‘ghosts’ waft cooly amidst Clare Graham curios

Dance · featured · Visual arts

The weather was dark and dismal last Sunday evening for the opening of Stephanie Zaletel‘s spooky site-specific “ghosts,” a dance performance that took place in one of L.A.’s most happening art lofts. While the rain fell on York Avenue in Highland Park, a nice crowd found cozy respite by cramming into moryork gallery’s many nooks and crannies to make way for Zaletel’s new dance-cluster, Szalt.

The loft houses the curios and assemblage-sculptures of tchotchke-king Clare Graham (we have written admiringly about Graham here), who crafts excellent art works and off-beat furniture from found objects and materials — most famously shrink-wrapped teddybears, buttons, beer can snaptabs, tin cans and scrabble tiles, all bound by bundles of glue and string.

Clad in a sexy version of your grandpas’s long underwear, the Szaltists jumped up on cabinets and counters, gave out zombie stares, and hand-held audience members in forays out of their chairs.The whole thing, lasting less than an hour, was nicely matched with sound and enjoyed a resilient structure … it was a surprise to learn the company numbered only five so rapidly did they scooch and scurry around in surprising ways. The dancers port the kind of super-stretchy dance technique that looks like they sleep in yoga positions. “ghosts” was nice, comfortable and excellent, a fun immersion-tour around a strange visual planet. It was doubly fun for the presence of Stephan Koplowitz, himself a pioneer of the site-specific genre who must have exerted influence on the proceedings; several of szalt’s dancers emanate from his degree program at California Institute of the Arts, aka CalArts. Also putting her soulful gaze on ‘ghosts’ was choreographer Danielle Agami of whose troupe, Ate8Dance Szalatel is an alum. The high-priestess influence of Agami, herself such a great dancer as well as one of our best choreographers, was in evidence.

ghosts by szalt | moryork gallery, highland park | march 8

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God dances. Bow down!

Dance · featured

At arts·meme, we feel no need to publish the words ‘Fred Astaire.’ We believe that the shortened appellation, “god,” will suffice.

Here the 70-year old hoofer (now-in-hoofer-heaven) gets pulled, ever reluctantly, into a solo performance by the likes of Bob Hope, this at the 1970 Academy Awards show at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

His brilliant solo (we love his Mickey Mouse ears and his chicken walk) seems at first glance to be improvised, but given our knowledge of god’s perfectionist work ethic, we are certain it was highly rehearsed.

Here’s to the great dance history of Los Angeles! So much of it in the film industry!

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Leon Bakst, Russian design genius, returns to Southern California

Dance · Fashion · Film

bakst-beautyWe await with great anticipation our voyage southward along Ye Olde 405 Freeway to Segerstrom Center for the Arts to experience the newly mounted production of “The Sleeping Beauty” — a joyous celebration of American Ballet Theatre’s 75th anniversary, choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky based upon original choreography by Marius Petipa.

This production is a partnership between ABT and Teatro alla Scala that will move from Orange County to the Metropolitan Opera in May and onward to La Scala in September.

Primary among our high expectations is new costume design by Richard Hudson, 350 – 400 costumes that have been created (with modern updates of fabric and cut) as inspired by the past, viz., by the costumes of Léon Bakst (1866-1924) that were used in Diaghilev’s infamous staging of “The Sleeping Princess” for the Ballets Russes in London in 1921.

But ABT’s new “Beauty” is far from Southern California’s first opportunity to bask in Bakst! The great man journeyed to our fair climes in 1924 … ninety years ago … to deliver a lecture series following his “Beauty”ful achievement for Diaghilev. (It was, alas, the year of Bakst’s death.)

bakst-newspaperThis we learned from “The Art of Concealing Imperfection: Léon Bakst and Southern California,” an essay co-authored by John E. Bowlt and Elizabeth Durst and just published in “Kinetic Los Angeles: Russian Emigres in the City of Self-Transformation,” the latest volume of “Experiment,” a journal of the Institute of Modern Russian Culture at the University of Southern California.

According to the scholarly but never stuffy essay, the great art designer gave three lectures in February 1924, respectively, at the Biltmore Hotel downtown, Bovard Auditorium at USC and then in Pasadena. He delivered a pre-prepared text, in French, using a translator.

The image at left (click on it for detail) shows that Bakst’s lecture series ranked below the main cultural event in town: the screening of Cecil B. DeMille’s (first version of two) THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1924).

But the announcement sits firmly atop news of a boxing match between Sid Barbarian and Phil Salvadore. The L.A. Times got that right.

Bakst came to L.A. to make a few bucks. Who didn’t? In the essay, he is quoted:

I spit upon honor, glory, kindnesses and receptions. I’ve come to America to augment my capital. I’m quite indifferent to everything else.

Although the essay recounts Bakst’s deep frustration in collecting his proper fee, it also describes his rich experience dressing wealthy women and chic movie stars like Nita Naldi, as well as the design inspiration he received from the visual world of native Americans.

The Sleeping Beauty | American Ballet Theatre | Segerstrom Center for the Arts | Mar 3 – 8

EXPERIMENT 20, “Kinetic Los Angeles: Russian Émigrés in the City of Self-Transformation” | Brill Publishers


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featured · Film
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Dance · featured
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