Weather report: It’s raining female artists in Los Angeles


Nadezhda Tolokonnikova in live performance with PussyRiot at The Broad Stage, photo by Ben Gibbs

We’ve had some crazy tumultuous storms lately in Los Angeles, a weather pattern augured to continue as women are seizing the stages of the city’s performing arts centers. For a mighty wind of female fabulousness — and fury — has landed in Los Angeles and it’s not going anywhere for a long time. Speak up, ladies. You have the bully pulpit.

Terrorizing the normally staid Broad Stage Monday night, as the performance component of a pithy art-talk evening, were Russian schoolgirls-from-hell, PussyRiot, howling, kicking, writhing, moaning, and speaking in tongues as masked marauders while frightening memes flashed in wall projections. The cacophonous sound and the sight — on a nearly unlit stage — of their twitching figures I found to be a most powerful experience.


At The Wallis, Danielle Agami, a high priestess of Gaga movement, presents her Ate9 Dance this weekend, February 15-16. Concert has live music and a premiere, “Blind Lady.” An exotic protegee of Ohad Naharin oozing truth-in-movement, Agami caught my eye with her eccentric and excellent dancing during her first years in Los Angeles, but I have yet to get a bead on her group work. Looking forward to doing so Saturday night.

Pepperdine’s Smothers Theatre is the venue, Tuesday March 6, to bid farewell to Jessica Lang Dance as the dance-friendly house on a high hill in Malibu is part of the company’s 19-city final tour. This regrettable event, the closure of her troupe, announced last November, can only be mitigated by showing up to see her work.

Known for her highly structured, thrusting and rhythmic, space-slicing movement constructed on a balletic ‘base,’ Lang has completed commissions for American Ballet Theatre, American Ballet Theatre, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet and the National Ballet of Japan. But as with the work of most choreographers it’s incomparably superior to see it on her own selected dancers — honed and practiced in her style.

martha graham

Martha Graham, the mother of us all, will not quite be smiling, as her longtime associate and lover Louis Horst famously called her “Mirthless Martha.”

But surely she will be proud when her company rolls out its “EVE” project, commemorating the onset (onslaught?) of the 19th amendment giving American women the right to vote, one hundred years ago.

That takes place at our most beautiful house in southern California, the Younes & Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts, in Northridge, aka The Soraya.

It will be my pleasure to conduct a pre-performance interview with the creative team of the lengthy and jam-packed program at The Soraya. It’s a Grahamathon.

pam tanowitz choreographer

Chatting with me under the watchful eye of the theater’s executive director Thor Steingraber,who absolutely revels in presenting stimulating, complex evenings of art, will be Graham Company Artistic Director Janet Eilber, alongside the conductor and artistic leader of wildUp, new music group, Christopher Rountree.

We need a token man, Chris!

A special guest on this panel is a friend of artsmeme, the very now and with-it choreographer Pam Tanowitz, who after decades of dues-paying — because in general women have to work harder — is garnering kudos, commissions, and awards everywhere. On March 2, Pam will join me in conversation on the happy occasion of the world premiere of her new, commissioned work on the Graham Company. Pay attention, L.A. gets the work before New York does.

There are so many other prominent women artists on view. Certainly the great Annie Leibovitz‘s massive compendium at Hauser & Wirth (our writing here) falls in this category. But I cannot close without making brief reference to an indelible experience, seeing a long-repressed live-concert documentary, directed by Sydney Pollack but never released, of a two-evening recording session of Aretha Franklin‘s “Amazing Grace” gospel album in a homely black church in South Los Angeles. The film captures the majestic-yet-humble queen at her soulful pinnacle, in 1979. It made for a very special opening night of the Pan-African Film and Arts Festival, celebrating 27 years of existence. It was my first attendance of this very lively, beautiful and important festival — and the good vibes, great-looking audience, and delicious South African meritage wine all spun a room already under the intoxication of Aretha’s spellbinding voice.

lady soul

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