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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Benjamin Millepied's LA Dance Project Hits LA

Los Angeles is not known for its dance.  Its movie stars, yes.  Its films, yes.  Its Hollywood sign, of course.  But not dance.  That is all changing thanks to the creative vision of Benjamin Millepied and his LA Dance Project.  With its premiere last night at the Disney Concert Hall as a part of the Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at the Music Center, the LA Dance Project easily put dance on the map for Los Angeles.  A small group of us enjoyed Van Cleef and Arpels dinner before the performance, and Millepied’s wife, Natalie Portman, brought some A-listers to attend.  I’ve been to countless dance openings and premieres but this is certainly the first where I’ve seen Robert Pattinson.  

Ben with Natalie Portman (in Dior Couture) and Rob Pattinson

As the Founding Director for the group, Benjamin Millepied brought his love for the avant garde and modern dance to the stage.  The show opened with William Forsythe’s Quintett (1993).  The six dancers onstage poured through duets, solos and trios with utter grace and fluidity.  Dancer Frances Chiaverini especially lit the stage with her long limbs and delicate approach to the movement - her outstretched hand reaching and yearning for something in the distance was a vision I will not easily forget.  The slightly haunting yet hopeful score of Gavin Bryars’ Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet, repeated the lyrics over and over, while the dance continued to change and evolve.  

Second on the program was Merce Cunningham’s Winterbranch (1964).  I have known and loved the work of Merce for years - even leading to a position with the organization and then later a seat on the Board of Trustees.  I found the choice of Winterbranch  an interesting one for Millepied.  The work is hard to digest as it is performed on an almost entirely black stage.  Originally performed with flashlights, the lighting has changed slightly so that you can better see the dancers, wearing all black except the white tennis shoes.  The movement was classic Cunningham, with dancers beautifully moving in and out of shapes and space.  And in typical Cunningham fashion, the music, 2 Sounds by La Monte Young, was both distracting and annoying with its pitchy tones and scratchy sounds.  But it’s Merce Cunningham.  I couldn’t help myself from giggling a little, knowing Merce’s sense of humor.  And from hearing the voices behind me complaining that it was the worst thing they had ever seen.  But the connection of Quintett to Winterbranch was apparent - and it continued to Millepied’s own choreography.

Finishing the program was Millepied’s World Premiere of Moving Parts.  Millepied is a master at creating non-stop movement as smooth as silk.  This work demonstrated the consistency of the three pieces and their use of duet, trio, and groups; and they all shared a wormy movement style with sensual and primitive moments.  Like Merce, Millepied believes in the importance of collaborating with other artists, and this piece had the stunning collaboration with artist Christopher Wool who created the visual installation.  The three large paintings were not just backdrop pieces to the dance, but in fact they were like three additional dancers on stage, moving around and creating patterns as they rolled along the stage.  Millepied also worked with designers Kate and Mulleavy of Rodarte for costumes.  The weakest component to the work, the black and red-striped costumes looked more like something out of a dance wear catalogue than the studio of such accomplished and talented designers.  Remembering Rodarte’s costumes for the LA Phil’s Don Giovanni in May, these fell short.  But the pipe organ more than made up for mediocre costumes.  Composer Nico Muhly played the exquisite pipe organ of the Concert Hall, also incorporating another dimension to the work, with clarinet and violin.  The music was rich and lively; and the dance paired beautifully with every note.  

Just a day before the performance I happened to find the ashes of Merce Cunningham in a box I was unpacking.  I thought I had lost them.  But here they were, and it felt as if Merce had made an appearance to give his blessing on Millepied’s endeavor.  Merce’s ashes now rest at the Disney Concert Hall outside around one of its beautiful trees.  My hope is that this could be an omen to the continuance of the LA Dance Project and the beauty and quality that it brings to the town of Los Angeles.    

Ben speaking at after party 
with fellow Southerner and dancer, Nathan B. Makolandra and fellow arts advocate Catharine Soros

Friday, September 14, 2012

Fall Shopping: Armani and the LA Phil

This week I had the unique pleasure of attending a luncheon for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Opening Night Gala at the beautiful Girogio Armani Boutique on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.  The boutique is beautiful and hasn't been altered since its original opening in the early 1990s.  Hosted by co-chairs Eloisa Dudamel, Joan Hotchkis and Carolyn Powers,  Girogio Armani is certainly a lovely place to enjoy a catered lunch by Nobu.
SS 2013 Armani Prive Couture Colletion
And then came the fashion show.  If you read my blog, you may know that I don't love the Armani Prive couture line - though this July it was beautiful.  I guess all the black and darkness intimidates me a little and doesn't quite match my lifestyle or personality.  I ate crow this summer, and I'll take another slice this fall.  This RTW fall collection is really interesting, and it has some color!

The greys mixed with the oranges really popped, and the suits were smart and sophisticated.  I especially loved the graphic lapel "pocket squares" on the jackets.  The suits were paired with pointy flats or red tipped brogues which added to the chicness.  The herringbone print was small and delicate and begged for golden leaves floating through the air.

My favorite of the collection were the silk bermuda shorts.  Worn with black tights and flats, this is a look that I want to channel all fall.  So so cute and cool.  (I'll skip the unnecessary fedora)

And this wool and fur coat is divine.  With just dots of color almost hovering the all-black, this is not only a show stopper, but something to keep and pass on. I mentioned to Barry Frediani, Senior Director for Entertainment Industry PR, that I might even wear it as a dress.

Evening was beautiful.  Like the sun setting on a cool canyon, the orange and pink hues sink into a plunge of relaxation and beauty.  Subtly.  The small crystals on the cocktail dresses and gowns shimmer only slightly amongst the silks and satins.  If this is the new Armani Woman, then I am in.

It could be something to wear to the upcoming LA Phil Annual Opening Night Gala on September 27… I'm still looking!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Guest Blog by Olivia Ucko: Monique Lhullier SS 2013 Show

Saturday night, as the elements were erupting outside, Monique Lhuillier brought Earth, Water, Air and Fire onto the catwalk.  Did Monique plan the tornado tearing through New York City?  Unlikely, but it was a perfect coincidence.  As the storm clouds covered Lincoln Center, we sat watching the elements walk before us...and my snake skin wrapped feet were dry...phew.

Ms. Lhullier has always brought femininity to her designs and this collection did not stray.  This season, the "Under the Sea" inspiration came to Lhuillier while on a trip in Turkey.  The mediterranean landscape played the part as aquatic hues, scaled cocktail dresses and gold shimmering gowns adorned the runway.  While some would see the digitally-created patterns as a nod to the future, I thought they lacked in flirty appeal when compared to the solid pieces.  In other words, perhaps theses patterns can be left on the ocean floor.  I couldn't see myself feeling sexy draped in muted turquoise discus fish.  However, the raspberry leather peplum dress will be in my dreams.  

One of the most exciting aspects to the show was the preview of the first shoe collection in which each pair showed the delicate touch Lhullier is known for.  

I loved the peplum throughout the show, such a complimentary accent.  

As always, most of the designs are destined to make a red carpet appearance, with or without the sea life.  Bottom line is this: Ms. Lhullier is a silhouette master and she holds the gift of creating designs that champion the female body.  As I sat in my seat, listening to the punky/ethereal music playing, I wanted to be on that boat and feel the same awe-inspiring moment as Lhullier had felt. 

****A big thanks to great friend and writer, Olivia Ucko, who took my seat at the show and at blogging.  Olivia lives in New York City with her husband Chris and baby Mac.  Great post - now to see it in person for myself!!!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Fall Shopping: Loving Lisa Perry

Every now and then you find the perfect dress that seems like it was made for you, that's comfortable, that people compliment, that just suits you.  I was lucky enough to find that very dress last year after a friend introduced me to the Lisa Perry line.  I wore my first Lisa Perry dress that reads "Love Art" to my first day of Paris Couture last January, and I haven't looked back since.

Lisa Perry
A love affair of sorts, I now seem to be collecting Lisa's dresses.  Lisa was raised around modern art, and that, blended with her love of 1960s and 1970s fashions, has produced a product that is simple, clean, modern, fun and colorful.  But the real art in her dresses is in her shapes.  From circle dresses to sleek shifts, there is a dress in her Madison Avenue flagship store for any woman, regardless of age, size or shape.  And she's not afraid of color.  Bright hues fill the store like a bouquet of balloons, but then there are also basic blacks with pops of bright green, yellow or fuchsia.  I recently just acquired an all black patent leather dress from the fall sample sale - can't wait to pack it for the Fall Paris Ready to Wear shows.

I met Lisa a few years ago while sitting with her at the Friends of the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art table at the Met Gala in New York.  She is super nice and bubbly; her clothes exude every ounce of her personality.  And the truthfulness in that is refreshing and surprising.  I see her annually at the Gala, and I was able to speak to her in her store this spring.  I remember her asking me "who are you that you get to do all of these fabulous things in life?"  The same could be asked of her.
With Lisa in her store
My biggest obsession among her creations is the Limited Artist Collection.  She collaborates with art houses like Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, and Jeff Koons.  She designs dresses, jackets, tops that not only showcase the artwork, but that look good on a female figure.  What a testimony to her love of art and the love of art that we all share.  It is so nice to see images or sculptures that are most naturally seen in museums or collectors' homes actually walking the streets, sipping on a cocktail or sitting at dinner.  More than a conversation piece, these special frocks are spreading the good news of the visual arts.

Jeff Koons pieces
My Pink Panther dress; with Chairman of the LA Phil David Bohnett and Cameron Silver
Recently inducted into the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America), Lisa has designed a Fall/Winter 2012-13 Collection that is yet another success, with lots of bold colors and shapes.  There is a great bomber jacket, and a good looking fox collar coat.  I still don't know who the artistic collaboration is with for this collection, but I can't wait to find out.  Those are the pieces to wear and collect.
Seamed Swing Dress
Bomber Jacket and Swing Pant
Fox Collar Coat

Hopscotch Dress
Of course fall is coming out, but the Spring/Summer 2013 Collection is being shown in New York on September 5 at the store during New York Fashion Week.  I can only imagine the amount of cuteness that the pieces will bring - her designs are happy designs, and anyone that wears one can't help to feel happy and bright.