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Entertainment & Arts

Nigel Lythgoe and Debbie Allen announce a new L.A.-wide dance festival in 2020

Jacob Jonas the Company, pictured at the Wallis earlier this year, will participate in the new festival.
Jacob Jonas the Company, pictured at the Wallis earlier this year, will participate in the new festival.
(Lawrence K. Ho)

Dance moguls Debbie Allen and Nigel Lythgoe are organizing a new two-week festival next spring featuring local and global companies including Ailey II, Bodytraffic, Syncopated Ladies and Heidi Duckler Dance, performing at venues across L.A. County.

The goal of the Los Angeles International Dance Festival, which will run from April 11 to 26, is to showcase and build support for L.A.’s vibrant dance scene, Allen and Lythgoe said.

“I want more people to want to dance,” Allen said. “I want more people to come to concerts and support dance.”

Lythgoe said they are “trying to shine the light on something that has been there for a long time. Because for too long companies themselves have been doing their own thing but apart from each other.”

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The festival folds in previously planned dance engagements including Tanztheater Wuppertal, the company founded by revolutionary German choreographer Pina Bausch in 1973, at the Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion downtown; the multimedia production “Bollywood Boulevard: A Journey Through Hindi Cinema Live” at the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts in Northridge; and Jacob Jonas’ annual dance concert on the Santa Monica Pier.

It also features new dance engagements including a night with Allen; Lula Washington Dance Theatre and Syncopated Ladies; Ailey II, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s junior company; and performers from “So You Think You Can Dance,” the competition series for which Lythgoe is co-creator, producer and judge. Allen and Lythgoe said they hope to include hip-hop dance battles, free street festivals, performances from local cultural dance companies and dance workshops throughout the county.

The initial spark for the festival began with a vocal misstep last year, Lythgoe said.

He was speaking on a panel with Allen about dance in L.A. at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. At one point, the conversation turned to the challenges and needs of the L.A. dance community, especially the lack of recognition.

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“What I stupidly said was what L.A. needs is a dance festival,” Lythgoe said, before members of the audience quickly reminded him of numerous other festivals in the city.

“There we were in front of all these people, and we just grabbed the brass ring,” Allen said. “We started organizing right then and there.”

Fall is the perfect time to immerse yourself in the beauty of dance — from homegrown talent to global ensembles.

Allen is particularly inspired by Australia’s Brisbane Festival, an arts event that engages the city with dance, theater and music performances.

Over the last year, Allen and Lythgoe met with leaders in the dance community to plan the festival. In August, the two held a task force meeting with modern and contemporary choreographers including Los Angeles Dance Festival founder Deborah Brockus, Invertigo Dance Theatre’s Laura Karlin, JazzAntiqua’s Pat Taylor, commercial choreographer Galen Hooks and representatives from arts venues. They gathered at Allen’s dance studio in Baldwin Hills to discuss the festival’s itinerary and brainstorm ideas.

Lythgoe plans to expand the festival in the coming months, adding, “We’re really happy to receive more applications to be part of it.”

Although Allen and Lythgoe hope the festival can take place every other year, one of the major challenges in organizing the event is securing funding from sponsors.

“The big thing is everything has got to pay for itself,” Lythgoe said. “We have got to sell tickets in order to make this work.”

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Los Angeles International Dance Festival
Some festival highlights:

April 15: Debbie Allen at the California Science Center in L.A.

April 15-18: Heidi Duckler Dance at the Wallis

April 17-19: Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch at the Music Center

April 17-19: USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica

April 18-25: Minghella Project in collaboration with Bodytraffic at the Wallis

April 19: “Bollywood Boulevard: A Journey Through Hindi Cinema Live” at the Soraya

April 24-26: Jacob Jonas’ “To the Sea: Dance Concerts on the Pier” in Santa Monica

April 25: “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Dancing with the Stars” at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa

Date TBA: Debbie Allen, Lula Washington Dance Theatre, Syncopated Ladies at the Orpheum Theatre


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