A Selective Guide to the Arts in Los Angeles

RhetOracle Dance Company / photo copyright Tim Agler Celebrate Dance 2009

Celebrate Dance returns to the Alex Theatre in Glendale for its fifth-anniversary show this Saturday, March 13, at 8 p.m. The festival celebrates the vibrance and diversity of our local dance community by showcasing nine Southland companies in a single evening of performance that received the Lester Horton Award for Outstanding Achievement for a Festival in 2007, 2008 and 2009, and has sold out for the past two years.

Curious about the show’s tremendous success and unique scope, I recently spoke with executive producer, curator, arts advocate, and LA dance guru Jamie Nichols. Former director of the Pasadena-based dance company Fast Feet for 23 years, Nichols knows the LA dance community from the inside and celebrates its tenacity and resourcefulness in making excellent work with scarce funding and creating venues out of restaurants and warehouses when theater space is in short supply or beyond financial reach. Understanding these challenges firsthand, Nichols has, for each of the past five years, put up personal funds and sought out private donors in order to offer the area’s finest companies the opportunity to perform in a fully produced, beautifully lit, well-publicized concert at Glendale’s 1,400-seat Alex Theatre. And she even manages to pay everyone.

Nichols believes “a spirit of graciousness,” or support for one another’s work, can help the LA dance community thrive. And she sets a remarkable example by going to see performances by anyone who invites her. It’s this spirit that has led her to discover such remarkable artists as Esther Baker-Tarpaga and Olivier Tarpaga, the duo that thrilled audience members at Celebrate Dance 2008, and to offer the visibility that has helped propel their international career.

This year’s eclectic lineup features returning companies as well as new faces; premieres and award-winning, re-staged works; contemporary ballets, aerial dance, jazz, acrobatic encounters with moving sets, and moving explorations of relationship. Look for new additions including Catch Me Bird and Body Current Dance, directed by Lorin Johnson, former American Ballet Theatre dancer. Also, past Celebrate Dance favorites JazzAntiqua Dance and Music Ensemble and RhetOracle Dance Company will present new jazz works that promise to captivate.

If the last two years are any indication, you’d better get your tickets now. Visit Celebrate Dance on the Alex Theatre’s website for more information and a video sneak preview. Tickets range from $17 to $35, and discounts for seniors, students, Glendale residents and Dance Resource Center members are available with presentation of ID at the Alex Theatre box office. Discounted tickets for groups of 15 or more are available by calling the box office at (818) 243-2539.