Music Center dance lineup for 2015-16: Second City, hip-hop, Ratmansky

The Music Center of L.A. announced its 2015-16 dance season, including ... the Second City comedy troupe?

The Music Center of Los Angeles announced its 2015-16 dance season, a diverse lineup whose range can be conveyed by just one name on the list: the Second City comedy troupe.

“The Art of Falling,” the Second City’s collaboration with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, will have its West Coast premiere at the Ahmanson Theatre in November.

“It’s mix of dance and comedy and storytelling,” Glenn Edgerton, Hubbard Street’s artistic director, said Wednesday. He added that three intersecting storylines all center on losing control, whether while falling in love, falling in an airplane or falling into new environs after a move.

Edgerton used the metaphor to draw parallels between dance and improvisational comedy.

“In improv, where you’re on stage or in the studio, if you allow yourself the freedom to fall, it goes smoother,” he said. “Any hesitation or inhibition and you can fall flat. It doesn’t flow.”

In the spirit of collaboration -- and in keeping with the show's theme -- Hubbard Street relinquished some control in the early stages of development, as primary writer Tim Mason pushed "The Art of Falling" script forward with, among others, the writers of the Second City. Then it was the comedy troupe’s turn to let go, as five Hubbard Street choreographers mapped out the moves that unfold onstage. The result is something of a hybrid.

“Dancers are acting,” Edgerton said, adding that some members of his company do have lines of dialogue. "They carry the story forward."

And the actors of Second City?

“Actors are moving. They make fun of me when I say they are ‘moving,’ and I don’t call it 'dancing,'" Edgerton said with a laugh.

“The Art of Falling,” directed by Billy Bungeroth, has not been performed since its four-show run last fall in Chicago. In his review, Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune said the production “genuinely places dance and comedy in conversation,” and he only complained that the second act was "slightly less sublime" than the first.

Also part of the Dance at the Music Center lineup announced Tuesday: the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, performing here in January, which has a long history of blending Chinese tradition with modern dance. Founded in 1973 by Lin Hwai-min in a studio above a noodle shop, the troupe has come a long way since performing in the El Camino College auditorium in Torrance in 1985.

At the Music Center, Lin’s company will perform “Rice,” inspired by the sea of rice stalks flowing through the Taiwanese village of Chihshang, where farmers have tried to build a sustainable future by shifting to organic cultivation practices. The dance is intended to draw parallels to the life cycle, the Music Center said, “from death to rebirth, devastation and resurrection.”

Complexions Contemporary Ballet, a New York company run by two Alvin Ailey alums, returns to L.A. in April. When Complexions shared a 2013 program with L.A.-based Lula Washington Dance Theatre at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, the troupe performed portions of an all-Stevie Wonder dance as well as work choreographed to hits by U2, along with more classical pieces. The Times' review found the program problematic but praised the dancers as “uncommonly outstanding.”

Compagnie Käfig is scheduled to come to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in June 2016. The 9-year-old troupe is led by French choreographer Mourad Merzouki, who trained in martial and circus arts as a boy but later shifted his emphasis to hip-hop. The company consists of 11 Brazilian dancers, all male, who will incorporate capoeria, samba and electronic music into their performance.

The 2015-16 season is to kick off in October with something more classical: the Mariinsky Ballet (formerly the Kirov) and Orchestra performing the Southern California premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s “Cinderella.” The Russian group, based in St. Petersburg, will dance to choreography by Ratmansky, the former artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet, now artist in residence at the American Ballet Theatre in New York (and as of 2013, a MacArthur fellow).

Ratmansky’s “The Sleeping Beauty” at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa won a rave Times review in March. His production of "Romeo and Juliet" for the National Ballet of Canada played at the Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in 2014, and a Times review called his 2012 production of “Swan Lake” at Segerstrom “inspiring.”

Ratmansky also will drive the American Ballet Theatre’s five performances closing the Dance at the Music Center season in July 2016. The repertoire will include the choreographer’s “Firebird,” whose world premiere in 2012 at Segerstrom was reviewed in The Times as “an extravagant and fanciful adventure” and a “pop-up book of bold wonderment.”

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