Category: Music Center

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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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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Opera Review: 'Albert Herring' at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

March 15, 2012 | 12:51 pm

Christine Brewer performs on stage.
Aficionados of big voices have been waiting for Christine Brewer to appear in a Los Angeles Opera production for a long time.  Indeed, there were a couple of occasions where she was dangled tantalizingly before us, singing song recitals somewhere in town while Wagner’s “Ring” operas -- her natural habitat -- were playing at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. 

But Brewer’s LA Opera debut finally came Wednesday night in a most unorthodox way -- slipping into the cast of Britten’s chamber opera “Albert Herring” toward the end of its run.  That’s right -- a chamber opera, and a comedy at that, written for an ensemble cast of equals. 

Fortunately, Brewer’s part -- that of the lordly arbiter of small-town morals, Lady Billows (which she sang in the Santa Fe edition of this production in 2010) --  can sort of lend itself to a Wagnerian soprano. Britten used one, Sylvia Fisher, on his own recording of “Herring.” 

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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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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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Opera review: Los Angeles Opera's 'Albert Herring'

February 26, 2012 |  3:30 pm

Albert Herring

Los Angeles Opera’s production of Benjamin Britten’s “Albert Herring,” which opened at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Saturday night, is full of fun. The music making, highlighted by James Conlon’s vital conducting, is, for the most part, excellent. Will that make a comic opera that spoofs village life in Edwardian England any less a hard sell? Maybe.

The show, as it is, is worth seeing (unfortunately, a special on $25 seats that was a three-day deal last week has already come and gone). Still, Paul Curran’s farcical production, imported from Santa Fe Opera, is also a lost opportunity to explore a little more deeply a remarkable red “Herring.”

“‘Albert Herring’” is very funny, but it is not a farce,” Conlon notes in the L.A. Opera program book. The opera, which had its premiere in 1947, is the tale of a mama’s boy crowned May King when no girl in a small East Suffolk town (not unlike the one Britten himself grew up in) can be found who meets the puritanical standards of purity set by the impossibly autocratic Lady Billows.

PHOTOS: 'Albert Herring'

That, along with the help of some spiked lemonade, is enough to send Albert on a bender, to the shock and horror of proper townsfolk. Was a coming-of-age opera written to feature Britten’s companion, tenor Peter Pears, also a subtext for a coming-out opera? Those who understand Britten’s operas best, particularly the critic Andrew Porter and the musicologist Philip Brett, have said it is.

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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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'American Idol' producer Nigel Lythgoe joins Music Center board

January 27, 2012 | 12:52 pm


Nigel Lythgoe, of "American Idol" and "So You Think You Can Dance" fame, is joining the board of directors of the Music Center in downtown Los Angeles

Nigel Lythgoe, the uber reality-TV producer who was instrumental in launching Fox's "American Idol" and "So You Think You Can Dance," is joining the board of directors of the Music Center in downtown Los Angeles, the organization announced Friday.

Lythgoe is one of three new appointments to the Music Center board. The others are Julia A. Stewart, the head of DineEquity, the parent company of the Applebee’s and IHOP chain restaurants; and Bertrand Valdman, a senior vice president at Edison International, the parent company of Southern California Edison.

The Music Center board is chaired by Kent Kresa, the former head of aerospace giant Northrop Grumman. Stephen Rountree serves as the organization's president and chief executive.

Lythgoe is executive producer of "American Idol." He left the show in 2008 only to return in recent seasons. He earned the unflattering nickname "Nasty Nigel" in the British media for his withering putdowns as a judge on the British reality series "Popstars."

A dance fan and former dancer himself, Lythgoe worked with fellow producer Simon Fuller to bring the reality series "So You Think You Can Dance" to U.S. TV audiences in 2005.

The Music Center, which is owned by the county, consists of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Ahmanson Theatre and the Mark Taper Forum. Dance at the Music Center is a resident organization that presents a seasonal offering of ballet and modern dance companies from around the world.

The organization said that Lythgoe lives in L.A. with his dogs, Bonnie and Clyde.


Music Center garage gets automated, now takes credit cards

Benjamin Millepied and Music Center announce L.A. Dance Project

-- David Ng

Photo: Nigel Lythgoe. Credit: Annie Wells / Los Angeles Times

2011 year in review: Best in dance

December 14, 2011 |  3:11 pm

Benjamin Millepied
Two significant events reverberated in 2011 for Los Angeles dance, book ends to the touring companies that annually blow in and out of town.

In January, 12 dance groups were invited to compete on “The A.W.A.R.D. Show!”, a reality-TV style co-production of the Joyce Theater Foundation and REDCAT, Cal Art’s downtown performance and arts center. Choreographer Barak Marshall won the $10,000 prize, but all the participants surely benefited from the recognition and audience exposure that being at REDCAT confers.

Then last month, the formation of L.A. Dance Project was announced, a new “arts collective” founded by choreographer and dancer Benjamin Millepied, with backing from the Music Center.

In both these instances, powerful institutions reached out to sustain or create local infrastructure. Both have potential to be exciting developments, particularly if they have long-lasting impact. This kind of support is vital, and has been notably absent for decades. Will it continue? Stay tuned in 2012.

Oh, and about those touring companies…it was a year of superlative performances, from established powerhouses and groups making debut engagements. These were personal favorites, with photos of each:

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