Ted VanCleave’s tough photographic vision of Los Angeles

Architecture & Design · Visual arts

concrete porn buildings and bridges 132 artsmeme

Griffith Observatory

concrete porn buildings and bridges 154 artsmeme

Buena Vista Street Bridge

concrete porn buildings and bridges 158 artsmeme

Cosmo Lofts, Hollywood

concrete porn buildings and bridges 150 artsmeme

Saint Basil Catholic Church, Wilshire Blvd

concrete porn buildings and bridges 122 artsmeme

Freeway overpass, light streaming through drain hole

concrete porn buildings and bridges 140 artsmeme

Arroyo Seco Bridge, Pasadena

concrete porn buildings and bridges 136 artsmeme

Twin Freeway Ramps

concrete porn buildings and bridges 128 artsmeme

Pacific Design Center's Blue Building

concrete porn buildings and bridges 110 artsmeme

Rooftop, Hollywood

concrete porn buildings and bridges 120 artsmeme

Theme Building, LAX

concrete porn buildings and bridges 108 artsmeme

Theme Building, LAX

concrete porn buildings and bridges 102 artsmeme

Theme Building, LAX

I deeply respond to photographer Ted VanCleave’s recent “Concrete Porn ~ Buildings & Bridges” series, a visual homage to that most unyielding of building mediums, concrete.

“My love of concrete architecture began when I visited the Pantheon in Rome. I was in awe of the beautiful, massive concrete dome which is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome, two thousand years after it was built,” writes VanCleave in a statement.

The Miami-based photographer’s impressive visual tour depicts L.A. not in  typical terms — soft blue sky, tall palm trees, limitless open space — but as an imposing, delineated and hard-core concrete jungle.

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Great performances overcome ‘Otello’ racist legacy @ ENO 1

featured · Music · Reviews

ENO Otello - Allan Clayton (c) Alastair Muir
I find Shakepeare’s Othello problematic in the extreme, all the racist references in the text, the historic use of blackface, the desperate fragility of a black man so easily duped by a white conniver, the hysteria around strong and bestial black hands closing around the white neck of the blameless Desdemona, even more so when the hands in question acquired their color by birth rather than burnt cork. The only interpretation I’ve ever been able to celebrate was the meditation on Desdemona’s side of the story by Toni Morrison, Peter Sellars and Rokia Traore.

ENO Otello - Leah Crocetto 2 (c) Alastair MuirSo I’d never heard let alone seen the Verdi opera, but when I learned that my beloved English National Opera was mounting a production employing white tenor Stuart Skelton in the notoriously challenging title role, I was… upset. On the one hand: no reflection on the merits of Skelton whom I’d seen triumph in Peter Grimes, Fidelio and Dutchman, but wouldn’t this have been a wonderful chance for a tenor of color? Was there really no one up to the task? Were they going to employ blackface? In London? In 2014? I’d even considered taking my crusader cap off its shelf and making a public fuss.

But on the other hand: as a supporter of color-blind casting, as someone wanting qualified singers of color to have access to Tristan and any number of Countesses, wouldn’t denying the likes of Skelton access to Otello smack of hypocrisy? I couldn’t get past the blackface issue, though, and decided to sit this one out, until I learned the week before that crime against all that I hold dear wouldn’t be perpetrated. I put in a late bid for tickets and so was in the audience on opening night when ENO Music Director Ed Gardner initiated an absolutely thrilling 2 ½ hours with Otello’s opening storm.

David Alden’s production is all dark, hard edges. Having foregone Shakespeare’s first Venetian act (and thereby the most virulently racist exchanges), the action in Arrigo Boito’s libretto is confined to the fortress on Cyprus following Otello’s victory against the Turks where there’s no softness at all save the lusciousness of Leah Crocetto’s Desdemona. Even the infamous bed is absent; caresses occur on the cold, stone floor, murders as well; the only sources of light a small hearth flame occasionally from that floor and the subdued glow of an icon, later serving as a dart board for Iago. (A rather superfluous vulgarity I thought. We’ve already clocked the man as the Devil Incarnate.)

ENO Otello -Stuart Skelton and Jonathan Summers 2 (c) Alastair Muir
The singing is magnificent. From his first banner-carrying entrance, Skelton is all conquering. Though traces remain of his “dusky lips” and Desdemona’s ivory everything in the text, what we have is a man who’s achieved liberation and found glory as a warrior, who can fight, lust and love with both focus and abandon, but has no subtlety about him, no capacity for, or understanding of, the complexities of human motivations, least of all in regards to guile. Skelton is ably supported by Jonathan Summers’ rasping gnome of an Iago and the innocent, humane and ultimately wise Crocetto. All this with the passionate intricacies of Verdi’s score hurtling from the pit under Gardner’s fiery baton.

The season opening evening was an unmitigated triumph. I left the Coli with all senses tingling, would love to see it again; and yet, and yet… For all my disquiet with the gnarly trope that is The Moor of Venice, I can’t help but wonder in this time — when fear, loathing and desire to destroy the black male body is still so part of our zeitgeist — what will be added when an intellectually as well as musically able Black tenor and a director of commensurate gifts are able to tackle the harsh racial realities that are at its core with insight resulting in further revelation. I live in hope.

photos: ENO, credit, Alastair Muir

Candace Allen is the author of Soul Music The Pulse of Race and Music. She lives in London.

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arts·meme to bring dance, and more, to moma oct 26-27

Dance · Film · Visual arts

I am thrilled to announce my participation in two wonderful events hosted by the hallowed film department of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It is the 12th annual “To Save and Project” film preservation festival. The two events fall in the Festival’s opening weekend.

Moma-front doorThe first, the afternoon of Sunday October 26, 2014, is a screening of LA RAGAZZA DI BUBE (BEBO’S GIRL, 1964), made in Italy fifty years ago by director Luigi Comencini and starring Claudia Cardinale, Marc Michel and George Chakiris. It’s a sensitive drama set in post-war Italy, the beautifully told story of a heart-rending love triangle. Cardinale and Chakiris are exceptional in the film together.

Prior to the “Bebo” screening, it is my privilege to interview Mr. Chakiris concerning his long career in the performing arts — as a dancer, singer and actor, both on stage, screen and in the Capitol Records recording studio.

As Mr. Chakiris is a great American dancer and I am a dance critic, there is going to be a lot of step-ball-change and grand jeté in our conversation along with film talk!

madamsatan_390The following evening, Monday October 27, 2014, I will give a presentation on the making of a unique film, Cecil B. DeMille’s MADAM SATAN (MGM, 1930), the director’s first and only movie musical created in close collaboration with dancer-actor Theodore Kosloff. Prior to the MoMA screening, I’ll give a fun talk about the relationship between the two men, with special focus on how Kosloff came to dance in the movie’s exceptional dance sequence as “The Spirit of Electricity.”

The nearly indescribable MADAM SATAN needs to be seen to believed, steeped as it is in Art Deco production design, notorious pre-code costumes by Adrian; it’s a parlor drama peppered in occasional song and dance. The movie’s centerpiece party sequence, in a tethered Zeppelin that goes unhinged, a flop in its day, has garnered DeMille increasing respect over the years.

Detailed information and ticket link coming soon.

To Save and Project” | Museum of Modern Art, New York City | Oct 24 – Nov 22, 2014

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Critic’s round-up: Indian Jazz Suites, Laguna’s ‘Stars of Dance’

Dance · featured · Reviews
L.A.’s big dance weekend — it had the dance-infatuated scampering up the heights of Bunker Hill, across the Cahuenga Pass and down Laguna way — has come to its close. Certainly the big draw of the weekend was the launch of a new contemporary dance company, Ezralow Dance, an event that also closed the Ford Amphitheatre ...

Flying men of Hollywood dance

Dance · Film
Is it a bird? Is is a plane? No, it’s a Hollywood dance man, flying. Like this? Read more: Ailey guys fly

Review: Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre’s “Dancing at Dunbar”

Architecture & Design · Dance · featured · Reviews
“It’s site-specific work, so feel free to walk around so you can see,” offered choreographer Heidi Duckler at the outset of Saturday night’s “Dancing at Dunbar” performance by Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre. In doing so, she encouraged her audience to remain active during the site-driven dance event. A full spectrum of Duckler fans and curiosity-seekers ...

James Cagney studied ballet with Theodore Kosloff 2

Dance · featured · Film
In my soon-published long essay, “Theodore Kosloff and Cecil B. DeMille Meet Madam Satan,” (part of a journal, “Experiment” vol. 20, of the Institute of Contemporary Russian Culture, University of Southern California, November 2014), I write as follows: James Cagney, too, studied ballet with Kosloff, or so the actor-hoofer let drop to the Los Angeles ...

Good God, Universal! Save Stage 28.

Architecture & Design · Film
Does anyone have extra space in their basement or attic? Universal Pictures has something it needs to store … It’s the ornate set replicating the interior of the Paris Opera House (Palais Garnier) which now sits like a big immovable rock in Universal’s Sound Stage 28. The set, constructed in 1924 for filming silent-movie classic ...

Breeding hybrid artists at USC’s new dance department 2

Dance · featured
Very pleased to have contributed the cover story to DANCE TEACHER Magazine September 2014 issue …. “Breeding Hybrids.” Excerpt here: The news came as a shock, a pleasant one. On May 7, the Glorya Kaufman School of Dance at the University of Southern California, on the cusp of taking in its first crop of BFA ...

Fred Astaire, pianist

Dance · Music
On this Labor Day weekend 2014, why not let Fred Astaire, pianist (and, oh yes, dancer), do all the work? Yet another incredible Fred Astaire dance sequence, this one from LET’S DANCE (1950). Just love Fred’s little ballet barre opening the number … then he gives a whirlwind “site-specific” dance tour of two pianos! Like ...