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Death Defying

Sur Les Traces de Dinozard, Faustin Linyekula, Choreographer, September 29, REDCAT — To open its 2017-2018 season, REDCAT offered a dramatic dance/theatre/music presentation of the 90-minute performance of Sur Les Traces de Dinozard ("In Search of Dinozard"), choreographed, directed and danced by the award-winning Congolese artist, Faustin Linyekula. His troupe of seven male singer/dancers, known as Studios Kabako, mesmerized the audience with tableaux of death and survival, music and movement, memory and hope. Born out of more than a century of colonization, corruption and killing in Central Africa, the evening's words and images will haunt anyone who experienced them. REDCAT deserves continued praise for expanding … [Read more...]

Money and the Time Suck

Whitesplaining Extinction to Junot Diaz, RECAT, February 17, 2017 — Related Posts: The Radical Middle, Toward an Experimental Politics of Nonviolence At REDCAT recently I heard Junot Diaz address a packed house and found myself wanting to whitesplain money. Diaz, the author of Drown, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and This is How You Lose Her, and the winner of a MacArthur Fellowship and many other prizes, geared his presentation to the young artists and activists from black and Latino communities who had made the trip downtown to Disney Hall. Rejecting the typical format of literary readings, Diaz stepped down off the podium and took questions from the audience, calling especially for “African-American sisters” to … [Read more...]

Strings on Fire

 Mark Menzies: from the islands...to fragments, REDCAT, February 6, 2017 —                                     REDCAT's February 6 concert, "Mark Menzies: from the islands...to fragments", was quirky, ambitious, lengthy and rewarding. At the outset, not all of the 240 seats were occupied; after intermission, another 50 were empty. Even for those of us who love music, two hours of solo violin/viola was daunting. But the more one focused on Mark Menzies—his calm demeanor, the skills he employed to navigate complex music, the remarkable range of sounds emanating from his instruments—the more involving the evening became. He also had a couple of … [Read more...]

The Body at the Center

Christian Rizzo / ICI—CCN MONTPELLIER: d’après une histoire vraie — September 15th was the first of four nights of a ballet featuring eight male dancers accompanied solely by two drummers for a 70 minute performance.  Curiosity about how this melange of 16 bare feet and two piles of percussion instruments could entertain an audience for over an hour is what drew some of us to REDCAT. We were not disappointed after the house lights went down and were soon transfixed by what we saw and heard. When the lights came back up, the two-minute standing ovation for the performers was enthusiastic and well-deserved. The choreographer, director and designer of the production is Christian Rizzo, a man with a truly … [Read more...]

Dancing with Kafka

Der Bau - Isabelle Schad | Laurent Goldring from Théâtre Auditorium Poitiers — The exceptional is what one comes to expect from the programing at REDCAT. Some original presentations during a recent fortnight have included TeatroCinema's ingeniously staged Historia de Amor and an evening of often bleak, always beautiful films by the late director Chantal Akerman. April 17th proved again the daring temperament with a performance by Berlin based choreographer Isabelle Schad and French artist Laurent Goldring. Isabelle Schad has re-imagined an unfinished novella by Franz Kafka, entitled Der Bau (The Burrow). When the lights came up, the only things visible on stage were four or five bunched-up pieces … [Read more...]

Refugee Redux

Neelamjit Dhillon Quartet & Isaura String Quartet: Komagata Maru, REDCAT, Nov.24th The stories of people migrating from place to place on our planet are as old as the human race. Through ancient history, bible tales, perhaps immigrant narratives of our own families, we know that individuals, tribes, even entire populations of towns and countries can move--or be moved—to new, faraway places. Reasons for packing up and leaving are diverse: wars, weather, a need for food and water, religious beliefs, better-paying jobs, et al. Sadly, fear or hatred of The Other—humankind's ingrained "us versus them" mentality—has often complicated and at times thwarted migrations. This is not new. Today, refugee camps around the world are filled with … [Read more...]

Tis a Gift to Be Not-Simple

Early Shaker Spirituals, Wooster Group, REDCAT, January 2015, Directed by Kate Valk — I went to REDCAT the other night to see Frances and Liz and company sing Shaker spirituals but I decided not to write about it. I was intrigued for about half of the evening, but then things became a little less intriguing, so I left with a smile and a sigh and a tired kind of near-miss feeling about the evening, and it was this near-miss feeling that eventually gave rise to my decision not to write about the production. Early Shaker Spirituals: A Record Album Interpretation, if you haven’t seen it, begins with four women in Shaker costumes entering from the wings. Grouping themselves on stage, they begin to sing along to tracks from a Rounder … [Read more...]

Coates …Of Many Colors

Gloria Coates: Portrait Concert, REDCAT, Nov.13, 2014— (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times) Mid-way through its fall season, REDCAT once again stepped out of the box with the presentation  "Gloria Coates: Portrait Concert". The composer, whose output is considered to follow in the footsteps of New Music pioneers the likes of Stockhausen, Ives and Xenakis, was in attendance and roundly applauded at her brief bow, post-performance. Three of her works were promised: Night Music and Symphony # 10, both written in 1992, and the world premiere of an opera called Stolen Identity, composed in 2010-11. REDCAT described Gloria Coates as "a prodigious composer of orchestral and chamber works since the 1960's" who is "acclaimed for uncanny music that is … [Read more...]

Oncogenes and Irony in Western Society

Gob Squad: Western Society, U.S. Premier, REDCAT — On Instagram, my daughter watches six second clips of her favorite boy band – little video memes showing the young musicians' daily shenanigans — “O…M…G... Ashton slept shirtless last night!” — intercut with brief snippets of the band thrashing Green Day covers in concert. The other night she showed me a new episode of American Horror in which slasher movie motifs succeeded each other with such rapidity it felt as if I were watching a movie trailer stretched to fill a 54 minute series slot. The representational hooks of consumer culture are getting shorter and sharper, I notice — the number of neurological receptors required to create a convincing image of a stable world are … [Read more...]

Exit/Exist

Gregory Maqoma/Vuyani Dance Theatre, REDCAT November 7-10, 2013 — The theatre’s house lights fade to black and audience chatter quickly subsides. Music begins—a trance beat, the brisk playing of a guitar and a quiet electronic pulse; the sound is Indian, African and middle-eastern in flavor.  Small spotlights direct our eyes downstage, center, where a black man wearing a gold sharkskin suit stands with his back to us. He is barefoot. In a moment, he begins to move in sync with the music and his joyous energy soon makes us believe he will never stop moving. The dancer is Gregory Maqoma and he is astonishing. In the first several minutes of his performance piece, Exit/Exist, we never really see his face. His movements begin slowly … [Read more...]

Incoming! Travis Preston Gives It To Us Straight

Prometheus Bound, World Premiere, A new translation by Joel Agee, Directed by Travis Preston CalArts Center for New Performance, Presented by the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa — Pinned high on a gigantic metal wheel, Aeschylus’ ragged Prometheus has, for the past eighty minutes, been spitting out toxic denunciations of all-mighty Zeus and his dictates. Hermes himself just arrived with the Big Chief's final ultimatum, only to be met with more curses and maledictions from the unrepentant Giver-of-Fire. Finally, Prometheus pauses and looks out, seeing in the far distance the glow of Zeus’ destructive bolt on its way toward him like a heat-seeking missile. Lower down on the steel armature, the flock of women who have gathered in … [Read more...]

A Sign of Life from the Post-Dramatic

Wooster Group & New York City Players, Early Plays, directed by Richard Maxwell, REDCAT, February 21-24, 2013 — I’m in 7-11 – the one on Silver Lake Boulevard. I’m buying ice for a field trip my daughter’s 6th grade class is taking later in the day. There’s nothing unusual about the errand, but something about the way the sunlight slants across the surfaces of the Salt Snack displays and the Slurpee counter, or maybe it’s the warmth in the smile of the woman at the register as she hands me my change – she’s from the Indian subcontinent and seems so happy to be here I imagine she’s a new arrival still in the honeymoon phase of the American dream - or perhaps it’s the small courtesy shown me by the young woman who holds the door … [Read more...]

Repairs are Being Attempted

GATZ by Elevator Repair Service, Directed by John Collins  at REDCAT, Nov. 28-Dec. 9, 2012 — We reach a point in dreams sometimes of sudden precarious flight, the unfolding of an odd, slow-motion knowledge that we have become untethered, the way participants in car accidents are sometimes launched through windshields, and we can imagine ourselves filled with a kind of instant nostalgia for the firm ground just left behind, and for the time before our weightless freefall. Even before we make impact with whatever surface approaches — hard, or if we are very lucky in our dreaming, soft and giving, a warm embrace perhaps, the arms of a wise and trusted elder perhaps, wearing a soft cardigan with leather patches at the elbows possibly, and … [Read more...]

A Larger Hunger

And God Created Great Whales, Rinde Eckert, REDCAT, January 2012 – Rinde Eckert takes to the stage, house lights on, sits at a piano-cum-surrogate-captain's-table strewn with post-its and and tinkers endlessly with what appears to be sheet music. The stage lights dim to black and then rise again, and Eckert appears now as Nathan, a hapless piano tuner, who, along with his imaginary muse Olivia, trace, tack and travail the last vestiges of Nathan’s memory in order to piece together his magna opera “Moby Dick”. Strapped around his waist and hung around his neck are color-coded tape recordings. These are Nathan's memory devices; they supply him with directives on how to complete his musical masterpiece, if only he could recall long enough … [Read more...]

In from the Cold: Winter Dancing at REDCAT

CalArts Winter Dance, The Sharon Disney Lund Dance Series, REDCAT, Los Angeles, California, 16 December 2011 – Four works were presented at the CalArts Winter Dance event for this year: first-performances of works by two CalArts choreographer-professors, followed by the renown Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin. The evening revealed stark differences in approach, the first two works incorporating traditional and modern movements within a larger context, while the Naharin works used no conventional movement. Contemporary dance comprises a very broad range of styles, even at a school such as CalArts, known worldwide as a haven of experimental and avant-garde creativity. One of the two premieres of the evening, Los Angeles … [Read more...]

Three to Get Ready

New Original Works Festival, REDCAT, 22, 23, 24 September 2011 – An enthusiastic sold-out crowd saw a triple bill last week of two new dance works and an elaborate puppet/human operetta in the annual NOWFest at REDCAT, a three-week series that showcases new works by Los Angeles-based dance, theater, music, and multimedia performance artists. Michel Kouakou began the evening with his pseudo-solo Sack, in which he was the primary moving object. A large sack suspended from the ceiling functioned as the only prop — unless one also counts the several stationary dancers who also occupied the stage, all of whom had their shirts pulled over their faces for the duration of the 20-minute performance. Kouakou's movement cerainly contrasted … [Read more...]

Working Woman

Sandra Bernhard, REDCAT, Los Angeles, August 12, 2011 – Performances run through August 21. www.redcat.org Sandra Bernhard is back in L.A. for a two-week run at REDCAT to promote her recent album, I Love Being Me, Don’t You? Or perhaps the album promotes the tour--it’s hard to say since she included hardly any of the recorded material in her 100-minute performance Friday night. If you know Bernhard only through YouTube videos or guest appearances on talk shows, or even from her albums, you don’t know her vast range until you’ve seen her live. The show was a balanced blend of standup, stories, and music. Bernhard’s an assured, emotional singer, and the audience responded to the risk inherent in the intermixing of music and … [Read more...]

Revisiting Faith

Pat Graney Company: Faith, REDCAT, April 28th - May 1st, 2011 – Choreographer Pat Graney’s work is an unmistakably original artwork—fresh, timeless, and challenging. Graney is the recipient of dozens of awards for her choreography, including 11 NEA fellowships and the Alpert Award in the Arts. Her work presented at REDCAT recently is a re-creation of a 1991 piece that, in time, became the first segment of the Faith Tryptych, which, thanks to numerous grants, is being entirely resurrected this year. The one-hour Faith section stands on its own as a unique conception of movement and social commentary. From the start we are drawn into an unusual experience: we witness animated tableaux vivants representing … [Read more...]

Ageless Deliberations in Space

Eiko & Koma: Retrospective Project I: Regeneration, REDCAT, March 3 and 5, 2011 – Raven, performed at Danspace in 2010 The singular duo Eiko & Koma returned to Los Angeles for the first segment of their three-year retrospective based on 40 years of performing together, which have included many honors, grants, collaborations, and documentations. This Project I features one work each from 1976, 1984, and 2010. I attended two of their five performances at REDCAT. The newest of the three works, Raven, established the unwavering grim tone and largo tempo for the evening. Eiko & Koma build and modulate tension through magnified examinations of movement. While they do eventually arrive at new locations or orientations, it is … [Read more...]

Sight and Sound

Iannis Xenakis: Now and Tomorrow Curtis Roads: New Work, with Brian O'Reilly, Video, REDCAT, January 30, 2011 –  The CalArts Center for Experiment in Art, Information and Technology (CEAIT) Festival returned this year to REDCAT with an extraordinary three nights of concerts and two symposia featuring the work of the highly experimental architect and composer Iannis Xenakis. Presented in conjunction with the MOCA exhibition Iannis Xenakis: Composer, Architect, Visionary, Angelinos got a rare opportunity to dote on the work of this complex hybrid master. The culminating CEAIT program included Xenakis works, Dikhthas (1979), Epicycles (1989), Akanthos (1977) and Polytope de Cluny (1972), and that night's opening … [Read more...]

Cutting Up the Beat

George Herms: THE ARTIST'S LIFE, REDCAT February 3, 2011 - February 5, 2011 – "Loving everyone. Knowing nothing." —George Herms, on himself In this joyously messy, shambling show, jazz fan and beat generation icon George Herms put together a happening/opera, framing his assemblage art with an all-star ensemble of L.A.'s jazz legends, the Bobby Bradford Mo'tet and  the Theo Saunders Group. Herms tuned in to the audience with bat-like radar, waiting for the last program to cease its rattling and the last guy to stop chattering to his girlfriend, then announced that we had just experienced The Afterparty (listed as the first piece in the program) in the lobby beforehand. Indeed, I reflected, my lobby experience had been really fun and … [Read more...]

Vieux Carré

The Wooster Group, REDCAT, December 1, 2010 - December 12, 2010 – Art, like life itself, is an activity rich in paradox. The style of an artist, their aesthetic signature, limits as well as shapes their expressive energies. Great artists embrace and also rebel against their own style with equal ardor, and it’s this tension that creates the evolution, the trajectory of their work. Some artists tuck all that struggle behind the drapes; some let it become the direct subject matter of the work itself. Either way, this tension is exactly where we, in our self-created lives, connect to the artistic project in an urgent way. The struggles of the artist with form and style, hidden or shamelessly displayed, show us how to derive pleasure from our … [Read more...]

Containing Multitudes

Ralph Lemon/Cross Performance: How Can You Stay in the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere? – Ralph Lemon takes the long view in the latest work from his Cross Performance company, How Can You Stay in the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere? presented at the REDCAT, Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater space November 10-14, 2010. His previous company followed a traditional annual touring schedule, presenting a mixture of old and new works. With Cross Performance, he creates large-scale multi-disciplinary projects over many years. This single-project approach creates an atmosphere in which Lemon, a Guggenheim and US Artists Fellowship recipient, among many other awards and honors, feels comfortable attempting to integrate his responses to … [Read more...]

Show and Tell

Alfred Brendel: On Character in Music, REDCAT October 28, 2010 – The assignment of character or poetic meaning in music of the last half of the last century has been an unfashionable practice. Perhaps practiced in secret in the hearts of all composers, but not openly discussed by many. Pure musical theories of chromatic scale, tonality and form have been the favored pursuits of "new music", a turning away from the over laden portentous Romantic zeal that dominated the late 19th and early 20th century. But as of late there has been a distinct, albeit slow, shift back towards easy listening. The toot and bleep that has been so closely identified with composers of contemporary classical music is steadily being subverted with sound … [Read more...]

Romancing the Ring

The Ring Festival Los Angeles April 15 -June 30, 2010 – For ten weeks this spring more than 115 cultural partners and Institutions have gathered round the Los Angeles Opera'a first complete Ring Cycle and mounted in support an amazing array of events, symposia, art exhibitions, lectures, theatrical performances and film presentation. This is a great time to experience the depth, breath and enthusiasm of this city's artistic community. Not only are all committed to the cooperative ideal of festival, but they are wholeheartedly embracing the labyrinth of material that The Ring poses for critical study: Political Allegory, Epic mythological archetypes, philosophical inquiry ranging from classical Greek to contemporary French, in depth … [Read more...]

Back to Back at REDCAT – Saturday, Night 2

Swapan Chaudhuri, Aashish Khan and the CalArts Tabla Ensemble, REDCAT April 3, 2010 – My first exposure to classical Indian music was an unforgettable Ravi Shankar concert. The meditative focus of the musicians to which the presence of the audience contributed required throughout the mostly improvisational intricacies of raga struck me as spiritually uplifting and physically revitalizing. I found myself soon thereafter in India hunting for a set of tablas. It is said that each note on the Indian scale corresponds to the human subtle anatomy (chakras and nadis that govern the flow of prana or energy in the body). With roots in ancient vedic religion, Indian classical raga music is viewed by many as a spiritual discipline that can lead … [Read more...]

Back to Back at REDCAT – Friday, Night 1

Michiko Hirayama, Giacinto Scelsi, Canti Del Capricorno (1962-1972), REDCAT April 2, 2010 – "They are songs that explode classical convention: their vocal expressionism is ignited by the phonemes, not by any semantic content. Language seems to be atomized for all time. then an electrifying flow of sound is heard again, almost an archaic rite of evocation" - Jügen Kangold As Michiko Hirayama took to the stage at REDCAT on April 2nd I could tell that we were in for penny, in for a pound. This was no garden variety solo recital, for as she entered the darkened hall Hirayama beat the gong that hung around her neck as if a call to prayer. Theatricality aside, it was time to listen up. Canti Del Capricorno is Hirayama's signature work. … [Read more...]

LeCompte and Co.

North Atlantic, Wooster Group at REDCAT, February 10–21, 2010 – Many things went through my mind walking away from REDCAT after seeing the Wooster Group’s North Atlantic, but one of them was surely hats off to the company’s artistic director, Elizabeth LeCompte. First created by LeCompte and company in 1982, North Atlantic holds up remarkably well. The writer, James Strahs, pulled from texts by Thornton Wilder, Arthur Miller, Eugene O'Neill and Gertrude Stein, and the company, anchored by Francis McDormand, Kate Valk, Ari Fliakos and Scott Shepherd, hit their marks with style and precision. Set on an aircraft carrier moored off the coast of Holland, the piece juxtaposes tough-talking military exchanges with kinky sexual banter, … [Read more...]

Shipwrecked – A Response

Agreed. – Wooster Group's Sci-Fi mashup of Cavalli opera La Didone offered little sense of transcendental satisfaction for the die hard opera lover (of which I am one!). And really the whole conflation felt gratuitous. But as sheer entertainment...I had a great time! First off RedCat feels the perfect spot for this kind of hyperactive performance. Wooster really makes the most of all the technology available. The sound is amped and so are the cast, ready at any moment to take one for team Wooster. Probably my favorite performance was Scott Shepard as sir Piggy. He ran around snorting and grunting executing one prat fall after another, all the while clinging to his ukulele. When at last he is shot down, he belly flops onto … [Read more...]

Shipwrecked on Planet Kitsch

La Didone, The Wooster Group, Redcat Theater, Los Angeles, June 6 through June 21 – Open on a post industrial-style stage and a lush, restless soundscape of way-distorted noise levels with smooth pulsing undercurrents of Baroque chamber opera. The sensual meets cold steel, curvy bods are clad in nicely shaped silver bodysuits. The overall effect has some charms, but like most things that charm, there is a vacuous center. In the case of “La Didone”, a 1641 Baroque opera by Francesco Cavalli, you might argue that the voiding of content began in a palliated retelling of the Dido/Aeneas romance when adapted for Carnival by librettist Giovanni Francesco Busenello. In that opera, the tragic fate of Dido, the beautiful spurned … [Read more...]