Category: Susan Josephs

Burlesque, live on stage and coming soon to a theater near you (video)

October 9, 2010 | 11:45 am

Steven Antin doesn’t want to sound “like a prude” but the director of the new movie “Burlesque” believes the performance genre best associated with the bump and grind has been misunderstood as sleazy and only about stripping. “The original burlesque performances were musical, theatrical parodies and political satires,” he says.

In Antin’s film, which stars Christina Aguilera and Cher, burlesque performers wear plenty of sexy costumes but do not strip down to pasties and G-strings. “I wanted to embody the kind of entertainment that was enjoyed by all kinds of audiences,” he says, noting that burlesque, which originated in Europe, became associated with striptease in early 20th century America.

Premiering Thanksgiving weekend, “Burlesque” tells the story of Ali, played by Aguilera, who flees her small town and heads to Los Angeles in search of big city stardom. She gets hired as a waitress by Tess, played by Cher, owner of the Burlesque Lounge. Set in contemporary Hollywood, the club serves as the setting for Antin’s vision of authentic burlesque performance.

The film comes out during a time of thriving burlesque scenes in Los Angeles and other big cities such as New York and Seattle. “Burlesque is booming,” says Lili VonSchtupp, producer of the “Monday Night Tease,” now in its sixth year and the longest-running weekly burlesque show in Los Angeles.

For VonSchtupp, winding up onstage in pasties and a G-string is an integral and authentic element of burlesque performance. “Burlesque has also become an empowering thing for women,” she says. “And there’s something fantastic about being able to entertain with honesty…there’s not a lot to hide behind when you’re standing up there with a g-string and pasties.”

Personally, VonSchtupp feels disappointed that Antin chose to depict a “more stylized” version of her beloved art in his film. “But hopefully the movie will expose more people to burlesque,” she says. “It might even get them to wander into my show.”

To read more about “Burlesque” and the burlesque scene in Los Angeles, click here for Sunday's Art & Books story.


–- Susan Josephs

A queen bee choreographer will take a bow in L.A.

September 23, 2009 |  6:00 am


It’s been 12 years since Los Angeles audiences had the chance to see the work of the celebrated American expat choreographer Meg Stuart (when Mikhail Baryshnikov’s White Oak Dance Project performed her dance “Remote” at the Wiltern Theatre). Now 44, Stuart has returned to L.A. and shows no signs of having lost her queen bee status within the world of avant-garde dance-theater. With her Brussels-based company Damaged Goods, she continues to attract international acclaim for provocative, visually arresting and emotionally charged dances that frequently arise from new artistic challenges and collaborations.

“I’m always trying to disrupt my process so that every piece I make is a different experience for me,” she says.

Stuart will make her Los Angeles performance debut tonight when she takes the stage at REDCAT with the Austrian choreographer Philipp Gehmacher. Their 2007 “Maybe Forever,” a kinetic ode to failed love, features live music by the Belgian singer-songwriter Niko Hafkenscheid and expresses the choreographers’ attempt to forge a shared movement language.

“It’s a reflection on love, loss and intimacy, and it’s the kind of work that you have to enter and take time with. But a lot of my work is like that,” says Stuart.

Stuart began her dance career in New York and got her big break in 1991, when an arts presenter invited her to show work in Belgium. “It was a complete fluke,” she says of joining the rarefied group of American choreographers, such as William Forsythe, who found European support for their work and became expats in the process. “I never planned to leave New York.”

To read more about Meg Stuart, click here for my Calendar story.

-- Susan Josephs

Photo: Meg Stuart. Credit: Eva Würdinger.

Yvonne Rainer to step in for dancer at REDCAT

June 23, 2009 |  5:10 pm

Rainer The news in L.A.'s dance world this week has been the West Coast premiere of works by choreographer Yvonne Rainer. But today's bigger news is that when Rainer's "RoS Indexical" and "Spiraling Down" are performed at REDCAT on Thursday through Sunday, the esteemed 74-year-old will be on stage as well.  

Rainer is stepping in for Pat Catterson, who is unable to make the performance (and at 63 was the oldest of the four dancers on the bill).

This week's four performances at REDCAT will be the first time Rainer has been on the dance stage since 2007 in Vienna, when she also stepped in for Catterson.

Rainer was a major figure in dance in the 1970s but took a 25-year hiatus to concentrate on filmmaking. In an interview with Susan Josephs that appeared in Sunday's Calendar section, Rainer said returning to dance felt “like coming home. I have always loved working with dancers, and as soon as I’m around dancers the ideas start to flow.”

-- Sherry Stern

Photo: Yvonne Rainer. Credit: Jennifer S. Altman / For The Times

Guillermina Quiroga: tango plus soul

February 1, 2009 | 12:00 pm


To hear Guillermina Quiroga tell it, most evening-length entertainments that showcase the tango are pretty much alike: "They're always about the history of tango and begin with the 19th century and have to show two men dancing together first."

But speaking to Susan Josephs recently for a story in Sunday's Arts & Books section, Quiroga -- a veteran of the long-running "Forever Tango" -- added that she wanted to do something different with a full-evening show of her own. That show, called "Tango, Historias Breves," will be presented by UCLA Live this week.

"My show is not really a tango show," she said. "It's more that I use the language of tango to tell a story. And I don't just tell a story for the story but for the messages behind it."

Among other sources, Quiroga said, she sought inspiration from visits to the Kabbalah Centre in Los Angeles. She even thought of naming the show "Los Tangos de la Cabala" -- Tangos of the Kabbalah -- "but people kept asking whether I was Jewish or religious."

The answer? "I believe in God, the universe and love. That's it."

-- Craig Fisher

Photo: Guillermina Quiroga. Credit: Alejandra Martin / La Milonga Argentina


Recommended on Facebook

In Case You Missed It...


Explore the arts: See our interactive venue graphics


Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.