Jamming in January

By Victoria Looseleaf

The year got off to a bang – literally – in San Francisco, where we ate, danced and made merry with friends and strangers at the Waterbar. We not only had a ringside view of the fireworks, but of the Bay Bridge, which is currently sporting an artist installation by Leo Villareal. Called Bay Lights, it’s the world’s largest LED light sculpture, 1.8 miles wide and 500 feet high and was inspired by the Bay Bridge’s 75th Anniversary. We used to live in Oakland, so we traversed the bridge on many an occasion. Taking a gander at the 25,000 white LED lights – individually programmed by Villareal himself – it was hard to concentrate on food – flights of oysters aside.

We were also a bit jet-lagged, having just flown in from Monaco, where we were supposed to celebrate X-Mas (not that we do), but had gotten stuck at Paris CDG, as the Nice airport had been shut down due to flooding. (We know: It’s a tough life, but somebody’s gotta live it.) Arriving, instead, on Boxing Day, when it was still raining, we checked out the stellar harbor/seaside view before having to indulge in some fois gras for lunch. (Since Foiemageddon was imposed on California a few years ago, we try to eat the stuff every chance we get.)

We then barely had time to change for that evening’s performance: the world premiere of Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Casse-Noisette Compagnie for his stellar troupe, Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo. It was quite the scene at the Grimaldi Forum, where, after the performance (click here for our Fjord review), more foie gras – this time sandwiched between macarons, OMG – was passed around and we were honored to meet Princess Caroline, daughter of the late Princess Grace. And what an honor it was.

Too bad we don’t smoke, as we would have joined her in a puff or deux. We loved hanging with the dancers, especially Bernice Coppieters, Maillot’s wife and muse (right, photo by Angela Sterling). The troupe is coming to Segerstrom Center for the Arts in March and we’re writing the L.A. Times preview story.

The next day we had a terrific guide to squire us around this insanely small, wealthy principality, where there is absolutely no crime (save for the white collar kind, or so we were told). Touring the Casino de Monte-Carlo was a trip, and since it was closed, there was no chance of us losing all of our Euros to Vingt-et-Une. Dinner was spent with friends – more fish, more oysters, more foie gras, and Saturday we toured the ballet’s atelier, where they were preparing for a huge New Year’s Eve party.

Finally getting back to our little burg by the Pacific, we continued partying, with Heidi Duckler Dance Company and Jacques Heim’s Diavolo (the troupe performed all three parts of its LA Phil-commissioned trilogy, L’Espace du Temps – read our LAT story here).

Then we made our way back to the Wallis to cover more dance for Fjord, this time Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal (photo, Gregory Batardon, from Barak Marshall‘s sublime, Harry). We’d written the Times feature on Martha Graham when it first opened in November and absolutely adore the venue that’s in our very own hood.

We also love theater and caught the opening night of Barry McGovern’s one-man ode to Samuel Beckett, I’ll Go On, at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. We’d interviewed Barry nearly two years ago for KUSC when he was in Waiting for Godot. He is sensational and his performance should not be missed.

We also got a sneak peek at Danielle Agami’s newest work for her Ate9 Dance Company. (Agami choreographed The Industry’s fabulous headphone opera, Invisible Cities, at Union Station, directed by Yuval Sharon, with music by Christopher Cerrone and danced by L.A. Dance Project.)

In any case, Agami’s latest opus, Mouth to Mouth, will bow in April and feature live music by the incomparable avant-garde ensemble Wild Up, under the artistic direction of conductor Christopher Rountree. The ensemble, btw, will be performing at Art Share on February 16, sans dance, but that’s cool. As for seeing dance, we dig it whenever and wherever we can – this occasion was in a private home (some attendees of note: actor/writer Dina Morrone, her editor husband, Stephen Rivkin and composers Jodie Landau – percussionist with Wild Up who also played in The Industry’s train station opera – and Ellen Reid, whom we’d written about for KCET Artbound when she composed music for Prometheus, along with jazz icon Vinny Golia. And while there may not have been any foie gras, there was plenty of wine, sushi and extraordinary talent. We’re so happy that Ate9 has moved to L.A. from Seattle, cuz, our motto is: The more dance, the better!

Also coming up this month: Christopher Plummer’s one-person show, A Word or Two, at the Ahmanson Theatre, Wayne McGregor Random Dance at CAP UCLA this weekend (cover photo from Far), and the Royal New Zealand Ballet brings its new Giselle. It’s choreographed by the dynamic duo of Ethan Stiefel, RNZB’s artistic director, and Johann Kobborg, who will soon helm National Romanian Ballet.

Giselle lands at the Dorothy Chandler at the end of the month – with a live orchestra. (Unlike the mediocre music of Minkus, this Romantic ballet has a score by Adolphe Adam, which we actually like.) There’s also Salon 2.0, which we co-host and co-produce with visual artist Linda Kunik. We’re live streaming this one, so more on that anon…although it’s gonna be hot: Award-winning cellist/composer/vocalist Robert Een will perform while Chaz Guest paints – live. Author Nicelle Davis will also be reading from her latest works.

If we thought it was a busy fall, it’s an equally busy winter. We only wish it would rain. Hey, maybe there’s an app for that!

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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