Los Angeles

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

LA Opera's The Magic Flute

By Heather Toner

I've never actually been to the opera, but now that I'm currently spending my 9 to 5 in the same building as the brilliant LA Opera, I decided that needed to change.  

This weekend the boy and I are attending Falstaff, which I'm really looking forward to, but the opera I'm actually most itching to see is this new production of Mozart's The Magic Flute.  

As you can see from the trailer above (seriously, watch it, it's amazing) this is a new inventive staging created by director Barrie Kosky in collaboration with the British comedy troupe 1927.  It blends live performing actors with film and animation to create a thrilling production that's part silent movie, part cartoon and part surreal.  I really hope I can snag a pair of tickets to this one as I think it may be the best suited opera for me than any other I've looked into attending!  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Myth & Infrastructure - The Fantastical work of Miwa Matreyek

By Heather Toner

A few weeks ago, I was introduced to artist Miwa Matreyek at an event through Emerging Arts Leaders / Los Angeles, and to say I was impressed with her work is an understatement.  This innovative artist creates animated short films as well as live performances that integrate animation and video installation.   The result is something that's wildly imaginative and beautifully fantastical.

Below is just an excerpt from her work "Myth & Infrastructure," but I think it will give you an idea of just how beautiful Miwa's work can be.  You can watch the piece in it's entirety here.  


Monday, October 28, 2013

Halloween Spirit - In the Form of Giselle Act 1 - Mad Scene

By Heather Toner

Nearly every year, my parents throw a big Halloween Party.  And, as my cousin Kaitlyn so rightly pointed out, if I dress up for said party, I simply have to go all out!  No half-assing it for me!

This year, I felt inspired by my day job and decided to dress accordingly and continue promoting the upcoming performances of Giselle (to be danced by the Royal New Zealand Ballet at the Music Center in January!)  But my costume was a very specific part of Giselle's character development - The Mad Scene.  

Below is a video clip of portions of the scene, performed by Alessandra Ferri...I remember the first time I saw it performed, I think I was about 10 years old and totally transfixed.  I love the high drama, therefore Giselle instantly became my favorite ballet.  I got the chance to be a super in National Ballet De Cuba's production when they toured LA back in the day, and then danced as a "willi" with Milwaukee Ballet when I was 17.  

But no matter what I am doing in regards to Giselle-- On or off the stage, the Mad Scene remains my favorite part...Have a watch below and you'll see why I'm sure!  

Nothing is quite as scary as a young ballerina gone mad...

Monday, October 21, 2013

Nederlands Dans Theater 1 at the Los Angeles Music Center

By Heather Toner

Nederlands Dance Theater
Fernando Hernando Magadan and Danielle Rowe, Shoot the Moon, Nederlands Dans Theater, photo © Prudence Upton

This past Friday, the boy and I saw Nederlands Dans Theater 1 perform at the Music Center and it was perhaps the most thrilling evening of dance I've seen in a great long time.  The boy agreed - And he's actually quite the connoisseur, as I've taken him to nearly every dance show that traipses through the LA borders.  

Considered THE premiere contemporary company of Europe, NDT doesn't make it out to LA all that often.  The last time they were here was in 2011, when they performed just two shows mid-week.  Because of their rare appearances on the west coast, I had never actually seen the company live, and to be honest, I was ok with that.  

Now that I've seen them, I'm determined to see them again every time they come to our neck of the woods.  They were glorious, and the work they performed was beautifully brilliant, surreal and cinematic.  It was a thrill to watch.  

The evening was comprised of two works choreographed by Artistic Director Paul Lightfoot and resident choreographer Sol Leon - Same Difference, and Shoot the Moon.  Both were set to haunting music from Phillip Glass, and dealt with the turmoil of relationships and the ego; each exploring new ways to communicate these universal human struggles.  

And there was a third new work from company dancer Medhi Walerski, Chamber.  This work, co-commissioned by the Music Center, was inspired by Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, as was the music composed by Joby Talbot.  It was at once fluid and intense, at once a homage to the ritualistic choreographic patterns of Nijinsky's original Rite, and a totally new imagining of the concept.  

All in all, it was an incredible evening of dance, one that the boy and I will always remember, or one we would never want to forget.  

Monday, June 24, 2013

Old Friend Found

By Heather Toner

Kara Wilkes and I were very good friends.  We were very good friends when we were just 17.  We danced together at Milwaukee Ballet and it was one of the most memorable, challenging and exciting times in my life - made all the better by Kara's friendship and her constant support and humor.  

Me & Kara in Don Quioxte, October 2000

We grew apart over the years...As so often happens.  When I stopped dancing it seemed like we probably would have nothing more in common, and we went our separate ways.  

But last Friday I had the pleasure of meeting up with Kara again and seeing her dance in Alonzo King's Lines Ballet.  She danced the lead in Scheherazade this weekend at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion -  A truly breathtaking work, and Kara was nothing short of incredible in it.  I felt so proud.  

Kara Wilkes and David Harvey in Scheherazade
Photo Credit: Gina Ferazzi, Los Angeles Times / June 21, 2013

I love that I was able to connect with this old friend.  I love that it seemed like no time had past when we linked arms and chatted after the show.  I love that, even as the years go by, we'll always have a friendship grounded in those seminal, tumultuous years when the world was a blank slate and we had no idea where we were headed.  

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Lost Variation for Alicia Markova

By Heather Toner

There are lots of times when I happen upon a ballet variation or a piece of dance I've never seen before and it makes me want to put on my pointe shoes and immediately start learning the choreography.  This variation is one of them.

This is just so much my style it's insane.  I was always cast in these kinds of parts when I was dancing - cute, allegro, soubrette- type parts, with a bit of humor thrown in.  If I was still workshopping variations, this would definitely be one I'd want to learn and perform.

Originally choreographed by Sir Frederick Ashton on prima ballerina Alicia Markova back in 1934, here is "Foyer de la Danse" danced by Royal Ballet dancer Romany Pajdak.

I also wonder if the ballerina's starting pose and paused positions may be harkening to this Edgar Degas painting of the same name...

Perhaps this was part of Ashton's inspiration for the piece?  Perhaps not, I'm just speculating.  Still I love discovering old works from ballet's past...I know I sound like a total fuddy-duddy as I write this, but they sure don't make them like they used to...

Friday, May 17, 2013

Something New - Traces

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the opening night of Traces at the LA Music Center.  The show was a cocktail of theater, circus, dance, fusion that was fun and a bit frantic.  I enjoyed it, but the boy wasn't too plused.  He said it was like 'Theater kids playing improv games' which is essentially me and one of my favorite pastimes.  So, no wonder I liked it!  

You can read my officially review of the show here on DIY Dancer.  

But regardless of the show, I simply love any night out at the Music Center.  It's one of my favorite places in Los Angeles.  I wore a striped, high-low hem dress from LuLu's, which I was told by a fellow press person was very "on trend."  Before the show we watched a group of kids play in the fountain.  They'd lift their arms and pretend they were controlling how high the water rose.  I may have done that a time or two myself...All and all, it was a good night!  

Saturday, April 6, 2013

I am a Verb

Ballerina sugar plum fairy

"I think you can be imprisoned if you think of yourself as a noun."

- Stephen Fry

Firstly, let me just say how much I adore Stephen Fry.  I was in the same room as him once (yeah it was a giant ballroom, but whateves) and I remember thinking just how straightforward he seemed.  No nonsense.  He was there to do a job and he did it.  But he seemed easygoing about it all too.  

In Hollywood, you meet a lot of people, celebrity or otherwise, who are just loud and brash.  Sometimes this city is so loud and boisterous and bossy I just wanna smack it across the face and tell it to calm down.  But it can't help it really.  I don't blame Los Angeles.  There are a lot of voices all trying to be heard here, and it's hard to separate them from the sounds of the traffic.  

But back to the point.  Stephen Fry is a cool guy.  The boy and I regularly watch episodes of QI on youtube.  It's a British quiz/comedy show that celebrates knowledge and humor and it's simply splendid.  Fry is the host and if you haven't watched it, you just should.  

I read the above quote from him a few weeks ago and it really resonated with me.  Because I have been  using nouns to define my life for, well, all of it.  Ballerina.  Dancer. Teacher. Writer.  Girlfriend.  Wife.  Blogger. Social Media Manager. Brand. Marketer.

It can be so restricting to be a noun.  A Person, Place or Thing with no room for adjustment.  I am making an effort to move away from my nouns and start collecting verbs.  

Verbs are actions.  Verbs are liberating.... I am definitely verbing.   

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Degas Dancers

When the boy suggested we visit the Norton Simon Art Museum in Pasadena, I thought it sounded like a fine idea, but I was completely unaware that the museum's collection included a large selection of Edgar Degas' ballerina paintings and sculptures - Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised.  

I've always been fascinated with the impressionists work.  And I'ved loved the Little Dancer of 14 Years Sculpture ever since my grandfather gave me a charm of the famous work when I was about eleven.  I even decorated one of my first apartments with nothing but Degas prints I cut out of an old art book.  

I feel privileged whenever I get to see great works of art that I admire up close and the Norton Simon museum did just that.  If you're anywhere near Pasadena, I definitely recommend a trip.  Admission is only 10 dollars and they have a myriad of amazing pieces, including works from Van Gogh and Picasso.   

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Joffrey's Engagement at the LA Music Center

Last weekend, I had the extreme pleasure of attending the Joffrey Ballet's opening night of their 3 performance engagement at the LA Music Center as a member of the press.  I covered the performance for DIY dancer - a blog written by dancers, for dancers and the dance community.  The production was one of the best I've seen (and I see a lot of shows these days) and I can only hope that if you were in the LA area you too got a chance to appreciate this beautiful program. 

The highlight of the production was the Joffrey's authentic reproduction of Nijinsky's Rite of Spring from 1913.  This original ballet, set to Stravinsky's groundbreaking music, was actually so upsetting to the Victorian audience that an actual riot broke out and the ballet was virtually forgotten.  Choreographer and Dance Historian Millicent Hodson and her husband Kenneth Archer painstakingly researched the ballet and reconstructed the production piece by piece over the course of 15 years.  It first premiered in LA back in the 80's on the Joffrey ballet, and in honor of the centennial of the Rite of Spring, this weekend's performance served as the kick-off for a year long series at the Music Center celebrating Stravinsky's work.  

Read my full review of the performance on DIY Dancer now and here's a peek at some of my snapshots from the symposium on the ballet and the Stravinsky exhibit also at the Music Center.  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Ballet's like Serenade by George Balanchine make me miss being a dancer more than anything.  It was one of the first ballets I ever saw in person and was one of the first Balanchine ballet's I learned.  There is something about it that speaks to me as I know it does so many others.  It somehow encapsulates the essence of being a ballet dancer.  And the music.  Oh, the music.  Serenade is one of those ballets where everything comes together perfectly and it may be one of the most pleasant ballets to watch and dance...Maybe that's why I miss it so much.  

Here is NYCB principle Ashley Bouder giving a bit more insight into this magnificent ballet...

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