California is known for innovation, entertainment, creativity and an independent spirit. Tourists come from around the world to stroll along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, see the Hollywood sign, shop on Rodeo Drive, and see the homes of the stars. They come to LA to visit Disney Land, Universal Studios and to ogle the lifestyles of Muscle Beach. I want them to experience the pulsating energy of dance that beats powerfully throughout this city.

Dance is exploding in Los Angeles. It is expanding, branching off into new movement styles and the artists who are creating it need to be seen throughout the country and around the world. Given the funds and the visibility, Los Angeles will be recognized as one of the world’s major dance hubs, training dancers and producing both concert and commercial choreography.

Sometimes I Fall – Jay Carlon – Photo by Jim Rodney

Dance in LA does not fit into the normal east coast framework. The current generation of artists have combined concert dance with hip hop, jazz, ethnic and social dance styles, and they continue to create new forms of movement narratives and vocabularies. It occurs underground, in parking lots, abandoned cinemas, warehouses, and in the back of hard rock venues. Small studios become black box theaters, companies occasionally perform in private homes, and, when funds permit, in traditional venues to sold out houses. This is LA Dance.

As the 6th largest economy in the world, California has continuously led the country politically, culturally and technologically. Los Angeles is the city where these qualities come together, clash and meld to create new norms, ideas and, yes, fads. The city is spread out, connected by a web of freeways and supporting an extremely diverse population. It was this vivacity that gave birth to Modern Dance back in the 1900s and which continues to revitalize Dance here and around the world.

Sarah Elgart – Everywhere Nowhere – Photo by Jorge Vismara

Spread out over 503 square miles, LA is large enough to cover New York, San Francisco and Chicago combined. It is a transitory city; people coming here to become famous and then moving on. Dancers trained here often move to New York to perform in famous companies like Martha Graham or Paul Taylor and in Broadway musicals. There are, however, a host of very talented dancers and choreographers who remain to create wonderful dance work right here. The millennials use buzz words like inclusive and equality. These are ideals that dance in LA has been practicing for generations. As importantly, from the start women in LA have taken the lead and dance artistic directors in LA are still predominately women. The LA dance companies have always been strongly integrated and the first large companies to do so back east were founded by LA artists.

During the past ten years Los Angeles has experienced a surge in the formation of new dance companies. As a reviewer, I cannot possibly attend all the many dance concerts occurring weekly. Previously, the concert season ran from September through April, but now it goes practically all year round. LA needs more dance reviewers writing about the extraordinary performances by local dance artists as well as the touring companies that pass through.

Invertigo Dance Theatre – Photo by Joe Lambie

Aside from the traditional venues including the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, The Wallis Annenberg, the Broad Stage, the Nate Holden, Royce Hall, the John Anson Ford Theaters, I have covered performances in a converted warehouse and on ships in the Port of Los Angeles. I have reviewed dance performances in museums, a mall in China Town, inside a photographer’s studio, and venue parking lots and patios. Exciting and Avant Garde dance occurs in sculpture gardens, inside private homes, parks, churches, airports, and in reservoirs. Dancers in LA adapt quickly. If money is scarce, they choreograph for and perform in places no one might imagine dance taking place. If the newspapers will not promote them, they spread the word on social media.

Lula Washington Dance Theater

I was one of those people who thought nothing was going on in LA, but upon relocating to L.A. in 1978, I discovered that there were numerous thriving concert dance companies that were touring nationally and internationally. The Bella Lewitzky Dance Company, Lula Washington Dance Theater, Lola Montes and Her Spanish Dancers, Avaz International Dance Company, Louise Reichlin & Dancers/ Los Angeles Choreographers & Dancers to list only a few. The Dance Kaleidoscope series was going strong presenting local companies. UCLA was presenting dance companies and smaller venues provided affordable space for ground breaking, experimental dance and performance artists to self-produce. During those years, LA had several more newspapers with a full-time review staff for Dance. What we lacked was national coverage. There existed a very small Los Angeles section in the front yellow pages of Dance Magazine, but even that eventually disappeared. The artists in Los Angeles were creating wonderful work but few outside the area knew about it because there was no internet, Google, FaceBook, Twitter or Instagram. Today, traditional coverage of LA is still limited.

Why does the world not recognize the amazing talent and marketable product we have in LA? It is a vicious circle. Visibility is crucial for receiving funding and funding is necessary to pay dancer salaries, management, promotion, production and touring costs. Grant foundations, presenters and booking agencies require critical reviews of performances as partial proof of a company’s marketability, and presenters see money on stage when they are considering which company to book.

California is poised to take the lead. While some states are cutting their funding for arts, California’s Governor Brown just approved a 6.8 million dollar increase in the budget for the California Arts Council. LA’s Department of Cultural Affairs is partially funded by a “tourist tax”, so it makes financial sense for LA to promote the arts; more tourists equal more revenue.  Entrepreneur dance makers are resourceful. They know how to produce shows, and some companies are using crowd funding to sustain their work.

Given the resources, LA companies could create stunning works and with funding, attract the truly gifted dancers, offer a year-round salary, and spend money on sets, multi-media equipment and promotion. LA creativity is world class; choreographers are only held back due to low funding.

Tomasz Rossa – ODC – BODYTRAFFIC – Kollide

Currently there are 200-300 concert producing choreographers in town. One recent trend is commercial and competition companies doing concert work, such as Shaping Sound, Entity and Royal Flux dance companies. There is classical modern dance; contemporary dance; performance art; ballet; experimental dance; Jazz dance; commercial dance; Flamenco; Hip Hop; Belly Dancing, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Hawaiian and Cambodian dance, among others.

I began writing about Dance to support the community, provide critical feedback, and to give companies the exposure needed to receive more funding. Several LA websites including SeeDance, Dance Plug, Ampersand LA, Cultural Weekly, Fjord Review and Arts Meme cover dance. LA Weekly’s Ann Haskins does a great deal each week to spread the word about which companies are performing and at which venues. These are vital and serve a much-needed purpose, but most people have no idea that they exist. Reviews and articles about all the Arts should appear daily, or at least weekly in our local newspapers. LA dance is both plentiful and powerful. Now we must get the word out to the rest of the world.



Here is a partial list of dance companies in Los Angeles that should help end the myth regarding LA:

(In Alphabetical Order) Akomi Dance, Alexx Makes Dances (Modern/Multimedia), Arrogant Elbow (Site Specific/Dance Film/Performance Art), Arte Flamenco, Ate9 dANCE cOMPANY (Gaga/Modern), Backhausdance (Modern), Barak Ballet, Benita Bike Dance Company (Modern), Bernard Brown/Bbmoves (Modern), Blue13 Dance Company (Bollywood), BODYTRAFFIC (Contemporary), BrockusRed (Modern/Jazz), C. Eule Dance (Contemporary Ballet), Christina Suarez Dance Theater (Site Specific), Clairobscur Dance Company (Modern), Contra-Tiempo Dance (Urban Latin Dance Theater), Dance Aegis (Modern), Donna Sternberg & Dancers (Modern), El Maya Flamenco, Flamenco Express, FUSE Dance Company (Contemporary), Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre (Site Specific), Helios Dance Theater, (Contemporary) Hexagon Dance (Modern/Contemporary), Inland Pacific Ballet (Contemporary Ballet), Invertigo Dance Theatre (Dance Theater), Jacob Jonas The Company (Modern/Street Dance/Theater), Ken Dance Company (Contemporary Asian Modern), Kenneth Walker Dance Project (Contemporary Ballet), Keith Johnson/Dancers (Contemporary), Kevin Williams + Company (Performance Art), La Danza Danza (Modern/Flamenco), Lineage Dance Company (Contemporary), Los Angeles Ballet (Mostly Balanchine), Los Angeles Contemporary Dance Company, Los Angeles Dance Project (Contemporary), Louise Reichlin & Dancers/ Los Angeles Choreographers & Dancers, Lula Washington Dance Theatre (Afro-Modern), Luminario Ballet, Nancy Evans Dance Theatre (Modern/Dance Theater), Megill & Company (Contemporary), Nanette Brodie Dance Theatre (Modern), No)one Art House (Site Specific/Performance Art), Pacific Ballet Company (Contemporary Ballet), Pennington Dance (Modern), Pony Box Dance Theatre(Modern/Theater), Project21 Dance (Several disciplines/Multi-Media), REDBallet, Rhapsody In Taps (Tap/Modern), RhetOracle Dance Company (Contemporary), Rosanna Gamson World/Wide (Contemporary), Rudy Perez Dance Group (Minimal/Performance Art), The Sunland Dancers (Jmy James Kidd), Szalt Dance (Contemporary/Performance Art), The Assemble (Contemporary), TL Collective (Modern/Hip Hop), Union Project Dance Company (Contemporary), Versa-Style Dance Company (Hip Hop/Theater), WHYTEBERG Dance Company (Contemporary/Performance Art).

The above list does not include the many independent Dance artists such as Rebecca Bruno, Jay Carlon, Raymond Ejiofor, Doran George, Sarah Leddy, Lindsey Lolli, Sarah Llewellyn, Carol McDowell, Tim Miller, Richard Palomino, Andrew Pearson, Jordan Saenz, Joe Small, Tom Tsai, Lisa Wahlander, Devika Wickremesinghe, Belle Jessen, Nickels Sunshine, and Meg Wolf.

Famous dancers who began their careers in Los Angeles include Janet Collins, Marge Champion, Carmen de Lavallade, Lester Horton, Bella Lewitzky, James Mitchell, Joyce Trisler, and James Truitte. Also, Misty Copland was trained in the Los Angeles area.