Dance-movie delirium, as vibrant posters invade Pillow

Dance · Film

Blake's Barn: Installation by co-curators Mike Kaplan, Norton Owen


Russia: OKLAHOMA! (MGM, 1955)


Denmark: MY SISTER EILEEN (Columbia, 1955)


France: HONOLULU (MGM, 1939)


Denmark: DAMN YANKEES (Warner Bros, 1955)

molly brown



Sweden: GIRL FROM MAXIM’s (London Films, 1933)


Poland: THE ENTERTAINER (Woodfall Studio, 1960)


Denmark: BELLE OF NEW YORK (MGM, 1952)


Denmark: THE GAY DIVORCEE (RKO, 1934)

Four years have passed since Mike Kaplan, an art director, marketing strategist, film producer and friend of arts·meme (FOAM), shared his hugely popular collection of dance movie posters at Jacob’s Pillow, GOTTA DANCE. Now, in certified Hollywood tradition, that exhibition has spawned a sequel. GOTTA DANCE TOO now hangs in the Pillow’s Blake’s Barn, displaying a fabulous, high-energy round of splendid and rare dance-movie posters. 

Distinctive for its international breadth, Kaplan’s collection reminds us that dance is a universal language. Its diversity of styles and genres shows how the moving body has been used to market both musical and non-musical films.

Major dance and musical stars are represented, from Gene Kelly,  Donald O’Connor, Al Jolson and Maurice Chevalier to Josephine Baker, Cyd Charisse, Rita Hayworth and Ginger Rogers. 

An added bonus: John Wayne dances! So do Cary Grant, Olivia de Havilland, Anna May Wong, Laurence Olivier, Marlene Dietrich. Kaplan, in his collecting and curation, expands the definition of dance in the service of movie marketing to include any highly activated, enlivened body. So, choreographers, listen up! Listen to Hollywood: Dance sells!

GOTTA DANCE TOO | Jacob’s Pillow | thru Aug 26

leave a comment



Review: ABT’s Mistyfying ‘La Bayadere’ disappoints 2

Dance · Featured · Reviews

Let’s start at the end: During curtain calls at American Ballet Theatre’s “La Bayadère” Friday night at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, ballerina Isabella Boylston gave her bouquet to her partner Jeffrey Cirio with a deferential flourish. Then, in a strange, gender-bending moment, she and third lead Misty Copeland curtsied, and curtsied some more to Cirio, before pushing him forward to acknowledge the applause. The women were so right. As the warrior Solor, Cirio was the star of an uneven and disappointing evening.

“La Bayadère” isn’t a great ballet. Set in India and choreographed by Marius Petipa, it premiered at Russia’s Mariinsky Theater in 1877 when Indian exoticism was the rage. The great Natalia Makarova lovingly staged this ballet of her youth at ABT in 1980, and it is all melodrama, mime and grandiose Hindu temples, with bursts of technical variations for corps and leads alike.

We so wanted homegrown star and ABT diversity poster-child Copeland to shine, even in the thankless role of Gamzatti (thankless for its dearth of dancing and its overload of imperious posing and posturing). She didn’t. We wanted Boylston to move us as the lovelorn and sensual temple dancer, Nikiya, whom Solor ditches for Gamzatti. Boylston got there, but not consistently.

Most of all, we wanted the ballet’s clunky journey to be redeemed by the famous Act II Kingdom of the Shades scene. In Petipa’s sublime choreography, corps de ballet dancers in white tutus file down a ramp to execute an extended, repeating pattern of simple steps and arabesques, all in exacting unison. It should be breathtaking in its technical purity. It wasn’t. The ramp was foreshortened and visually undramatic, and there were only 24 dancers instead of the traditional 32. The first dancer wobbled in arabesque and she wasn’t alone. Arms weren’t always coordinated. Legs were at different heights in the line up at the end. At times the dancers were carefully precise but it wasn’t enough to evoke the spiritual catharsis we’d hoped for. Which is hugely disappointing since the shades scene is the primary reason to see “Bayadere.”

The first cast in Makarova’s staging for ABT featured Anthony Dowell as Solor, Cynthia Harvey as Gamzatti and Makarova herself as Nikiya. Ah, sweet memories of truly great dancers and the golden days of ballet in America. We were there.

But I digress. Back to the much-applauded, bouqueted-and-kissed Cirio. (Yes, Boylston and Copeland gave him big smooches too.) Cirio is a short, compact dancer in the Baryshnikov mold with high, light jumps, at ease in multiple turns and no hiccups in transitions and landings. His variations were the highlight of the night. His acting wasn’t particularly heartfelt, but it’s hard to show any subtlety of feeling in a ballet as hammy as this one.

As for Boylston, there were moments when I could see Makarova’s stamp: for instance, in her first few languorous steps. They were simple and sensual, lingering just past the musical beat as if stretching it out, a technique that makes one acutely aware of both the quality of the movement and its relationship to the Minkus score. She performed the difficult scarf dance dutifully and was languidly heartbroken in her Act III solo.

Joseph Gorak as The Bronze Idol showed off some beautiful leaps in this cameo role, but again, the brief and random technical wowiness carried no narrative value.

Then there was Copeland. As the first African American to be promoted to principal at ABT she has broken an important tutu ceiling and she deserves credit for wearing that mantle with passion and grace. But on Friday she seemed flat, cautious, earthbound and especially off in the last act. Was it another injury? A bad day in a hamstrung role? Or just the dancer she is these days? Either way it was a disappointment.

American Ballet Theatre’s magnificent history teems with some of ballet’s 20th and 21st century greats. I used to love the company a lot more than I do now. And being a lovesick critic is a sad thing.

photo credits: Isabella Boylston & Jeffrey Cirio (Rosalie O’Connor);  
Joseph Gorak (Marty Sohl); Scene shot (Gene Schiavone)

Gillian Anne Renault has written about dance for the Los Angeles Daily News, Herald Examiner and artsATL in Atlanta.

leave a comment



Isabel Emrich’s refracting beauty, in solo show 1

Featured · Visual arts
Gallery openings can be uncomfortable affairs, with too many bodies jammed into small, unventilated spaces. Painter Isabel Emrich’s “Progressions” opening last weekend at Skidmore Contemporary Art at Bergamot Station was no exception, but the work itself provided a visual oasis from the oppressive heat and humidity. It’s her second one-woman show at Skidmore — always ...



The art of the jazz song: Tadd Dameron for Sarah Vaughan 2

Featured · Music
Ed. note: Guest writer Mark Miller deconstructs a jazz standard, “If You Could See Me Now,” for our appreciation. Music: Tadd Dameron Lyrics: Carl Sigman Jazz panist Tadd Dameron was known for his lyricism, an ironic attribute for an important bebop musician. Widely recognized as the bop era’s definitive arranger/composer, Dameron concocted this distinctive ballad ...

Marsha Hunt’s nobility, talent and patriotism on view in documentary

In 1935, 17-year-old aspiring actress Marsha Hunt signed with Paramount Pictures and went on to a flourishing career at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. She made 54 films in 17 years, notably Pride and Prejudice (1940) and Raw Deal (1948). Then she was blacklisted. After that rude life-and-career interruption, she championed humanitarian causes as one of Hollywood’s first celebrity activists. A documentary, ...

‘arts·meme nation’ fetes the nation’s holiday 3

Featured · Language & ideas
 A July 2 gathering of creative Angelenos was first and foremost a super-fun ‘blog party.’ But lurking at the periphery was uncertainty. In an unsettling situation for our country, truths assumed to be self evident are revealed to not be universally held. Those values have been shaken give the incursions — philosophical, commercial, even life-threatening — ...

REVIEW: Liza Minnelli, Michael Feinstein enchant at Segerstrom 4

Featured · Music · Reviews
I never saw Judy Garland in performance. I was fifteen in 1969 when she last played in Copenhagen. Now I wish I had gone. But Saturday night, I got a frisson of that Garland feeling, when in a first, I attended Liza Minnelli’s show at Segerstrom Center for the Arts. The legendary singer delivered a ...

The look of jazz: Warhol-designed album covers

Architecture & Design · Music · Visual arts
Before he became the king of pop art, Pittsburgh native Andy Warhol moved to New York to make it. Warhol wanted to be part of the elite strata inhabited by Gore Vidal, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams and other sanctioned artists. He didn’t have what it took to be admitted to those circles but he did ...

‘Bolshoi Ballet Summer Series’ leads off with Polunin/Zakharova ‘Giselle’

Dance · Film
‘Bolshoi Ballet Summer Series’, coming to movie theaters nationwide soon presents Ballet’s ‘Big-Three’ full-evening classical works on subsequent Mondays in July. The series, presented by Fathom Events, includes July 9, Giselle, cast, Svetlana Zakharova, Sergei Polunin July 16, Romeo and Juliet July 23, Swan Lake All performances were captured live from the Bolshoi Theatre stage ...

L.A. visits the wilds of Africa. Not!

All those cities calling themselves urban jungles simply do not have a clue. They are just pretending. We’ve got the real deal — Tarzan’s jungle! That’s what the Los Angeles County Arboretum is telling us. And on June 30, they are throwing a party steeped in jungle love. That’s ‘cuz  Baldwin Lake, part of the ...