A Little Versa Style Hits Royce Hall

Today, Versa Style Dance visited the Royce Rehearsal Room for a series of Design for Sharing workshops with fifth and sixth graders. Their work is an infectiously energetic blend of hip-hop, latin and afro-latin styles.  The company aims to elevate social dances–the moves spotted on street corners and quinceneras, on dance floors and school yards–of Los Angeles, counteracting the many misrepresentations and misconceptions of hip-hop and popular dances in the process.

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They covered a lot of ground.  There was salsa dance and popping and locking. There was a quick primer on ’90s hiphop and today’s internet-fueled hits likeThe Nene and The Whip (don’t worry, we didn’t know about those either–we’re still trying to learn the dougie).  There was a Soul Train tribute that had everyone dancing in their seats. No matter what they were doing, it was impossible to watch this young company, practically buzzing with enthusiasm, without a smile.

When Versa Style shares their work with student audiences, they also share a message of hard work, pride in your community, dedication to an art form, and the value of education. Many of the dancers are the first in their families to go to college.  Some are the first to finish high school. One of those was Ernesto, who started after-school dance classes with VersaStyle’s cofounder Jackie Lopez when he was just 12.  He graduates from UCLA’s World Arts and Culture department in June with a minor in Arts Education.  Our kids thought that was almost as impressive as his moves.

There were some pretty important take-homes for the 11 and 12 year olds in the audience today.  But for us, and for the company,  this morning was all about joy.  Joy in movement, joy in sharing, joy in inspiring and supporting a new generation of artists. Joy in bringing our whole selves when we do the things we love, on stage and off.

More shots below of the joy in full effect. All photos by Phinn Sriployrung.

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Flutes, Flutes and More Flutes!

We are looking for 100 flutists of all shapes sizes and skill levels to comprise our “Flute Migranti” as part of master flutist and International Contemporary Ensemble co-founder Claire Chase’s April 4 appearance at CAP UCLA. She will be leading a special performance of Salvatore Sciarrino’s  “Cerchio Tagliato dei Suoni” (“Cutting the Circle of Sounds”) an immersive 60-minute work for 104 flutists: 4 soloists and 100 migranti, who move throughout the theater playing air sounds  and simple extended techniques. Participants in the migranti can be all ages (10 and older) and all levels, all you need is a flute and an enthusiasm for making new sounds on the instrument.

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This piece is aural theater and it has only been performed once in the U.S. Our presentation is the official West Coast premiere and it’s not soon to be repeated. Read more about this unique work and its 2012 presentation at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Positioned around an audience arranged in a square with an aisle cut through it, the soloists exchanged trills, hisses, sputters and violent bursts. Around 10 minutes into the 70-minute work a cadre of 100 additional flutists — “migranti,” Mr. Sciarrino designates them — marched through the aisle, playing breathy, hooded sounds at the cusp of audibility. These players, seasoned professionals and small children alike, circulated intermittently, some using intact instruments while others blew through head joints only.

I’m tickled at the thought of a heard of flutists floating through Schoenberg Hall. I have many memories of being part of herds of flute players in my life. And there’s this very incredible emotional high you get from being inside a sound, being part of an orchestra or conglomeration of people making music, making sounds.

I started playing the flute when I was 11 years old after experiencing an introduction to orchestral instruments in the weekly music class at my middle school. (This was in the 1980s, we had music class every week, we learned to sing and read music and play basic tunes on myriad instruments). I, like so many other musically inclined young girls, fell in love with the flute. It was beautiful to look at, beautiful sounds came out of it. I felt (and still feel) beautiful whenever I pick it up and make music with it.

As I traversed the years that followed, I discovered the flute appealed to a multitude of young musicians, many of them girls. Every audition, every competition, every music camp I attended for the next 15 years was punctuated by a sea of fellow flutists vying for a seat, a spot or a score. My private teacher would gather together all of her students every Christmas and institute a “flute choir,” and we would perform crowd-pleasing songs of the season at a busy shopping mall in Phoenix, Arizona. It was almost always an all-girl group of performers, even though at the time my only knowledge of a professional flutist in real life was James Galway, who I adored and wanted to see whenever he came to my city.

Counting myself among a sea of flutists was a big part of my artistic development. I eventually became good enough to find myself a soloist, or a featured performer, earning a scholarship to college in 1990 where I discovered an even greater sea of more-talented and more-dedicated flutists in the world than I was.

But I was young and content for my chosen instrument to become a hobby rather than a career. I still love to play. I look at music that I used to proficiently perform and enjoy and can pick out much of it, which makes me feel more nostalgic than chagrined at my deteriorated skill.

It’s a beautiful instrument and I still love making music with it and hearing others make music with it.

I’m very much looking forward to seeing Claire Chase perform and witnessing every possibility of this wonderful instrument in the hands of a contemporary master.

And of course I jumped at the chance to join the gathering of flutist that will be part of her performance.

If you play the flute, or used to play the flute and long for an opportunity to dust it off, please join me. It’s going to be a very special moment on the season.

Claire will lead two public workshops with the migranti to prepare for the performance.

Ideally participants would be available for all rehearsals, but we can be flexible with schedules.

Schedule:

Wednesday, April 1: 4-7 pm

Thursday, April 2: 4-7 pm  (April 1st and 2nd are at the Hammer Museum, free parking available)

Friday, April 3: 6-9 pm  (Rehearsal at UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall)

Saturday, April 4:  (1:30 rehearsal, 4:00 Performance at Schoenberg/UCLA)

For more info and to confirm participation, contact Meryl Friedman mlfriedman@arts.ucla.edu

 

Loving Leonard

 

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Recently I was asked to describe what it is like to know and work with Leonard Nimoy. My answer was that he is the embodiment of the very best there is in the whole of human consciousness.

Anyone who knew him well would agree.

Knowing Leonard, and having the exceptional honor of working with him, was accompanied with an awareness that he was generating something that offered me the gift of being better than I was beforehand.

Leonard’s grounded intellect, immense talent and public kindness was woven together in all of his work. He was in possession of a distinctive joy, infectious wit and compassion. His honesty in his approach to everything was wholly generous. He was an alchemist of life at its best potential.

It is tempting to wonder if perhaps Leonard actually was from another planet. No, Leonard was utterly of this world and to imagine otherwise would be to somehow miss his extraordinary example of what it means to be so resonantly, fully and inspirationally human.

Through his works of art, works of philanthropy and advocacy, and through his legacy of profound impact, I know I will continue to learn and benefit from his spirited goodness. These will indeed live long and prosper. For so many of us the world over, our capacities have been ever expanded through his life and works and I know that this will only continue.

I don’t have a deep enough word to acknowledge his rare brilliance. Whatever that word is, it is stuck in my solar plexus and tethered there in my heart as I write this.

Thank you Leonard Nimoy.

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Kristy Edmunds and Leonard Nimoy. Photo by Spencer Davis (at top Leonard Nimoy, photo by Spencer Davis).

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Leonard Nimoy, Kristy Edmunds and Susan Bay Nimoy. Photo by Phinn Sriployrung

“Movement” 2015

The Royce Terrace turned into a dance club on Friday, February 13 to launch CAP UCLA’s first Movement event—a party to bring art enthusiasts together to celebrate the artists and performances that inspire us.

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Following the Los Angeles premiere of Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion’s “When The Wolves Came In” guests partied with the company under the disco ball and danced to beats fueled by KCRW’s Garth Trinidad.

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A special shout-out goes to new CAP UCLA member Karin Okada who got the party started. Karin was the first guest to participate in the interactive dance video. Video of revelers dancing were projected on to the Royce Hall Building, which non-dancers got to enjoy while taking advantage of snacks and the cash bar. We’re very happy to provide  CAP UCLA members complimentary drink vouchers and members’ priority line at the bar for events like this.

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And, we’re very grateful for the CAP UCLA members and collaborators who made this party possible. Thank you Sasha & Bill Anwalt, Stu Bloomberg, Fariba Ghaffari, Deborah Irmas, Diane Kessler, Renee Luskin, Ginny Mancini, Julie Miyoshi, Edie & Robert Parker, Kathleen & John Quisenberry, Anne-Marie Spataru, Jennifer Simchowitz, DeeDee Dorskind & Brad Tabach-Bank and Patty Wilson.

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Check out more photos from Movement 2015 and both Kyle Abraham performances here. There’s more to come!

Ruminations on L.A. by Gabriel Kahane

As Gabriel Kahane prepares to bring his sonic treatise The Ambassador home to Los Angeles, he shared some thoughts on the city that inspired an album, a theatrical stage show, and a state of mind. 

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If you turn onto Vernon Avenue just east of Lincoln Road, you’ll find neat rows of modest bungalows which once announced themselves cheerfully with paint jobs in vivid reds and greens and blues, but which after decades of neglect and exposure to sun have been left mottled and fading. And so it is that these houses have been passed over in the otherwise inexorable spread of gentrification in the Venice area. I am complicit, if only as a window shopper, in this fancification that has largely replaced the seedy character of Free Love-era Venice Beach with a wealth typified by bespoke shops doling out luxury coffee, four-figure caparisons, and faux-Dutch bikes, to a newly transplanted demographic that can handily afford them.

This observation is intended without any kind of territorial griping; my claims on the neighborhood are thin at best. I was born, in 1981, in one of those bungalows, either at 648 Vernon Ave. or maybe 652, but we moved East in 1983. Of those first two years, I have only a pair of (interrelated) memories: first, that the walls may have been a pale yellow; and second, that I had a fever at some point and in its subtropical grip I looked out through the white slats of my crib with burning eyes and beheld those yellow walls, and that’s what I remember.

Though on its surface The Ambassador is a piece about Los Angeles through the lens of film, fiction, and architecture, I think it’s actually a piece about memory, and how memory dances infinitely with physical space. From what I can surmise, Los Angeles started to have a sense of its own history, of collective memory, in the early aughts, around the time of the preservation battle over the Ambassador Hotel, a three-way affair that pitted the LA Unified School District and the Kennedy Family against the L.A. Conservancy. Though the campaign to preserve the hotel failed, and in its place an architecturally vacuous complex of schools (admittedly serving a community much in need) built— about which Christopher Hawthorne has written incisively and eloquently—the process of trying to save the hotel nevertheless reified in many Angelenos a sense of pride in history.

But long before Diane Keaton spoke at the wake for the Ambassador Hotel, there was a trove of cultural artifacts that served, consciously or not, as a historical record of the city. I’m thinking now of the novels of Joan Didion and Nathanael West and James M. Cain, the films of Howard Hawks and Michael Mann and William Friedkin, the criticism of Esther McCoy and Reyner Banham and Mike Davis, and the houses—oh the houses— of Rudolph Schindler and John Lautner and Lloyd Wright. It’s this archive that was my way into making The Ambassador, which as a body of work is more a reflection of what interested me instinctively than an attempt to be comprehensive vis a vis Los Angeles. For how can one map an unmappable city? To paraphrase Christopher Hawthorne, L.A. is not great at sitting still for portraits.

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There is one portrait of Los Angeles that became familiar to me as I worked on The Ambassador, much of which was written in a postage-stamp of a studio apartment perched at the southern end of Griffith Park, an apartment whose original function was as the servant’s quarters of the connected house that Rudolph Schindler remodeled in the early 1920’s. There’s a door on the eastern side of the studio that opens onto a small wooden roof deck, canted nails jutting up and out threateningly. (During one visit, I ended up sitting in the pharmacy at the creepy Walgreen’s at Sunset and Western, waiting to get a tetanus shot before driving home rattled in that singular way one does under the combined influence of foreign chemicals and native adrenaline, one of the nails having had its way with the heel of my left foot.) Stepping outside, if I turn to face south on this little parallelogram of decklet high above the city, it’s all hypnotic views of the L.A. basin. Nights: coyotes skirling just beyond the window, their cries sharp and dry and anechoic, an uneasy counterpoint to the silent play of hundreds of thousands of lights throbbing in the basin below. Mornings: steam rising off of coffee to meet the fog; the ritual of assessing air quality by visibility— can you see Palos Verdes?

Thom Andersen, in his film Los Angeles Plays Itself, says early on that L.A., as a city, is not photogenic, that its edges are blurry, smudged, imprecise. (Another way of articulating Hawthorne’s quip about Los Angeles not taking to portraiture.) That may well be the case, but through human eyes—or at least through my eyes— to behold the city at dawn before the fog has burned off, and to read it as a quick pastel sketch of a metropolis on the brink of bustling activity, commands great emotional precision, even if the image isn’t in focus. And that emotional precision was the thing I wanted to capture in The Ambassador. For as I began to visit Los Angeles more often in my late twenties and early thirties, there was an accretion to the emotional weight of the city. Driving through East Hollywood, Inglewood, Westchester, Marina Del Rey. Walking Vermont Ave. in Koreatown, chatting up the proprietor of a piano shop that seems as uncomfortable in its skin as its owner; she’s still rattled twenty-some-odd years later. The pilgrimage to the San Gabriel Valley for soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung and the reluctant camaraderie that accompanies the lines that stand between you and xiao long bao. Or this: standing under a gunmetal grey sky and gaping at the modest majesty of the Watts Towers and the improbable fact of one man’s vision and persistence.

I wanted to know why the city made me feel so much.

Bringing The Ambassador back to Los Angeles is terrifying. I want to do right by the city that I abandoned so soon after it bore me. I want those who might be prone to reflexive defense of their city to know that if there’s tough love in the piece, it is the object and not the modifier that’s key. But ultimately, I cannot and should not offer preemptive defenses— all I have is to invite you to join me at the Freud Playhouse on February 27 and 28, and to have a look for yourself.

Frank Warren: PostSecret Live” Weds. Jan. 23, 2015-Royce Hall

(Unsigned editorial from the performance program notes)

In the last decade, PostSecret Project founder Frank Warren has received more than a million postcards. That is a staggering amount of secrets to imagine that one human is willing to assume compassionate responsibilty for. It is also a staggering example of the capacity for empathy we all possess.

The secrets have come from around the world, each bearing a secret the anonymous senders might otherwise never voice.

Hopes, fears, confessions, regrets, dreams, all captured on 4×6 cards that come pouring into Frank’s mailbox, and his home, every day.
Tonight, we’ll get to see some of the postcards that didn’t end up on the PostSecret website or in one of Frank’s books. But we haven’t all gathered here just to pull back the curtain on the lives of strangers. Frank will share what all those secrets have taught him about the unseen dramas unfolding all around us, and how they can help us be more compassionate.

We all feel the need to conceal parts of ourselves. Whatever our individual secrets may be, we each make daily decisions about what to share and what to hide, which doors to open and which to keep locked.

Here at the Center, we believe in opening doors. We believe in creating a space where we can share an experience, and be reminded that our own most personal truth can be recognized in the unlikeliest of places. Each time an artist takes the stage, it’s an invitation to make a connection. PostSecret reminds us that the act of sharing a secret, on an anonymous postcard or in front of a crowd, is just another kind of invitation to connect, another door being thrown open.

Inspired by PostSecret, we’ve been collecting anonymous answers to the question, What’s the Boldest Thing You’ve Ever Done? Hundreds of cards were dropped into collection boxes across campus over the last few months. They are on display tonight in the lobby. Some, no doubt, carry secrets. All of them help us to see someone else’s life through their own eyes.

We hope you’ll share your boldest moment, public or private, by submitting your own card before you leave tonight.

We’re honored to have Frank Warren here, and to share this evening of insight and discovery with you. Thanks for being here, and for bringing your curiosity and your compassion.

We hope you leave with a new door open.

Sussan Deyhim: THE HOUSE IS BLACK–Royce Hall Jan. 23, 2015

(Unsigned editorial from the performance program notes).

It has been a profound privilege and honor to collaborate with and support Sussan Deyhim since the very early stages of this incredible work. Sussan was in residence at CAP UCLA with The House is Black last year and tonight’s world premiere is a culmination of energy, creative spirit and integrity of purpose.

The making of a work like this has been in the hands of many believers–the people and organizations and fellow artists who believe in the importance of the story Sussan is so committed to sharing with us all, who believe in shining a light on the infl uence of a great writer and artist who came before and whose voice has been all-too-silent in the contemporary arts world.

For three years now, we at the Center have been asking the question “Who is the Poet in Your Life?” The answers are as varied as the people who supply them, and our work and lives have been enriched through this exploration. Thanks to Sussan, Forough Farrokhzad herself has become an answer to that question for us. We welcome you here tonight to celebrate her contributions to the world of art, and to celebrate the tenacity, intention and great talent of Sussan Deyhim, who will continue to bring the work of Forough to so many. We hope you leave here with a poem from our live Poetry Bureau in the West Lobby where we will attempt to capture the great power of language through a few thoughtfully typed verses.

And we hope you leave here tonight able to more deftly ponder and answer the question: Who is the Poet in Your Life?

Tonight we all become part of a living, breathing, ongoing exhibition. Our memories and experiences here tonight are what creates a permanent collection of this ephemeral art form. We become the keepers of this moment in time and this tribute to two powerful boundary-defying artists.

Little Explosions

“I’m very excessive. I move and move and move.”

Louise Lecavalier told us this with a laugh this during her post-performance Q&A January 16.

We had just witnessed this fact for ourselves as we watched her perform So Blue–half solo/half duet and all energy. It was only her second performance in the states in 20 years.  The first was in 2011 at Jacob’s pillow performing “A Few Minutes of Locke,” recalling her past iconic days as lead dancer for La La La Human Steps.

That’s not nearly enough Louise for us, nor obviously for the rapt audience who attended her performance and stayed after to hear the incredible performer talk about So Blue, her first piece of choreography in its U.S. debut.

Like onstage, she held nothing back, talking about the curiosities and challenges she encountered as she developed the work, learning quickly that it would be “too stressful to improvise an entire performance on stage”—which was an early idea.

She talked about the evolution of the work to include her solo element and then add a partner Frédéric Tavernini whose  energy she describes as much calmer than her own, which made them an excellent match for the piece.

There is an intensity to Louise as performer that belies her delightful rapid-fire and playfully lighthearted spoken demeanor, accentuated by a lilting Québécois accent. She often looks directly at the audience when she dances. “I like to address people,”she said.

She begins So Blue by sitting on stage in warm up clothes, observing the audience enter, creating a sort of “backstage moment” as the audience “enters my world,” she said. “I like this moment very much,” she said. “It’s very precious.”

And then she begins, her body, and movement as she described it, and as we certainly witnessed) is full of “little explosions” of sometimes wild repetitive movements that seems to burst forth from her form, simultaneously propelling her along and yet somehow also perfectly at her command.

At one point, the explosions stop completely and Louise, facing the audience, languidly draws her legs into the air for an extended headstand. It is completely silent except for the sound of her breathing. I felt my own heart rate pace itself to the heavy rise and fall of her rib cage.

Someone asked how she keeps such strength and calm during that epic headstand.

“Well,” she said. “It’s…..practice,” drawing laughter and laughing herself.

“In this moment, this calm happens,” she continued. “Although I am very tired, the calm always happens. I don’t know if I am making it happen or the audience is, but I am suspended in it”

An incredibly generous artist, Louise wrought a ripple of little explosions in the UCLA community during her time here. She worked with a groups of dance students in master class and inspired a large class of non-arts majors in a lecture-workshop that invited them to move their own bodies.

Thank you to everyone who joined us for this rare U.S. appearance from this extraordinary performer. Hopefully we will see much more of her in the future.

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An Evening with Gregory Porter– Royce Hall Jan. 17, 2015

(Unsigned editorial from the evening’s program notes).

Tonight is about soul and passion. The soul and passion of one artist as he transmits it to those of us here to bear witness; the soul and passion inherent in the blues, soul and jazz forms he so deftly inhabits; and the soul and passion that we as listeners, seekers and music lovers simultaneously bring to and extract from this space that has held so much of it over the decades.

We believe music is an essential part of the human experience.

Music perpetuates one of the most accessible rabbit holes in the art of performance. Throughout our lives, we will discover a sound or a song or a voice that resonates with us and dive deeper into it, uncover the influences behind the artist who created it, revel in other artists and forms and vibrations that emanate from it and evolve with it. And through all this we are expanding and enhancing our own experience.

Music is, indeed, essential.

Gregory Porter, over the last several years, has become an essential figure in the art of jazz performance. His third album, Liquid Skin, which you can read more about in the interview/bio enclosed in the program notes, earned him a Grammy, after being nominated for his first two albums. He was quickly recognized by his peers as a force to be reckoned with in jazz and is increasingly beloved by audiences worldwide. He is an imposing figure both literally and metaphorically, with a soul and passion to match his commanding stage presence.

As the New York Times put it in a recent review of a live performance in Porter’s home city: “Working from outer form to inner heart, Mr. Porter’s music is jazz via Oscar Brown Jr. and Nat King Cole; R&B via Ray Charles; thinky and poetic mid-’70s R&B, via
Marvin Gaye and Gil Scott-Heron; and then gospel, not as theology but as emotional policy, as devotion safeguarding against chaos.”

We are extremely proud to present this exceptional performer in Royce Hall.

Thank you for being with us.

Louise Lecavalier Fou Glorieux: SO BLUE–Royce Hall Jan. 16, 2015

(Unsigned editorial from the performance program notes)

“Energy brings energy,” Louise Lecavalier said, when asked about the work and stamina required to create and perform a dance work, recalling her years working with Edouard Locke of La La La Human Steps.

Tonight, you become the first American audiences to witness the first work of choreography from a woman who has already made an unmistakable mark in contemporary dance. So Blue stands alone as a compelling piece of work in the art of performance, but it also marks an important milestone in the life of an artist—an artist who has given so much and inspired so many.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s you may have seen her whirling across the stage in jaw-dropping barrel rolls, her long blond locks whipping along as she practically levitated parallel to the stage.

She dominates, she relents as she makes shapes in the air and she elevates the heart rate of all who witness.

As you might guess, we are deeply honored and greatly excited to be the first presenter in the U.S. to shine a much deserved
spotlight on this exceptional performer at an exciting and critical point in the trajectory of her artistic life.

As our executive and artistic director Kristy Edmunds puts it: “Louse is a force of nature and an utterly unique presence in contemporary dance.”

One of our rallying cries this season has been “The Body is Beautiful. Get Used to It.” You’ve likely seen our banners or flyers singing out this message—it is a truism that applies not only to the art of dance, but to the art of living.

What a privilege it is to have a body, to possess physical strength and vitality. And what a privilege it is to witness an artist like Louise Lecavalier who, with tenacity and tenderness, great prowess and graceful creative intellect, shows us time and again, just how beautiful the body is and what it is capable of.

We thank you for bringing your own energy to this hall tonight, in honor of this indomitable artist. Energy begets energy. We feel it when you bring it, the artists on stage feel it, and we share it here together. That’s what it’s all about.

Please linger with us after the performance as we toast Louise and hear more about her creative process. Thank you for helping us welcome her to Los Angeles.

Thoughts from the staff of CAP UCLA