Archive | January, 2011

Vienna meets Theater Voyeur in Little Ethiopia

15 Jan

by Aron Kallay

Paper or Plastik

When Yasha J. Michelson bought the old Dancers Studio, a few blocks south of Los Angeles’ Little Ethiopia neighborhood, he had big plans.  A true renaissance man, Yasha has worked in fashion, design, fine art, photography, film, and dance.  His vision for the newly renamed and refurbished MiMoDa Studio is to create a multi-purpose space that is capable of accommodating dance, film, music performances, theater, release parties and also capable of being a spot for more community-centered projects, such as youth ballet and yoga classes.  Oh… and did I mention that there’s an amazingly hip and understated coffee shop in the storefront, Paper or Plastik.  I got to experience Yasha’s vision firsthand this week at a concert that featured members of the Symbiosis Chamber Orchestra and Mimoda Jazzo Gruppa.

MiMoDa Studio

Walking into Paper or Plastik, I was struck by the urban sensibility of the space: brick walls, exposed beams, hard concrete floor.  Starbucks this is not.  After ordering myself a tasty cup of Intelligentsia coffee, I entered MiMoDa Studio through a tiny steel door in the back of the shop.  When I was in college, I played piano for more than my fair share of ballet classes.  It was decent money and, if you were good enough at it, you could read the newspaper while you played.  MiMoDa is nothing like the drab dance studios I remember.  Here, one entire wall is floor to ceiling windows that look out onto the street.  The back wall has chairs and tables nailed to it (on which Yasha tells me they sometimes dance).  A high vaulted ceiling has exposed wood beams, lending the space better acoustics than I would have expected.  And here is the kicker: it was packed, on a Wednesday night!

Photo by Aleksandr Ostrovskiy

The first half featured members of Symbiosis, a conductorless chamber ensemble based in Torrance.  To open the concert, the ensemble tore into up-and-coming young composer George N. Gianopoulos’s Cello Quintet, Op. 22, a charming piece that deserves more hearings.  They then moved on to more standard fare, playing Schubert’s epic late Cello Quintet, D. 956, a piece composed two months before the composer’s death.  Alternately tranquil and turbulent, the piece invites comparison to Schubert’s own late piano sonatas, which are similar in emotional scale and harmonic inventiveness (the Quintet ends with a Neapolitan sixth chord in place of the dominant–Chopin, taking up the mantle of harmonic inventiveness after Schubert’s death, would open his First Ballade, op. 23 with a Neapolitan sixth seven years later).  Symbiosis played admirably–one could sense their searching for a deeper beauty contained within the music.

Photo by Aleksandr Ostrovskiy

After a short intermission, and another cup of coffee, it was back into the studio for Yasha’s Mimoda Jazzo Gruppa, an ensemble of dancers, actors, clowns, and singers.  Theater Voyeur is hard to describe.  It continues in the tradition of the grand vaudevillian; short sketches of dance and theater, often intertwined, alternate with comedy and downright silliness (and I mean that in the best possible way).  Much of the second half was visually stunning, with dancers performing in front of, or behind, large illuminated sheets of fabric.

How close Yasha is to realizing his vision for MiMoDa?  I’ll leave you with the following: at the close of the evening, which began with Schubert, something completely unexpected happened: a dance party broke out.

Photo by Aleksandr Ostrovskiy

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GUEST BLOG: Letter to Bao Bao

5 Jan

GUEST BLOG by Renée Reynolds

This is an excerpt from Renée Reynold’s For All Of My Wife, a collection of first-person narratives about Laowai life in Shanghai (Laowai means foreigner). Bao means ‘bag’ in Mandarin but can also be a nickname — especially in double form.  Renée Reynolds is an artist and writer who is currently based in Shanghai China who often works with Catalysis Project’s composer Veronika Krausas.

Letter to Bao Bao

I pulled it from my China box: a motley collection of items granted the Right of Asylum during my swift and violent exit from Moganshan lu. All of it still reeking of river water and cat pee. Stuck to the bottom was a notebook left on bus route 91 from Xujiahui to Caobao lu. It had the shape of having been in a giant back pocket for a year; or sat on, daily, in a curved chair, hiding from a teacher perhaps. Upside down and on the last page of box-lined paper was a hurry of humid blue words. I read it and then I took it: the ultimate trepverter (words that came too late — literally ‘stairwords’ in Yiddish). Flattened finally, and now, typed.

Dear Bao Bao,

We said bye bye on the street dark and now I am feeling sorry for my speechless mouth. And worse 2 since you are power off. “I like you really much but is difficult.” That’s what you said after alone. Now I have a difficult. A difficult thing. You. You are so good and small and cute but I feel like the ugly. The ugly one so big. It is impossible when I stand for kissing. And your baba. So confusing. Never moving his eyes and sucking his bones. Better if he hated and yelled on me. At least I’d know. But no. I don’t know. I never do. Your eyes. They are smaller than mine. We don’t see the same. When you feel light I love it. But you are so delicate and sensible. That sticks me to you. But when you speak about it, I don’t get it. So we always argue. Even when we say nothing. 1 km is 5 for me. I like tea and you preffer cafe. But then that excites. So much between. Ok. So lets both step on the wall to see which floats better. And if we don’t lets eat Butter. Without pain or any rain from our eyes. Lets dance on the blue skies. You said that. Those things. Sound better than. You are my puzzle and my cake. Even when I eat too much chocolate you welcome me. As you said, you are my Bao Bao and I fit no one else. Where r u now?

Renée Reynolds "History of a Future"