A Year of Shock, Awe & Art

By Victoria Looseleaf

If it weren’t for the unfathomable results of the 2016 election – with the winner henceforth referred to as “he whose name shall not be spoken” – this year actually did have a number of marvelous and significant highs. But with the pall cast over the land – indeed, over most parts of the world – it is sometimes hard to be optimistic in the face of moral bankruptcy, divisiveness, greed, fascism, and, well, the list, unfortunately, goes on.

That is precisely why the arts are needed now more than ever. And it is the arts – dance, music, visual, literary, anything that feeds one’s soul – that gave 2016 a beautiful sheen and raison d’être.


Here, then, is our list of the best the arts had to offer – in no particular order. For the lovers of Terpsichore, please click here for our Fjord Review.



That said, though, we again applaud Jacques Heim and his troupe, DIAVOLO | Architecture in Motion™, on Ibuki, The Veterans Project, Phase One, and look forward to Phase 2 in the coming year (photo, right, George Simian). WIFEJasmine Albuquerque, Kristen Leahy and Nina McNeely – also blew us away, with its indelible imagery still bringing a measure of mental respite (photo above, Lou Becker).

One of our favorite spaces is REDCAT, where we spend so much time that it sometimes feels like our second home. Of the many memorable performances we saw there last year was Isabelle Schad’s nude solo, Der Bau (The Burrow). Choreographed by her and Laurent Goldring, the work featured the fearless German wrestling with fabric while also conjuring visceral tableaux as she deployed task-oriented moves as if possessed.

Another solo that boggled the mind: Lisa Dwan, magnificent in Beckett Trilogy at the Broad Stage, performed three short plays by Irish playwright Samuel Beckett with dazzling speed and depth, capturing the author’s heavy dose of trenchant wit and blistering irony.

Beckett also didn’t get any better than Endgame, with Alan Mandell, Barry McGovern, James Greene and Charlotte Rae raising the roof off the Kirk Douglas Theatre in this Center Theatre Group production directed by a then 88-year old Mandell.

Good opera also abounded this year (click here for our KCET Artbound story on opera in unusual spaces), with Long Beach Opera presenting Leonard Bernstein’s Candide, helmed by one of our favorites, David Schweizer. The divine soprano Jamie Chamberlin assayed the glittery and gay heights of Cunegonde with ease, making us look forward to hearing – and seeing – more of this gifted singing actress in 2017, notably in LBO’s American premiere of The Perfect American. A fictionalized account of Walt Disney’s final days, the opera by Philip Glass features, among others, Chamberlin in the roles of Hazel George/Nurse, March 12 and 18 (photo above, with Todd Strange).

Being a major minimalist, we can never have too much Glass, and Los Angeles Opera’s production of his 1984 work, Akhnaten, was an aural and visual spectacle. Another performance that was spiritually redeeming was the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s rendering of Arvo Pärt’s Miserere (the Estonian composer is the world’s reigning holy minimalist), which was paired with Mozart’s mournful Requiem. Conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, the program was the first of the Phil’s Mozart & Pärt Festival

And speaking of the Dude, he conducted a revelatory staging of Bernstein’s iconic West Side Story at the Hollywood Bowl last summer, still our favorite City of Angels’ outdoor venue.

Needless to say, we took spirituality wherever we could find it, and we struck gold with the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s presentation of Lagrime di San Pietro (Tears of St. Peter). Talk about being high on the redemptive scale! The 21-madrigal cycle composed by Orlando di Lasso in 1594, was led by the always stellar Grant Gershon. The premiere featured 21 singers in a passionate staging by the brilliant Peter Sellars (click here for our KCET Artbound interview with Sellars).

And we could never let a year go by without seeing the fabulous John Fleck, who, along with six other actors, including Shannon Holt and Annabelle Gurwitch, made David Greenspan’s Go Back To Where You Are worthwhile. Directed by Bart DeLorenzo, the play ran through July and August at the Odyssey Theatre.

Fleck also earned raves for his one-man show, Blacktop Highway, at New York‘s Dixon Place, which we saw last year at REDCAT and loved. (Click here for Fleck’s Cultural Weekly interview with…us!)

Then there was the dramatized staging of our book, Isn’t It Rich? After giving several readings around town in various series, including Library Girl, Whisky and Poetry, Tongue and Groove, A.G. Geiger and Beyond Baroque – shout-outs to Susan Hayden, Kim Ohanneson, Conrad Romo, Michael Delgado and Richard Modiano, respectively – we were over the moon with two semi-staged performances at Diavolo Studio in mid-October. (cover art, Katrien De Blauwer)



Beautifully directed by Madeleine Dahm and featuring actors Hannah Chodos, Gleason Bauer and Bernadette Sullivan, as well as dance by Jasmine Albuquerque and set to the music of Rodrigo Amarante, our book came alive in ways we could never have imagined.

We look forward to a full-fledged theatrical run this year at one of L.A.’s venues, so please stay tuned. In a nutshell, Isn’t It Rich? is the 21st century’s Vagina Monologues – minus the politics but not the sex.

Another unique performance was Seven Arrows Elementary School’s El Día de los Muertos Festival, an annual production mounted under the talented auspices of director of dance, Elsa Chahin and other school faculty members. (Click here to read more about this unique celebration.)

We also would like to mention that in 2016 we became a Pikler® chronicler, editing a book and several articles based on the infant and toddler care methods of the late pediatrician Emmi Pikler of Budapest, Hungary. This project is ongoing and is being done with Pikler/Lóczy USA president, Chahin and Anna Tardos, Pikler’s daughter.

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention our very own basketball stars, the Cleveland Cavaliers, who took home their first championship in 52 years. It was also cool to see Beyoncé and Jay-Z at one of the games, because we love Queen Bey, especially her genius work, Formation from the equally staggering Lemonade. We were feeling great about the World Series, as well, which went seven games, but we didn’t begrudge the Cubs their win against our hometown Cleveland Indians, figuring we would have a lot to celebrate on November 9.

But how wrong we were, which brings us to the close of a year that was filled, sadly, with many deaths. Included were music megastars – Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Maurice White – as well as classical musicians Pierre Boulez and Nikolaus Harnoncourt. Then there was a host of beloved actors, from Gene Wilder, Garry Shandling, Gary Marshall and Alan Rickman to Zsa Zsa Gabor and Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds (click here for our remembrance of the mother/daughter icons who died within one day of each other).

We also mourn the passing of humanitarian Elie Wiesel, playwright Edward Albee, architect Zaha Hadid and activist Tom Hayden, as well as the one and only Muhammad Ali. It was a jolt, too, when theater impresario Gordon Davidson died in early October, having just chatted with him and his beautiful wife Judi at the Ahmanson Theatre. It was there that we attended opening night of the Tony award-winning play, A View From the Bridge, by Arthur Miller. Directed by Ivo van Hove, this was a production that also fascinated.

Possibly our saddest goodbye, though, will be to Michelle and Barack Obama, who were beacons of democracy – and more – in the last eight years. Who knows when we might see their like again…

But what we do know is that we’ll make the most of a new year. To paraphrase Lady MacBeth, “Out damned 2016, out”as we say hello to the beginning of a beautiful 2017, one filled with love, peace, joy, health, hope, prosperity and art. Oh, yeah, and lots of champagne.

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A Hollywood Love Story: Debbie Reynolds & Carrie Fisher

By Victoria Looseleaf

While we were writing this yesterday, the unthinkable happened: The winsome, beautiful, supremely talented and loving mother, Debbie Reynolds, died, one day after her equally brilliant daughter, Carrie Fisher.

This is our tribute to a Hollywood Love Story like no other.

When Carrie Fisher, actor, author, screenwriter and rebel princess, suffered a cardiac incident on a flight from London to Los Angeles, social media was flooded with well wishers from across the globe. And when her condition was described as ‘stable’ a day later, we hoped against hope that this singular woman would once again triumph. Alas, it was not to be, as Carrie lost the good fight on Tuesday, December 27, 2016.

How could it be, then, that some 30 hours later, the unsinkable Debbie Reynolds would pass away? Her son, Todd Fisher, said she died of a broken heart and wanted to be with Carrie.

To say that this year has been an annus horribilus is an understatement (click here, though, for our best of 2016 dance), with musical,  literary, journalistic, political, comedic and athletic icons dropping in record numbers. An abbreviated list includes Gene Wilder, Harper Lee, Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey, Prince, David Bowie, Muhammad Ali, Garry Shandling, Sharon Jones, Anton Yelchin, Gwen Ifill, Janet Reno, and Leonard Cohen. (The political reality of 2016 is another horror story, so let’s just refer to the buffoon-in-chief-elect as hashtag, #NotOurPresident, and leave it at that.)

And while we could write volumes about so many of those who passed away this year, we thought we would post this lively conversation we had with Ms. Fisher in 2006 as our way of writing  program notes for her one-woman show, Wishful Drinking. The theatrical gem had its world premiere at the Geffen Playhouse when we were the theater’s program annotator before moving to Broadway. Here, then,  A Few Words With Carrie Fisher.

“The trick in my family,” says Carrie Fisher, daughter of Hollywood royalty and raconteuse extraordinaire, “ was not to go into show business. The trick was to get out of it.”

But with Debbie Reynolds, tap-dance queen and 1950’s movie star her mother, and crooner/cum/actor Eddie Fisher her father, the Tinsel Town gene ultimately proved too strong, hard-wiring itself into Fisher’s DNA in order to produce one of pop culture’s most daring, original – and outrageously witty – minds on the planet.

The 21st century’s answer to Dorothy Parker, Fisher is also author of four best-selling novels, including the autobiographical Postcards From the Edge, which became a hit film in 1990 as Meryl Streep assayed the Fisher role and Shirley MacLaine donned the Reynolds persona.

In addition, Fisher, herself, achieved iconic status, having gained international recognition at age 19 as Princess Leia, the donut-coiffed heroine of Star Wars, and the subsequent smash hit sequels, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

But every princess has her pea, and Fisher ‘s bugaboos have been, to put it mildly, legion, not least of which have been her drug abuse jags and mental breakdown, the latter a result of a serious bipolar disorder.

“If my life weren’t funny,” insists Fisher, who celebrated her 50th birthday last month, “it would just be true, and that’s unacceptable.”

Indeed, turning truth – in this case her life, a kind of Father Thinks He Knows Best meets Ozzy Osbourne and Arrested Development – into a one-person show, Wishful Drinking, Fisher follows in the footsteps of renowned female monologists that harken back to Ruth Draper and today include Lily Tomlin, Elaine Stritch and Julia Sweeney. Fessing up about her folks, her foibles and her fame, Fisher, a comic tsunami, takes us through a tour-de-force roller coaster ride of epic proportions.

More Girl, Interrupted …and Jump-Started By a Ferrari than mawkish confessional, the 90-minute show, directed by Joshua Ravetch, is also a survivor’s tale, albeit one in which a heroic Fisher manages to land on designer-shod feet.

“I always want to say it’s a one-and-a-half woman show,” explains the scribe who will, in a nod to her vocal pedigree, warble a bit throughout the evening, accompanied by onstage pianist Jerry Sternbach. “But I’m not here to hurt anyone’s feelings. There’s not going to be a lot of Hollywood scandal, because I don’t need to drag everyone else down with me.”

Fisher’s own scandals, after all, are supersized. Whether talking about her  marriage to music legend Paul Simon in 1983 (right), which was fictionally chronicled in her second novel, Surrender the Pink, or her relationship with CAA uber-agent, Bryan Lourd, the dude who conveniently forgot to tell her he was gay, this master of the bon mot may go for the jugular, but only her own, as she commits satiric seppuku before a live audience.

Of her Daddy Dearest-like father, the erstwhile singer who left Reynolds for Elizabeth Taylor, and in between marriages dated Marlene Dietrich as well as becoming a drug-addled patient of Dr. Max “Feelgood” Jacobson (JFK was among his other celebrity patients), Fisher quips: “My father’s more designed to be a boyfriend than a parent. I think he’s had four or five wives – maybe six.”

It is, however, from her father that Fisher believes she inherited her manic depression, recalling the time when she was 14 and he had bought 200 silk suits in Hong Kong. “We go to his closet and there they were – all in different colors, orange, green, magenta. Talk about crazy.”

Performing in her mother’s Vegas act at age 13 and making her Broadway debut with Reynolds in the 1973 revival of the musical Irene, Fisher also attended London’s Central School of Speech and Drama. Happily, she admits to a good relationship with Reynolds, who, not coincidentally, lives next door.

“I was always terrified of being onstage, but the big bond I had with my parents was singing and music. They loved being on stage and my mother wanted me to do that. She is all over this one-person show. I don’t have to ask her for notes, she’s in. And since I can’t take drugs any more, I might as well go on stage.” (Photo below by Lawrence Schiller, with six-year old Carrie watching her mother perform at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas.)

Now sober, but still in therapy, Fisher will also open up a metaphoric vein to discuss her slip after a friend woke up next to her in bed: dead. With Wildean zeal, the monologist regales with a story of going to a grief counselor.

“She tells me, ‘I’m so sorry we had to meet under these conditions.’ I swear to you. What I’m finding now is I have a lot of jokes I’ve come up with over the years to deal with difficult things. That’s how I’ve coped.”

The single mother of a 14-year old daughter Billie [right, 2015 and now 24], Fisher is a multi-tasker who is also working on a project for Fox Television and adapting her last novel, The Best Awful. She is anything but an absent parent.

“With my father, what you see is what you don’t get,” says Fisher, who once counted Connie Stevens as a stepmother. As for her current dating life, that, too, is open for discussion.

“If I were gay,” she adds with Fisheresque brio, “I would go and find some woman that was just like Debbie Reynolds and work out all my Debbie Reynolds’ stuff with her. Or I’d find an Eddie and whatever my trip was with him, it’d be the same thing. Either way, it’s all complicated.”

Carrie Fisher, gone at 60, will live on in our hearts – and on screen and in print – forever. Recalling that we took our beloved friend, Taylor Negron, to the opening night of Wishful Drinking, we believe they’re already trading gibes and stories wherever they are. And in a surreal vein and what also seems to be a macabre end to 2016, they are joined by Debbie Reynolds, who, though dead at 84, leaves an indelible legacy that will never die.

As part of our Carrie tribute, we included snippets of our  2001 interview with Debbie Reynolds for In Los Angeles magazine (she was touting an upcoming Hollywood Bowl performance), and were struck by the fact that we asked her what she wanted on her tombstone. Reynolds, who was only 68 at the time, replied:

“I really don’t know. I’ll leave that up to my daughter, the writer,” said Reynolds, before she burst into laughter and began spouting a litany of tombstone adages for possible engraving.


Unsinkable Debbie,” she blurted out. “I’ve Tried My Best.” “Ain’t Down Yet.” One of those. Actually,” she added, “I’m having a statue made for my grave with a checkbook in one hand and a telephone in the other. It’s always business and paying off, that’s been my whole life. Be prepared for death in the same way. Maybe it should say, “I Got The Money. I’ll Pay You. I’m Ready, I’m Ready.”






Sometimes life is just not fair.

For now, take a look at this unique mother/daughter team singing in 2011 (above), and know that we can also look forward to seeing the HBO documentary, Bright Lights: Starring Debbie Reynolds & Carrie Fisher in early 2017. RIP magnificent women…

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A Day of Remembrance & Revelry

By Victoria Looseleaf

A giant bouquet of a celebration, one filled with music, dance, poetry and heartfelt joy, El Día de los Muertos Festival has been an annual tradition at Seven Arrows Elementary since the school’s founding in 1999 by Margarita Pagliai. With the lower school performance in the morning – kindergarteners, first and second graders (picture below) – and a pull-out-the-stops evening concert featuring third through sixth graders, as well as an array of teachers and proud singing and dancing parents, this traditional Latin American holiday is a unique blend of cultures that epitomizes the Seven Arrows’ philosophy.

That credo is one that is deeply committed to exposing its students to the cultures and traditions of other countries through learning, participation and creation.

Explained Pagliai: “The reason for El Día de los Muertos is based from an anti-bias curriculum. We need to understand our roots and where we come from to be able to fly with our ideas. From a history point of view, it connects us to how the world is global. And this,” she added, “is a cornerstone of our education.”

Falling on November 2 (with Seven Arrows’ performances on November 4, 2016), this Día is one with deep spiritual connections to the souls who have passed away, as the living remember them in simple, yet profound ways, both honoring these lives, as well as acknowledging the fragility of life.

But it is far from somber, with the visual splendors rampant, adding to the festival’s allure: Celebrants are surrounded by grinning skulls, while the vibrant paintings, festooned baskets of marigolds and hanging kites (barilletes, thought to be messengers of peace), are nothing short of spectacular. The calaveritas (traditional Mexican sugar skulls), are also crowd-pleasers, and the many dozens of kaleidoscopically colorful costumes help give this celebration an extra dollop of dazzle.

Elsa Chahin has been teaching Mexican dances at the school for this specific festival since 2005, when her son was in kindergarten. A former professional ballerina, the director of dance hails from Mexico, and has not only supplied the students with the gorgeous garb over the years, but has, through her teaching, instilled in her charges the importance and beauty of movement, at the same time piquing their interest and curiosity in other cultures.

“I bring the costumes from Mexico and they’re authentic from each region, as the steps are also authentic. Each state has a traditional costume and traditional music, and that also has different influences. Some have African, some have German and French, but most have Spanish ones.”

Pagliai pointed out that the brunt of these songs and dances are more than 200 years old and were handed down through the Spanish colonization around the world. “This celebration is also done in Central America and as far as the Philippines. [At Seven Arrows] there is a huge emphasis in learning about all of the countries in Latin America and their contributions.”

Pagliai added that the school, by having this annual celebration, “elevates the perception of what really the Latin culture is. We do it through the senses. Children understand and learn through the senses. As they wear the costumes, they see the textile and feel the geometry. When we teach traditions of other cultures, we teach the importance of family and connections with each other.

“Humans,” said Pagliai, “are social brains, and we need to connect.”

It is these connections that are very much in evidence during the performances. Mischa Posin opened both celebrations by playing Heitor Villa LobosConstante on keyboards, with the evening celebration then featuring nine students performing the Salute to the Four Winds. Other highlights included an Offering to the Altar/Poems, with Stephan Moccio performing a piano improvisation and several students “communicating” with their ancestors with kites, the theme of this year’s festival.

Chahin explained that a committee of volunteers includes Clara Llano, who spearheads the making of the magnificent decorations, and a volunteer parent – architect Peter Fergin – who also helps build the supporting wooden structures, including the altar.

“The children create lanterns that hang around the altar, and they also bring photos of a loved one that has passed away and those decorate the candles. The idea is that our ancestors will come and visit that day to join in the celebration.

“Everything is very organized,” added Chahin, “and a week before the festival the committee starts creating the structures, and the day after they’re removed and not used again.”

The profusion of explosively colored decorations is enhanced by student paintings, which were created in the school’s new north campus, across the street from Seven Arrows’ main facility, under the supervision of art teacher Clinton Bopps. The songs – rendered in Spanish – are the result of the combined efforts of Colin Simson’s music instruction and Beatriz Llano’s Spanish classes (photo by Victoria Looseleaf).

Andrés Ospina, Seven Arrows’ director of arts and environmental programs, explained that the festival “combines a solemn respect and an exuberant celebration for the lives of our ancestors. We believe,” he added, “that this is a much needed addition to the meaning of these children’s lives. Our dances, art projects, installations and music performances all deal with this in different sides of the spectrum, so that children feel, see and understand the whole meaning.”

The November night was balmy as the students sang and danced their hearts out, some shaking maracas, others sporting headdresses, long fringed dresses, fans, serapes and straw hats. There was, of course, the Jarabe Tapatío, the Mexican hat dance, as well as a number performed by fourth graders featuring capoeira, a Brazilian martial art form that combines elements of dance, acrobatics and music.

Several high points – among so many – were dances featuring mothers and sons (El Colás), and fathers and daughters (La Bruja), both for sixth grade students and their parents.

Chahin spoke about choreographing those beloved works: “In this culture we don’t have a lot of opportunities for children to dance with their parents. In Mexico, you have the quinceañera, so we decided to do a dance for the school’s 15th anniversary. It was originally for fathers and daughters that then evolved to have also the mothers with their sons. It’s very special for the parents, and many say that’s their favorite thing of the entire program.”


That this festival not only touches the heart, but is also a marvelous learning experience makes it truly exceptional.

Said Pagliai: “When we teach traditions of other cultures, we teach the importance of family. It’s also all about connecting with your soul and the acceptance of what you cannot control – death – and keeping those you loved spiritually inside you. Most of all, it is a way for children to learn stories about their ancestors.”

All photos, except Looseleaf’s, are by Ramona Trent and Tanya Barcessat.




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Falling For Dance…& Other Art Forms

By Victoria Looseleaf

We love fall, no matter that here in Los Angeles the trees don’t turn colors (no fair counting the jacarandas), and there is very little nip in the air. For that we head East, or at least get our nips from single malt Scotch.

Still, September is the start of the cultural season, what with Los Angeles Opera now in its 31st year and mega-tenor turned baritone, Plácido Domingo (with Ekaterina Semenchuk, photo by Genaro Molina), commanding the stage as the titular character in Verdi‘s Macbeth. That the superstar is 75 years old and still singing, is nothing short of astounding, so check back here for our review anon. (Performances 9/22 & 25; 10/5, 8, 13 & 16.)

And speaking of opera, can we talk about one of our favorite multi-hyphenates, O-Lan Jones, the actor, composer and librettist who is also artistic director of Overtone Industries. The company, a celebrated force in the evolution of contemporary music theater and experimental opera, is performing the next phase of its new multidisciplinary production, ICELAND, in concert form, at the Ford Theatre on October 7. Jones, in collaboration with Irish singer-songwriter Emmett Tinley, has crafted  a modern love story set in a mythical and timeless world, where ancient creatures challenge the hero and heroine on an archetypal journey. For tickets  click here. (Above photo by Martha Benedict, featuring The Hiddenfolk, with heroine Vala, center, played by Cesili Williams.)

We also recommend Arthur Miller‘s A View From the Bridge, the brilliant Tony-award winning production directed by Ivo van Hove at the Ahmanson Theatre, running now through October 16. Written in 1955, this production is wholly relevant and resonates in today’s troubled times.


And while we’re counting, DIAVOLO | Architecture in Motion ® is kicking off its 25th season with four performances September 23-25 at the Broad Stage. Of course, we’ll be there to see Jacques Heim’s newest creation, Passengers (photo below, George Simian), which is paired with the troupe’s classic Trajectoire, a work we covered in 1999 for the Los Angeles Times.

Here’s a snippet of that coverage: “The premiere, “Trajectoire,” featuring a Daniel Wheeler-designed boat hull as an eternally tilting prop, however, delivered too little, too late, coming after a quintet of finely tuned signature pieces. The full company indulged in rounds of jumping, sliding and even pirouetting on the lit-from-within craft, but, as with many Diavolo premieres, this work may benefit from future honing. The Hans Zimmer-Philip Glass score didn’t help: It was more Dramamine than drama.”

And though a lot of water has certainly gone under that dance bridge, we’re happy to say we’re still close colleagues with Heim. Indeed, On October 8-9, Looseleaf & Romaine is producing a dramatized staged reading of our book, Isn’t It Rich? at Diavolo Space at the Brewery.

Directed by award-winning Madeleine Dahm, (left, photo by Clive Alcock), with dance created and performed by Jasmine Albuquerque (her group WIFE has four performances of Enter The Cave, September 29-October 2 in Frogtown; photo below by Cassandra Bickman, digital design by Nina McNeely), and music by Emmy-nominated Rodrigo Amarante. The Isn’t It Rich? staged readings will feature Hannah Chodos, Gleason Bauer and Bernadette Sullivan, with lighting design by Bosco Flanagan.

Isn’t It Rich? has been called an “emotional travelogue to exotic landscapes, mindscapes and bodyscapes,” and is is an intoxicating and hilarious journey through one woman’s life, where fascinating people, exotic places and lush events jump off the page in profoundly human and deeply disturbing ways. Vivid, erotic and occasionally surreal, Isn’t It Rich? reveals a complex and vulnerable existence, as portrayed by three distinct personalities, all framed by our need for romantic connection. Think The Vagina Monologues for the 21st century, minus the politics but not the sex. (Looseleaf photo below by Mark Hanauer.)

Click here to RSVP for tickets, go to our FB Event Page, our personal FB page, or contact our publicist, Green Galactic’s Lynn Tejada at 213-840-1201 or lynn@greengalactic.com. We’ll be posting more updates, but in the interim, here’s what some entertainment and cultural luminaries are saying about Isn’t It Rich? “A hilarious, sparkling and rowdy Looseleaves Of Grass! A joyous yawp, with dry martinis, frozen swans and jeroboams of style. Huzzah that the best poetry can be fun again!”Sandra Tsing Loh, Performer and Author, The Madwoman In The Volvo. Actor/artist/writer Mary Woronov likened Looseleaf to a “tall, thin female Bukowski with good skin who is bent on bedding all in her cultural path. Isn’t It Rich? is her confession.” Larry Karaszewski (Emmy-winning producer/writer, The People vs. O.J. Simpson) described the book as, “beautiful autobiographical short stories full of wit and grace. Isn’t It Rich? Indeed it is.”

But enough about us! We also want to give a shout-out and cheers to Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre, now in its 31st year and premiering, When I Am King, every Saturday, October 8-29 at King Hing Theater in Chinatown (photo, Sean Deckert). We wouldn’t miss it. Besides, all of this art is helping take our mind off of the bizarro election. Thank God, then, for art!

(book cover image at top, Katrien De Blauwer)


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Creating Beauty Together

Craig Urquhart, a friend for many years, is recognized as one of the most important original solo pianists today. To date, he has released nine CDs and a DVD performing his original music. Craig has been The New Jersey Music Teachers Association Commissioned Composer, a fellow at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and has performed his music worldwide, including in New York, Berlin, Rome and throughout Japan. Craig has also had his music performed by singers and pianists around the globe, as well as having it performed by the Halle Symphony Orchestra. The artist is also a member of ASCAP, has served on the Board of Directors of the Lotte Lehmann Foundation, is a Whisperings Artist, a voting member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (The Grammys), and is the Senior Consultant Public Relations and Promotion for The Leonard Bernstein Office, Inc.

In addition, Craig has spoken extensively about his music on outlets including ASCAP’s Audio Portraits, National Public Radio, and the BBC. Has also been interviewed for Solo Piano Publications, the Baldwin/Gibson Magazine, and NAR. The magazine Piano Today has twice featured his compositions. We are happy to welcome him to The Looseleaf Report.

VL: Hi, Craig, it’s great to speak with you again, and I’m delighted to hear you’re recording a new album of your original music. As you know I’m a huge fan and also remember collaborating with you on the song, Love Is Leonardo for my biography of Leonardo DiCaprio. Sorry for the shameless plug! In any case, kudos and congratulations are in order.

Your new project is called Calm Seas and it’s your tenth CD of your original music. Ten is a major milestone. What does that mean to you?

CU: Thank you, Victoria, and yes I know you’re a big fan. I remember well our early interviews on The Looseleaf Report, and your support and friendship over the years has meant a great deal to me. Yes, ten is a milestone, but it ‘s just the beginning. I believe it‘s a milestone, because over the many years since I’ve been recording my music, my listening base has grown worldwide, which means to me that my music touches people in many ways. I hear from “fans” from as far away as South Africa and even Mongolia – that’s the magic of the Internet – and wonderful people of diverse and varied backgrounds. It feels good to be a part of others’ lives and that they are now also a part of mine. It‘s this ever-growing global community that propels me to continue to create and share.

VL: What a beautiful sentiment, Craig. Please tell me what’s behind the title of this new album, Calm Seas.

CU: As you might understand, titles are even more difficult for me than writing the music. And as I’ve composed and written well over 100 pieces of music, it , unfortunately doesn’t get any easier, so I rely on my imagination and the imaginations of my friends. Recently, I was sharing music from my Calm Seas with my nephew, and after playing one of the works, he said, “That reminds me of sailing on a calm sea.” Since it made so much sense to me, I decided to use that as the title of my latest album, the reason also being that it’s a good reflection of where I’m at these days. The past few years have been years of change and loss, but the last year has been pretty steady – calm – and also exciting.

VL: How has your music or your approach to music changed over the years?

CU: My music, of course, has evolved over the years. As life changes, so does one’s perspective and that is reflected in the music. However, my compositional approach has remained constant – to write heartfelt music that speaks to the soul and reflects the beauty of all emotions, be they happiness, longing, sadness and optimism, for example. However, my emotional approach has changed. I’ve actually come to accept and honor my musical voice as being unique to me. I used to judge my music somewhat harshly, now I love it and understand that I can be confident in the beauty I create, and that my voice is sui generis, if you will, to me.

VL: Tell us about your compositional process. What inspires you? How do you harness that inspiration and turn it into one of your gorgeous pieces?

CU: My inspiration comes from the universe we inhabit – the beauty of nature, the emotions we experience, and the spirituality that surrounds us. My music reflects the good in all of us. I don’t dwell on the negative energy in the world, because that basically gives it power. I celebrate in my music what brings us together in loving and sharing ways. How do I harness the inspiration? I think it’s really the other way around: the inspiration harnesses my ability to create, and gives it voice. This may sound trite, but it’s almost as if I’m a continually evolving vessel that shares and renews.

VL: Wow, well said, Craig. So what or who have been some of the major influences on your writing?

CU: As a classically trained composer and pianist, the masters, of course, have influenced me. I studied and learned piano music from Bach to Berio. But if I had to narrow it down, it would be Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, Chopin, Debussy, Ravel. Then there’s music by contemporaries, such as [the late] Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell and Keith Jarrett, so there is no one major influence. I feel I’m a composite of all I have experienced. But probably the biggest influence on me, as you know, was my association with Leonard Bernstein as his assistant. He supported my music and gave me “permission” to write from my heart. Before I met him, music was an intellectual pursuit, but he empowered me to write from the heart and not from the head. That was incredibly important and inspirational. Note: Gustavo Dudamel will be conducting Bernstein‘s West Side Story at the Hollywood Bowl on July 14 and 19, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Master Chorale and guest vocalists.  (Above photo by Brian Baldasari)

VL: Why did you decide to reach out using Kickstarter?

CU: The last nine albums I self-produced and financed myself. Gratefully, I was able to recoup the initial costs of all of these projects over the years. But to create a product that I feel reflects the quality of my artistic vision costs more money these days, and I realized I couldn’t do it alone, at least for the basic financing. On an emotional level, I feel that Kickstarter is a terrific way for all who love and are touched by my music to be involved in the creation of a project we can all take pride in. This gives us a way to join together as a community, knowing that we share the same values that the music represents.

Kickstarter is not a donation, it’s participation – participating at any financial level is honored and appreciated by a “perk” – from signed copies of the CD, ringtones, autographed musical scores, a concert in your house – all depending on how much one wants to be involved. And that brings me great joy, knowing I can be supported and at the same time my also being able to show my appreciation!

While we’re on the topic, then, I would like to encourage your readers to please join in and help produce Calm Seas by clicking here.

VL: Are there other projects on the horizon?

CU: Oh, sure, Victoria, but I like to take one thing at a time and want to remain focused on Calm Seas, ultimately making it something to cherish.

VL: Thank you, Craig. It’s been wonderful talking with you. I wish you much success with Calm Seas and I’m thrilled to be a part of this marvelous and meaningful  journey.

CU: Victoria, it’s always my pleasure, and again, heartfelt thanks for all your support over the years. It means so much to me.

Click here to purchase other titles by Craig Urquhart.

Above photo by Bart Michielsen








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MO.MEN.TUM, A Dance Concert

By Victoria Looseleaf

Webster’s defines momentum as “the quantity of motion of a moving body, measured as a product of its mass and velocity; the impetus gained by a moving object.” Madeleine Dahm, an international artist with three decades of experience in theater and contemporary dance arts, has worked with some of the world’s leading companies, arts organizations and training academies. The vivacious redhead thought that momentum was the perfect word to describe a nine-month creative lab, The Art of Choreography,  a course she conducted for 15 gifted students as part of The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts’ education program.

Culminating on Wednesday, April 20, Mo.Men.Tum takes to the stage of the Wallis, located in the heart of Beverly Hills, when the prestigious venue presents an evening of dances choreographed and performed by these young people.

Ranging in age from 14-22, these exceptional students have explored all aspects of dancemaking with Dahm (right), who said she is more interested in “process” than the finished product.

Still, this product – several group numbers, solos, duets and trios – promises to be a peek into the future of dance, the most ethereal of the art forms. Meeting every Monday night for several hours, the students, under Dahm’s astute and forward-thinking direction, delved into the fundamental principles of composition in dance. They explored the various creative processes that lead to the development of dynamic choreography, as well as how to build choreography from a single idea. They also examined how choreographers take inspiration from other art forms, such as visual art, music, architecture, and literature.

With dancers being the physical, emotional and artistic instruments of the choreographer, the students learned how to bring out their own unique qualities, a vital tool in communicating effectively as part of a choreographer’s success. (Above, Liessa Son, Jordyn Urman)

Explained Dahm: “My approach in developing this course was to create an open and experimental environment for these young artists to inhabit, with a focus on process, not product. I wanted the choreographers to step outside their comfort zone to find new ways of moving, creating and collaborating – going to the boundaries of what dance is and can be, and investigating avant-garde artists like Pina Bausch.

“We also explored the role that music plays,” continued Dahm, “how and when to use it, and why improvisation is invaluable in building vocabulary. Through that we developed motifs, investigated minimalist movement, viewed master works, and had time for in-depth critiques. Most importantly, we looked at how to work from a place of clear intention and authentic meaning.”

Indeed, the students were also able to study and work with choreographers presented at The Wallis this season – Twyla Tharp, LA Dance Project, Suzanne Farrell and Judith Jamison. And while this concert is the finale of their time spent together, Dahm said that it contains “a fraction of the ideas that were developed,” adding that, “although those ideas might have been left on the ‘cutting room’ floor, I trust that these young choreographers will carry them forward as they develop as artists.”

Another aspect to the course was that the students, according to Dahm, “became like a small company over the months – one that celebrates victories, overcomes challenges, and forms strong creative bonds. It has been a joy to coach these emerging artists, and see their work evolve. In staging the performance,” the energetic director added, “I have tried to bring out the nuances in each of their pieces, and to provide a theatrical framework from which to view them.” (Miles Parsons, above)

When these capable young artists fill the stage of the beautiful Bram Goldsmith Theater, the fruits of their labor promise to be an exciting and emotional high for all involved. Kudos, then, to Dahm, the dancers/choreographers, The Wallis and to Mark Slavkin, Director of Education, for supporting the adventure in, what Dahm called, “all possible ways.”

For tickets, please click here. We hope to see you on April 20, when there will also be a post-performance discussion with the students and Dahm, moderated by myself.  Victoria Looseleaf.

(All photos by Clive Alcock; cover photo, from left, Susanna Russell, Patrick Fitzsimmons, Isaac Layn, Jayde Kief)

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So Much Art, So Little Time…Hello, 2016!

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 CoatesBetween 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 Stages 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…

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Vissi D’Arte Vissi Valencia

By Victoria Looseleaf

Jonesing for anchovies in foam? How about attending Aida in a theater that’s been likened to a blend of seagoing vessel and spacecraft? Then there’s the spectacular Valencia Cathedral that not only houses Renaissance frescoes by El Greco and Goya, but is home to the Holy Grail (below), the chalice used by Christ at the Last Supper.

These are but some of the reasons to head to Valencia, the fabulous city on the eastern Mediterranean coast of Spain. And late January/early February are ideal months to traverse the town where Visigoths, Arabs and Romans also left their cultural imprint. Arrive by train at the beautiful Art Nouveau Estacion Del Norte, and you’re immediately catapulted into a bygone era. Wend your way to the Barrio del Carmen, an ancient quarter with twisting brick streets and medieval mansions that is now home to art galleries, bars and cafes, including Horchateria Santa Catalina. Named for Valencia’s signature sweet drink, horchata, this unique brew is made from local tiger nuts.

Don’t miss the Mercado Central, a complex of pristinely preserved Gothic buildings clustered around a walled courtyard. One of the world’s largest covered markets, this is where locals shop for jamon, eels and, yes, Valencian oranges. Across the street is the 15th century Silk Exchange, where the impressive Main Hall is adorned with lavish stonework, gargoyles and several bawdy carvings from the city’s golden age of trade.

The town’s most renown artistic achievement, however, is the 86-acre City of Arts and Sciences. The culmination of 14 years’ work, most by native son Santiago Calatrava, the swooping collection of white, organically contoured museums and theaters features an eye-shaped Planetarium and IMAX cinema, a Science Museum, botanical gardens and Europe’s biggest marine park.

Surrounded by turquoise reflecting pools and set in the former bed of the River Turia, the jewel in Valencia’s cultural crown is the Palau de les Artes Reina Sofia, aka, the Calatrava Opera House. Akin to a vast sculpture whose nautical forms suggest its closeness to the sea, the Palau is actually four acoustically splendid theaters that present opera, music, ballet and theater. The venues are of varying sizes, with the main hall seating about 1500.

 Last January, Davide Livermore succeeded Helga Schmidt as artistic director of the 325 million Euro Palau that opened in 2006, with Loren Maazel the opera company’s music director until 2011 (he died last year), and Zubin Mehta its orchestra director. The opera season opened in October with La Bohème, directed by Livermore, with December having featured productions of Verdi’s Macbeth, starring megatenor-turned-baritone Plácido Domingo, a long time friend/performer with the opera house, in the title role, and Ekaterina Semenchuk as Lady Macbeth (photo at right).  Domingo will also be opening Los Angeles Opera’s 2016-2017 season with a new production of Macbeth directed by Darko Tresnnjak, who helmed LAO’s 2015 hit, The Ghosts of Versailles. We wouldn’t miss it, having covered nearly all of LAO‘s operas since its inception in 1986. And speaking of Domingo, Handel’s Silla was also performed in December, with singers from the Plácido Domingo Center.

(Photo below: Patrons leaving the “Moby Dick” of opera houses at night.)


January, 2016, kicks off the new year with Saint-SaënsSamson and Dalila, followed by the revival of David McVicar’s beloved Aida (photo below).  The opera season ends in April with another Livermore-directed production, this of Mozart’s Idomeneo.






Recitals, concerts, chamber music and ballet round out the exciting and innovative 2015-2016 season.



Actually, any time of the year is great to be in Valencia, but it’s especially wonderful at the start of the opera season, when Domingo is either singing, conducting or relaxing, as the photo at right shows.


Valencia is also known for its delectable cuisine. Valencian paella is the signature dish at La Pepica, a beachfront boite that was frequented by Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles. For tapas, try Sagardi or Casa Montana, the latter in the old fishermen’s quarter, where “little tastes” include mussels, calamari and sardines.

As for the Catalan-spawned molecular gastronomy movement, head to the Michelin-starred  RiFF, Bernd Knoller’s chic eatery, where powdered oysters titillate, and local fishes are transformed into mouth-watering treats, all accompanied by divine Spanish wines (photo left).

End your sojourn cruising under the moonlight in one of Mundo Marino’s spacious catamarans. Back on land, take in the sparkling lights of the Palau from a 10th floor room at Hotel Barceló. For those wanting a quieter hotel, one located directly on the water, Las Arenas (right), is the perfect choice. The good life just doesn’t get much better than this – vivo Valencia!

In the spirit of the season, we at The Looseleaf Report wish everyone a joyous, healthy & wonderful New Year. Cheers!

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‘Tis The Season…For Revelations

By Victoria Looseleaf

Choreographer and dancer, Alvin Ailey, who founded Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1958 and created his masterpiece, Revelations, two years later, died in 1989. But his company – and the iconic work that has been seen by more than 23 million people in 71 countries across six continents – lives on. Indeed, even a postage stamp containing an image from the opening sequence, with dancers’ arms outstretched, was issued in 2004.

A dance evoking land and water, Revelations (photo below), is a journey through African-American spiritual music and, for dancers, an act of devotion for the generations that came before. It has rarely been performed outside of the Ailey companies (the younger, Ailey II, tours regularly, also ending most programs with Revelations).

But on a recent night in Santa Monica, 130 children from Seven Arrows Elementary School – yes, kids ranging in age from five to 12, in addition to four students from Sheenway School and Culture Center – performed one of the most popular modern dance pieces of all time.

The work is told in three sections —Pilgrim of Sorrow, Take Me to the Water and Move, Members, Move — and is considered to be Ailey’s exploration of sadness and joy. That these children were able to convey such emotions through their faces and bodies – and execute some nifty footwork in the process – was nothing less than astonishing.

The driving force behind staging Revelations for the school’s Winter Festival was Elsa Chahin, Director of Dance at Seven Arrows and a former professional dancer. Chahin invited master choreographer Alejandra Llorente, from Mexico City, to help with this unique and loving adaptation.

Explained Chahin (photo at right with two Sheenway students): “I want to expose kids to the reality of life and not just do a little ‘Nutcracker.’ I want this dance to stay with them and that the students be transformed. And because I have 18 students per grade, I wanted to incorporate all the students.”

Seven Arrows, in Pacific Palisades, is a small, private school founded in 1999 by Margarita Pagliai, Head of School (photo below). The core mission is to teach and promote passion for learning, academic excellence, and a commitment to local and global communities, with several of the school’s alumni currently in Ivy League colleges.

Explained Columbian-born Pagliai, who studied at UCLA and has been an Angeleno for more than three decades: “I founded the school because I wanted my children and the children we teach to make a better world, to really start from an anti-bias curriculum in which we all will experience a diverse community where we are a better people because we understand others and are more alike than different.

“Why would I like kids dancing?” asked Pagliai. “Because learning the movement and the music is all about sensory integration and through dance you learn about the choreography, about the costumes, about the stage, and then you’re part of a bigger world.”

It was also important for Chahin to incorporate students from Sheenway School, as Seven Arrows and the Watts-based school have a partnership. Founded in 1971 by Dr. Herbert A. Sheen several years after the Watts riots, the school is headed by the late doctor’s daughter, Dolores Sheen, affectionately known as “Aunt Dolores.”

Chahin, who has volunteered at Sheenway for a decade, also wanted the Revelations performance to have a personal connection to Alvin Ailey (right). Because it was at Sheenway that Ailey, whenever he was in town, or what Sheen refers to as the ‘hood,’ taught both beginning and master classes to community youth.

A recent rehearsal, which was the students’ fifth and final week several days before the concert, was held on a small, concrete area in front of the outdoor amphitheater at Seven Arrows, framed by a basketball hoop and colorfully-painted wall. It was a windy and brisk day, with the students practicing their moves in the opening segment, I Been Buked, their bodies lunging, their faces intent, heads looking up.

An ebullient Sheen, swathed in layers of clothing and a knit cap, beamed. “I’ve seen Revelations at least a dozen times over the years, and I noticed a few of the boys mouthing the lyrics. They were feeling the music. All of the children were focused and all of them were interested, which made them interesting and a joy to watch. Alvin would have been proud.”

“It gives you hope,” added Sheen (right, with two Sheenway students) “because you know there’s another generation coming up that can absorb, that can feel, that can know. To see the boys and to see the integration – it’s just so natural to them. I’m enthralled.”

The excerpt known as Sinner Man, normally a fast-paced trio for men featuring dazzling leaps and pirouettes, was, in Chahin’s able hands, a rush of excitement with 20 children crossing paths, jumping and ending with a kind of break-dance flourish for the boys.

The kids also rehearsed Rocka My Soul (derived from Ailey’s memories of going to church on a hot summer day; photo below), the finale that virtually dares one to sit still, with the sixth grade girls sporting fans and the boys strutting their stuff while preening in vests.

After working out this section’s kinks, one of the students, Danielle, explained her thoughts: “I like dancing to this music because it represents African-American culture and the hope they have. I think throughout the recital it’s all about the slavery and all kinds of depressing things, but this song is about finally having hope after everything they’ve gone through.”

The evening of the performance, Revelations came to life once again, this time with a vigorous display of determination and unabashed jubilation, 130 children proudly executing steps with bravado. The mood was also evident in the popular and instantly recognizable excerpt, Wade In the Water, which represents a woman preparing for baptism, and is both sacred and rapturous. Here were the children rippling sheets of fabric across the stage while others revealed surprisingly lovely arabesques. Musicality, determination and a sense of fun also made for a tangible feeling of accomplishment.

After the final bows were taken, the audience of about 400 – gushing parents, friends and family members – let out a thunderous roar of applause, proving that hope not only coursed throughout the 30-minute dance, but was also very much alive and well in a truly wondrous and miraculous show of spirit.

Our future, in other words, is in very good hands – and feet!

(All photos, except Alvin Ailey and AADT‘s Revelations by Roy Sadakane.)

                                     Happy holidays and a joyous 2016 to all!











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Naughty And Nice

By Victoria Looseleaf

Greetings, dear readers! To say that it’s been a while is an understatement, but we thought we’d get back into the blogosphere by blabbing about, well, us. Ending the year on a high, we’re ecstatic to announce the publication of Isn’t It Rich? A Novella In Verse, our debut book of poetry published by the eminent Gordy Grundy.

It’s available now on Amazonin paperback and on Kindle, and we would appreciate it if each and every one of you would buy a copy – or two or three, as they make great stocking stuffers – and then write a review. Puhleeze! After all, we’ve been writing about many of you over the years – with 2015 seeing us on a journalistic jag (click here, here and here for our most recent stories) – that has earned us the title of most prolific freelancer on the planet.

Ergo: We’d like a little love in return!

In any case, the history of IIR is nearly as interesting as the book, but we’ll save that for the onslaught of media coverage we expect to receive. We would like to note, however, that we’ve dedicated the book to our father, FAW, and the memories of our mother Bernice, nephew Dylan Edwards and our favorite Renaissance man, Taylor Negron. Our acknowledgments are also seemingly endless, but you’ll have to purchase the tome to see if you’re one of them.

Seriously, we would like to mention just a few names, including the gifted Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, Kate Johnson, Carey Peck, his wife, the fabulous artist Lita Albuquerque, and her daughter Jasmine Albuquerque Croissant, who, with her husband Rodrigo Amarante, hooked us up with our cover artist, the magnificent Katrien DeBlauwer (image below).





Gratitude also goes to our Salon 3.0 co-host, the inimitable Joanna Cottrell, postmodern choreographer Rudy Perez and dear friends, artist Russ Butler and the incomparable actor/performance artist John Fleck.




We also have a new website, www.victorialooseleaf.com, where you’ll learn more about the book, our erstwhile cable access TV show, The Looseleaf Report – about which Kenneth Hughes is making a feature-length documentary – and various and other sundry things about our, er, brilliant career.

So, Happy Chanukah, and you’ll be hearing from us again soon, as we’ll be writing our annual Best Of 2015 column. In the interim, cheers to you, loyal readers, and let us know what you think of Isn’t It Rich? A Novella In Verse (photo below and on back cover, Mark Hanauer)

A sad note: The one-of-a-kind trailblazing actress, Holly Woodlawn, has passed away. She became a friend after appearing on The Looseleaf Report in 2000, when we dished on politics – gender and otherwise – and her wondrous life. RIP…


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