Arts in L.A. Quarterly Calendar: Cultural events through Feb. 2009


Robert Dowd — Pop Art Money — See Jan.17 listing


Fri., Dec. 12
“Laemmle Through the Decades: 1938-2008, 70 Years in 7 Days.” It must have been an extraordinarily difficult task to select only seven films to represent the rich and diverse history of the Laemmle Theatres chain. But someone did it. For the next week, Laemmle’s Royal Theatre in West Los Angeles will screen the seven most iconic foreign-language films to have graced the company’s silver screens, each one representing a different decade of its existence. The lineup includes “Children of Paradise” (1945, France), “La Strada” (1954, Italy), “Jules & Jim” (1962, France), “The Conformist” (1970, Italy, France and West Germany), “Fanny & Alexander” (1982, Sweden), “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” (1988, Spain) and “Y Tu Mama Tambien” (2001, Mexico). Films will screen several times a day. Through Dec. 18. $7-$10. Royal Theatre, 11523 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles. (310) 477-5581. ” target=”_blank”>

Sat., Dec. 13
“Smokey Joe’s Cafe.” With a long list of Top 40 favorites, such as “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Yakety Yak,” “Stand by Me” and “On Broadway,” this musical mishmash of Leiber and Stoller hits is ideally jubilant for the holiday season. Since its 1995 premiere on Broadway, the 39-song revue has been nominated for seven Tony Awards, won a Grammy Award for the legendary duo’s songs and featured special appearances by megastars such as Gladys Knight, Gloria Gaynor and Rick Springfield. Starring in this NoHo production of “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” are DeLee Lively, Robert Torti and a host of other talented stage veterans. Special performances include tonight’s opening night gala and two New Year’s Eve shows, one with a champagne reception, the other followed by an all-out party with the cast. 8 p.m. Wed.-Sat. Through Jan. 4. $25-$150. El Portal Theatre, Mainstage, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. (818) 508-4200. ” target=”_blank”>

Sat., Dec. 13
“Moonlight Rollerway Holiday Jubilee.” Charles Phoenix is addicted to thrift store shopping. Luckily for us, Phoenix has put together a collection of the goodies he has found. Now, Moonlight Rollerway, which calls itself Southern California’s last classic roller rink, is presenting Phoenix and his quirky, retro holiday slide show. The viewing event will be followed by a roller-skating revue spectacular, featuring 75 championship skaters and celebrating the entire year’s holidays, including Cinco de Mayo and Valentine’s Day. Snacks and an after-show skating party are included. 8 p.m. Also, Dec. 14 at 3 p.m. $35. Moonlight Rollerway, 5110 San Fernando Road, Glendale. (818) 241-3630. ” target=”_blank”>

Sun., Dec. 14
Los Angeles Children’s Chorus Annual Winter Concert. There is an Academy Award-nominated documentary about this choir. It has toured Brazil, China, Italy and Poland, among other nations. And since its inception in 1986, the chorus has performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Approximately 250 talented and dedicated children between the ages of 8 and 12 make up the LACC. The angelic voices of these preteen choristers will bring to life works by composers such as Aaron Copland, Pablo Casals, Randall Thompson and J.S. Bach in a winter concert inspired by literary luminaries Robert Frost, William Shakespeare and others. The program follows the 2008-2009 season theme, “The Poet Sings,” and features a varied selection of classical, folk and contemporary pieces. 7 p.m. $24-$42. Pasadena Presbyterian Church, 585 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. (626) 793-4231. ” target=”_blank”>

Mon., Dec. 15
Reel Talk: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” Stephen Farber, film critic for Hollywood Life magazine and The Hollywood Reporter, has been treating audiences to sneak previews of the industry’s hottest films for more than 25 years. The veteran film buff concludes this year’s preview series with a fascinating film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story about a man who is born in his 80s and ages backward. Starring Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton, the odd tale is already making waves and is set to hit theaters during prime-time movie-watching season, Christmas. The screening will be followed by a discussion with members of the filmmaking team, including Oscar-nominated costume designer Jacqueline West. 7 p.m. $20. Wadsworth Theatre, 11301 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 365-3500. ” target=”_blank”>

Tue., Dec. 16
Carrie Fisher presents and signs “Wishful Drinking.” It’s not easy being an action figure before you can legally drink a beer, but that didn’t stop Princess Leia from having one, or two, or many more. Fisher’s first memoir, adapted from her one-woman stage show, is a revealing look at her childhood as a product of “Hollywood in-breeding” and her adulthood in the shadow of “Star Wars.” After electroshock therapy, marrying, divorcing then dating Paul Simon, a drug addition and a bipolar disorder, Fisher still manages to take an ironic and humorous survey of her bizarre life. Meet Fisher and get a copy of her book signed at this WeHo book haven. 7 p.m. Free. Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. (310) 659-3110. ” target=”_blank”>

Fri., Dec. 19
“Peter Pan.” Tinkerbell, Captain Hook, pirates, Indians — we know the cast of characters well. But how many of us have actually seen a full production of J.M. Barrie’s classic fantasy play, “Peter Pan” — especially one that features the complete musical score by Leonard Bernstein? Composer Alexander Frey — who helped reconstruct portions of Bernstein’s score that had been previously lost for a special CD — is flying in from Berlin to conduct the live orchestra. 7 p.m. Tue.-Sun. Through Dec. 28. $30-$70; $10 (seniors and students). Lobero Theatre, 33 E. Canon Perdido St., Santa Barbara. (805) 963-0761. ” target=”_blank”>

Wed., Dec. 24
“49th Annual Los Angeles County Holiday Celebration.” Los Angeles’ biggest holiday show, featuring 45 groups and 1,200 performers, is a proud tradition — and it’s absolutely free! Running approximately six hours, the holiday extravaganza features the county’s cultural diversity. This year’s highlights include hip-hop group Antics Performances, South Bay Ballet and Grammy-nominated Lisa Haley and the Zydekats. Audiences will have the opportunity to listen to sounds and see sights from the world over, including Asia, Africa, South America, and the Middle East. For those of you who can’t make it to see the event in person, KCET-TV will also be airing the event live. Sponsored by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors and produced by the County Arts Commission. 3-9 p.m. Free. Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at the Music Center, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 972-3099.

CalArts dance dean creates site-specific ‘Fluid’ movements

When he first started out as a dance artist, Stephan Koplowitz often performed his work in senior centers, shopping malls and on public streets.

“I already had the sensibility of taking my work out of the theater into the outdoors,” he said. “It became part of my DNA.”

Though Koplowitz has gone on to create a number of dances for conventional theaters, he has become best known for his site-specific works, which at times have involved hundreds of dancers, thousands of audience viewers and locales as varied as the windows of New York City’s Grand Central Station, a German coal factory and the British Library in London. In these places, Koplowitz’s dancers have raced across narrow catwalks, wrestled with machinery and rolled between stacks of books. Uniting the works is Koplowitz’s quest to create compelling interactions between people, nature and architecture, and his results have frequently been critically acclaimed.

“Like a calm unfurling of the sea,” wrote one critic on the The Dance Insider Web site in describing performers successively “trickling and rolling” down steps in Koplowitz’s 2004 “Grand Step Project.” In that work, Koplowitz used 50 dancers to explore the kinetic possibilities of six major New York City staircases.

At 52 and the new dean of California Institute of the Arts dance program, Koplowitz is currently preparing to make his Los Angeles debut with what he calls his most ambitious project to date.

“I definitely have never done anything like this before,” he said.

The “this” refers to TaskForce, Koplowitz’s new company of eight dancers who will embark on a three-year exploration of public sites related to water in Los Angeles, England and Germany. The project, called, “Liquid Landscapes,” has as its premiere a weeklong series of performances in Los Angeles at the end of June and entails dancers performing a mix of set choreography and improvisational movement at the Los Angeles River, the Farmers Market, under the Spring Street Bridge downtown and at nearby California Plaza, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the Port of Los Angeles and the beaches in Malibu.

As they travel from site to site, the dancers will draw from three repositories of material: movements that will be performed at all the sites, rehearsed movement specifically for one site and structured improvisations that stem from interacting with a particular site.

“You could look at the dancers as water,” Koplowitz said. “Water takes the shape of whatever container it’s in, and we’re going to try to adhere to the shape of each site.”

Speaking by phone from his office at CalArts, Koplowitz comes across as gregarious and thoughtful. Though he hadn’t yet begun rehearsing with his dancers, he knew for certain that his latest work “is not a show. They’re more like events, happenings or installations,” he said, noting that other visual and performing artists will appear at the various sites and juxtapose their own work with the dancers’ movements. “This should add another layer of spontaneity.”

The dancers will have only three weeks of rehearsal time to immerse themselves in a process that Koplowitz has spent some 20-odd years refining.

“I am training them to live and breathe site-specific work, so I want them to take ownership of each site,” he said. Meaning, “I might give them parameters like, ‘Here are three ways of looking at this site, and here are three things we can do here.'”

In the past, Koplowitz has said he takes three elements into consideration when creating site-specific work, the physical site itself, its history and what he contributes as a choreographer. “I always attempt to create a bridge between these three elements, as well as communicating something about people,” he said.

Another iron-clad rule for Koplowitz seems to be “always taking the audience into consideration.” For example, people attending the Los Angeles River performance will be conducted along the banks as if on a tour, while office workers taking lunch breaks at the tables at California Plaza will be able to see the dancers communing with the Watercourt fountain from any vantage point.

“No one seeing my work should have the equivalent of a bad seat,” he said.

Koplowitz’s initial “aha” moment as a site-specific artist dates back to 1987, when he created his breakthrough work in Grand Central Station. Called “Fenestrations,” Koplowitz positioned 36 dancers so they could be seen performing through different windows of the famous train terminal.

Over the course of two nights, 16,000 people watched lines of dancers walking, running, leaping and collectively creating different shapes and patterns on the glass-encased catwalks behind the windows. Though the movements were often simple and pedestrian, critics lauded the work for its wit and clarity.

“I was inspired by the walls of the building and the homelessness that infused the place,” Koplowitz said. “And when I saw everyone in that terminal had a front row seat to the work just by tilting their head and looking upward, I was like, ‘Oh my God, that is powerful.’ There is this allure to make work on a scale where you can enter into a dialogue with the public in a way you can’t necessarily do in a conventional theater.”

Raised in Washington, D.C., and Paris, Koplowitz grew up with a father who worked for the CIA but also wrote music and poetry. His aunt was a professional opera singer, and he found himself drawn to all artistic mediums.

“I was interested not only in the arts but in how they connected to people,” he said, observing that while he doesn’t make “Jewish work, I would call myself a Jewish artist. My art has always been about what it means to be human and to have dialogue and exchange, and I’ve always associated this with being Jewish.”

Koplowitz majored in music at Wesleyan University and unofficially minored in dance. He went onto to receive his master’s in fine arts in choreography at the University of Utah, and though he remained passionate about music, “I wanted to plant my pole in contemporary dance, because it was an art form that fully encouraged the blurring of artistic lines,” he said.