Bring It On…

By Victoria Looseleaf

Dear readers: We know it’s been a while since we’ve written anything…here. Of course, we did crank out 10,000 words for various outlets in three weeks before we were struck down with a heinous throat infection on Thanksgiving.

Indeed, we actually lost our voice for 15 days/nights, literally. A critic without her voice – not a good thing. But we did manage to get to Valencia, Spain two weeks ago for the opening of that city’s opera season. Thanks, then, to intendant, Ms. Helga Schmidt, who is the director of the gorgeous Calatrava-designed Palau de les Artes Reina Sofia.

It was a thrill to hear Plácido Domingo sing in the zarzeula, Luisa Fernanda, one night, and conduct Manon Lescaut the next. In between that pair of musical nuggets, we did a wonderful interview with the megatenor/cum/baritone, who turns – gasp – 74 next month. (Above, Lawrence K. Ho photo, from L.A. Opera’s Thaïs.)

It was certainly a great way to end the year, and what a year for the arts it was. We’re not limiting ourselves to any Top 10, but are going to rattle off some of the most fascinating performances we attended in 2014.

We made it to Wolfsburg, Germany, for the Movimentos Festival, where Diavolo: Architecture in Motion performed its world premiere trilogy, L’Espace du Temps (cover photo from Fearful Symmetries by Lawrence K. Ho). Click here for our Fjord review of that, which was, btw, spectacular, in every sense of the word. We also did a travel story on Berlin, where we caught one of Vladimir Malakhov’s last performances as director of Staatsballett Berlin before he decamped for Tokyo Ballet. He danced the role of Caravaggio in the work of the same name – at age 46 – then continued to take curtain calls until every last person had left the theater. Wow!

Back in the States we showed more love for Diavolo at the Greek Theatre in September, when they performed a pair of classics, Trajectoire and Transit Space. Earlier in 2014, we went wild for In C at the Hammer Museum, a performance installation with Yuval Sharon’s opera company The Industry, Ate9 Dance Company and Terry Riley’s iconic work. We also wrote about Ate9 for the L.A. Times as prelude to Danielle Agami’s world premiere, mouth to mouth. (Agami is one of Dance Magazine’s 25 To Watch in the January issue, courtesy of, well, us.)

Backtrack to March and Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo’s Lac at Segerstrom Center for the Performing Arts (photo, right, by Laurent Philippe). We wrote the preview on Jean-Christophe Maillot for the LAT, having traveled to Monaco last December to cover that troupe’s new Nutcracker. (Click here for our Fjord review.) Ballet topped our June list when Los Angeles Ballet, now going very strong in its 10th season, performed an endearing, enduring La Sylphide along with Balanchine’s magnificent Serenade, choreographed in 1934 and still fresh. (Click here for our LAT review.)

June also brought Ballet Preljocaj to the Music Center, where we did all three pre-concert talks and wrote the preview piece on Angelin Preljocaj for LAT. (We’d been to Aix-en-Provence last year for the world premiere of Les Nuits, photo below; click here for our Dance Magazine coverage – which was given its West Coast premiere here.)

Barak Ballet also performed at the Broad Stage in June, the evening including two world premieres, Melissa Barak’s Aether and Darrell Grand Moultrie’s Voice of Six.

August featured American Contemporary Ballet’s first evening-length work by artistic director Lincoln Jones (click here for our LAT review), with live music always integral to the growing troupe’s repertory.

Also: As part of REDCAT‘s NOW Festival (New Original Works), Ate9 shared a bill with one of our favorite performance artists, the one and only John Fleck, who was superb in his one-person show, Blacktop Highway. Calling all theaters – this show should be booked around the globe. Fleck also performed at the 25-year anniversary of Highways Performance Space, along with a host of others, curated by the amazing Dark Bob, last May.

September proved equally fruitful, with Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre presenting Dancing at Dunbar, (photo, below by Adam Davila), in South Central L.A. The Goddess of Site Specific Dance (we elevated her from queen), is celebrating the 30th anniversary of her company throughout 2015, and we’ll be filling you in on all of the troupe’s upcoming activities.

In addition, the unstoppable Ms. Duckler hosted an 85th birthday party for postmodern guru Rudy Perez, where many members of the dance community lovingly recalled working with this movement pioneer. In our case, we’ve been writing about and really getting to know him over the last 20 or so years. Brava Rudy!

October had the incomparable Garth Fagan Dance performing four shows at the Nate Holden Theater under Ebony Repertory Theatre’s auspices. We were so honored to have written about the troupe for LAT on its last visit 10 years ago (click here for that), and again this year (click here). Fagan, who choreographed Broadway’s The Lion King, is a master and a mensch, and it’s no wonder his dancers stay with him for eons. The company is 40 years old and several members are still performing with Fagan in their 50’s and 60’s. We were truly blown away by the troupe’s vivacity, stamina and emotional heft. (Photo from Lighthouse/Lightning Rod, with sets by Alison Saar)

In October we were also interviewed by the wonderful Amanda Slingerland of Studio Vox/LA Talk Radio. Her show Get Famous Friday! is a blast. Amanda had us tell some of our best stories, she also played a track from our album Harpnosis, we read a poem from A Looseleaf Notebook: Volume I, and then ended the show with a bang, dispensing words of wisdom to aspiring journalists: “Don’t use SpellCheck!”  Click here for that brilliant blabfest.

Lighthouse/Lightning Rod

November was again filled with beautiful dance, including our being tapped as one of  seven judges at the McCallum Theatre’s 17th Annual Choreography Festival. (It was no surprise that ate9, photo below, took the grand prize…). There was also a weekend of performances at the Alternate Currents festival at the Electric Lodge.

Thanks to Joel Shapiro, artistic director and founder of this space, and to Butoh artist Oguri, who, with several of his dancers, performed Verb-Ing. We’ve been writing about Oguri for eons and are always in awe of his singular vocabulary, style and execution of ideas, which are nothing less than astonishing. Also part of the festival: Sarah Elgart’s seductive film, Follow, was projected on the outside of the Lodge. Elgart, whose company Arrogant Elbow did a site specific work commissioned by MOCA Santa Barbara in September, choreographed and directed the film, while Caitlin O’Rorke offered up beautiful camera work and editing.

Josie Walsh’s Ballet Red (left), stormed the Broad Stage in November with its program Urban Angels. We’ve been writing about Walsh since 2002 (click here for that LAT story), and have watched this talented director/choreographer evolve into a terpsichorean force of nature. We’re so proud of her!

We’re also thrilled that our colleague Kate Johnson, who, after an arduous 10-year process, premiered her documentary, Mia, A Dancer’s Journey, on PBS, which airs again on January 29. Co-directed with Mia Slavenska’s daughter, Maria Ramos (Slavenska danced with Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, among other troupes, before taking up residence and teaching in L.A. for years), will be screened at Lincoln Center at the end of January at its annual Dance on Camera Festival. We hope Johnson snags an Emmy for this heartfelt and beautifully rendered film.

There were also some major performances at CAP UCLA’s Royce Hall this year, including those by Philip Glass in May and Batsheva Dance Company performing Sadeh21 in November (one of our LAT top Fall Dance Picks, photo right by Gadi Dagon). Two weeks later Kristy Edmunds brought us Robert Wilson’s brilliant staging of The Old Woman, with none other than Mikhail Baryshnikov and Willem Dafoe a kind of post-postmodern vaudeville duo. Talk about an embarrassment of riches. We also bumped into our old pal Ryan Heffington at the after-party and are happy for his pair of Grammy nominations. Check out his choreography for Sia‘s Chandelier and Arcade Fire‘s We Exist. You rock, Sir Ryan!

We loved L.A. Opera’s presentation of Dido/Bluebeard’s Castle, directed by maverick, Barrie Kosky. (We also wrote a profile of LAO’s President and CEO, Christopher Koelsch, a visionary for the 21st century. Click here for that KCET Artbound story.)

In addition, last month we covered the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Mama – the organ – at Walt Disney Concert Hall, where a series of concerts showed off the Frank Gehry/Manuel Rosales-designed instrument. (Click here for another one of our KCET stories, and be prepared for some detailed verbiage on the most gorgeous organ in the world!)

Whew! No wonder we collapsed last month, since we also produced six gatherings of Salon 2.0 in 2014. We presented a who’s who of musicians, artists and performance artists and poets. Our roster included the legendary Barbara T. Smith, artist Andre Miripolsky, cellist Robert Een, who played while realist Chaz Guest painted, tubaist William Roper, vocalist Anna Homler performing with trombonist Michael Vlatkovich, composer/vibraphonist Jodie Landau and friends, and  poets Linda J. Albertano and Laurel Ann Bogen.

Cue trumpets: We’re now thrilled to announce Pop-Up Salon 3.0, the first of which will be held at a beautiful home in Venice, with sculptor Robert Heller talking about his work and where Mary Woronov, actor/author/painter/Warhol superstar, will dish on her long and storied career.

And yet more big plans for 2015: Cue trumpets redux, as we’ll be unveiling the Looseleaf Performance Space at Linda Valentino’s Downtown Dance and Movement (photo below). The studios, in the booming South Park section of downtown Los Angeles, are currently under construction, and we’ll be producing and curating the monthly series, Sundays on Hope.

Several of the artists slated to perform include ate9, members of Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre, Arrogant Elbow and Josie Walsh’s Ballet Red. There will also be a tribute to Rudy Perez and musical afternoons featuring some of our favorite composers, vocalists and instrumentalists. And, since we came out this year as a writer of satiric fiction, reading from the Gordy Grundy-edited anthology, Gen F (below), at venues including Shulamit Gallery and Stories Bookstore in Echo Park (and also at Susan Hayden‘s fabulous series, Library Girl, in which we read along with a coterie of wonderful actors, authors and poets), LPS will feature Scott & Zelda: A Literary Afternoon with various peeps reading from their works. Who knows, we might reprise Corpus Criticus or even read from our latest tome, Men and Other Natural Disasters. And speaking of Gen F, we’ll be reading our story, The Oudist again, and also hosting, four writers – Andrew Berardini, James Hayward, Buffy Visick and the fabulous Ms. Woronov. Where you ask? We’ll be at the famed Book Soup on January 18 at 4 pm, so be sure and mark your calendars.

For now, though, we’d like to kiss December goodbye (and this dastardly throat infection, as we’re still not 100%), and wish everyone a happy, healthy, prosperous, peace-filled 2015. Break out the Veuve, s’il vous plait!

P.S. This post is dedicated to the memories of but a few of the wonderful people who left this planet too soon, including Joan Rivers, Robin Williams, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Elaine Stritch, Mike Nichols, Lauren Bacall, Maximilan Schell, Lorin Maazel, Marian Seldes, Claudio Abbado, Geoffrey Holder, Gerard Mortier, Richard Duardo, Maya Angelou, Sid Caesar, Harold Ramis, Pete Seeger, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos and Tasha Martel. RIP…




About Victoria Looseleaf

Victoria Looseleaf is an award winning arts journalist and regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times, KUSC-FM radio, Dance Magazine, Performances Magazine and other outlets. She roams the world covering dance, music, theater, film, food and architecture. Have pen - and iPad - will travel! Her latest book, "Isn't It Rich? A Novella In Verse" is now available on Amazon. Thank you for reading! Cheers...
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