Joffrey Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet

by Ashlee Blosser

Photo provided by The Music Center

Photo provided by The Music Center

If I could summarize Joffrey Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet it would be: simplicity speaks volumes. Through Krzysztof Pastor’s choreography and Tatyana Van Walsum’s set and costume design, Romeo and Juliet came alive in a different century that was dynamic, simplistic, and highly entertaining. 

Pastor’s choreography was full-bodied with a high demand for physicality. His movement seemed aspired by Balanchine technique with early 1900s’ Jazz Age nuances. Tatyana Van Walsum’s set and costume design were done extremely well as it brought focus on the performance instead of embellishing it.

The most intriguing part of Pastor’s version of Romeo and Juliet was how he highlighted social issues just as much as the classic forbidden romance.

Pastor’s Romeo and Juliet did two time-hops starting in the 1930s’ jumping to the 1950s’ and ending in the 1990s’. These time hops were to used to show the endless cycle of violence and hostilities in society as iterated by projections on the backdrop from wars during these eras.

All the partnering in the fight scenes were magnetic to watch as the movement and transitions were simple yet intricate. Throughout the partner-work, the performers seamlessly shared and transferred weight using each others momentum portraying the violence as a continuous, spinning cycle.

One of Pastor’s choreographic decisions that won my heart for this ballet was his use of dramatic pauses as the orchestra continued performing Prokofiev’s score, allowing the audience to take in everything that happened. The pauses were long and increased the drama of the story, which I appreciated as this allowed Prokofiev’s score to tell the story as well. One repeated transition of Pastor’s involved the ensemble flawlessly coming to stillness, followed by either a quick drop or slow melt to the ground to reveal Juliet in a spotlight. Once the music took over telling the story, she would slowly walk around the stage as a symbol hope amidst the conflict.

Performer, Fabrice Calmels, as Capulet was terrifyingly intimidating as he commanded the stage every time he appeared.  Mercutio, performed by Derrick Agnoletti, stole the show with his amusing spunky, flamboyant, ruff-scallion antics. Agnoletti’s performance of Mercutio was vibrant, provocative, and alive as he displayed high technical skills with power. 

The chemistry between performers Dylan Gutierrez as Romeo and Jeraldine Mendoza as Juliet was not to be missed either. Both nailed the infatuated head-over-heels love story between Romeo and Juliet. During each duet, there was a loud level of trust that only strengthened the playful, awe-provoking moments. These two characters had several motifs throughout their duets that caught my attention and warmed my heart. Several times when Romeo lifted Juliet into a stag jump, she did a quick kick of her legs that blushed “oh stop it, you.” One of the most endearing motifs was the use of them putting their hands on the sides of each others faces. That gentle, compassionate touch spoke volumes to how absent tender, human understanding is in society.

There is always an expectation of acting when going to see a ballet, however, the acting of Joffrey Ballet’s performers was truly impressive. The performers came from an authentic emotional place and I felt I was genuinely watching the characters in the story, and not watching performers be the characters.

Less is always more like Joffrey Ballet's Romeo and Juliet showed. The genius simplicity within Pastor’s choreography and transitions, Van Walsum’s costume and set design, and the performer’s genuine acting spoke volumes and allowed for the story to captivatingly play out the intricacies and complexities of violence that ring through every generation.


by Spot LA

Photo Credit Wendy D. Photography.  Tiffany Tregarthen and Jonathon Young

Photo Credit Wendy D. Photography.  Tiffany Tregarthen and Jonathon Young

Sheesh.  Twas a busy holiday season.  Some may ask, "where ya been"?  Well, to answer that question; we've been at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica most recently and we saw Kidd Pivot and Electric Company Theatre's presentation of BETROFFENHEIT AKA "Shock, Bewilderment or Impact".  The work presented Feb 14 -16 was dark and humorous and classic Crystal Pike - creative sets, puppetry paired with screeching sharp music, dark lighting and dazzling dance.  The piece incorporated tap and it was quite refreshing to see tap dance done in a work these days.  The feeling of the set was similar to Crystal's Spooky 2009 work - Dark Matters. CHECK THE LINK!!

BETROFFENHEIT focuses on an individual experiencing or suffering from addiction and/or mental health issues. Early in the work the audience gets to see the main performer coping with health problems in a state of paranoia.   Then in several scenes later, or in essentially Act II; the audience gets to see how certain life events have caused the performer to respond in a certain way. As noted in the program relating to mental health conditions "What a daunting task transforming a troubled mind is, when what you're looking for is what you're looking with." - From "In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts - Close Encounters with Addiction by Gabor Mate.

Photo Credit Wendy D. Photography.    Jonathon Young, Cindy Salgado, Jermaine Spivey, David Raymond, Tiffany Tregarthen,  Bryan Arias

Photo Credit Wendy D. Photography.  

Jonathon Young, Cindy Salgado, Jermaine Spivey, David Raymond, Tiffany Tregarthen,

Bryan Arias

Artistically, the work was executed extremely well and the dancers were AMAZING.  The only criticism we could offer is that Crystal could have done some editing of the movement phrases between Act II and Act III.  The clown-like dancer (or Pixie?)  performed by Tiffany Tregarthen was definitely our favorite part of the work as she portrayed that annoying dark little voice that everyone hears in the back of their mind at some point in life. 

We hope you get a chance to see this thought-proving work!  Its DEF worth the time.

-Spot LA


by Spot LA

 Sarah Bukowski as Marzipan, photo credit Art Lessman

 Sarah Bukowski as Marzipan, photo credit Art Lessman

The Nutcracker suite is a dazzling repertoire of chocolate covered dance, that you can actually walk through. It's is an experience and performance that fulfills all your childhood fantasies. From hot chocolate and popcorn to coffee ice cream, gingerbread cookies and marzipan, they got it all covered. Only this time you get to savor these treats with an orchestra behind you and dancers all around you! The dancers are, in fact representing these sweet, festival delights. After all, we are going through The Nutcracker Suite as imagined, choreographed and conceived by Lincoln Jones.

The experience already starts in line for the show, which takes place on the 32nd floor of the Bloc Tower in Downtown LA. We walk into what looks like a 60s office space, where we are told by a charming redhead, to wipe our feet on a door mat before walking through a  large door with a sign " The Nutcracker Suite."

From darkness into light, we enter a snow covered playground with human sized wind -up dolls, an ice skating rink, an orchestra, and beautiful people offering you hot chocolate, champagne and whatever your heart desires. The orchestra warms your heart as you feel the harmony and effortless flow in their selections from Tchaikovsky's The Nutckracker, arranged by James & Kathy McMillen. The space is so magical, you want to stay in it forever. The exposed brick walls and roughness of American Contemporary Ballet just makes it so much more alternative than any other classical ballet show you have seen before. If you like dance, dreamy sets, and the holiday season, you must go see it for yourself! Oh, and make sure to bring a child! They will love you forever.

Don't miss this Immersive Ballet Wonderland.  The performance runs through December 23.  Get your tix here.


by Spot LA

Put The Nutcracker, SNL, The Ed Sullivan Show, and your favorite (& least favorite) Christmas tunes in a mixer. Whip that mess up, and you’ve got yourself a janky cake.

With John C. Reilly on the top.

Photographer: George Ngo; Image provided by Creative Director Kristin Campbell-Taylor

Photographer: George Ngo; Image provided by Creative Director Kristin Campbell-Taylor

Its satire, yet thoughtful. You won’t cry for Tiny Tim, but there’s a high possibility you will have
(drunken?) tears of hilarity streaming down your face. It is the Christmas show you’ve always
wanted. You no longer have to see your sister’s kids’ tap performance and think that is the best
this capitalistic season has to offer. It is for holiday lovers and haters alike.

It is The Janky Christmas Show.

And you’ve missed it for the PAST SIX YEARS.

You’ve missed the Shitty Nativity. You know the Nativity story, but told shitily.

Photographer: George Ngo; Image provided by Creative Director Kristin Campbell-Taylor

Photographer: George Ngo; Image provided by Creative Director Kristin Campbell-Taylor

You've missed Pink Santa

Photographer: George Ngo; Image provided by Creative Director Kristin Campbell-Taylor

Photographer: George Ngo; Image provided by Creative Director Kristin Campbell-Taylor

Commercials you actually want to watch.

Photographer: George Ngo; Image provided by Creative Director Kristin Campbell-Taylor

Photographer: George Ngo; Image provided by Creative Director Kristin Campbell-Taylor


And the Ho Ho Ho Dancers.

Photographer: George Ngo; Image provided by Creative Director Kristin Campbell-Taylor

Photographer: George Ngo; Image provided by Creative Director Kristin Campbell-Taylor

Not to mention Monologue Man, The 12 Days of Christmas, “snow,” and gentle sprinklings of classic Hanukkah and Kwanzaa traditions.

Perhaps you’re like Pinkie Clause and not really feeling the holiday spirit the year? — With wildfires raging in Southern California, sexual abuse scandals in DC, Hollywood, and NYC, death and violence in the news everyday, Pinkie isn’t going to “DO” Christmas anymore. The world doesn’t deserve Christmas according to him.

But can we have The JANKY without Pink Santa?

John C. Reilly as Janky Marley tries to (re)warm Pinkie - and you up to the idea of Christmas with visits from Janky Past, Present, & Future + some Jewish Jello Shots!? The Positivity Cheerleaders will show you how to work through your anxiety in just one evening & for the very reasonable ticket price of $25! What if all you ever needed to get in the Christmas spirit was a good ol fashioned sing along?

THE JANKY is the perfect way to get you and your loved ones in the holiday spirit. Both heartfelt and irreverent with more singing, dancing, and real time shenanigans than our President’s twitter account!

Designer: Tommy Sugimoto; Image Provided by Creative Director Kristin Campbell-Taylor.

Designer: Tommy Sugimoto; Image Provided by Creative Director Kristin Campbell-Taylor.

Tickets available



by Spot LA

Photo Credit: Mick Bello

Photo Credit: Mick Bello

Merce Cunningham was one of the greatest choreographers of the 21 st century, and I was fortunate to intern at his company over a decade ago during my college years in New York. I vividly remember browsing through various archives in the west village basement office and coming across Charles Atlas and his dance videos with Merce for the first time. They had been collaborators since the 1970’s and both were pioneers and equally interested in exploring the boundaries between technology and the body, and developed new ways of seeing.

I was fortunate to experience Charles Atlas’ work again in person at REDCAT this past week. “Tesseract”was created along with two dancers from the Cunningham troupe, Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener, and it not only lived on in Merce’s spirit, but broke exciting new ground.

For a Greek etymology refresher, “Tesseract” means four rays of light, and is essentially a four-
dimensional shape made up of two combined parallel cubes. The performance itself, just like the title was also a combination of two parts: a 3D film of a dance performance, followed by a 3D dance performance which was filmed. 

The 45-minute dance film was further broken down into six parts, with geometric squares represented through costumes, set pieces and movement. The play with dimensionality was inherent throughout as the performers were at moments trapped within the canvas, like particles or pixels confined to a matrix inside a frame, but at times they were liberated and operated outside as though in parallel universes. The science-fiction worlds evolved both in shape and color, beginning with simple lines in black and white, moving towards more multifaceted perspectives and angles painted in a rich kaleidoscopic spectrum. The electronic ambient soundscapes and minimal melodies were transporting. I was so fully immersed in the 3D film that I had forgotten about the plastic glasses which separated me from this new universe. One of my favorite scenes was a surreal Martian-like landscape where the dancers donned bright-orange leotards with protruding geometric growths, while also carrying large Platonic solids around. I could not help but wonder about the mathematical elegance that underlies our metaphysical

Photo Credit: Mick Bello

Photo Credit: Mick Bello

Atlas’ camerawork pulled us into absorbing journey. He began with more static and fixed shots in the opening of the film which framed the dancers’ movements, but then progressed to longer, fluid and continuous steadicam shots which encircled the dancers in unison. 

Photo Credit: Mick Bello

Photo Credit: Mick Bello

In the live performance part of the piece the camera became a full-on participant rather than just a witness. The cameraman, Ryan Thomas Jenkins, set his rig up center stage, exposing the technical process and elevating its purpose. Outfitted in a bright pink pantsuit with bedazzled silver shoes, he too became a dancer or even a ringmaster of sorts. The six dancers wore transparent conical costumes, which interacted beautifully with the light as they moved, creating optical tricks with delay. As the cameraman followed them around the stage, the dancers were projected onto a scrim in front of the audience, creating a stunning superimposition of bodies skewed in both space and time. Atlas mixed this steadicam footage live, and altered the frame rates creating a truly hypnotic experience, which played with Gestalt principles and depth perception. Tesseract took me to the inner and outer reaches of space, from the umbilical to the interstellar. Dance always reminds me that we are multi-dimensional to
the core.

Photo Credit: Mick Bello

Photo Credit: Mick Bello

DIAVOLO- The Veteran's Project

by Spot LA




Submitted by David Mann

I was pleased when asked to blog for Diavolo’s 25th anniversary event in part when I learned that this 11am to 11pm program was to be held at my alma mater, California State University,  Northridge. And the 3pm performance “The Veterans Project 2017” was to be held in the most exquisite and perfectly scaled Soraya/Valley Performance Art Center, designed by the architect Kara Hill, then with HGA.

I came with my friend CiCi and her son. They are new to this country and recently left China to start a new life here.  So it seemed appropriate to introduce them to America on this Veteran’s Day tribute to the men and women who protect this country.  During the day there were activities for kids to play on Diavolo’s equipment, albeit scaled down.

The other reason I was eager to attend of course was to see this new work by Jacques Heim, Founder and Artistic Director for Diavolo. I’ve know Jacques for years, and was curious to see how this brilliant “architect of motion” as he refers to himself, would create a performance that would translate this nation’s Veteran’s Day celebration into a high art experience.  In my mind I wondered if the path less traveled would transcend the expected patriotic and sentimental tribute.  And for those of us who recoil at the current political climate, there is little if anything to celebrate.

I was not disappointed, nor were the other 1,700 audience members in this filled to capacity theatre. Dressed in black Japanese warrior inspired costumes, each of the 16 performers stepped forward into the light to introduce themselves. To my surprise, it was “name, rank and serial number.” These were not Diavolo company members, but men and women who had served in the army, navy, marines, air force and coast guard, sharing where they served, when they served, and included the injuries they had sustained, both mental and physical. This performance event suddenly became very personal.

After these introductions, the lights dimmed and opened to reveal the stage with a large circular movable platform with round openings for long aluminum and acrylic poles. This platform served as an arena for action, acting as either a home base or memorial, the poles were used as structural elements. Then at other times the performers moved the platform as if it were a battlewagon with the poles held by each performer and used as long weapons fending off intruders.  This was architecture in motion as a visual metaphor for a homeland under attack played out. Dusty Alvarado, Institute Director, describes the set piece design as IBUKI, a Japanese word which means inner-strength, renewal, resilient enough to endure and emerge beautiful.

Quoting from the program notes: “Conceived by DIAVOLO’s Executive Director Jennifer Cheng, The Veterans Project is a pure and profound reflection of the values and purpose that drive DIAVOLO: trust, teamwork and perseverance. Inspired by Sebastian Junger’s novel Tribe and the vital stories of the veterans in our own community, this four-month workshop uses movement as medicine to help heal and connect our American heros.  The program culminates in a presentation that reflects on themes such as inner strength, renewal, resilience and the meaning of Home.”

So these vets endured a four month intensive workshop. These 16 people, none of whom had ever danced before, let alone performed on a stage, did indeed rise to the occasion. One veteran was later to say when asked during the O&A “how was it being up there” said, “it has its own kind of anxiety.”  As a non-dancer taking dance classes since the 1970’s, I can relate!

These are tough people, and they entered with bravery to encounter, share and reveal the best of who they are on the Diavolo stage. It was a tribute to the healing power of performance and the power of collective movement in a choreographic context. Perhaps a way to rewrite their own  inner narratives.  Indeed, several members said that this 16 week workshop was a major healing experience for them, with a few individuals reporting that it literally saved their lives.

There was a second performance called D2R. From the program notes, “Inspired by military culture and combat landscapes, D2R is an abstract representation of the determined yet agonized warrior in us all..” This second performance however, was performed by Diavolo’s company members.  I honestly can say I didn’t know which group of people I was watching. The lines became blurred between the veterans and the company members. This was especially played out in the first piece in which 7 Diavolo performers joined the 16 veteran performers. And it didn’t seem to matter who was who. The level of performance was professional, robust and emotional.

During the Q&A another remarkable thing happened.  The veterans took questions, and to my surprise audience members stood up to say they were in the military also and shared their experiences. The gravity expressed from the stage found it’s way to audience as well.  This experience unified the entire theatre that day.

So this was not just my personal journey, but a collective performer to audience shared experience. It was elevating, uncomfortable and inspiring. A personal journey for all of us.

ASPEN SANTA FE BALLET continues Three-Year Residency at VPAC and we talk to Cherice Barton on her world premiere of Eudaemonia and the universal quest for happiness - by Sara Debevec

by Spot LA

Photo Credit George Lange

Photo Credit George Lange

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet (ASFB) celebrates the second year of its three-year residency at Valley Performing Arts Center with a program of new works that celebrates the company’s commitment to creating new contemporary dance on Friday, March 3 at 8:00pm.

ASFB will unveil the world premiere of Eudaemonia (2017) by renowned-choreographer Cherice Barton as well as perform Little mortal jump (2016) by ASFB favorite Alejandro Cerrudo created for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and Sleepless (2004) from Jiří Kylián, Artistic Director of Nederlands Dans Theater to music of Dirk Haubrich, based on Mozart.   

In preparation for this, we had the pleasure of talking to Los Angeles based choreographer, and Juilliard-trained dancer Cherice Barton , on her creative process, her piece Eudaemonia (2017)  and where she draws inspiration and happiness from, since "eudaemonia" translates from Greek, roughly, as "happiness."

Barton brings together classical ballet training and a distinguished career in commercial choreography. Her performance career has spanned over twenty years in over thirty countries across six continents. In 2015, she choreographed Katy Perry’s critically acclaimed appearance at the Staples Center in Los Angeles for the 57th Grammy Awards and she recently joined the creative team of America's Got Talent as Choreography Associate.  As a choreographer and creative consultant, Barton has a unique eye for transforming dance into inspired, emotional work, from the stage to the screen.  What is exciting is that, the new work is Cherice’s first for Aspen Santa Fe Ballet and her solo debut as a contemporary dance choreographer.

SD: How did the collaboration begin with Aspen Santa Fe and you?

CB: J.P. Malaty and Tom Mossbrucker, Directors of Santa Fe Ballet, approached me about a year and a half ago. I then went up to Aspen for an informal workshop with the company last March and it was love at first sight. The environment that Tom and J.P. have created is extremely supportive and the dancers are very well trained. My creation has been 5 weeks long and I guess the hardest part was to shave ideas to make the piece 20 minutes long.

SD: When creating a new concert work, is your approach different from when you create more of a commercial piece?

CB: Yes, absolutely. With Aspen Santa Fe, I was given full liberty when creating my work. The only constraint was that it was to be a 20-minute piece. A lot of the time with commercial pieces, constraints can come from directors and producers. When it comes to mass productions, it’s really a team effort. To be given the freedom, and the time with Aspen Santa Fe is a real privilege. When it comes to commercial pieces, sometimes you even get just one day to work on a piece- that’s what I was given with Katie Perry’s show.

SD: We saw in your interview posted by CSUN that your husband, Jeremy Jurin did sound design for the work that’s premiering on March 3.  How was it working with your husband on the project?  Was it challenging or rewarding?  Do you work on many projects together?

CB: We work on some projects together. He is extremely talented and creative. I usually find a way to involve him. I’m obsessed with story and he is a filmmaker. If we are filming a dance, he has a great eye for it. When I first went to Santa Fe in October, I went by myself but when we were halfway there with the show, In January, I brought the family with me and Jeremy could see my work with the dancers. It was extremely rewarding working with him.

The sound design not only has my husband’s and my voice on it, but it also incorporates the voices of our daughters (age 2 and 4) at various points. My friends and extended family are also part of it. Two pieces are original compositions. One of my really good friends, Diana Kazakova, composed a section representing faith, blending Gregorian chants with Indian and Buddhist meditation. My brother in Law, Michael Durant also composed a piece and he is a rock musician.

SD: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

CB: My inspiration usually comes from music. With new creations, I have a bunch of different songs I like to listen to. I usually start with those. In preparation for Eudaemonia, I listened to Jimmy Durante “Smile When Your Hear is Aching” and “ Make Someone Happy.” Those songs really stuck with me, not only because of the way they made me feel, but I felt I was tapping into important emotions. I have two kids, a fabulous career and a few years ago we moved back to LA from New York. It was a time for me to look deeper. Where I’m at right now in my life, it really makes sense that my piece would be about happiness and the universal search for happiness. There are infinite layers to this idea of our search for happiness. As humans we keep ourselves busy and it’s easy to beat ourselves up about things and blame situations or people for our lack of happiness and say, “as soon as I get this job, I will be happy” or “as soon as I move to LA and the sun is shining everyday, I will be happy.” My sister Charissa, who I am starting the company with is both intelligent and spiritual. She inspired me to seek for happiness within and not from external sources.

SD: What do you most hope that the audience will take away from the performance?

CB: Eudemonia is the epitome of a well-lived life and something to strive for – a virtuous, spiritual and personally successful life. I would love the audience to somehow feel emotionally connected. We are exploring many emotions, both simple and complicated.

SD: Do you know if the work will be set on other companies?

CB: It very well can be. I haven’t got to that step. The potential is definitely there.

SD: Can you give us some advance details about costuming for the work?

Daniella Gschwendtner, who does the costuming for "Dancing with the Stars" and “America’s got Talent,” is the costume designer for this work. She, like me, creates from an open heart. We were collaborating together on this piece and agreed that simple attire is much better and that we need to keep the costumes somewhat pedestrian and understated, not to override the very large concept we are dealing with here. I am very interested in seeing people dancing, not dancers. From each dancer, I like to see an exaggerated version of themselves.

SD: Thanks for taking the time to interview with Spot LA. We very much look forward to seeing your work on Friday, March 3 at Valley Performing Arts Center!

Innovation at the Music Center - By Ashlee Blosser

by Spot LA

Sculptures. Video Projection. Gowns. Time.

Jessica Lang Dance performed five works from their repertoire that monopolized my attention of the whole two hours at The Music Center on Feb. 18. Jessica Lang has such an innovative approach to choreography with set designs, video projections, and costumes that the theatre was full awaiting the start of the show when I got to my seat. The whole evening I was consistently engaged oo-ing and aw-ing at the surprises Lang’s choreography gave us. 

Photo Credit Todd Rosenberg

Photo Credit Todd Rosenberg

Opening the show was Tesseracts of Time with its daring partnering and many dimensions of space. Lang’s use of floor work as an instrument in conjunction with John Cage’s composition and the performer’s impeccable timing had me leaning forward in my seat. After a video projection, the choreography was playful and I could see the dancers smile as they worked through the obstacles of the white sculptures on stage. The last section felt sacred as Lang’s movement mirrored images of what seemed to me as time-turners, clocks, and hour glasses. One moment that stood out was a group partnering moment where they were laying flat on the floor; and slowly in a continuous canon, rolled backwards into handstands or supported positions. This gave me the image of the number panels on an old school alarm clock flipping when the hour or minute changed. Performers Patrick Coker, Eve Jacobs, and Kana Kimura stood out to me in Tesseracts of Time and its abstract approach to an already abstract concept. 

Photo Credit Takao Komaru

Photo Credit Takao Komaru

The Calling in a couple words was just perfect. Just the right length with a beautiful performance by Kana Kimura. It is always intriguing to see what choreographer’s will do when they work with extravagant gowns that drape across almost the whole stage floor. Lang’s choreography was fulfilling as Kimura purely moved through the choreography. I felt like she was almost trying to communicate with the audience as her performance seemed for us only. 

With a new more open change in set design, Thousand Yard Stare, had a bare stage with all the curtains and scrims up. The group partnering in this thoughtful tribute to american soldiers was innovative. One moment that stood out was when they all formed a line where they did sequential and simultaneous movements down the line. At one point a performer was separated from the group, and the group worked as a team to pull her back in over their bodies placing her in a spot that appeared at the perfect time. John Harnage and Jammie Walker had a seamless male duet has they moved with control and strength. The use of lighting to imitate explosions was radical in its own way and kept me on my toes. 

Lang’s dance video, White, kept my attention as it juxtaposed slow motion, “normal speed,” and fast forward. The editing in the video to superimpose two different filmings so that one duet was going at a “normal speed” and another in slow motion was astounding. 

Photo Credit Takao Komaru

Photo Credit Takao Komaru

Ending the performance was, i.n.k., with its complementing video projection that kept the audience in awe. Clifton Brown’s solo was utterly satiating to watch as he beautifully suspended within the physicality of Lang’s choreography. Correlation of the video projection with the quartet was fun and explicit as the ink drops on the screen danced with the performers. The duet’s were captivating as the movement joined with the sloshing of the music or slow motion of the projection. 

Overall throughout the performance, the company members had an incredible range of dynamics but also a consistent lightness in weight too. Their technique was incredible and performances inviting. One thing I found different from Lang’s work than most of the performances I attend was the slight break of the fourth wall with the audience. The dancers acknowledged us through their smiles and projection of energy, whereas a lot of works today are in their own world on stage and we are merely the observers. Jessica Lang Dance gave a captivating performance that kept me on my toes and leaning forward in my seat, and I cannot wait to see them again when they come back to LA. 

Imagined Elasticities, an evening of experimental music, avant-garde cabaret and performance art at Automata Gallery Curated by Sara Debevec

by Spot LA

On Tuesday evening, January 31st Automata Gallery in Chinatown hosted Imagined Elasticities, a mash up of performance art and cabaret punk rock, curated by internationally acclaimed, LA based performance artist and writer, Sara Debevec, best known for her animal inspired multimedia solo performance art work through Europe, Asia and United States. In the role of a curator this time, Debevec celebrated original music and performance by artists from LA, Miami and New York.  

“I wanted to create a space where artists could converse with one another through their work and though the elasticities of their mediums. It was crucial that this experience would take place in a gallery with no seating and the audience immersed among the artists, blurring the boundaries between the observer and the observed, between the back stage and the front stage. I wanted it all to turn into one collateral performance piece everyone could be a part of” says artist and curator Sara Debevec.

Imagined Elasticities brought together musicians Valerie Kuehne and the Wasps Nests, Copán and Rachel Mason as well as performance artists Tora Kim and Nathan Bockelman for one night only at an intimate, alternative art and performance space Automata Gallery. With it’s storefront windows and a peephole cinema at the back, where the audience can actually look through a hole out the back alleyway and watch puppet films,  Automata is both enchanting and welcoming, making you feel like you have stumbled upon a secret living room in the heart of LA.

Rachel Mason Photo Credit: Brandon Lake

Rachel Mason
Photo Credit: Brandon Lake

Rachel Mason opened the evening with songs from her new album Das Ram by Cleopatra Records. Touted as "one of the most creative forces in the world" by Impose Magazine, Mason is best known in music circles for delivering fantastical narratives which interweave musical, theatrical and narrative elements into unexpected operatic journeys. Through her wide-ranging portfolio of mixed media work, she instigates fantasy and harsh realities through scripts, sculpture, rock operas, live performances and compositions that span over a decade. At Imagined Elasticities, surrounded by a red glow and using various clown inspired masks and props, Rachel’s mesmerizing voice walked hand in hand with her eerie choreography.

Tora Kim Photo Credit Brandon Lake

Tora Kim
Photo Credit Brandon Lake

An emotionally charged performance “Home Invasion” by artist Tora Kim followed. This was a multimedia exploration of politics, trauma and the immigrant experience couched in a visceral homecoming. Wrapped up in a white sheet with a mask on her face, Kim shouts at a projected video of a dog panting, “Shut up! Shut up!” after which she turns around, and words appear on screen “You are Disposable.” Powerful words meet intimate family footage in this heartfelt performance piece exploring themes of trauma and dislocation;  “I told stories of my family when we moved to NYC, and my own racial confrontation in LA. It was important to me to access the personal as well as the political, with humor and archetypal imagery.” As Tora Kim reached for a takeout box, started eating the contents and sat in the storefront window of the gallery, “Home Invasion” rolled into the third act of the evening Valerie Kuehne and the Wasps Nests.

Valerie Kuehne and the Wasps Nests Photo Credit Brandon Lake

Valerie Kuehne and the Wasps Nests
Photo Credit Brandon Lake

Valerie Kuehne and the Wasps Nests is a NYC/PGH based trio composed of cello/vocals (Valerie Kuehne), violin (Jeffrey Young), and drums (Alex Cohen).  The trio performs frenetic and visceral material in the form of songs that have been described as a collision of disparate genres (art-rock, cabaret, metal, grindcore, classical, experimental, punk, rock).  The band members have a wide range of musical backgrounds and interests: Valerie Kuehne studied classical music when she was young, got a college degree in philosophy, and now works mostly as a songwriter and in the performance art scene. Jeffrey Young got a degree in classical violin and composition, and now plays a mix of rock, experimental, and classical music. Alex Cohen got a degree in jazz drumming, and now plays most frequently with death metal bands.  Their performance was intense, beautiful and thought provoking.

“I saw Valerie Kuehne and the Wasps Nests, for the first time in New York and immediately fell in love with their raw aesthetic and vivacious energy. Not only are they incredibly talented musicians but they are also gifted performers and storytellers. I was blown away watching them perform this evening!” says curator of Imagined Elasticities, Sara Debevec; “They are on tour at the moment and were in town for one night only. I am incredibly happy they were able to share their work with LA audience!”

Artist Nathan Bockelman Photo Credit Brandon Lake

Artist Nathan Bockelman
Photo Credit Brandon Lake

Nathan Bockelman performed in darkness, with solely street light entering the space through storefront windows; “I don't always deal with charged topics, but that’s the direction this work went as I was making it.” Nathan Bockelman is a writer, actor, performer, and sculptor based in LA. While often showing work in a solo context his performative works are often times collaborative working with artist, writers, and dancers such as Julie Mayo, Eric Svedas, Brian Getnick, HK Zamani, Kimberly Zumpfe and Elliot Reed. Taking out a torchlight that was hanging off some sort of a thread, Nathan Bockelman, created an atmosphere of suspense and explored the space from a completely different angle, to mesh up of Queen and police news reports. A viewer was given the torch light along with the power to decide what was seen by others – an interesting touch to the immersive aspect of the show.

The finale of the evening was Copán (Jordan Chymczuk-Sol and Yoán Moreno) an instrumental two-piece that aggressively performs ‘Latin’ music, as filtered through progressive and noise rock. The group is known for its lengthy, trance-inducing compositions and for its frenetic live performances that entail improvisation and looping. Copán released "The Outskirts" in 2015 and is also featured on "no//thing but noise" (2016). Originally formed in Miami in 2011, the group is now based in Los Angeles. Keeping in line with the immersive aspect of the show and exploring the limitations of an art space, the band pumped up the volume and literally ended the performance by “forcing” audience members out of the gallery with their heightened volume. The audience moved outdoors and enjoyed the music from a different space, making it almost site specific.

Copán performing at Imagined Elasticities Photo Credit Brandon Lake

Copán performing at Imagined Elasticities
Photo Credit Brandon Lake

Imagined Elasticities challenged the boundaries of performance art and music creating an immersive space of collateral reflection. As artist Tora Kim summarized it; “I felt the entire evening of performers was elevated as a political act from the sheer context of our current social climate. Whether or not each movement or song or word uttered was meant to be political, I felt every moment was activated in a new way, perhaps indicating a new realm of possibilities to empower and be empowered.”

Debevec plans to curate similar shows this year in alternative art spaces in LA and New York. Her geopolitical video performance My Family Before Me, will be shown between May 1st and 26th at 18th Street Arts Gallery in Santa Monica. Also, look out for her solo show at PAM Residencies in October this year.

It is always a unique experience to see an artist curate a show, taking their work and creativity to the next level and Debevec seems to be taking the Los Angeles arts scene by the sorm.

LA Dance Project on the Red Carpet - Benjamin Millepied gives insight on the red carpet. By Ashlee Blosser

by Spot LA

LA Dance Project’s “Homecoming” Premiere red carpet lived up to the glamour at the Ace Hotel as artist Benjamin Millepied shared what to expect, what the night meant to him, advise for young artists, and more.

On Dec. 10, 2016, LA Dance Project hosted their annual gala at The Theatre at Ace Hotel before their performance and world premiere of “Homecoming.” The program consisted of four pieces, two choreographed by company founder, Benjamin Millepied, with composition and live performance by composer Rufus Wainwright, and two original works choreographed by guest artists Christopher Wheeldon and Roy Assaf.

Those set to join Benjamin Millepied on the red carpet was wife Natalie Portman, along with other well-known guests: Rufus Wainwright and husband Jörn Weisbrodt, Darren Aronofsky, Robert Pattison , FKA Twigs, Janie Taylor, Carla Körbes, Frank Gehry, Eli Broad, Edythe Broad, Barbara Kruger, Maja Hoffman, Nicholas Brittle, André Saraiva, Willo Perron, and Alex Israel.

Of those who walked on the red carpet Millepied and Wainwright were the only ones I was able to get comments from. They shared laughs and insight as they graciously walked up the carpet taking photos and interviews from us reporters.

“It’s the most successful gala we've ever had. Its nice to feel the support from [everyone],” shares Millepied on what this night means to him. “It’s sort of a new beginning for the company. We will be announcing some very exciting steps for next year. New projects, new partners. It’s homecoming,” smiles Millepied.

“Yesterday was the first time we performed live together and it was fantastic. Piece of cake,” shares Wainwright. “I sensed a higher level of intensity with these incredible dancers, Benjamin being one of them. It’s a bit unnerving, but exciting.”

Here is a video of Millepied giving insight on the performance.

“He said it made him feel like dancing, which isn't often what I hear. People usually feel like crying when they listen to my material,” laughs Wainwright on why Millepied chose his music. “But he felt like dancing. I feel like a lot of people are going to be dancing and crying in the near future.”

When asked on what he would like the audience to take away from the performance, Millepied responded, “Whatever they take away is up to them. The whole point of dance is that I express it, and then it’s important for people to walk away from it with their own ideas and reactions.”

One reporter asked Millepied about if his and wife, Natalie Portman’s, five-year-old son had any interest in the arts yet and he responded with a chuckled, “He’s very young.”

The ending note of the night was the chance to ask Millepied a question about any advice he has for graduating dance majors coming into the professional world. As a dance major graduating in May, I soaked in every word as he answered my question.

“It’s a very different time than it was. First of all there are not a lot of companies around in America that can provide work,” stated Millepied. “It’s important as a young artist and dancer to really broaden and expose the landscape of arts and culture to have bigger, better understanding of the arts in general,” he advised, “[Don’t] just be focused on dance, but be entrepreneurial and think about what [you] are trying to say today.”

For information about the performance, scroll down for a review written by fellow Spot LA blogger, Sara Debevec!