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Do You Think You Know Gene Kelly?

"Singing in the Rain." Photo courtesy of Patrica Ward Kelly.

Teasing apart the movie musical a few years back, cultural critic Gilberto Perez wrote that each successful musical positions one of two figures of the artist in the fore: either the performer or the director. Sometimes, as in "The Band Wagon," we actually see the two figures characterized on film, fighting for prominence. But usually, one of the two figures subtly dominates the artistic creation and lingers in our minds. "Whereas in the Astaire musical the artist is the performer," Perez writes, " the artist in a Berkeley musical is above all … [Read more...]

Top 10 Must-See Dance Concerts in L.A. this Year

Batsheva Dance Company presents "Sadeh 21," Ohad Naharin's new work for the company's 50th anniversary tour.

If you count carefully, you'll actually find 16 concerts listed here. I expanded the roundup I wrote for the OC Register -- which highlights the great companies that Orange County's deep-pocketed Segerstrom Center and Irvine Barclay can bring in --  to add a few more affordable offerings in Los Angeles and beyond. It's a good year for dance: read the complete offerings at all these theaters: Broad Stage, CAP-UCLA, Irvine-Barclay, Music Center, Nate Holden, REDCAT, Segerstrom Center,  and Wallis Annenberg. Garth Fagan Dance: Ebony … [Read more...]

Osipova and Vasiliev Debut World Tour at California’s Segerstrom Center

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In the promotional image for “Solo for Two,” the first independent concert tour from dance superstars Ivan Vasiliev and Natalia Osipova,  the formidable Russian dancers appeared side by side in dramatic grand-allegro jumps that would have certainly resulted in a mid-air crash were it not a collaged image. Culled, it seems, from promo shots for the Mikhailovsky Ballet, the breathless off-kilter moment inadvertently spoke to the evening’s overpowering sense of collision – between dance artists and choreographers, audience expectations and … [Read more...]

Essential Viewing: Ethan Stiefel’s “Giselle” for Royal New Zealand Ballet

Gillian Murphy and Qi Huan in Royal New Zealand Ballet's "Giselle."  Photo: Evan Li

On Friday night, opening its first U.S. tour in decades, Royal Ballet New Zealand performed on L.A.'s premium dance stage, the  Los Angeles Music Center,  presenting the U.S. premiere of a new "Giselle," the company's first full-length creation under the guidance of artistic director Ethan Stiefel, who took the helm of the company in 2011. Here follows a version of my review that ran in the Orange County Register. When a member of dance royalty like Stiefel (beloved American Ballet Theater principal, star of Nicholas Hytner’s two “Center … [Read more...]

A Fizzled Evening with Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal

Ballet Jazz de Montréal in "Harry" by Barak Marshall. Photo: Gregory Batardon

The house was packed. The second-ever dance company to perform at the cushy new Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal easily sold out its two-night run  (January 10-11 2014), and was welcomed by a good faith audience, comfortable and ready to cheer.  The program had strong local ties, with the eagerly anticipated West Coast premiere of "Harry" (2013) by the remarkable L.A.- and Tel-Aviv-based choreographer Barak Marshall, as well as a staging of "Closer," a sensual, crowd-pleasing 2006 … [Read more...]

Great Moments in L.A. Dance in 2013

Gregory Maqoma in "Exit/Exist." photo: John Hogg

With strong flavors of Stravinsky, Balanchine, and Trisha Brown, 2013 was a satisfying year for iconic dance, and dance music, in Los Angeles. The centennial of Stravinsky’s game-changing “Rite of Spring” for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes delivered unto us both the Joffrey’s faithful reconstruction of the nervy Nijinsky choreography and, earlier in the year, conductor Gustav Dudamel’s first galloping ride conducting the piece with the L.A. Philharmonic. As well, impassioned performances of the standout Stravinsky-Balanchine collaboration “Agon” … [Read more...]

Blood-Rich ‘Beauty’

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Considered the consummate classical ballet, "The Sleeping Beauty" features devilishly hard technical challenges, with nowhere to hide. Traditional stagings -- like Pacific Northwest Ballet's long, rich, drafty one -- have pretty vapid storylines. Instead, the audience identifies with the dancers' technical struggles. That's the meaningful, heroic story. In “Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty” (2012),  which opened in Los Angeles at the Ahmanson Theatre on Thursday night, the visionary Bourne – the world’s only living director/choreographer who … [Read more...]

BodyTraffic Excels in Kyle Abraham Premiere

BodyTraffic perform "Kollide"

[Los Angeles struggles to support a pure dance company. You'd be surprised how the city trails behind NY, SF or Seattle.  Yet this weekend, some good news: a small company called BodyTraffic! With a premiere from Kyle Abraham! I wrote for the L.A. Times on the Saturday night show:] Coming off prestigious gigs at New York’s Joyce Theater and Jacob’s Pillow in Massachusetts, the award-winning Los Angeles-based repertory company BodyTraffic presented two sold-out programs at Santa Monica’s Broad Stage this weekend that demonstrated a most … [Read more...]

Arthur Pinajian: An art-world genius lost, found and now worth millions

Arthur Pinajian, Untitled

Wedged between a hair salon and yogurt shop, Stephanie’s Fine Art Gallery is a narrow, unpretentious exhibition space and frame shop in a strip mall on Foothill Boulevard in La Canada. There is no “Stephanie” here. The owners are Linda and Sepon Stepanian, Turkish-born Armenians who have run custom frame shops in this area for decades now. They also represent a few high-caliber international artists, selling to a loyal local clientele. “We love this business,” Linda Stepanian says. The room’s veneer is pastel contemporary, dominated by the … [Read more...]

Performance/Art Arrives at LAX Airport

Sarah Elgart's "Everywhere Nowhere," held at LAX airport. Photo: Kelly Barrie, Panic Studio LA

[A version of this piece originally ran on the L.A. Weekly arts blog.] The current renovations and re-branding of Los Angeles International Airport is delivering frustrating, mixed cues for its art. In its first public arts festival -- "Influx: Art at LAX," running through Dec. 31 -- a few of the newly designed and curated exhibition spaces -- as well as Sarah Elgart's Everywhere Nowhere performance piece, held this past weekend -- had enough firepower to wrest one's attention from the immensity and chaos of airport commerce. Yet others lost … [Read more...]

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