Archive for July, 2011

Updated Aug. 3

New Zealand swept up medals of gold at the World Hip Hop Dance Championships at the Orleans arena, but the U.S. crews put up a good fight. IDK, from San Diego and Los Angeles-based Instant Noodles both netted bronze medals in the Varsity (ages 13-17) and Adults (18 and older) divisions, respectively.

New Zealand’s Bubble Gum and Sorority took home the gold in the Juniors (ages 7-12) and Varsity divisions. Royal Family, also from New Zealand, captured the gold medal in the MegaCrews Division, for 15 to 40 dancers.

Plague, hailing from the U.K., reigned supreme in the Adults age group. The Prodigy, another Las Vegas crew in the Juniors Division, bid the competition adieu in the semifinals but strutted their stuff on KTNV Channel 13.

Hoo. With more than 5,000 fans in the audience and 2,000 competitors in attendance, Hip Hop International’s World Hip Hop Dance Championships made for the best-attended street dance event to date.

For some great photos, videos and interviews, check out Robin Leach’s article from the Las Vegas Sun.

For a recap of Day Five from House of Crews, cue up the video below.

July 30

The throw-down competition that draws thousands of dancers from all over the world is hitting it hard in Las Vegas for the fourth year running. Hip Hop International‘s USA and World Hip Hop Dance Championships are something akin to the world series of the genre, with top-notch crews battling against each other for the reigning title. Dancers span three age divisions, from elementary school kids with mad skills to adults who have been in the business for a long, long time. This is also the first year of the megacrew category, where crews can bring between 15 and 40 of their members.

Today is World Battle Day, with international dancers battling in popping, locking and freestyle. Toni Basil, choreographer of Bette Midler’s show at Caesars Palace, will judge the one-upping. For play-by-play tweets of the action, check out Robin Leach on Twitter.

The Las Vegas-based crew The Prodigy advanced to the world semifinals yesterday after snagging the USA title in the juniors division. This is the first crew from the city to get this far, and they’ll compete in the world semifinals on Sunday.

For more hip hop excellence, check out the stories here and here from VegasDeLuxe. You can find Hip Hop International’s official YouTube channel here. For a recap of day one and for links to more videos, cue up the video below.


For dancers, summers don’t always mean sleeping in, laying out by the pool and staying far away from school. In fact, many spend hours a day in classes, and lounging in bed is made difficult by early mornings in dance studios. Summer intensives are known as such for a reason; those who have attended tend to remember them with a combination of a smile and a grimace.

Intensives usually stretch from one week to a couple months and the programs often have kids in dance classes for six or seven hours a day. The experience acts as a rite of passage for many, and not just from a training perspective. Students are usually between the ages of 12 and 18 or 20 or so, and summer intensives provide a structured way for young adults to be away from their parents.

These can also act as extended auditions. Ballet and modern schools often use the time to observe dancers in a close and consistent environment, evaluating whether each student would be a valuable addition to a training program or second company.

The non-intensive type of audition is another summer staple, with dancers flocking to impress directors of prominent companies. These can be international affairs and, for some companies, the idea of auditioning for them is brand-new. The Bolshoi, for instance, held their first open audition happened recently.

The New York Times recently ran an excellent feature on dancers completing summer intensives in New York City. The Moscow News also detailed the first open audition held at the Bolshoi, ever. Both happen during the summer and both represent important rituals in the dance world, whose memories tend to eclipse lazy afternoons on a beach.

A California-born, dance-devouring critic who has written for the Village Voice for more than 40 years has joined the dynamic online dance-sphere with a blog that is certainly worth a look.

Deborah Jowitt, who moved to New York in the mid-’90s to join a company run by Harriette Ann Gray, said she discovered a love of dance criticism in the 1960s and has been engaging in it in various forms since. Her broad experience in the field is evident: balanced insight joins hands with a unique voice and the result is a nice blend of good reporting and thought-provoking criticism.

So if you’re looking for another arts publication to add to your arsenal, check out Jowitt’s DanceBeat. It takes a person in a certain situation to know dance and language well enough to write about the art of movement, and it is evident that Jowitt is one of these people.

For more arts writing, take a look at ArtsJournal, which has a section devoted to blogs like Jowitt’s.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on July 12 that the Smith Center, the city’s soon-to-open performing arts venue, will be selling tickets for its first season beginning July 26. Play-goers will be able to purchase tickets for a set of four Broadway plays making pit-stops in Las Vegas, and tickets to individual shows will be available later in the fall. Prices will range from $99 to $309 for the four-show packages and individual show tickets are expected to be in the $24 to $89 ballpark.

Performances schedule for the spring of 2012 include “The Color Purple” (April 3-8), “Mary Poppins” (May 22-27), “Million Dollar Quartet” (June12-17) and “Memphis” (July 18-22). “Wicked” will be playing in late August through early October 2012, but a ticket sale price and date has yet to be announced.

The 2,050-seat Reynolds Hall will be playing host to the guests and will be the permanent venue for the Las Vegas Philharmonic and Nevada Ballet Theatre. Other performing spaces, including a black box theater and a cabaret space, comprise the $502 million Smith Center, which is expected to open on March 10, 2012.

Find the Review-Journal’s full story here and, for more information about the Smith Center, check out the link at the top of this post. For coverage of a public lecture from Smith Center designers, click here.

What does the Joffrey Ballet company, the NBA and the government of Minnesota have in common? Two have already ceased operating in light of failed negotiations and the third could be facing the same fate.

The Joffrey company is up against a stalemate similar to the ones that hog-tied basketball players and politicians alike. Because the company has failed to reach an agreement with the dancers’ union, the American Guild of Musical Artists, the beginning of the 2011-2012 season could be abbreviated and dancers received notice that a shutdown is possible. Part of the disagreement stems from proposed pay raises for the dancers and increased rehearsal time, from 25 to 30 hours a week.

The dancers are on a regularly scheduled break until July 25. The disputing groups are hoping that an agreement will be reached before rehearsals commence, because Christopher Conway, executive director of the company, said the season will not begin without one. The first performance threatened by the potential shutdown is an annual event at the Blossom Festival in Ohio.

Follow the link here for the full story on Artsbeat from the New York Times. Information about the company’s upcoming season is available here.

Update 7/22: 

“KA” artists took a brief hiatus from their Las Vegas stage and took up the mantle on the side of a building in San Diego instead. The performance of the show’s final fight scene, adapted for comic-enthusiasts from around the world, was part of the opening festivities for the 2011 Comic-Con and fit in well with the audience of fantasy-lovers.

The scene may be a familiar one to Vegas locals, but the adaptations made by the artists were impressive. After all, there is a world of difference between an elaborate and expensive stage designed specifically for the show and a wall of PETCO Park. For footage of the performance kindly generated by Comic-Con goers in the audience, check out the video below. (More and different videos are available on YouTube, naturally.)

Original post 7/6:

It’s exactly what it sounds like. Artists and technicians from Cirque du Soleil’s show “KA” will be reproducing the final battle scene from the show for Comic-Con attendees in San Diego from July 21 – 24. For cosplay fans, this could be an acrobatic dream come true, but the circumstances present a few challenges for the performers and the tech team.

In “KA,” the battle atmosphere is projected onto an angled surface suspended above the audience, giving onlookers the perspective of watching the combat from above. Replicating this arrangement in San Diego is impossible, as the wall of the building where the scene will be performed is entirely vertical, which isn’t the case in the show.

If you want to see the show in person, you’re out of luck: badges for the convention are already sold out online. But to find out how performers are adjusting, what technicians are doing to compensate for on-site differences and for interviews with “KA” artists and technicians, follow the link here for the original video on

Thanks for stopping by!

It’s a typical scenario: a YouTube video goes viral, perhaps through Facebook or Twitter. A news program might pick up on it, using the clip as a cute segue between news stories or commercial breaks. More people find out about it, the video accrues more hits and the cycle continues.

There isn’t usually a modern dance company involved, though.

Choreographer Shena Tschofen was inspired by a particular video that was hugely popular around this time a year ago. She and a small company of dancers reinterpreted the video, called “Cows and cows and cows,” in a live-stage piece that does the impossible by making the original clip just a little bit weirder.

The original video is below. Follow the link here for Tschofen’s version from CBS News.

If you have any experience with reinterpretations of animated works, choreographers with crazy ideas or head-bobbing bovines, feel free to share in the comments below.