By Victoria Looseleaf
It’s been quite a year, 2015. Amid all of the glorious highs, there were, however, a number of nadir-like lows – personally, globally, politically and the like. But we carried on in our humble tradition of dance/theater/film/art/music/opera/party-going!
There was, as well, literature: Great reads like Ta-Nehisi Coates‘ Between The World And Me and Sally Mann‘s memoir, Hold Still. Then there was our first book of poetry, Isn’t It Rich? A Novella In Verse, published by the eminently fabulous Gordy Grundy. After writing about thousands of you folks over the years, we would love it if you would now scribble a few words about, well, us. Click here for the Amazon link (the book is available in softcover and on Kindle), and stay tuned for a sked of our upcoming readings/performances/staged events!
In no particular order, then, we would like to list the best performances we saw this year, beginning with Louise Lecavalier at CAP UCLA. (Read our Fjord Review here.) We’d covered Louise a number of times when she was the star of La La La Human Steps, and also wrote about her from Aix-En-Provence, after she’d struck out on her own. Her show, So Blue, with Frédéric Tavernini, was a non-stop, full-throttle terpsichorean rush. Also at Royce Hall: the wondrous Iranian vocalist/composer/multi-media artist, Sussan Deyhim, who performed The House Is Black last January, giving gorgeous voice to the long-deceased poet Forough Farrokhzad.
It was a huge year for Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre as her troupe turned 30. We helped celebrate the milestone by going to – and writing about – most of her performances, including Parts and Labor Redux, Space Opera (photo at right), Chinatown Blues and Sophie & Charlie: A Dance Telenovela.
We loved Hydrogen Jukebox at Long Beach Opera, directed by our pal David Schweizer, who will be helming Bernstein’s Candide next month for LBO. (Btw: We’ll be there!) Operas seemed to be busting out all over, with L.A. Opera, also mounting a bevy of good ones, including the first act of Corigliano’s Ghosts of Versailles, a fabulous Barber of Seville and a Marriage of Figaro. LAO, also celebrating three decades, presented a magnificently sung Norma, with the titular druid queen, Angela Meade, quite a formidable soprano. (We remember LAO‘s 1996 staging, when tenor José Cura blew Jane Eaglen’s Norma out of the water. We also recall our interview with the hunky Argentine, who was then being hyped as the “Schwarzenneger of opera,” so we insisted upon talking with him in a, er, gym – and shirtless, to boot. We’re still looking for those pics and will be the first to post them, so not to worry!)
And who could forget the incredibly witty Sandra Tsing Loh, who premiered her solo show, The B**** Is Back at The Broad Stage’s Edye, which she turned into a cabaret room in July. Kudos, also, to Ms. Loh for adapting her hysterical 2014 book, The Madwoman In The Volvo, for the stage, premiering Jan. 3-24 at South Coast Repertory. A memoir of the trials of menopause, the play stars Loh along with Caroline Aaron and Brooke Adams. We digress: The incomparable Ms. Loh gave us a brilliant jacket quote for our book, dubbing it, no less, “A hilarious, sparkling and rowdy Looseleaves Of Grass!” We’ll take it!
We also loved BalletNow at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, with Roberto Bolle (left) and Herman Cornejo pulling out all the stops with this gala-like show in July. Also on our list of highs at the Music Center this year: Ate9 Dance Company in Moves After Dark, as well as Hubbard Street Dance Chicago/Second City, for whom we did the pre-concert talks. This was a brilliant, offbeat, funny collaboration that should tour the world. Since we were at the Ahmanson, chatting up Glenn Edgerton and various Second City peeps, including Executive VP Kelly Leonard and the show’s director, Billy Bungeroth (below, the troupes in The Art of Falling), we could not be in Irvine to help celebrate Rudy Perez receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award. On the cusp of 86, this postmodern pioneer also made a new work that his ensemble premiered.
Another noteworthy Music Center presentation was Alexei Ratmansky’s Cinderella, a production we loved, in no small part because Diana Vishneva was the woe-begotten chambermaid. We were, however, sorry to see Renae Williams Niles leave her long-time post at the Center, but do enjoy bumping into her at various cultural events around town.
And how fortunate were we to have chatted up Bill T. Jones in March for his collaboration with Anne Bogart’s SITI Company and their performance, A Rite, also at CAP UCLA, and one we adored. Bill T. then popped up again in October at the Carpenter Center in Long Beach with his Story/Time (right, photo by Paul B. Goode), an homage of sorts to John Cage. (Speaking of Cage, our recording of his 1948 mini-masterpiece, In A Landscape also popped up the other day on Google Alerts, so have a listen here. It’s the solo harp version from our first album, Harpnosis®.)
This year our wonderful and supremely talented friend, Kate Johnson, won an Emmy Award, along with Maria Ramas, Ted Sprague and Brenda Brkusic (the latter two are KCET producers), for their fantastic doc, Mia, A Dancer’s Journey. Johnson also directed Everywhere In Between at Bergamot Station, where we debuted nine poems, along with Lili Haydn accompanying us on violin for a few of the poems that have been hailed as, “tiny gems” – and not by us!
In short, we were thrilled to be on the bill that also included Johnson’s gorgeous short film, Michael Intriere‘s cello-playing, Pennington Dance Group, Kate Crash and the UFO Club (left), as well as Haydn’s band, including Itai Disraeli and friends.
It was from this reading – along with Lita Albuquerque and Carey Peck’s annual Pasta & Poetry Party – that our book, Isn’t It Rich? was born. It’s all about timing…so look for us at Albuquerque‘s January 9 Kohn Gallery opening, as well as at USC Fisher Museum of Art on January 24. Congrats to Ms. Albuquerque, with whom we ushered in 2016, along with hubby CP and dozens of her terrific compatriots.
Our longtime friend (we’re both from Cleve), John Fleck, triumphed big-time in October in his show, Blacktop Highway at REDCAT (left), as did Camille A. Brown & Dancers in December.
Backtracking a bit: The unforgettable Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker (left, Rosas danst Rosas, image via ATDK), was at Royce Hall for a week of performances, with four different shows beginning November 10. It also happened that two concerts were before November 13, one on that horrendous night after Paris had been attacked, and the final show on Saturday, November 14. CAP UCLA’s Kristy Edmunds gave an impassioned speech before the last two performances (the same week that she gave us a brilliant, on-target quote for our book, Isn’t It Rich?). We love Kristy and REDCAT’s Mark Murphy, and wrote a lengthy story on them, along with the Bootleg Theater’s Jessica Hanna, for KCET Artbound, so please check it out. Artsjournal.com did!
September arrived with a bang – literally, for us – when DIAVOLO | Architecture in Motion™ (right), gave the North American premiere of L’Espace du Temps (The Space of Time), accompanied by New West Symphony and conducted by wild Up’s music director, Christopher Rountree, at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC).
We had a blast at the pre-concert dinner, schmoozing with Diavolo director Jacques Heim, LA Phil VP, Chad Smith, our innovative collaborator on ART NOW, Larry Gilbert, and VPAC director, Thor Steingraber, when, mere minutes before the concert began, we tripped on some steps and sprained our ankle, breaking a small bone, as well. Ouch! We were in bed all week, which coincided with the Pope‘s visit (below), making our pain delirium tenfold…or not!
Thanks, though, to dance goddesses Roxanne Steinberg and Sarah Elgart (we weren’t able to see Elgart‘s June performance at Mass MOCA, where she collaborated with Wilco‘s Nels Cline and painter Norton Wisdom as part of the museum’s Solid Sound Festival, but were happy to write about Elgart for her Dare To Dance In Public Online Film Festival). The two angels helped wrap and ice our foot after we got situated in our loge seat, where we could at least elevate the crushed limb), but it was not a pretty picture. Thanks, also, to VPAC’s Terence McFarland for his immediate aide on the aforementioned steps.
Steinberg appeared earlier in the year with husband Oguri and the legendary Simone Forti in a most satisfying Flower of the Season chapter at the Electric Lodge. Steinberg’s sister, Morleigh Steinberg, also danced a mesmerizing duet with Oguri at the Lodge in October, one of our first outings on our hobbled foot.
October and November also saw Yuval Sharon and The Industry’s audaciously brilliant opera for 24 cars, Hopscotch (right), with choreography by Danielle Agami, performed by her troupe, Ate9. We were fortunate to have gone on all three routes, which absolutely and unequivocally, boggled the mind. This opera, with more than 100 performers and dozens and dozens of behind-the-scenes’ workers, could only have been dreamed up – and performed – in L.A. We’re so grateful Sharon has been an Angeleno since founding The Industry here in 2010.
We’re also happy to report that Salon 3.0, co-hosted by the lovely and talented Joanna Cottrell, had five memorable events over the year, with a long list of artists participating. Included were Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre, author/artist/actor Mary Woronov, Sussan Deyhim, percussionist/multi-media artist, Amy Knoles, painter/photographer Harry B. Chandler, Lili Haydn, muralist Andre Miripolsky and others. Indeed, our next Salon 3.0 is in February and promises to be equally spectacular, one dictum being, “No Plastic Chairs!” (Photo, above left, by our cousin, Stephen Fisch)
A more recent performance caught us by surprise, and that was the not-to-be-believed concert featuring kids from Seven Arrows Elementary School and Sheenway School and Culture Center, performing Alvin Ailey’s Revelations for their Winter Festival. All hail Elsa Chahin and Alejandra Llorente for their brilliant choreographic adaptation. Shout-outs, as well, go to 7 Arrows’ head, Margarita Pagliai and Sheenway‘s, Dolores Sheen, aka “Aunt Dolores.” We’re still awestruck thinking about it, but, fortunately, have our reportage to remind us that hope, indeed, still exists. We also want to give our heartfelt congratulations to our chum, the innovative choreographic genius, Matthew Bourne, who was knighted several days ago. Bravo, Sir Bourne, and hurry back to Los Angeles! (Photo below by Gary Leonard, 1997, taken after the first of many an interview we’ve done with our favorite terpsichorean Knight in shining – and tulle – armor!)
For brevity’s sake, we aren’t mentioning many of the fine books (save for those already touted above, our own among them), movies, symphonies, art exhibitions, TV shows (on Netflix and beyond, we have to admit that we loved Narcos and Making A Murderer, our Berkeley criminology degree finally coming into play, as well as Jill Soloway‘s Transparency), and/or museums that were also published, released, performed and opened in this strangely chaotic, but more often than not – beautiful year.
NB: We thank you for having gotten this far in our post!
But alas, the year did begin on a particularly sad note, when one of our closet friends, Renaissance Man, Taylor Negron, passed away. Not a day goes by that we don’t think of him and, in fact, were fortunate to be on the bill at The Comedy Store in February to help celebrate his vibrant and full life. We also dedicate Isn’t It Rich? to the memory of Tay, as well as to our mother, brother and nephew, Dylan Edwards, who passed away in May at age 19 – wty – way too young. Rachel Rosenthal, the Taj Mahal of performance artists, also passed in May. And just a few weeks ago, Holly Woodlawn died. She and Rachel were both on our TV show, The Looseleaf Report, so, in another digression, we are excited to say that actor/producer Kenneth Hughes, has been going great guns on the documentary he is producing on us and our TV show – Victoria Looseleaf: LA Provocatuer, Cultural Catalyst & International Arts Journalist, but more about that later! We’re also sending lots of love and light to one of the most beautiful people on the planet, Mr. RB, who has been undergoing a number of medical procedures. Here’s to you, dear friend!
In closing, then, we would like to dedicate this post to those friends and relatives who left us, and to all of the precious souls who lost their lives in senseless attacks, shootings and acts of terrorism.
It’s a scary world these days, for sure, but art, beauty and love help us carry on (left, Louise Lecavalier by André Cornellier). Here’s to another year gone, with 2016 having made a splendid entrance from the wings.
And speaking of wings, we were ecstatic to be one of 32 portraits in Gary Leonard‘s and Colette Miller‘s gorgeous exhibition, City of Angels, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
In short, have a beautiful and wondrous 2016, with all your dreams fulfilled, and that love is the main ingredient in this wild stew we call life…