Saturday, December 18
Tis the season for cocktail parties, so why not one more. The Anti-Defamation League hosts its 2004 Los Angeles Celebration this evening, complete with dinner, dancing, martini bar and keynote speech by Harvard professor/defense attorney/Israel defender Alan Dershowitz.
6:30 p.m. $250. For location and reservations, call (310) 446-8000, ext. 260.
Sunday, December 19
This evening, an aural treat presents itself in the form of the Levantine Cultural Center’s “Middle East Concert for Peace.” The Naser Musa-Adam del Monte Ensemble’s sound is described as “vibrant Arab, Sephardic and Flamenco world music.”
6 p.m. (reception). 7 p.m. (concert). $12-$25. Hollywood United Methodist Church. (310) 559-5544.
Monday, December 20
Cantorial music meets West Coast jazz in trumpeter Steven Bernstein’s new album, “Diaspora Hollywood,” in a way that has many a critic raving. Have a listen live at tonight’s CD release concert at Temple Bar, where Bernstein will perform with Pablo Calogero on brass and woodwinds, DJ Bonebrake on vibraphone, David Piltch on bass and Danny Frankel on drums and percussion.
10:30 p.m. $5. 1026 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica. www.templebarlive.com.
Tuesday, December 21
Bruria Finkel has gathered newish and established area artists for Santa Monica Art Studios’ ARENA 1 inaugural exhibition, “Santa Monica Originals.” Featured in the show are pieces that have a historical or contemporary connection to Santa Monica, including works by John Baldessari, Sam Francis, Rachel Lachoicz and Frank Gehry. Interestingly, Gehry’s 1987 model for a 37-acre renovation proposal for the airport commons, which is displayed in the show, would have eliminated many artist studios around the airport, including the one housing this exhibit.
Runs through Feb. 5. 3026 Airport Ave., Santa Monica. (310) 397-7456.
Wednesday, December 22
True, Chanukah’s over, but now that you’ve collected your loot, maybe it’s appropriate to give a little back — and get a head start on next year. Hungry for Music is a nonprofit that brings music into the lives of underprivileged kids, and proceeds from their “A Chanukah Feast” CD, featuring 21 Chanukah tunes in just about every style imaginable, benefit the worthy group.
Thursday, December 23
Today, the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre kicks off its latest series, a tribute to comedy teams of bygone days, “Too Much Monkey Business: The Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello and The Three Stooges.” It all adds up to a lot of funny Jews, beginning with tonight’s double feature (and a half) of Groucho & Co. in “Animal Crackers,” followed by Moe, Larry and Curly in “A-Plumbing We Will Go” and ending with Bud and Lou in “Buck Privates.”
7:30 p.m. $6-$9. 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 466-3456.
Friday, November 24
The Fonz gets you in the holiday spirit at today’s free “45th L.A. County Holiday Celebration” at the Music Center. The six-hour performance hosted by Henry Winkler features 39 groups reflecting “the cultural mosaic of Los Angeles,” including America Chinese Dance Association, Celtic Spring Irish Step Dancing, Hollywood Klezmer, Yuval Ron Ensemble, Church of Scientology Choir, Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles and Mariachi Sol de Mexico. Patrons are free to come and go as they please throughout the event. If you can’t make it, be sure to catch the action live on KCET.
3-9 p.m. Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. www.holidaycelebration.org.
7 Days In Arts
Bite off a rose, scoop up your honey and dance on down to the New JCC at Milken. This evening they present “A Magical Argentinian Night,” complete with tango dancers and singers, folk songs and ballet, as well as Argentine snacks, drinks and desserts. Best of all, proceeds benefit children in need.
7:30 p.m. $25. 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills. R.S.V.P., (818) 464-3300.
Bring a blanket to the The Brandeis-Bardin Institute’s “Under the Stars” series, cop a squat and listen to kid-friendly Jewish tunes performed by the Rick Recht Band, one of the top touring groups in Jewish music today.
7:30 p.m. $15-$25. 1101 Peppertree Lane, Brandeis. (805) 582-4450.
Broadway buffs should consider “West Coast Ensemble: In Concert” this evening, a cabaret show highlighting songs from some of the musicals the group has put on over the years. Richard Israel produces and directs the one-night-only performance by the ensemble’s original artists as they sing songs from “Company,” “Merrily We Roll Along,” “Cabaret” and others.
8 p.m. $50 (includes dessert reception). 522 N. La Brea Ave., Hollywood. (323) 436-0066.
Art enthusiasts tired of the same old paintings-on-canvas will find respite in the form of book-sized abstract collages and box constructions by Hannelore Baron. The artist and Holocaust survivor’s works are currently on display at Manny Silverman Gallery. Or see the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Services’ exhibition, “Hannelore Baron: Works From 1960 to 1987” at the Gallery at Cal State Long Beach opening today.
Manny Silverman Gallery, 619 N. Almont Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 659-8256.
The Gallery, Cal State Long Beach, 1250 Bellflower Blvd., Long Beach. (562) 985-5761.
Swinging his way into movie houses and hearts once again is the inimitable Spider-Man. Your friendly neighborhood arachnidly enhanced superhero comes to a theater near you in his sequel, creatively titled “Spider-Man 2.” This time, director Sam Raimi has him battling Dr. Octavius, aka Doc Ock, but internal demons lurk, too, as Spidey struggles with “the gift and the curse” of his superhuman powers.
SISU Entertainment takes its shot at “fun for the whole Jewish family” with its new “Jewish Holiday Songs” karaoke DVD. Features include menus in Hebrew and English, NTSC and PAL compatibility, subtitles in Hebrew or phonetic English and the option of doing singalong karaoke or just listening to the songs.
$19.95. (800) 223-7478.
Last chance to catch galerie yoramgil’s latest exhibit of David Aaronson’s “Major Works Since 1951.” While Aaronson, a Boston University professor emeritus and art school founder, generally worked on a small scale, he occasionally went big. Yoram Gil showcases his larger charcoal drawings, encaustic paintings and bronze sculptures before they’re shipped off to Boston University for a special retrospective.
10 a.m.-6 p.m. (Tues.-Sat.), 11 a.m.-4 p.m. (Sun.). 319 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills. (310) 275-8130.
7 Days In Arts
Batsheva Blurs Artistic Borders
During “Naharin’s Virus” a provocatative dance/performance piece that the Batsheva Dance company will excerpt this week at UCLA, a dancer holds chalk in her hand, dragging it through her body movements: Arching her back, outstretching her arm, she trails Hebrew words on a blackboard.
In the piece, the mood changes from torturously languid to controlled chaos in an instant, and while its message is ambiguous, its energy is, like the title, viral — easy to catch and hard to shake.
“Naharin’s Virus” (2001), a melding of performance art and dance, was inspired by the play “Offending the Audience” by Austrian playwright Peter Handke.
This weekend, 15 dancers from Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company will perform an excerpt from “Naharin’s Virus” and eight other works by chief choreographer Ohad Naharin at UCLA’s Royce Hall. This ensemble of dances is titled “Deca Dance” and it reflects the stimulating avant-garde style that has been associated with Batsheva since Naharin assumed his role of artistic director in 1990, and then house choreographer in 2003.
Before that, the 40-year-old Israeli company that was founded by Martha Graham and Baroness Batsheva de Rothschild was languishing without true stylistic direction. Naharin, a dancer by training whose works have been produced by dance companies all over the world, infused the company with his hurtling energy. Batsheva became synonymous with intrepidity, innovation and, in some cases, controversy.
“I think the strength of the work is my inability to describe it,” said Naharin, who spoke with The Journal from his hotel in Montreal. “It is not about conveying an idea, it is about experiencing. It is like if you ask me to describe the smell of fresh air — this is the same. It is something you have to experience.”
Naharin said that his work is about virtuosity and efficiency.
“It is about trying to diffuse the difference of what is classical, what is sacred, what is conventional, what is mathematic, what is scientific, what is beautiful and what is awkward,” he said. “It cannot be put into one category, [because] it is about the diffusion of the borders between things and creating something that is right for the work. My work shouldn’t and will not be identified with religious, national or ethnic connotations.”
Despite swearing off connotations, Naharin’s work was not created in nor is it reflective of a political vacuum. He is an outspoken critic of the Israeli government’s conservative policies. He favors land for peace and dividing Jerusalem, and he is aware of his work pushing boundaries. He has been castigated by some of the ultra-Orthodox for blending the sacred with the profane by using traditional music, such as the Passover melody “Echad Mi Yodeah?” (“Who Knows One?”) as the music for some of his more provocative performances. In 2001, at the height of some of the worst politically inspired violence in Israel’s history, Naharin collaborated with Israeli Arab composer Habib Alla Jamal to create “Naharin’s Virus.”
“I saw Jamal and his musicians in a performance and really loved their music and it worked, it clicked [with my dance],” he said. “For me, life and politics really mingle, and what is personal and what is political also mingle. For me [collaborating with Jamal] was about meeting a very talented group of musicians, but I cannot detach myself from the connotation of it. I was aware of what it could create, I am aware of the associations, but it was not the heart of my decision. The political stuff is a byproduct, not the aim of my work.”
For the 17 dancers in the company, who come from all over the world, Naharin’s work is allows them a freedom of movement.
“Naharin is a partner,” said Yaniv Nagar, a former dancer with the company and current company manager and stage manager. “If you do these pieces you have to give from yourself, and have a lot of creativity in yourself to express it. I was in a neoclassical company before, and there everything was set. [Batsheva] was not just movement, but an opportunity to bring something personal to it. We don’t carry any political flags, we just do art in Israel and individually everyone can connect to it in his own way.”
The Batsheva Dance Company’s “Deca Dance.” 8 p.m. on
March 19 and 20 at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus. For tickets, $17-$45, call
(310) 825-2101 or visit www.uclalive.org .
7 Days In Arts
When Boris Eifman’s ballet, “Tchaikovsky: The Mystery of Life and Death,” premiered in Moscow in 1993, angry picketers surrounded the concert hall.
“They stood with a banner that read, ‘Stay away from our Tchaikovsky,'” said Eifman, whose ballet debuts at the Orange County Performing Arts Center May 16-18.
The provocative phantasmagoric piece explores the beloved Russian composer’s tortured psyche, especially his repressed homosexuality. His inner split is portrayed literally, with one dancer representing the closeted, anguished Tchaikovsky, and another his sexy, uninhibited alter ego. Homoerotic playing cards cavort in one sequence, while another depicts Tchaikovsky kissing a sleeping prince, rather than a princess, in an allusion to his ballet, “Sleeping Beauty.” The piece is as explicit, if less sensationalistic, as Ken Russell’s 1970 film “The Music Lovers.”
The audaciously flamboyant work is what audiences have come to expect of Eifman, whose ballets include “My Jerusalem,” an ode to the Israeli capital, and “Red Giselle,” about a Soviet ballerina gone mad.
While noting that Eifman’s company has received far more attention in the West than others in Russia’s vibrant, contemporary dance scene, Los Angeles Times dance critic Lewis Segal nevertheless praises his “talent for grand-scale pictorial splendor” and for creating “very gutsy work within that society.”
“Homosexuality was only legalized in Russia in 1997, and here he has a seminaked Tchaikovsky and his boyfriend doing male duets,” Segal told The Journal. “His ‘Red Giselle’ has a communist [official] virtually raping the heroine. Eifman managed to stage dances about religion, and he is a Jewish artist who managed to stand up to the communists and not back down. So I give him amazing points for courage.”
The renegade choreographer took his first dance classes at age 6 in Siberia, where his father, an engineer, had been ordered to work in a tank factory during World War II. In 1953, his family relocated to Kishinev, Moldavia, where Eifman began choreographing at 13 — to his parents’ chagrin.
“A musician in a Russian Jewish family, it’s normal, but a dancer is abnormal,” he said through a translator.
The authorities also regarded him as abnormal when, after graduating from the Leningrad Conservatory, he founded his own company in 1977 to create “absolutely nontraditional work that broke the canon of Soviet ballet.”
While audiences cheered his unorthodox mix of contemporary movement and Freudian drama, the cultural commissars disapproved. They nixed his funding and forbade him from touring outside the U.S.S.R, forcing Eifman, now 58, to scrape by on ticket sales in the provinces. They also pressured him to leave the country: “They said, ‘You’re not a Soviet choreographer; better you should go to Israel,'” Eifman recalled.
The harassment included anti-Semitism, even though the choreographer felt “this is my culture; it’s just like a difficult relationship in a family.”
So he chose to remain in the U.S.S.R., although he took the first opportunity to visit Israel, when Perestroika hit in 1989.
Walking around the capital, Eifman said, spurred “My Jerusalem,” in which three soloists personify Judaism, Christianity and Islam co-existing in one place.
“I wanted to show that God created this city to show a model of love,” he said.
Four years later, Eifman focused on Russian culture when he holed up in the St. Petersburg library to research a piece on his favorite composer, Tchaikovsky. He pored over diaries and letters in which the musician described his unhappy marriage and a suicide attempt.
“My whole life I wondered why he composed such tragic music, and I learned it was because he lived a double life,” Eifman said. “He was a religious man, and he thought his sexuality was his personal tragedy. I decided two dancers could show the conflict between his soul and his body.”
When “Tchaikovsky” premiered in New York during the Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg’s triumphant 1998 United States debut, not a single picketer surrounded the concert hall. Instead, excited Russian immigrants lined up to see their favorite company, along with expectant dance critics.
After the first performance, The New York Times’ Anna Kisselgoff wrote that “you won’t find such daring actor-dancers anywhere else, not even in other Russian companies.”
Eifman traces his success to his dual cultural roots. “I make Russian ballets with a Jewish soul,” he said.
Tickets, $20-$65, are available at (714) 556-2787, ext.6677; online at www.ocpac.org ; and through Ticketmaster, (714) 740-7878 or (213) 365-3500.
7 Days In Arts
‘Dance’s’ Conflict Is Center Stage
In Mirra Bank’s unflinching documentary, “The Last Dance,” legendary children’s author Maurice Sendak passionately describes the Holocaust piece he hopes to create with members of the acrobatically virtuostic Pilobolus Dance Company. He envisions a train station, a menacing figure and refugees. He imagines a double bill with the children’s opera, “Brundibar,” once performed at Terezin. “It’s [my] loyalty to all the dead,” said the 75-year-old author (“Where the Wild Things Are”), who lost numerous relatives in the Holocaust.
During such conversations, Pilobolus’ three artistic directors squirm uncomfortably. “I just don’t find waiting around at the train station … very interesting,” the troupe’s Jonathan Wolken said. The directors suggest the story shouldn’t be concrete but should evolve through improvisation.
“But I’m the storyteller,” Sendak retorts at one point.
The tense moment is one of many Bank captured after Pilobolus members invited Sendak and his partner, writer-director Arthur Yorinks, to become their first outside collaborators in 1998.
Speaking by telephone from his Connecticut home, the author and set designer told The Journal he agreed, in part, because he loves collaborating with dancers and Pilobolus’ work isn’t unlike his own. “Their playful, almost shameful use of the body reminds me of babies and children,” he said.
But as the partnership got underway, Bank captured the stormy, often hilarious clash of egos, as well as the vibrant creative process. In the film, the collaborators argue about the piece’s title, whether it should specifically reference the Holocaust or involve nudity. “Those who went to the ovens were stripped naked,” Sendak said of the nudity.
“It’s a kind of stupid striptease,” Wolken said.
The edgy, cinema verite style film joins a budding subgenre of movies, including Matthew David’s 1998 documentary, “Dancemaker,” that explore the sometimes prickly choreographic process.
Looking back on the Pilobolus partnership — captured by Bank’s handheld digital camera — Sendak said he was “baffled by their tenacity, and I’m sure they’d say the same of me.
“It was unpleasant,” he said of the tension. “I don’t like getting angry or in an emotional condition, because the Holocaust subject was emotional enough.”
Wolken, who also lost family in the camps, sees things differently. “Flying sparks can vulcanize a project,” he told The Journal. “And Maurice loves a good argument. It energizes him. If he doesn’t have one, he manufactures it.”
“The Last Dance” began when Bank, an acclaimed PBS filmmaker whose work often involves Jewish themes, attended a Pilobolus performance in summer 1998. “I asked [artistic director] Michael Tracy what the company was doing next, and he said it would be a dark, Eastern European, possibly Holocaust-driven Grimm’s fairy tale with Maurice Sendak,” she recalled. “I said, ‘My God, that sounds like a film.'”
Over the next eight months, Bank videotaped 125 hours of the collaboration, which sometimes seemed destined for failure. After one particularly turbulent session, Sendak dejectedly told Bank he felt “bumped off the rails.” At 11 p.m. that night, he called her and threatened to quit.
“I think Maurice thought he could control the process more than he did,” Bank said. Of why Wolken became his primary antagonist, she said, “within Pilobolus, his role is often that of provocateur.”
The filmmaker found the discord “gut wrenching. I felt deeply connected to everyone involved,” she said. “I also had a great deal personally invested in the project, and there were a number of times I thought it might fall apart.”
Instead, the tense partnership eventually yielded a powerful dance piece, “A Selection,” which received rave reviews in New York in 1999.
Bank’s documentary also received rave reviews, not just from the critics but from the protagonists involved. “However, I cringed the first two or three times I saw it,” Sendak said. “I didn’t like to see myself carrying on like that. I became the big … noisy Jew and Jonathan became the uptight, ‘No, I don’t want to go there,’ Jew.”
Wolken, for his part, called “The Last Dance” “a great film. But it presents just a narrow slice of what went on. In a good movie, you have to have conflict, and Mirra searched for it. As a good filmmaker, she at times manufactured it.”
Both Sendak and Wolken told The Journal they are old friends, which isn’t depicted in the movie. They said they’d collaborate again in an instant. But Bank isn’t so sure. “Everyone was proud of the dance piece they created, but they also may never work again,” she said. “Which is why I called the film, ‘The Last Dance.'”
The film opens April 24 at the American Cinemateque in Los Angeles, coinciding with Pilobolus’ performance of different works at the Ahmanson May 2 and 4. Bank and Pilobolus members will appear for a discussion after the “Last Dance” screening at noon on May 3. For information, call (323) 461-2020. n