Dance breathes life into L.A. Dance Project’s 10-year anniversary gala

For their 10th Anniversary Gala at Jeanne and Anthony Pritzker’s Beverly Hills estate on the night of October 29, the LA Dance Project celebrated a decade of dancing in front of the community that kept its art alive. As they made their way through the property, dancers moved from room to room, arms outstretched to welcome everyone before immersing themselves in a routine that kissed the floor of every part of the property. Meanwhile, the audience watched fascinated by the performance outside and inside the house, often moving with the dancers.

The anniversary gala came shortly after the company unveiled its new work “Be Here Now” – choreographed by LADP Artistic Director and Co-Founder Benjamin Millepied – alongside Gisèle Viennes’ “Crowd” on Wednesday and Thursday at the LADP studio in downtown LA for Van Cleef & Arpel’s Dance Reflections initiative.

Millepied viewed Saturday night’s performance as a testament to LADP’s resilience.

“After 10 years, it’s a community that we’ve created, a community of artists, a community of people who love the company,” Millepied said.

A bearded man in a dark suit smiles as he speaks into a microphone.

Benjamin Millepied addresses the crowd at the LA Dance Project 2022 Gala on October 29, 2022.

(River Callaway / BFA.com)

Two men flank a woman, all smiling.

Lawrence Bender, left, Cindy Cederlund and Travon Free at the LA Dance Project 2022 Gala.

(River Callaway / BFA.com)

Three disguised women stand with drinks in hand and stare intently at the camera.

Olivia Rouyre, left, Valentina Bilbao and Laura Love at the LA Dance Project 2022 Gala.

(River Callaway / BFA.com)

A man and woman dressed in black stand with glasses of drinks and smile at the camera.

Adam Silverman and Louise Bonnet at the LA Dance Project 2022 Gala.

(River Callaway / BFA.com)

At the gala, LADP received nearly $1 million for programming and operations, in addition to $1.5 million from Van Cleef & Arpels, a longtime supporter of the company.

Arriving guests were welcomed up the driveway and into the home under a skylight that kept the night in view. Beyond, the Los Angeles skyline demanded attention, but soon enough the dance took over as the performers smashed the property – in some cases right in the middle of the mix.

Company member Marissa Brown took short strides across the grass, turning heads as she lifted her leg and swung an arm for balance. Choreographer Randi Freitas performed alongside a crew of dancers who growled and tatted Kendrick Lamar on a black catwalk in the courtyard.

Other appearances included Andy Akiho – who composed the music for “Be Here Now” – with cellist Coleman Itzkoff, Daeun Jung, Darrel “Friidom” Dunn and Shantel Ureña.

A man in a dark shirt and blazer and blue jeans stands next to a woman in a short peach dress and blazer.

Aaron Young and Laure Heriard Dubreil at the LA Dance Project 2022 Gala.

(River Callaway / BFA.com)

A woman with long dark hair in an ice blue one shoulder dress with a full skirt.

Berit Labelle at the LA Dance Project 2022 Gala.

(River Callaway / BFA.com)

Stacen Berg, partner and managing director of Galerie Hauser & Wirth and also a board member of LADP, said what impressed her most over the dance company’s 10 years was its commitment to collaborating with other art forms.

“What’s special about what LADP does is the combination of visual arts and dance,” she said. “And that’s always been that solid line for what brought Benjamin to Los Angeles.”

In fact, the first performance she saw from the company was a collaboration with Sterling Ruby called Murder Ballads. She also recalled an LADP collaboration with Charles Gaines for the 2019 revival of Bella Lewitzky’s “Kinaesonata.” Gaines contributed to the visual concept of the play, and after seeing it Berg said, “He felt that dance is the most inclusive art form because it touches all your senses.”

Suddenly, a haunting “Follow me” sounded from the speakers in the house. A group of people dressed in black, wearing white masks with painted faces, raised their hands in the midst of the crowd to lead guests onto the outdoor stage, where a series of company performances and remarks from Millepied and LADP executive director Lucinda Lent took place.

Two women in disguise smile at the camera.

Sara Sampaio, left, and Elsa Hosk at the LA Dance Project 2022 Gala.

(River Callaway / BFA.com)

A man in a dark suit speaks into a microphone in front of a seated audience.

Mark Terbeek speaks to attendees at the LA Dance Project Gala.

(River Callaway / BFA.com)

For the record:

1:28 p.m. November 3, 2022An earlier version of the above caption incorrectly gave Mark Terbeek’s last name as Tarbeek.

Millepied said the company started as an “experiment” in 2012 after he retired from the New York City Ballet and co-founded the company with Charles Fabius. With the help of Jane Jelenko, who contacted Millepied in 2006 about the possibility of starting a festival or company, LADP had its first performance at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2012. Over time, he said, “The company became this engine on its own.”

The night also highlighted LADP’s two-week Summer Dance Intensive in collaboration with Everybody Dance LA! and Ghetto Classics Dance, which teaches youth ages 4 to 19 in low-income areas of Los Angeles. Children from the 2022 Summer Intensive took the stage to perform a routine full of house dance and charisma.

Several young people in black t-shirts saying "Everybody dance LA!" Perform on stage.

Students from LA Dance Project’s Summer Dance Intensive Program perform at the LADP 2022 Gala.

(Jason Sean Weiss / BFA.com)

Five young people in black perform on stage.

Students from LA Dance Project’s Summer Dance Intensive Program perform at the 2022 LADP Gala.

(Jason Sean Weiss / BFA.com)

A young woman in black dances in front of her with outstretched arms

The LA Dance Project’s summer dance intensives perform.

(Jason Sean Weiss / BFA.com)

Nina Flagg, the program’s creative director and choreographer, said it’s the first time she and the rest of the teachers are seeing them without directing them. She could “sit and watch her rejoicing.”

“To think of this journey that we’ve taken together over these two weeks and to see them tonight come full circle and they’re so confident and taking the stage and mastering themselves and celebrating, that’s more than we could have wished for,” Flagg said.

LADP opened its portion of the evening with the US premiere of “Quartet for Five,” choreographed by LADP Artist-in-Residence Bobbi Jene Smith and Or Schraiber. With “String Quartet No. 5” by Philip Glass as the score, the dancers drifted into a powerful narrative of conflicted relationships between five dancers. The next piece was an excerpt from “Be Here Now” that showcased the company’s virtuosity and personality through detailed choreography that included technical difficulties and common movements. The performances concluded with a segment from Millepied’s “Romeo & Juliet Suite,” which began onstage but continued throughout the property while a camera followed the dancers and projected the performance onto the backstage wall. Dancers Daphne Fernberger and Nayomi Van Brunt meandered through the house and into the backyard as the tense dance of forbidden love continued onto the lawn, landing with a kiss in front of the Los Angeles skyline.

Company member Shu Kinouchi said the event “let people know what we are capable of and show what we can achieve with dance.”

“Now we’re going to ask for more,” he added.

Two dancers stand side by side with their hands raised

Jeremy Coachman, left, and Lorrin Brubaker perform “Quartet for Five,” choreographed by Bobbi Jene Smith and Or Schraiber, at the LA Dance Project 2022 Gala.

(Jason Sean Weiss / BFA.com)

Daisy Kate Jacobson dances with her hands outstretched and her head thrown back.

Daisy Kate Jacobson dances in the Quartet for Five at the 2022 LADP Gala.

(Jason Sean Weiss / BFA.com)

Six dancers sit on the stage in a triangle formation

Doug Baum, left, Oliver Greene-Cramer, Mario Gonzalez, Shu Kinouchi, Vinicius Silva and Peter Mazurowski perform “Pillar I” from “Be Here Now,” choreographed by Benjamin Millepied.

(Jason Sean Weiss / BFA.com)

Courtney Conovan dances with hand at side and rejoices

Courtney Conovan plays “Quartet for Five”.

(Jason Sean Weiss / BFA.com)

Two men in dark costumes dance on the stage.

The LA Dance Project’s 2022 Gala showcased the company’s dancers.

(Jason Sean Weiss / BFA.com)

Before dinner, Lent and Millepied welcomed attendees to partake in a new tradition introduced at the 2021 Gala: a shared shot of tequila. For Lent, watching a community come together, especially from the stage, was her favorite part.

On the way to dinner — which took place on what appeared to be a basketball court — conversations about the performances played in the air.

“We remember the remnants of experience and what we feel about energy,” Lent said, recalling the conversations around her. “It’s not always the visual or tangible things, it’s the way dance and art makes us feel.”

Two women sit at a table and smile at the camera.

Jaime Ray Newman, left, and Alia Shawkat enjoy dinner at the LADP Gala.

(River Callaway / BFA.com)

Two women flank a man, stand and smile.

Lucinda Lent, left, Benjamin Millepied and Nina Flagg at the LADP Gala.

(River Callaway / BFA.com)

Two seated women turn in their chairs to face the camera.

Lucinda Lent, left, and Alicia Silverstone at the LADP Gala Dinner.

(River Callaway / BFA.com)

Over dinner, Smith explained that LADP’s 10 years showed “how much dedication there is to making everything work.” She considers it a practice in itself.

The gala ended with another dance, but this time everyone was invited to take part. The contestants entered the dance floor, where members of the ensemble had previously performed, and moved their hips to the beat. In a moment, Akiho shrugged with a smile on his face. Next up, company member David Adrian Freeland Jr. helped fellow Brunt shoot the perfect video as he strutted and posed mid-dance.

Lent said the “magic of the LA Dance Project” comes from the artistic community committed to creating something new for the city.

“To be here after 10 years and weathering the pandemic and getting stronger I think is a testament to the culture of the company and what the company stands for and how important it is for us to represent Los Angeles.” Lent said.

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2022-11-01/dance-breathes-life-into-l-a-dance-projects-10-year-anniversary-gala Dance breathes life into L.A. Dance Project’s 10-year anniversary gala

Sarah Ridley

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