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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’

sleepingbeauty_photo 7

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...]

David Roussève/REALITY in the soft premiere of “Stardust”

Nehara Kalev in the 'avant-premiere' of "Stardust" by David Roussève/REALITY

  Though dubbed an 'avant-premiere" (the official world premiere is slated for January 2014 at the University of Maryland), there was nothing anemic  or glitchy at the Los Angeles opening of "Stardust," the latest challenging, one-pot dance-theater stew from David Roussève/REALITY.  A dogged 85-minute work, “Stardust” was chockablock with ten unique, infallible dancers, a hard-hitting narrative thread developed via projected text messages and Skype-d monologues, and a propulsive aural landscape built from D. Sabela Grimes' smooth, … [Read more...]

24 ‘Choreographed’ Dancers?

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines TV ad

"24 choreographed dancers? That's the unlikely phrase the new Royal Carribbean Cruise line TV advertisement  uses to bestow validity and power to the jazzy dance performances on its cruise ships. Has anyone seen such language before? Since when did "choreographed" become Madison Avenue's go-to adjective for teasing a populist dance performance? The TV dance competitions all speak regularly of choreography these days, but my overpowering association with the word "choreography" this year is its pivotal role in the recent New York State Court … [Read more...]

Dancers in the Architecture

Maya Gingery at HomeLA. Photo: Ritsu Yoneyama

As a lover of dance and a lover of architecture, I was both excited and fearful about “HomeLA,” the dance performance held on May 4th in a private home on the cliffside heights of Mount Washington. Directed by Rebecca Bruno, working in partnership with the Dance Resource Center and the dance lab Pietor, the recent site-specific event advertised 14 choreographers on the bill, some with companies, some working solo. As the day approached, I began envisioning  the crowding that seemed inevitable when you consider the liberation of so many … [Read more...]

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