The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts just announced that it will receive a $10, 000 Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for its Dance @ The Wallis 2019/2020 programing. In the 40 plus years that I have lived in this area, I do not recall a major venue presenting a full season consisting entirely of Los Angeles based dance companies. This makes it even more newsworthy that The Wallis Artistic Director, Paul Crewes made the decision to present six Los Angeles based dance companies on the 2019/2020 season. The lineup of companies includes BODYTRAFFIC, Contra-Tiempo/Urban Latin Dance Theater, Lula Washington Dance Theatre, Blue13 Dance Company, Heidi Duckler Dance, The Minghella Project, and Diavolo.

I asked Crewes why he decided to offer a full season of LA based dance companies. He responded by writing the following.

When I arrived in LA from the UK nearly four years ago, I was aware of and had been told about a dance explosion happening in Los Angeles. I found it to be true. So many exciting things were happening. I also realized that many of the dance companies based here were having as much success, if not more, away from LA as they were in their own city. I wanted to build relationships with these companies and invite them to perform on The Wallis’ stage. I began to realize that The Wallis could and should provide an artistic home for some of them.”

The Wallis has presented local companies for the past three season through its Company-In-Residence program. During the last three seasons. In explaining how the residence program benefits the companies, Crewes wrote, “This means that we offer more time and support to them during the year. During the 2019-20 season, The Wallis is presenting BODYTRAFFIC as Company-In-Residence and will produce a piece of new work with them as well. It just felt right to present a full season of LA dance companies in the 2019-20 season to provide audiences with an opportunity to see the range and richness of dance in this city.”

I also asked Crewes what process he followed to selected the companies for Dance @ The Wallis 2019/2020.  He answered that he want the selected companies to culturally reflect Los Angeles while demonstrating the wide range and diversity of dance offered throughout this area. “I also wanted to present some companies on our stage, or our campus, that had not previously appeared here to grow The Wallis’ artistic family.” Crewes wrote.

Designed by Zoltan E. Pali of Studio Pali Fekete architects, the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts (fondly called The Wallis) opened in October of 2013. Since then it has produced or presented approximately 300 dance, theatre, opera, classical music and family programs under the leadership of Artistic Director Paul Crewes and Executive Director and CEO Rachel Fine. For those of you who have not been there, the building features the restored, original 1933 Beverly Hills Post Office, located on the National Register of Historic Places. What was once the Post Office now serves as the center’s lobby. The 70,000 square foot venue includes the 150-seat Lovelace Studio Theater, GRoW at The Wallis: A Space for Arts Education, and the Bram Goldsmith Theater.

The state-of-the-art Bram Goldsmith Theater has a 46’ X 24’ Proscenium and a 41’ deep stage providing ample space for dancers to move freely, and its 500-seat house allows the entire audience to experience the energy projected from the stage by the performers. Along with national touring companies, The Wallis slowly began adding additional local companies to its dance series.

Here is a brief description of the Los Angeles based dance companies on Dance @ The Wallis 2019/2020.

BODYTRAFFIC will be returning to The Wallis as the 2019-2020 Company-in-Residence. Well known in Los Angeles, BODYTRAFFIC has toured nationally and internationally featuring works by some of the best-known choreographers. Ohad Naharin, Matthew Neenan, Arthur Pita, Victor Quijada, Kyle Abraham, and Barak Marshall are just a few on that list of choreographers who have set works on the company. BODYTRAFFIC will perform September 26 through 28, 2019 in The Wallis’ Bram Goldsmith Theater.

Performing in the same theater January 17 and 18, 2020 is CONTRA-TIEMPO/Urban Latin Dance Theater headed by Founding Artistic Director and choreographer Ana Maria Alvarez. The company presents visual and movement styles to include Salsa, Afro-Cuban, hip-hop, contemporary dance, theater, spoken word and original music. Collaborators include Las Cafeteras, d. Sabela grimes, Shamell Bell, Pyeng Threadgill, and Emily Orling to name only a few.

Dance @ The Wallis continues with LA’s very own Lula Washington Dance Theatre. Founded in 1980 this exciting company explores African American history, culture and life, and has helped launch the careers of numerous local dancers and choreographers. The company has toured nationally and internationally, featuring works by Ms. Washington, Donald McKayle, Tamica Washington Miller, Rennie Harris, Christopher Huggins and Jordi Caballero. The Lula Washington Company performs in the Bram Goldsmith Theater January 30 through February 1, 2020.

Bodytraffic courtesy of Body Traffic resized Contra-Tiempo joyUSjustUS.jannet photo Courtesy of Contra-Tiempo resized 40923156770_b02314d629_k photo Timothy Norris courtesy of Ford Theatres resized Blue13 Harrell_McManama_Photo Denise Leitner resized Heidi Duckler courtesy of Heidi Duckler DIAVOLO - Sharen Bradford 1resized
Lula Washington Dance Theatre in REIGN by Rennie Harris - Photo: Timothy Norris, Courtesy of Ford Theatres

Blue13 Dance Company was founded by Artistic Director/choreographer/performer Achinta S. McDaniel, a pioneer of contemporary Indian dance in the United States. Her work draws from diverse dance styles that include ballet, jazz, tap, modern, hip hop, Bhangra, Kathak, and Bollywood. The company’s website states that McDaniel’s choreography “is highly dramatic and a real reflection of her upbringing: Eastern and Western, exotic, mysterious, wild, rebellious and unconventional”. The company performs in The Wallis’ Bram Goldsmith Theater February 21 and 22, 2020.

Heidi Duckler is the Founder and Artistic Director of Heidi Duckler Dance. Since its inception in 1985, Ms. Duckler has choreographed more than 200 original site-specific dance works in Los Angeles, throughout Southern California, Australia, Germany, Russia, Hong Kong, Montreal, San Francisco, New York, Miami, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Portland, and Seattle. On April 15, 2020, Heidi Duckler Dance will present The Chandelier in the Wallis’ Lovelace Studio Theater & Promenade Terrace.

The Wallis’ first commissioned dance work will be The Minghella Project. As The Wallis states in the press release: “The late Oscar-winning writer/director Anthony Minghella was commissioned by choreographer Jonathan Lunn to write a series of texts for dance.” Jonathan Lunn is a choreographer and director who has worked in film. His credits include Truly, Madly, Deeply (1990) and Love, Actually (2003). Over a 20-year span, Minghella and Lunn created four works and for the very first time, they will be presented together under the title The Minghella Project. The performance is a collaboration with The Wallis’ 2019/2020 Company-in-Residence, BODYTRAFFIC, and actors and creative artist colleagues of Minghella and Lunn. The Minghella Project will perform April 18 through 25, 2020 in the Bram Goldsmith Theater.

Jacques Heim, who calls himself an “architect of motion,” was born and raised in Paris, where he first worked as a street performer. Now based in Los Angeles, Heim is the founder, artistic director and choreographer of Diavolo | Architect In Motion, a company that has toured nationally and internationally. In 2004, Heim choreographed for Cirque du Soleil and in 2010, Heim was a Creative Director for the Opening Ceremony of the 16th Asian Games, in Guangzhou, China. Diavolo will appear in The Wallis’ Bram Goldsmith Theater May 14 through 16, 2020.

Now that The Wallis has stepped forward to promote local dance companies with this extraordinary show of support for Los Angeles dance artists, I am hopeful that the dance community and admirers of Los Angeles dance, will return their display of confidence and pride by attending performances at The Wallis. This show of support is one of the ways communities grow and prosper.

For more information about Dance @ The Wallis and the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts entire 2019-2020 performance season, click here.

Featured image: BODYTRAFFIC. Photo by Joshua Sugiyama.