On August 11, 2020, The Music Center Offstage launched For The Love of LA which features a wide range of Angeleno creative artists in dance, music and visual cultures. These artists’ work span across Los Angeles’ well recorded diverse disciplines and the city’s ever expanding geography. For The Love of LA provides a platform for more than 35 artists to express their individual view of LA. Since the series began, The Music Center Offstage has released two or three different artists each Tuesday on Instagram and then posted the full work on The Music Center Offstage website. The full series takes place over a 13 week period.
Each artistic discipline was appointed a curator and for Dance that person was Raélle Dorfan, Executive Director of Dance Resource Center (DRC), a service organization that “provides the Los Angeles area dance community access to information, resources and services; and promotes the visibility and viability of Greater Los Angeles dance on local, state and national levels” (quoted from DRC website).
In the Curator’s Statement on the For The Love of LA site, Dorfan wrote, “As the executive director of the Dance Resource Center (DRC), I am ever inspired by the vitality, vibrance and versatility of L.A. dance artists. Being resourceful is not new to the dance community, a characteristic made even more evident during this worldwide pandemic. Perceiving the world in new ways is now inevitable. Imagination in a restricted environment has led to a magnitude of virtual and/or social distanced projects—creative resilience persists. L.A. is an abundance of hidden dance gems with the intention of finding deeper connections within oneself and the greater community.”
The six companies selected by Dorfan were Syncopated Ladies (Tap), Versa-Style Dance Company (Hip-Hop), Rangoli (Bharatanatyam Classical Indian), Pacifico Dance Company (Mexican Folklorico and Modern Dance), Fusion Dance Theater (Flamenco), and JazzAntiqua/Dance and Music Ensemble (Modern Jazz/live music).
The work performed by Syncopated Ladies is titled Rise Up choreographed by Emmy-nominated Chloe Arnold, Directed and Edited by Becca Nelson, and performed by Chloe Arnold, Maud Arnold, Anissa Lee, Assata Madison, and Orialis Ashley. Syncopated Ladies is an all-female tap dance band that has garnished over 50 million views online, receiving praise from Beyonce and Whoopi Goldberg on The View, as well as many other celebrities and news outlets around the world. Additional credits include: The Ellen Show, Good Morning America, So You Think You Can Dance, Global Citizen Week, New York Fashion Week, Essence Fest, and many, many others.
The artist statement reads: The inspiration behind this piece, choreographed by Emmy-nominated Chloe Arnold, was to promote the importance of freedom and to encourage people to rise up and let their voices be heard.
Ushas: Dawn of a New Day is part of a full-length work titled Soorya Kanti choreographed by Malathi Iyengar, the Artistic Director of Rangoli Dance Company. Ushas, the goddess of dawn is a popular Vedic deity in India. Adorned in the colors of crimson, white and gold, she is radiant and forever youthful. She brings honor, light and hope to everyone. Ushas gives life to all beings: waking sleepers from their seeming death, arousing birds from their nests and sending people to their appointed task.
Ushas features the original music that was composed by Rajkumar Bharathi (Chennai, India) for Rangoli Dance Company in 1996 and the costumes are specific to the Bharatanatyam dance form. The dancers include Shivani Aysola, Vyshnavi Aysola, Nina Krishnan, Nishitha Viswanathan, and Anshu Voruganti.
The artist’s statement reads in part: There are certain compelling, universal ideas that drive my work, and my goal is always to find the most exciting ways to use choreography to best serve them. I am constantly looking to answer certain choreographic questions: How can I refine an idea down to its core essence? How does a dance’s structure determine its “story”? How does timing affect meaning? I am fascinated by how narrative can be utilized in many ways. While I am a true believer in high level of technique and dramatic clarity, there is extensive room for interpretation—every work is open-ended, asking the audience to determine its own response. Movement choices are very much determined by the needs of the piece. When people refer to my work as “poetic”, I believe that is what they are noting: the way the movements are fully at the service of the ideas. I believe that good dance reveals both truth and mystery.
Pacifico Dance Company performs El Fandanguito by Mariachi Los Toros. It is a work that Los Toros created to share the company’s love for their culture and art form. Under the leadership of Artistic Director, Adriana A. Gainey, Pacifico Dance Company has become a premier Mexican Folk dance company based in Los Angeles whose works combine traditional styles with modern dance idioms to create dynamic and vibrant choreographies.
Artist’s statement reads in part: El Fandanguito was created to share our love for our culture and art form. El Fandanguito, by Mariachi Los Toros, is a special song for Pacifíco Dance Company, as it is typically part of our company’s programming. Each dancer performs a section of the song using different dance movements specific to the Mexican states of Michoacan, Nayarit, Oaxaca, Veacruz, Guerrero, and Tamaulipas.
The dancers in El Fandanguito are Anahi Diaz, Alberto Flores, Carlos Escamilla, Samantha Zendejas, Daniel Rodriguez, Jessica Escobedo, Noe Villagrana, Jesenia Gardea, and Matthew De Leon.
Versa-Style Dance Company is a leading Hip-Hop group based in Los Angeles. The work present on For The Love of LA is titled Flow Within choreographed by Artistic Directors/Choreographers Jackie “Miss Funk” Lopez and Leigh “Breeze-Lee” Foaad who identify themselves as Hip Hop ARTivists.
The artists’ statement reads: Flow Within explores the concepts of self-discovery and healing through meditative movement. Versa-Style Dance Company uses Hip Hop and street dance vernacular to tell stories of our own personal journeys and pay homage to the dance culture that raised us. We also show our love to Los Angeles, where we have all grown and thrived as individuals, by taking advantage of our county’s unique ocean scenery. The waves of the Pacific, the street dance activism movement and music from artist d. Sabela Grimes inspired us all to develop our internal pathways to self-development, our “flow within”, and reach higher vibrations physically, mentally and spiritually.
Featured artists include Brandon “BeastBoi” Juezan, Jessi “Tru Flow” Pontillas, Cynthia “C-Soul” Hernandez, Ernest “Precise”” Galarza, Ceanne Agustin, Anthoun “Berrty Groove” Berry, Harry “Fullout” Weston, and G’Bari “GQ” Gilliam. Flow Within was Filmed and Edited by Ernesto “Precise” Galarza and Leigh “Breeze-Lee” Foaad.
JazzAntiqua Dance & Music Ensemble’s video is called Untitled with Choreography by Pat Taylor, Artistic Director and additional choreography and improvisation by the dancers: Julianna Bulgarelli, Keisha Clark-Booth, Tashara Gavin-Moorehead, James MahKween, Latrice Postell, Jason Poullard, Mayumi Rhone (LEGACY Dance Ensemble), and Shari Washington Rhone. The music is Smile 4 Me by Brian Swartz & the Gnu Sextet, and the Director/Videographer is Chris Smith
UNTITLED takes the dancers to the streets of Los Angeles and throughout neighborhoods spread across the county, moving in conversation with music (“Smile 4 Me”) by frequent collaborator, Jazz musician/composer Brian Swartz. Inspired by murals and street art and the ways in which these public expressions center and activate community, UNTITLED is the inner smile, strength, hope, self-determination and collective preservation, freedom and joy that grows from a shared sense of place, being and belonging.
JazzAntiqua Dance & Music Ensemble was founded in 1993, Los Angeles-based JazzAntiqua Dance & Music Ensemble celebrates the Jazz tradition as a vital thread in the cultural fabric of African American history and heritage, and a defining element of the American experience.
My Home was choreographed by Albertossy Espinoza, Founder of Los Angeles FUSION Dance Theater and filmed by Carolyn James. The music is by QUETZAL and the two dancers are Tiana Alvarez and Albertossy Espinoza.
The Artist’s statement reads in part: “When I walk the streets of East Los Angeles, I see so much culture, so much art. Graffiti art, tagging, murals, bridges, sculptures, all communicating something different to all who see it. I see something beautiful or different and right away my imagination starts to create. Where else can you dance on the streets, on the hills or at the beach all year round. I love Los Angeles!
We produced a piece that is representative of the time we’re in. From the words in the song to the images selected, the filter was pandemic—surviving and rising.”
Los Angeles FUSION Dance Theater was founded in 2004 and in 2008 Espinoza created the Performing Dance Academy to bring dance to the underserved communities of East Los Angeles and the City of Commerce. Espinoza’s dance styles include modern, jazz, ballet, flamenco, musical theatre, and Folklorico.
To learn more about For The Love of LA and to view videos, click HERE.
To visit The Music Center Offstage, click HERE.
Written and compiled by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.