Wednesday, May 15, 2013


The fifteenth production of Dancescape LA presented by Cheshire Moon Productions was an exciting and inspiring event benefiting the arts programs in the local Los Angeles community.  The event, hosted by So You Think You Can Dance champion Chehon Wespi-Tschopp was held at the intimate Club Nokia in downtown's LA Live complex.  The cozy setting was appropriate for what felt like a mutually supportive, family event.  The dancers and choreographers of the various performances were clearly fans of each other and with good reason.

The 32 pieces presented ranged from mellow modern dance to hard-edged hip-hop an each performance was more awesome than the last.  In a pool full of outstanding performances it's hard to pick standouts, but the large group numbers like "Golgeler" choreographed by Seda Aybay, Yusuf Nasir's "CollectiveUth" and Miguel Zarate's theatrical "Super Nova Barbie's Dead" all have to be commended for their scope and complexity.

Some of the more intimate performances like choreographer Julia Franzese's emotional tour de force "I Dreamed A Dream", diminutive soloist Sophia Lucia's gorgeous "Dreamcatcher" and the sexy, dynamic duet by Ashleigh and Ryan Di Lello to Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" were just as awe inspiring.

I spoke to Dancescape founder Jamie Gregor about the evolution of the event since its inception in 2004 and she talked about how the show has grown from the small show with only ten pieces (three of which she was featured in herself), to the more inclusive and diverse spectacle it is today.  Dancescape XV features over 150 dancers and choreographers from various backgrounds and styles.  She said that when selecting acts for the show she looks for diversity and uniqueness and, of course, invites back popular acts and colleagues she has worked with in the past.

Besides the host, there were other dancers that had been featured on So You Think You Can Dance and also acts from MTV's America's Best Dance Crew like 8 Flavahs, a quintet of pint sized girls that brought the crowd to their feet with a high-energy hip-hop infused performance to songs by Beyonce and Lil' Wayne and Gregor herself was featured in one performance, Denise Leitner's fluid and layered "Passage."  The final and most elaborate performance of the night was Christopher "Pharside" Jennings and Krystal Meraz's "The Black Parade" which featured over 40 dancers with black and red face paint and some of the most intricate and complex choreography I have seen in quite some time, (Think: Rhythm Nation meets The Wu-Tang Clan).

The entire night was filled with one great performance followed by another and 100% of the proceeds go to a wonderful cause.  Looking at the young artists within the show itself it's easy to see why the arts programs in our local schools are so important.  Gregor discussed how she grew up in Pittsburgh in a school district that was fortunate enough to have a broad artistic community and she wanted to help bring those same opportunities to children here in Los Angeles.  She is a dancer, so the events she produces focus on dance, but the funds raised support all arts and music programs in local schools.  Additionally, this year, the non-profit is partnering with the Los Angeles Leadership Academy to pilot a dance education program called Dancescape Ed that will bring artists from the Dancescape community into the classroom.

Photos by R.J. Corby

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


This silent Spanish charmer will garner comparisons to The Artist and they are both well crafted and beautifully told.  Blancanieves tells the story of Snow White with a Spanish twist.  When her matador father is paralyzed and her mother dies in childbirth, young Carmencita is sent to live with her doting grandmother, but once the elderly abuela falls ill she is sent to live with her father and step-mother, played with delicious cruelty by Maribel Verdu (Pan's Labyrinth).  Young Snow eventually grows up and sets out on an adventure of self discovery involving a motley crew of bullfighting dwarves.  You may know the story, but this unique re-telling will enchant you all over again. 

Gimme The Loot 
The two engaging leads in Gimme The Loot make you a part of their world from the opening sequence where they’re stealing spray paint cans to ‘bomb’ their neighborhood.  Malcolm (Ty Hickson) and Sofia (Tashiana Washington) are two graffiti artists with a simple plan: They want to tag the giant green apple that pops up at Mets games whenever someone hits a home run.  They just need the money and the access.  The goal isn't as important as the journey in this New York slice-of-life comedy by writer/director Adam Leon.  

The Great Gatsby
Baz Luhrmann's opulent, glitzy, Gatsby whizzes by so fast in the beginning that you might think you're going to lose the story in all of the glamour, but by the second half you find yourself completely engrossed in the complicated relationships and inner turmoil of the characters.  Leo DiCaprio plays the suave, titular millionaire with a quiet sensitivity that is matched by Toby Maguire's Nick Carraway.  Carey Mulligan brings a strength and complexity to what could be a really whiny one-note character.  The anachronistic Jay-Z infused soundtrack might seem jarring at first, but by the end all of the pieces fit together quite nicely. 

Oz the Great and Powerful 
Sam Raimi's big budget prequel to The Wizard of Oz lives up to the whimsy and the spectacle of the original.  It may be substantively soft for adults, but there is plenty here for kids to enjoy.  James Franco plays a young Oz, whisked away in his hot air balloon to a colorful unknown land where he meets three witches played by Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams all with very different agendas.  If you know the original story there won’t be any surprises, but the journey is a lot of fun.

The Place Beyond The Pines  
Ryan Gosling is a cool, reckless stunt driver who finds out he is a father and wants to provide for his son, but the mother (Eva Mendez) has already moved on.  Bradley Cooper is a beat cop with a law degree and a grudge against his father, who is regarded as a hero, but then gets embroiled in department corruption.  The final of the three vignettes in the film involves the sons of the two previous characters 15 years in the future both dealing in their own way with the legacy of their fathers.  It’s well acted, but the plot doesn’t always seem plausible or get to anywhere specific enough to make a clear statement about fathers and sons, which it seems to want to do.