the l.a.dance project finally lands

Dancers taking a bow after the final piece.

lo and behold la la land gets a dose of culture.

this past weekend benjamin millepied (of natalie portman spousal fame) brought his newest endeavor – l.a. dance project – to la’s main cultural outpost, the walt disney concert hall.

in it’s inaugural act, millepied brought three works to life…one part beautiful, one part thought-provoking and one-part what-the-hell-was-that, the pieces played the line of ballet and “abstract expressionism” (to quote the la times review), and in doing so, shook up the culturally banal basin that is los angeles.

Julia Eichten and Nathan Makolandra in Quintett

coming from a back-in-the-day prima ballerina, the show was a pas de bourree and a changement away from my conventional ballet vocabulary, but it was different and in that, enjoyable…for the most part.

the second act was trying in that if a screeching cat and nails on a chalkboard had a love child, the piece would be it. silence marred by thuds, occasional flashing lights and what looked like a zamboni were some key highlights. the piece lost me in the first five minutes and even had some theater-goers leaving in the first ten. that being said art is art, and not everyone understood picasso at first either, i’ll give choreographer, merce cunnigham a break.

however the larger thing at play here, and what millepied keeps reminding us in the press is that this not a dance company, nor a one-off performance, but a collective meant to shock life into the low-beating pulse of the los angeles arts scene. artistic collaborations thus far have included designs from rodarte, pieces by artist mark bradford and guest hosting the tv show “so you think you can dance”  (although the latter i can hardly say constitutes true arts education), and many more to be rumored down the pipeline.

yet, while naysayers leer a suspicious eye as arts collaboration projects have been pitched in the hollywood hills before, i can assure them nearly all lacked the celebrity-fairy dust of the choreographer being an oscar-winner’s spouse (ca-ching!)  and the industry-cred of being invited to perform at disney hall (double ca-ching!). something tells me, this one has staying power.

and while i don’t think twenty minutes of mind-numbing noises is the way to go about making a statement for la, i praise him for kick-starting a commendable and much needed cause. this twinkly town could do well with shifting the spotlight to more culturally rich stars every once in a while.

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