This year will be the 6th Annual Los Angeles Dance Festival produced by Brockus Project which is headed by one of LA’s most prolific and valuable producers of dance, Deborah Brockus. March is Women’s History month, and Brockus Project and Théâtre Raymond Kabbaz, under the direction of Pierre Leloup, have worked together to present LADF 2018 Women Rising. Women Rising runs March 1, 2 & 3 at 8pm and features eight of LA’s top female leading companies presenting new works. An addition to the festival will present the Service to the Field awards to three women whose contributions over the past decades have been immeasurably valuable to the continuation of dance in Los Angeles. They are Joanne DiVito, Ann Haskins and Renae Niles. The Los Angeles Dance Festival runs for a total of 4 weekends with separate performances of works by college and high school female choreographers titled The Future is Female (March 16 – 17); the return of the very successful Fringe (March 23 – 25), a weekend of performances directed by independent LA dance and performance artists; and multiple master classes taught by company directors at the Brockus Project Studios, as well as master classes taught in 9 different school districts.
This is a huge undertaking, but Brockus is used to organizing large festivals. The 5th Annual Los Angeles Dance Festival included 50 different companies, 7 performances, 3 venues and 35 master classes in just 4 weeks. Brockus said that as a young choreographer, she presented her work in showcases and decided that she could produce something similar. Since then, she has produced over 40 LA showcases, which include the LA Dance Festival, Spectrum (local professionals), New Perspectives (high school invitational), Split (mixing an out of town company with three local companies), Caught Between (multi-media), and Why We Dance Series (a dialogue between the artists and audiences). All this is on top of choreographing for her company, BrockusRed, running Brockus Project Studios and teaching.
During our interview I asked Deborah Brockus what the title Women Rising meant to her. “Women have always been very influential in dance in Los Angeles and given the atmosphere in our society right now, it feels like an excellent time for people to be aware of that.” She said. “It feels like we are exploding and rising right now, but we have actually always been around. But now it is much more evident that the women are there and in a major position of leadership, and they are the leading causes of why dance in LA is different.” Brockus went on to explain that most dance companies in LA are run by females, most of the dance critics, the producers of dance festivals and many of the grant funders are female. This is very different than what is true in other major cities.
Isadora Duncan was born in San Francisco. In 1914 Ruth St. Denis married Ted Shawn, her dance partner, and the next year they founded the Denishawn school and company in Los Angeles. Bella Lewitzky ran her company in LA from 1966 to 1997. Gloria Newman, Lynn Dally, Karen Goodman, and Louise Reichlin are just a few other women whose companies have had an enormous influence on LA dance. Many dancers who performed with these women later went on to form their own companies. So, one way of looking at the title, Women Rising, is that society is finally catching up to the fact that women are demanding to be heard, taken seriously and refusing to be taken advantage of. As Brockus so beautifully expressed it, “the cream is rising to the top of the milk.”
The 8 companies featured on Women Rising are Acts of Matter (Rebecca Lemme), BrockusRed (Deborah Brockus), Kybele Dance Theater (Seda Aybay), LA Contemporary Dance Company (Genevieve Carson), Sarah Elgart/Arrogant Elbow (Sarah Elgart), szalt (dance co.) (Stephanie Zaletel), The TL Collective (Micaela Taylor), and Whyteberg (Gracie Whyte and Laura Berg). Brockus was quick to stress that this was not an anti-male festival, and that there will be men performing in many of the works.
” It is choreography through the lens of females.” Brockus said. “How we interpret life is different, and that is what we are celebrating.”
There are many dance companies in LA and it is impossible to have them all featured on the festival. Larger companies such as BODYTRAFFIC and AteNine are on tour or out of town, so to select the companies, Brockus looked at those that she knew had a track record of producing work, have an established history in Los Angeles and, of course, are in town and available to perform on the festival. The FRINGE weekend will feature independent and/or more alternative dance artists.
The three recipients of the Service to the Field awards are Renae Niles, Ann Haskins and Joanne DiVito. Renae Niles has worked as a dancer, company manager, grant funder, theater presenter and fundraiser – all advancing dance in Los Angeles. She was the person who brought dance back to the Music Center and who is highly instrumental in what dance one now sees at the Music Center. Ann Haskins is a tireless advocate who for decades has been promoting LA dance companies and to help connect audiences and dance makers. She has written about local and national dance for LA Weekly, Pointe Magazine, Dance Spirit Magazine, Dance Teacher Magazine, Los Angeles Magazine, L.A. View, Coast Magazine, the Daily News, the Herald Examiner and L.A. Dance Chronicle. She has also contributed dance and theater features to both KLON-FM and KUSC-FM. JoAnne DiVito is a dancer, choreographer, agent. Through Career Transitions for Dancers, she has created programs and services that assist thousands of dancers to explore career options and transition into successful post-performance vocations. DiVito has influenced the careers of numerous dance artists in LA.
Brockus explained how this year the first week end of the festival is more condensed, with all the performances taking place at the Théâtre Raymond Kabbaz and that the master classes at Brockus Project Studios will be longer, giving dancers two full hours of concentrated time with the company directors. There is no overall theme to the festival, leaving the choreographers free to express whatever they wish. All the works this year, however, are either new or heavily re-worked.
Brockus is committed to bringing dance and the community together, and to promoting the vibrant art of dance created in this diverse city of Los Angeles. By bringing the school students into her space, she is helping to create the next generation of dance artists and dance enthusiasts. “We want the fingers of what we are doing to start infiltrating, like really good weeds, into the broader-based community.” Brockus explained.
I said that this branching out, this moving forward sounded like part of the title word “rising”, Brockus agreed. “Yes, it is!”
I asked who the women are who are driving contemporary dance forward in LA. Brockus was quick to say that there were many, and mentioned some who run the larger companies: Lillian Rose Barbeito and Tina Finkelman Berkett of BODYTRAFFIC who are hiring dancers from New York and LA, and exposing their dancers to many well-known choreographers. Danielle Agami of AteNine, Ana Maria Alvarez of Contra-Tiempo/Urban Latin Dance Theater, and Jackie Lopez aka Miss Funk (along with her partner Leigh Foaad aka Breeze-lee) of Versa-Style Dance Company. All these companies are giving their dancers the opportunity to experience touring nationally and internationally, and the chance to perform on larger, more well-known stages.
I will add to that list Rosanna Gamson (Rosanna Gamson/World Wide), Heidi Duckler (Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre), Sarah Elgart (Sarah Elgart/Arrogant Elbow), Louise Reichlin (Louise Reichlin & Dancers/LA Choreographers & Dancers), and Lula Washington (Lula Washington Dance Theatre). Also, some of the younger women who are also changing the face of dance in Los Angeles like Stephanie Zaletel (szalt (dance co.), Laurie Sefton (Clairobscur Dance), Christin Suarez (Suarez Dance Theater), Micaela Taylor (Micaela Taylor/TL Collective), Lindsey Lollie, Meg Wolfe, Seda Aybay (Kybele Dance Theater), Brigette Dunn-Korpela, and the list goes on. Dance is expanding and changing in Los Angeles, and it is women who are leading the way.
The program for the three nights at Théâtre Raymond Kabbaz are different and all start at 8pm. Thursday, March 1 includes szalt (dance co.); The TL Collective; Kybele Dance Theater; and BrockusRed. Friday, March 2 includes Acts of Matter; LA Contemporary Dance Company; The TL Collective; BrockusRed; and Whyteberg. Saturday, March 3 includes Sarah Elgart/Arrogant Elbow; szalt (dance co.); Kybele Dance Theater; and BrockusRed.
Théâtre Raymond Kabbaz is located at 10361 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90064 on the campus of Le Lycée Français de Los Angeles.
March 16-17: The festival continues with The Future is Female performances by college and high school students showing work by female choreographers. With college students performing on Friday, March 16 at 8:00pm and High School students performing Saturday March 17 at 5pm Performances at Diavolo and Brockus Studios 616 and 618b Moulton Ave LA CA 90031 www.LADanceFEST.org or www.BrockusProject.org Tickets: $10-$15 Brown Paper Tickets and www.LADanceFest.org
March 23-25: Closing the month with Fringe performances by local companies directed by all different types – Master classes this weekend too. Performances at Diavolo and Brockus Studios 616 and 618b Moulton Ave LA CA 90031 www.LADanceFEST.org or www.BrockusProject.org
Feature Photo Courtesy of the Director of LADF.