Tag Archives: UCLA

Celebrating Batsheva

It’s been a whirlwind October, beautifully concluded by an extended series of performances and events in honor of Batsheva Dance Company’s 50th Anniversary celebration.

We’re very grateful to all our members for your support of and participation with this company. It is a huge undertaking to present international companies, one that requires bringing all our resources and energy to bear, weathering unexpected and uninvited surprises such as a back up at the customs dock here in Los Angeles. The Batsheva set arrived in the nick of time, but only after much rallying and hoop jumping by the company and us as the presenter.

If you attended the performance, you know just how important that set was. The final images of those beautiful beautiful dancers, perpetually climbing the back wall, facing us, driving toward us, then flinging themselves away with abandon and strength, only to march forward again….the memory of that will stay with me. It spoke to me of effort and release, of striving and accepting, of work and gratefulness.

Many thanks to Roslyn Holt Swartz for hosting an In Conversation event with Batsheva artistic director Ohad Naharin  for Artist Circle members and above. He was generous with his time and spirit and brought an acute and inspiring perspective of his craft. We’re lucky to have been able to share some time with him over the course of the presentation.

For those of you who were able to join us for our Batsheva post-show reception, thank you for helping us congratulate, receive and celebrate this extraordinary company.

It was a very special way to launch our season of dance, and it was an opportunity to lay some groundwork for our commitment to building demand for dance in this city. We will be relying on our members to help us in this effort as we seek to galvanize the Los Angeles Dance community around ideas and possibilities for dance here.

Here are some highlights of the afterparty. We’ll see more of you soon!

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Batsheva Dance Company 50th Anniversary: ‘Sadeh21’ Royce Hall Nov. 1-2

The unsigned editorial from the evening’s program notes.

Performative movement, the practice of dance, or even just standing up from a chair, can be about collapse as much as precision. Training his dancers to collapse into the abilities of the body and using bodies in movement to reveal and to convince is a constant in his work, Batsheva artistic director Ohad Naharin told a group of students, faculty and staff in a special artist talk on campus this week.

He also broached the concept of echo, and how he as a choreographer likes to explore movement that embraces and refines echo, which has the potential to be unleashed and
expressed so uniquely by any given individual body in motion.

The body can echo. The concepts and ideas behind a work of dance can echo through us as the audience long after the performance has ended.

And indeed, the legacy and influence and artistry of one of the world’s greatest dance companies certainly echoes— across languages, lineages, cultures, geographies, and tonight throughout this hall and within each of us.

We are extremely proud to be part of the 50th Anniversary celebration of Batsheva Dance Company. The impact this institution has had on the world of dance is profound, and called for a series of programs and moments to create additional echo throughout our local community of dance artists and audiences.

We were fortunate to spend some time earlier this week on campus to hear Ohad speak about his background and aesthetic, and hosted two Gaga workshops open to students and the public.

The dancers performed Sadeh21 andanswered questions from local high school students in a Design for Sharing demonstration performance, making an impact on young emerging arts lovers and potential artists.

Part of tracing the echo of Batsheva for us also involved connecting with Danielle Agami, former Batsheva dancer and founder/director of local company Ate9. Danielle created a beautiful installation work in honor of Batsheva for the Saturday night program.

We also took the presentation of this influential company as an opportunity to start building a deeper dialogue with dance practitioners from across Los Angeles, with a special “Dance Gathering” preview performance at which we hope to begin forging new connections and inspiring new conversations about dance in our city.

For now, this weekend we celebrate Batsheva with the U.S. premiere performances of Sadeh21, a piece that serves as a wonderful introduction to the company for those who may have never seen Batsheva perform before, but also embodies the rich history and tradition of an institution that has reached a major milestone in the art of performance.

Welcome Batsheva, and welcome to you all.

Warhol, Exposed. Us, Together.

We stirred things up a bit last Friday night here at Royce Hall.

It seemed appropriate, considering the stage that night  was home to live music from an uber-eclectic smattering of modern music artists merged with home movie-esque video footage from the 60s, shot by the one and only Andy Warhol. One of my favorites included shots of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Gerard Malanga, Taylor Mead, Peter Orlovsky and Gregory Corso, capering around a couch at The Factory  while punk god Martin Rev unleashed a revved up solo instrumental barrage of sound.

This was another good one too, just a few minutes of an “unidentified man” drinking a coke. Paired with Rev’s high-velocity “Sugar Baby” instrumental, a simple act performed by an exceptional-looking person became artistically mesmerizing.

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Another choice moment of the performance was Eleanor Friedberger’s gentle and loving “All Known Things” set to screen test footage of the luminous Edie Sedgwick. It was so beautiful, a moment gloriously rendered in sound and celluloid. It made me happy and nostalgic, and it made me think about how fleeting youthful beauty is.

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Speaking of beauty, we saw it in spades that night, both onstage and off. For our pre-and post-show activities, we set up a giant screen on the terrace and asked partygoers to step behind it for two minutes of minimal movement—a la Warhol’s famed screen tests.

It was very endearing to stare at these faces, faces of strangers and friends alike. Sometimes it was joyful, sometimes it was meditative, sometimes their faces conveyed deep longing and pensiveness, some stifled laughter as their friends called out to them from the other side of the screen. It was an exposition, an exposé, each person was completely exposed on a large-scale screen, and were required to simply sit and look into the confronting single eye of a camera, without really knowing what pieces of them were being exposed on the other side.

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(Many thanks for the students from the campus TV station ResTV Channel 22 for their amazing work on the live screen tests.)

With some help from our talented friends at Snap Yourself, those amazing faces could take home a Warholized memento of the evening, via our on site Pop Art photo booth.

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There’s something about Andy Warhol. Something about his way of being in the world that invited and continues to invite us to expose ourselves to art in different ways, to be OK with liking the things we like, no matter how or where they land on the scale of pop art, fine art, high brow or otherwise.

At least, that’s what Warhol’s words and work have always done for me. I’m grateful for the very specific kind of  color and vibrancy he brought to the art world, and how inviting and fun he has made it feel for me. And I’m really grateful that CAP UCLA was able to be part of his ongoing legacy. We were early partners with the Warhol Museum and BAM on this unique performance project.

And generally, it was just a great party, a wonderful moment to hang out with what was the coolest audience of the year (thus far).

So thanks for coming out, thanks for snapping yourself, for exposing yourself, for making some pop art with us around here.

Let’s do it again soon.

Here’s me–Warholized. 😉

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Photos by Phinn Sriployrung and Meryl Friedman.

Behind “Exposed”

Tonight we play host to a truly unique moment in the art of performance.”Exposed: Songs for Unseen Warhol Films” is a marriage of sound and celluloid that has been a long time in the making, and its arrival to the Royce stage tomorrow marks one of those especially gratifying moments as a curator, when the dreaming of a few coalesces into an extraordinary experience for many.

A couple of years ago I was approached by a great colleague, Ben Harrison, at the Andy Warhol Museum about co-commissioning this project (then untitled, and then just a concept). They had located a number of Warhol’s short films in their collection that were related to the “Screen Tests” he filmed quite regularly, but were of a somewhat different nature. More like a cinema portrait in a way than a “screen test” – but that is a nuance I have likely invented as a way to officially organize it in my own mind. (As one does.)

Ben had been involved in the development of the precursor to “Exposed,” which was called “13 Most Beautiful” – the cinema screen tests shot by Andy, which had Dean & Britta performing live in a concert setting. Dean Wareham and Britta composed the music and if I recall (this was 2006 I think),  were part of the creative force that conceived the idea to begin with. It toured extensively, and I saw it in Sydney years ago.

Wareham, this time around, wanted to broaden out the music collaborators, so for this project, he is both the curator/music director and also a composer/performer. I guess that is four roles rather than two!

What I loved hearing about, behind the scenes as the project started to take shape, was the restoration process of the films themselves from the conservators at the Warhol museum, and their insights about the pieces of cinema along with the film curator.

Of course getting updates on which musicians were then engaged and what they were working on and how it was taking shape was also pretty exciting.

So, here we are, two years later – restored Warhol films, a massive amount of music and artistry that has come together for a three – city engagement after so much detailing and creative time has been spent behind the scenes.  I am sure the project will go on after it is performed in the ‘homes’ of the three organizations that committed early on to support the development time it needed, which include the Center, The Andy Warhol Museum and BAM.

As with anything connected to Warhol – everyone seems to have a story about “Andy” and along the way of this, I have heard many…..real and imagined….people are compelled to tell you about “the time when…..”

I swear, Andy Warhol has had dinner and drinks with people that were not even born during the Factory years – and that will probably be the case for decades to come.

Indeed, part of the impetus behind this work is to celebrate the 20-year history of The Andy Warhol Museum, which has done much to ensure that Andy’s memory and influence continues to loom large.

My story about Andy is tied to this moment in time, to  the preservation and presentation of these incredible lost films, the talented and varied music artists who are helping bring them to life for us.

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Victoria Tennant: Irina Baronova and the Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo–Saturday Oct. 18, 2014

The unsigned editorial from the performance program notes.

“It seems extraordinary now, when every town has a ballet school and every little girl has a tutu in her dress-up drawer, that there was a time when ballet was largely unknown in America.”

Early in her beautiful book, Victoria Tennant makes this observation in a section that recounts her mother’s teenage journey as a Russian artist touring in America.

Then, toward the end of the book, packaged alongside a picture of an aged-but-still-stunning Baronova posing with a tutu-and-tiara-clad young girl, comes these words from Baronova herself.

“It gives me, personally, a lot of satisfaction to feel that my work helped introduce audiences to ballet and made them like it. So, there is a piece of me in all the companies that have since sprung up. The work was not in vain. I achieved something, not just for myself, but for the Art that I love and for the future generations of youngsters coming after me.”

Victoria’s book is not only a loving testament to the life of an artist, a daughter’s tribute to the mother who inspired her, but an incredibly important record of an essential evolution in the art of performance, documenting a significant time period in the history of dance in this country and abroad.

She’s an exceptional storyteller.  And tonight, we have the extreme pleasure of welcoming her to the stage to share her stories with us.

Victoria will immerse us in her mother’s journey and her own journey of discovery as she embarked upon the creation of this book, mining a treasure trove of images, stories and memories carefully preserved and left behind by her famous mother.

Many programs on our season this year explore this notion of the art of archive, the potency and beauty there is to be found in the words and images from the past.

The story behind the story, Victoria’s tale, is as powerful as  the story of her mother’s incredible life and work.

We’re very proud to have her with us, to share personal and vivid memories of a woman beloved by the public, and to remind us of the great spirit, tenacity, generosity and lasting influence of an artist who came before.

Welcome, and thank you for being here with us.

Leaving a Trace of ‘Wordless’ on Campus

Wednesday night, thanks to Art Spiegelman and Phillip Johnston, we found ourselves immersed in a world of wordlessness. With live music, visuals and spoken word, through WORDLESS! Art shared with us images and tales of the artists whose wordless works spoke volumes to an entire community and culture of visual artists, cartoonists and graphic novelists, including himself.

The project definitely left a stamp on campus.

Art started his day on campus by speaking to a convening of students from several different areas of study in UCLA’s Design Media Arts.

Art is beloved by established and emerging artists around the world, including DESMA students here at UCLA.  Art’s e-cigarette and coffee were as omnipresent as his wit and wisdom.

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Meanwhile, our friends at UCLA Special Collections also took up the cause, creating a display of work from 1930s wood-cut artist Lynd Ward, who was the first graphic novelists and major influence on many artists who followed–including Art Spiegelman.

Scenes from the mini-installation in the Charles E. Young Research Library.

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And, on the night of the show we harnessed some creative talent from within our own community to explore one of the concepts from WORDLESS!–that of balancing on a hyphen..between words and pictures, right brain and left brain.

We invited the audience to try their hand at strip-creation here in Royce Hall , under the tutelage of UCLA grad Alexander Hoffman.  Check out a video of the workshop courtesy Daily Bruin.

And some of the awesome results:

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What did you think of WORDLESS? How do you reconcile your right-brain and left-brain tendencies? How and when do you find yourself “balancing on the hyphen?” Tell us in the comments below.

Art Speigelman and Phillip Johnston: WORDLESS! Oct. 15 2014

The unsigned editorial from the evening’s program notes

Very few humans are just one thing. We’re all a multi-hyphenate jumble of ideas, experiences, expectations, possibilities and curiosity. And that’s a beautiful thing.

Most artists exist in that hyphenate space…the place that simultaneously creates a pause and builds a bridge. Or, as Art Spiegelman himself might put it, using a hyphen to de-familiarize us with a pair of words, allowing us to see each one with fresh eyes.

That de-familiarization and re-familiarization is a constant underlying presence in the art of performance, giving us moments that inspire us to look at the world from a different perspective alongside moments that instigate deep and poignant memory of what we know (or thought we knew).

Tonight marks the first in a series of performances on our 2014-2015 season that straddle the medium of visual art, performance art and live music.

We’re very happy you’re here with us to welcome Art Spiegelman and Phillip Johnston, the live embodiment of a hyphenate creative experience, a co-mingling of ideas, experiences, expectations, possibilities and curiosity.

Part of WORDLESS! includes a new work from Art, a piece entitled “Shaping Thought.”

How do thoughts take shape?  What kind of shape do they take? How do we shape the thoughts of those around us? How have artists of the past shaped the thoughts and works of the artists of today? How do we connect to the shape of each other’s thoughts? Where and how do we build our own hyphens?

We are curious beings around here. We like these questions. We hope you like them too.  Feel free to ask them of us, of each other, often.

In the meantime, welcome to WORDLESS!

BASETRACK Live! Friday Oct. 10, 2014

The unsigned editorial from the evening’s program notes

How do you serve?
A hero is…
When do you feel protected?
What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
What does peace look like?

As we prepared to bring to the stage the innovative work of theater you will experience tonight, these and many other questions, thoughts and themes permeated our consciousness.

And in the week leading up to this performance we asked the UCLA community to share their thoughts and answers to these questions, by interacting with our Peace & Quiet station just outside Royce Hall.

There is a powerful overarching sense of purpose that runs through Basetrack Live–one that instigates query, provokes thoughtfulness and inspires advocacy. Being a part of an institution of research, inquiry and progress, it was important to us to set in motion the opportunity to extend the concept and conversation, to provide a physical place for such dialogue to occur. A space that would do its part to serve the impetus and deep thought that went into the creation of an exceptional blending of music, media and narrative performance.

Like many moments in the art of performance, the literal coming together of creators and audiences inherently sets the stage for a dialogue. For some works of art this is even  more integral, more natural, and this piece is a thoughtful example of that.
The stories you will witness on this stage  tonight are based on true moments in the lives of men and women who serve, who witness heroism, who protect others, who exhibit bravery and who wonder what peace looks like. Part of being here to bear witness to their stories is allowing ourselves to enter into a dialogue about conflict, and the human toll of conflict. This is not always an easy thing to do. But it is a worthwhile thing to do, we believe, and it is an idea that is well served when viewed through an artistic lens.

We welcome you to linger after the performance and hear more
about its creation from the artists in a Q&A session here in the hall. We invite you to interact with them and us and to visit the temporary installation outside. Share your thoughts, share an answer to one of the questions above, write a letter to a member of active military, share a conversation with someone you’ve never met or even share a moment of silence and remembrance.

Make the most of this moment in time as we all take pause to consider the questions and stories brought to life by tonight’s
performers and creators.

Thank you for being with us.

‘Bastrack’ Artists Inspire Student Curiosity

“First, I would like to say…thank you for your service.”

In a UCLA class of 400 students, young women and men raised their hands and stood to ask a question of Tyler LaMarr: Marine, actor and lead performer in Basetrack Live.  Before every question, each student expressed their gratitude. “My brother is a Marine and I want to say thank you.”

Tyler LaMarr, star of Basetrack, talks about the project in UCLA Professor Robert Winter's class.
Tyler LaMarr, star of Basetrack, talks about the project in UCLA Professor Robert Winter’s class.

“Can you tell us, do you ever feel angry about how some people say negative things about the military?”

“How do you feel when actors who have never been in service portray Marines or soldiers in combat?”

“Do you think the government is telling the truth about what goes on over there?”

The questions flowed for two hours, evolving organically into a conversation: thoughts, opinions, fears, hopes. Tyler’s path since graduating from high school was markedly different from the majority of the students he now faced, but any one of them could have been him — they were more similar than different.

“Can you talk about the stress you felt when you came home?”

“I want to ask you about sexual assault in the military – how bad is it, and what can we do?”

“Did you always want to be an actor?  How does a Marine get to be an actor?

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The room was filled with laughter, hushed silence, intense listening.  You could feel the listening.  At the end of class, instead of the usual rush of students pushing to leave, hurrying to the next class, hurrying to lunch, hurrying somewhere, they pushed to the front of the room to shake hands with the young man who proudly talked about his choices.  One young woman said, “If you had to do it all again, if you could make any choice, would you do anything different?”

“No,” said Tyler.  No, I would do it all the same.”

Hundreds of handshakes. Thank you for your service.

 CAP UCLA presents “Basetrack Live” tomorrow night in Royce Hall. And our “Peace & Quiet” station on the Royce Quad, will remain up until after the performance. Join us to experience this unique theater work and join the conversation by visiting “Peace & Quiet” or contributing to our Tumblr

Tyler visiting the "Peace & Quiet" installation outside Royce Hall.
Tyler visiting the “Peace & Quiet” installation outside Royce Hall.

In the Machine

This weekend we got a rare experience to get up close and personal with the art we present. Folks who attended the Paul Dresher Ensemble Schick Machine performances  were invited to cap off the show by taking a hands-on tour of the eponymous machine from the production.

And I mean hands-on. The creators refer to this moment as “The Petting Zoo.” They not only allow, but encourage eager hands to pick up mallets and bang on implements in this crazy sonic laboratory. Dresher and Schick and members of their crew were on hand to offer suggestions and instructions of how to make sounds and to explain how all the pieces work.

I attended the Sunday matinee with my significant other, who is something of a sonic tinkerer himself, (mostly in a playground called Abelton), I could sense his wonder and desire to crawl inside this glorious concoction on the stage (which kind of is what I imagine the inside of his brain looks like).

We immediately lined up, eager to get our chance inside the machine, along with about a third of the audience from the performance, many of whom were young children who excitedly chattered with their parents about their favorite parts of the machine and how they might build their own.

Steven Schick himself came out and chatted with a few of the kids for a minute, asking “Are you ready to go in and bang on some stuff!?”

The answer was a resounding “yes.” We all were ready, and we were not disappointed. Up close, the Schick Machine was cleverly ingenious and delightful to experience as a group of curious amateurs collectively provided a soundtrack of dissonance that was somehow just as engaging as Schick’s charming and meticulous theatrical stage performance.

Of course, few of us were able to extract the same quality and precision of sound as the mastermind himself, but that is as it should be.

Paul Dresher, composer of the piece was staked out on the stage to help answer questions and guide interested audience-goers through the elaborate inner workings of the device and how it all comes together in live performance.

It was a moment of incredible generosity from a group of passionate artists that I have no doubt left a powerful impression on the imaginations of all those who got a chance to experience it with us.

If you were one of those people, thank you so much for leaving your own stamp on the machine and helping invent this performance for CAP UCLA.