Category Archives: Dance

Monk and Company Make Music On Behalf of Nature

Meredith Monk in "On Behalf of Nature"/Photo by Spencer Davis

Meredith Monk in “On Behalf of Nature”/Photo by Spencer Davis

Fifteen students in wonderfully white outfits are strewn about the courtyard next to Freud Playhouse. Each one embodies a character of his or her own choosing. One woman’s hand is lightly pounding on a door she leans on. A few stragglers crouch just outside the entrance. Sounds erupt sporadically, sometimes simultaneously. It’s Tuesday evening, and the group is holding its third and final rehearsal for a pre-performance installation before the premiere of Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble’s On Behalf of Nature, this weekend as part of the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA (CAP UCLA) season.

Despite the 47-degree temperature, Monk and vocal ensemble member Ellen Fisher walk around slowly, offering individuals notes on movement and sound. Monk appears to be floating in her colorful, quilted, floor-length coat with images of clouds around her shoulders.

“Keep your ears open,” says Monk. “That’s the fun of it. Knowing what’s going on around you and seeing where you can fit in.”

Full article at LA Stage Times

Review: Casa Patas Flamenco, Karen Lugo’s The DeMente Territory

Courtesy of Casa Patas

A female Flamenco dancer with black, fitted pants; a violin player with a Mohawk; abstract movements accompanied by silence; a woman playing guitar; mundane acts performed with hairpins and earrings. “The DeMente Territory” was not a traditional evening of Flamenco at Le Lycee Francais de Los Angeles’ Theatre Raymond Kabbaz. Partnering with the Consulate General of Spain, the 220-seat, intimate Kabbaz presented a forward-reaching Flamenco ensemble from Madrid’s Fundación Conservatorio Flamenco Casa Patas for a two-night run, beginning Nov. 8.

The first clue of the unconventionality to come was the eclectic musical troupe. Violinist Víctor Guadiana sported a Mohawk; one of the two female singers wore deadlocks. Though her heartfelt singing straddled tradition, her wails and cries screamed defiance. The Norwegian guitarist Bettina Flater stood out for just being female. Apparently, only one other woman makes professional rounds in Spain. It’s not often I can identify a particular Flamenco tune, but I immediately recognized the words of popular Cuban singer Silvio Rodríguez. His inclusion suited the rebelliousness of the evening. Rodríguez leans Left. Revolutionary politics inspire many of his lyrics.

The entire company, including director and choreographer Karen Lugo and her dancing partner José Maldonado, exuded fresh-faced energy. …

Read full article on Culture Spot LA

Henne and Hutter Collaborate on Cave… at Diavolo

Tiffany Sweat, Julie Lockhart, Melissa Schade and Athena Sterig/Photo by Taso Papadakis

A limber male dancer stands on his hands, his legs split into a triangle; leading actor Brad Culver yells out nonsensical sounds, warming his vocal chords as he stretches his mouth. When the five-minute break ends, Kate Hutter, the artistic director of LA Contemporary Dance Company, huddles with three women, demonstrating how red ribbons flow from their hands to the ground.

Hutter’s collaborator, Aaron Henne, artistic director of theatre dybbuk, watches from the front, his 72-page script in hand. The co-directors (Hutter is also choreographer, and Henne the writer) are holed up at Brockus Project Studios at the Brewery, rehearsing Cave…A Dance for Lilith, their third collaboration, which opens tonight next door at Diavolo Performance Space, running Friday through Sunday until November 18.

The dance theater piece experiments with the collision between text, movement and music. “After our first collaboration Body Mecanique in June 2009, I thought it would be great to continue working together,” says Henne. But for their next joint venture, “Wouldn’t it be interesting to do a piece that’s more narrative, more like a play, where the dance is as much text as the play itself? We bandied that idea around a lot. Finally, about one and a half years ago when I decided to start theatre dybbuk, I was really interested in the first piece having to do with Lilith folklore and Hebrew Goddess mythology.”

Cave…A Dance for Lilith unearths the humanity behind the myth of Lilith, the Hebrew name for a demon goddess. …

Read full article at LA Stage Times

Korean Cultural Center LA Presents 2012 Sounds of Friendship

Gorilla Crew / Photo courtesy of Korean Cultural Center LA

I was just about the only white person in the audience at “2012 Sounds of Friendship” at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre on Oct. 9. The night’s lineup offered a glimpse at the “hallyu” (Korean Wave), or the surge and spread in popularity of Korean pop culture, with performances by musicians, singers and dancers representing both traditional and modern art forms. The show was free, but interested parties had to pick up tickets at the Korean Cultural Center. Hence, the majority of Korean faces in the audience.

Los Angeles is home to the largest population of Korean Americans and Korean residents in the United States. Diplomacy is best achieved through song and dance. This year, in particular, marks the 130th anniversary of friendship between the Republic of Korea and the United States, and the South Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement took effect in March 2012. “Sounds of Friendship,” the program announces, celebrates the long-standing relationship between the two countries. …

Read full article at Culture Spot LA

Akram Khan Chooses the Vertical Road at CAP UCLA

Photo by: Spencer Davis

It is not common knowledge that Akram Khan was snubbed by NBC this summer during the American telecast of the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in London. NBC replaced Khan’s five-minute dance sequence to the hymn “Abide With Me,” sung by Emile Sandé, with Ryan Seacrest interviewing swimmer Michael Phelps. Danny Boyle had it right though, in tapping Khan to present his work for the nearly 27 million U.S. television viewers. On Oct. 5, as part of Center for the Art of Performance (CAP) at UCLA’s dance series, Los Angeles was privy to witness Khan’s work up-close. The British Bangladeshi artistic director of Akram Khan Company debuted the West Coast premiere of “Vertical Road” (2010) at Royce Hall, with a repeat performance on Saturday evening.

Not as close, however, as audience members would have been at a show during UCLA’s previous seasons. Before the performance, CAP Executive and Artistic Director Kristy Edmunds explained how a few rows of seats in the front of the house had been removed in order to present each artist’s work as they had intended. In other words, people were just too close before.

“Vertical Road,” at 70 minutes sans intermission, picks up in intensity and never lets go. …

Read full article at Culture Spot LA

Nan Jombang Premieres Rantau Berbisik (Whisperings of Exile) at REDCAT

Photo by: Fiona Cullen

Indonesian choreographer Ery Mefri does not speak English. His company Nan Jombang is in New York City the week before coming to Los Angeles, busily performing at Fall for Dance and at Asia Society. Both circumstances slim my chances of an interview. Fortunately, company manager Suzanne La is happy to answer my questions — and provide me with several of Mefri’s own reflections via email —  about his West Coast premiere of “Rantau Berbisik (Whisperings of Exile)” at REDCAT this Wednesday through Sunday (with the exception of Friday).

Mefri is a part of West Sumatra’s Minangkabau ethnic minority. He is very deliberate in exploring issues facing his society, like the ambivalence toward migration, or merantau, the traditional departure of young men from villages to establish themselves economically elsewhere. The guys often land in major Indonesian cities where Minangkabau cafes are popular. Around 80 percent of the men who leave Minangkabau villages never return. Mefri is an oddball. He was born in Solok and chose to settle in nearby Padang. But the nostalgia, longing, resentment, and loss this outmigration sparks remain on Mefri’s mind, and inspired this work.

“When people don’t come back, it hurts development and our ability to progress in West Sumatra,” Mefri says. …

Full article at Culture Spot LA

Storytales: John Edgar Wideman With an Inglish Beat

Ford Amphitheatre

“I have a belly brain,” says WordTheatre artistic director Cedering Fox, “and when I’m really connecting to something my belly goes nuts.” Fox is explaining her passion for what she does over the phone. It’s contagious. My tummy begins to flutter. She cherishes the spoken word and the way universal stories share what it is to be human. So she creates theater from actors reading contemporary short stories.

“I get these wonderful writers and their stories, and I cast great actors doing the reading,” she explains. “I direct the actors, and they bring the stories to life so it is the most magical, simplest, purest form of theater — just storytelling.”

On Saturday, October 6, at the Ford Amphitheatre, WordTheatre presents Storytales, featuring the latest work of John Edgar Wideman, recited by a list of aurally recognizable talent, including Keith David, Dennis Haysbert, Marla Gibbs, Roger Guenveur Smith, and Lynn Whitfield.

Fox started WordTheatre 10 years ago. The nonprofit is dedicated to keeping language and literature alive. “And we do that by getting the best writers of short stories in the English-speaking world,” declares Fox.

Wideman is a one-time Rhodes scholar, recipient of a MacArthur genius grant and the first writer to earn the PEN/Faulkner fiction award twice. He is also a tenured English professor at Brown University and now a dear friend to Fox.

Fox had her first brush with Wideman in New York in 2009, when she directed Lynn Whitfield reading one of his stories. …

Read full article at LA Stage Times

Fifth Annual J.U.i.C.E. Hip-Hop Dance Festival: The Real L.A. Dance Project?

After filing out of Walt Disney Concert Hall this past Sunday after the second and final performance of Benjamin Millepied’s “L.A. Dance Project,” I couldn’t help but think that I had witnessed the real L.A. Dance Project the previous evening at the Fifth Annual J.U.i.C.E.Hip-Hop Dance Festival at the Ford Amphitheatre.

Saturday evening’s fest was an exciting showcase of street dance from local companies. Powered by grants and community support, producer Emiko Sugiyama has pulled together a night of hip-hop dance for the past three years to benefit the nonprofit weekly hip-hop arts program called J.U.i.C.E., Justice by Uniting in Creative Energy. The collective meets every Saturday afternoon at the MacArthur Park Recreation Center and every Thursday evening at Chuco’s Justice Center in Inglewood and provides instruction in the four elements of hip-hop: MCing, DJing, B-boying and graffiti writing.

While Millepied’s Project boasted beautiful dancers and playfully intricate choreography, there was nothing particularly L.A. about the performance, except for the costumes designed by Kate and Laura Mulleavy of L.A.’s Rodarte. …

Read full article at Culture Spot LA

Street Dance Plus Gilgamesh = Illuminated Manuscript

Photo by Peter Griffith

Amy “Catfox” Campion’s arms are sinewy — evidence of her hard work. A longtime b-girl and capoeirista, she is petite, strong and confident. The founder of Antics Performance is standing in front of the 13 street dancers in her crew. Her expression is earnest as she emphasizes the importance of the dancers connecting to their characters. This is something new for everybody. It’s the first time Campion is producing a long-form theatrical piece with a narrative.

“You are assassins,” Campion reminds the two men crouching on the floor. Another dancer portrays a monster, another a tyrant. It’s the second Thursday of September, and inside Campion’s loft on the northwest corner of MacArthur Park, Antics is rehearsing for its premiere of Illuminated Manuscript, which will bring breaking, popping and krumping to Los Angeles Theatre Center (LATC), September 28-30.

The dancers have been running through scenes all afternoon. They break to eat and then head out to the Downtown LA Art Walk to freestyle in the lobby of LATC and hand out flyers for their upcoming show. It’s all part of creating and promoting a new work, which Campion hopes will live on after its debut.

Campion has been involved in street dance and in the Brazilian martial art form Capoeira since her years when she was studying for a BA in dance from the University of Washington. …

Read the full article at LA Stage Times

Dance Camera West at LACMA

Miss Prissy and I were interviewed about “The 818 Session,” which screened at LACMA on June 29 as part of Dance Camera West, by Jeannette Ginslov of MoveStream.