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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One Response to “Vienna meets Theater Voyeur in Little Ethiopia”

  1. Diane Acosta January 15, 2011 at 9:28 pm #

    Thank you very much for the lovely review of MiMoDa/Paper or Plastic Cafe and the event.

    I would like to personally invite you to our next event on January 30th, at 7 pm
    Mimoda Jazzo Presents;
    Halfway Baked
    Theater Voyeur Performance

    NOT EVERYTHING
    IN GOOD TASTE
    IS FRENCH

    Thanks again for the review and we hope to see you soon!

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