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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...]

The Well-Oiled Alvin Ailey Audience in SoCal

AAADT in Ohad Naharin's "Minus 16." Photo: Paul Kolnik

Southern California is old, good friends with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, with a rightful claim to a crucial piece of Ailey choreographic history (the Lester Horton connection was forged here) and a revered longtime company member (Matthew Rushing).  Ailey concerts have a party atmosphere at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion -- the houses are full of high-spirited, dramatic revelers. Based on the number of giddy, lurching people who came through my row each night, a certain portion of the house was totally pissed during the Ailey run … [Read more...]

Buried Love Affair Evokes Elusive Moment in American Ballet History

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With ballet’s 15th-century Renaissance origins still somewhat imaginable,  it’s hard to keep in mind that American ballet -- born in 1940s New York City -- is still less than 100 years old.  The two pillars of American ballet --  George Balanchine’s New York City Ballet and Lucia Chase’s American Ballet Theatre -- both arose in that same urban, pre-war moment, with dogged New York City arts impresarios ushering in choreographers’ arrivals from Europe, the formation of the first classical training academies, and the organization of the first … [Read more...]

Wheeldon’s Wonderful ‘Alice’

Christopher Wheeldon's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland."

When British choreographer Christopher Wheeldon left his dance company Morphoses in 2010, I was so worried he might retreat from choreography, exhausted from the battle of keeping a transatlantic dance company funded and strong. How glorious, then, to see the National Ballet of Canada (NBC) bring Wheeldon's robust new creation, a three-act version of "Alice in Wonderland" (2011) created jointly for NBC and London's Royal Ballet, to the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion last week as part of the Music Center dance series. It was an eye-popping design … [Read more...]

The Mariinsky Ballet’s “Swan Lake” Satisfies Every Craving

Oxana Skorik & Vladimir Schklyarov in "Swan Lake"

 I went for the downy thunderbolt of technique and expression possessed only by Russian ballet artists in Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake,” and I was not disappointed. The 200-person forcefield of sophistication, generosity and technical excitement that comes at you when St. Petersburg's Mariinksky Ballet and Orchestra (formerly Kirov) brings its gold-standard classical ballet to town certainly made the standard touring productions by our U.S. ballet companies feel thinned and rigid. At the Mariinksky’s concert, every performer was a superstar … [Read more...]

Benjamin Millepied Unveils his Gem-sized L.A. Dance Project

Merce Cunningham's "Winterbranch"

[UPDATE: Less than a year into this project, Millepied announced he was moving to Paris Opera Ballet, where he was offered the artistic director position. The first tour of L.A. Dance Project wraps up May 2013. We'll see if the troupe continues after that. ] To achieve beauty, miniatures need to craftily convey the intact form of their full-sized brethren. And while the premiere performance of Benjamin Millepied’s chamber-sized L.A. Dance Project at the Walt Disney Concert Hall last weekend had some distorted features, the overall effect of … [Read more...]

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