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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

DANCESCAPE LA by Marques Wayne

The fifteenth production of Dancescape LA presented by Cheshire Moon Productions was an exciting and inspiring event benefiting the arts programs in the local Los Angeles community.  The event, hosted by So You Think You Can Dance champion Chehon Wespi-Tschopp was held at the intimate Club Nokia in downtown's LA Live complex.  The cozy setting was appropriate for what felt like a mutually supportive, family event.  The dancers and choreographers of the various performances were clearly fans of each other and with good reason.

The 32 pieces presented ranged from mellow modern dance to hard-edged hip-hop an each performance was more awesome than the last.  In a pool full of outstanding performances it's hard to pick standouts, but the large group numbers like "Golgeler" choreographed by Seda Aybay, Yusuf Nasir's "CollectiveUth" and Miguel Zarate's theatrical "Super Nova Barbie's Dead" all have to be commended for their scope and complexity.

Some of the more intimate performances like choreographer Julia Franzese's emotional tour de force "I Dreamed A Dream", diminutive soloist Sophia Lucia's gorgeous "Dreamcatcher" and the sexy, dynamic duet by Ashleigh and Ryan Di Lello to Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" were just as awe inspiring.

I spoke to Dancescape founder Jamie Gregor about the evolution of the event since its inception in 2004 and she talked about how the show has grown from the small show with only ten pieces (three of which she was featured in herself), to the more inclusive and diverse spectacle it is today.  Dancescape XV features over 150 dancers and choreographers from various backgrounds and styles.  She said that when selecting acts for the show she looks for diversity and uniqueness and, of course, invites back popular acts and colleagues she has worked with in the past.

Besides the host, there were other dancers that had been featured on So You Think You Can Dance and also acts from MTV's America's Best Dance Crew like 8 Flavahs, a quintet of pint sized girls that brought the crowd to their feet with a high-energy hip-hop infused performance to songs by Beyonce and Lil' Wayne and Gregor herself was featured in one performance, Denise Leitner's fluid and layered "Passage."  The final and most elaborate performance of the night was Christopher "Pharside" Jennings and Krystal Meraz's "The Black Parade" which featured over 40 dancers with black and red face paint and some of the most intricate and complex choreography I have seen in quite some time, (Think: Rhythm Nation meets The Wu-Tang Clan).

The entire night was filled with one great performance followed by another and 100% of the proceeds go to a wonderful cause.  Looking at the young artists within the show itself it's easy to see why the arts programs in our local schools are so important.  Gregor discussed how she grew up in Pittsburgh in a school district that was fortunate enough to have a broad artistic community and she wanted to help bring those same opportunities to children here in Los Angeles.  She is a dancer, so the events she produces focus on dance, but the funds raised support all arts and music programs in local schools.  Additionally, this year, the non-profit is partnering with the Los Angeles Leadership Academy to pilot a dance education program called Dancescape Ed that will bring artists from the Dancescape community into the classroom.

Photos by R.J. Corby

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