso’s abridged choreography of the 19th century classics has taken a toll. This “Magic of the Dance” program (10 years ago, the same ballets were packaged as “The Magic of Alonso”), consisted of excerpts from “Giselle” (Coralli/Perrot), “Sleeping Beauty” (Petipa), “The Nutcracker” (Ivanov), “Coppelia” (Saint-Léon), “Don Quixote” (multiple credits, after Gorsky) and “Swan Lake” (Ivanov). The evening concluded with “Gottschalk Symphony,” a simplistic Latin-inflected work that Alonso created in 1990 using two movements from composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk’s "A Night in the Tropics."

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Alicia Alonso and Ballet Nacional de Cuba at Dorothy Chandler, Segerstrom

June 12, 2011 |  1:35 pm

Alicia alonso Back in the day, circa 1950, Cuban ballerina Alicia Alonso (that's her at left) was one of the most admired dancers on either side of the Florida Straits. She'd arrived in New York as a teenager and initially paid the rent hoofing up a storm in Broadway musicals like "Stars in Your Eyes."

But her virtuosity didn't fully claim the spotlight until she joined the freshly minted New York Ballet Theater (later American Ballet Theatre), and became one of the stars of George Balanchine's young company.

In the late 1940s, she returned with her husband to her native Havana and founded the company now known as Ballet Nacional de Cuba. For decades, the bitter political relationship between Cuba and the United States kept her from visiting the U.S.

But in recent years cultural exchanges between the two countries have increased, permitting Ballet Nacional de Cuba to tour the United States this spring, including two Southern California stops. They'll be performing a program of excerpts from "Swan Lake, "Giselle" and other works Wednesday through June 19 at the Segerstrom Center in Costa Mesa, and "Don Quixote" from June 23 through 26 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Read the rest of the story here.

-- Reed Johnson

Photo: Alicia Alonso in "Swan Lake" by Maurice Seymour


Daniel Catan is remembered

May 24, 2011 |  3:00 pm

Daniel Catán’s sudden death last month from an apparent heart attack has the left the Los Angeles music community, and especially Los Angeles Opera, bereft. His fourth opera, “Il Postino,” opened the company’s 25th season in the fall. It was a hit, the least troubled and most successful of the company’s premieres.

Catan At a tribute to Catán that the company held Monday evening in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Plácido Domingo recalled his friendship with the composer and described what “Postino,” in which he starred as Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, meant for him. “The role of Neruda was one of the highlights of my long career,” the tenor said, fighting back tears.

Domingo’s remarks were followed by short excerpts from Catán’s four operas, featuring some of the company’s finest young singers, with piano accompaniment. By coincidence on Sunday afternoon, the Santa Cecilia Orchestra ended its season at Occidental College’s Thorne Hall with a program, “México Sinfónico,” that included three Catán instrumental scores along with Silvestre Reveultas’ classic “La Noche de los Mayas” (The Night of the Mayas).

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Dance Review: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

April 10, 2011 | 12:00 pm

Getprev-2 A program that opens with a work called “Anointed” and ends with one called “Revelations” probably has something serious on its mind. That was the case when the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater kicked off a 10-performance run Friday at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion as part of the “Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at the Music Center” series.

“Revelations,” of course, is the beloved work that, astonishingly, is 51 years old yet still hits you with the force of a joyous revival meeting. “Anointed” is the troupe’s newest piece.

The seriousness concerns the company’s transition in leadership. Robert Battle takes over as artistic director from Judith Jamison on July 1.  Ailey’s chosen successor, Jamison has led the troupe since 1989, strengthening it, enlarging the repertory and purging the bumps and grinds that accreted on “Revelations” to reveal the clean, muscular frame beneath.

She is passing the torch now to Battle, who knows the responsibilities and standards he must uphold. One of his works on the tour, “The Hunt,” is serving as a kind of calling card. But more on that later.

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Dancing fifth-graders take over Music Center at Blue Ribbon Children’s Festival

April 6, 2011 |  8:45 am

You’d think that 3,000 fifth-graders descending on the Music Center with their dancing shoes on would be a recipe for chaos. But you’d be wrong. It happens annually during the Blue Ribbon Children’s Festival, and after 41 years, the Music Center staff and volunteers and the region's fifth-grade teachers have handling this massive investment in exposing L.A. County’s young to the performing arts down to a science.

The festival began Tuesday and continues through Thursday.

By the end, more than 18,000 10- and 11-year-olds likely will have seen an acrobatic performance by the L.A.-based Diavolo dance company inside the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, then show off on the plaza outside with some related (but far more grounded) moves they've been studying.

Read more about how Tuesday’s opening morning went: "Blue Ribbon Children's Festival keeps kids in step."


GleeStarHarryShumJrMusicCenter One `Glee' star and thousands of dancing kids to highlight Music Center's children's festival

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L.A. Unified to cut elementary school arts by a third rather than a half

-- Mike Boehm

Photo: Fifth-graders dance on the Music Center plaza during Tuesday's Blue Ribbon Children's Festival. Credit: Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times

A forceful new work as the Alvin Ailey dance company changes leadership

April 2, 2011 |  9:30 am

AaPoised to change artistic directors for the first time in 21 years, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is taking careful, imaginative measures to introduce newcomer Robert Battle to its faithful audiences during the company's upcoming 10-day run at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The central calling card is the troupe's premiere of Battle’s “The Hunt” (2001), a chilling tour de force, heavy on the force, featuring a sextet of combative, bare-chested men in floor-length martial-arts-style skirts.

Also on the bill is “Anointed,” an eye-popping, lightning-fast, pure-dance ballet by Christopher L. Huggins that pays tribute to the company’s succession of directors, from founder Alvin Ailey to current powerhouse leader Judith Jamison to choreographer Battle, a respected –- if little known -- New York City dancer/choreographer who takes the helm on July 1.
On a recent Saturday in Seatttle, during the troupe’s current 24-city tour, five of the male dancers who perform “The Hunt” strolled into a makeshift studio in the bowels of the Fifth Avenue Theater for a quick photo shoot and interview. Kirven Boyd, Antonio Douthit, Yannik LeBrun, Jamar Roberts and Matthew Rushing were tired and a bit giddy after an opening night program that included “The Hunt,” “Anointed” and “Revelations” (that classic dance is celebrating its 50th year and will be featured on every program during this U.S. tour).

Near the end of the shoot, Battle himself joined in with the men to take a picture and share some of his excitement about assuming control of a $29-million dollar modern dance empire. ("I’m happy that it’s a big job. Cause I’m a big guy, and I like a challenge," he says.)
The dancers of “The Hunt” have sore feet and backs this morning. They are layered in sweats and puffy down booties branded with the Ailey name. There is a lot of foot rubbing and neck rolling as the dancers described “The Hunt” on the morning after its Seattle premiere. 

“There’s a lot of jumping and slapping and slamming,” explains veteran dancer Rushing (and newly named company rehearsal director). Some of Battle’s directives included: “Always being on the prowl, feeling like you’re predatory, always showing strength. At times he gave us images of almost being in a rave club, letting loose and going wild and not caring about technique or form –- just throwing out energy.”

“I feel like it's a thriller,” Antonio Douthit says. “It’s like being dropped in the Congo and all five of us are just trying to get out of there.”

To read the full Arts and Books article on changes at the venerable company, click here.

-- Jean Lenihan

Photo: Antonio Douthit, from left, Kirven Boyd, Matthew Rushing, Jamar Roberts and Yannick Lebrun during a recent rehearsal. Credit: Kevin P. Casey/For the Los Angeles Times



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