Dance breathes life into L.A. Dance Project’s 10-year anniversary gala

LA Dance Project company dancer performing onstage with seated musicians in background
Lorrin Brubaker, Jeremy Coachman, Courtney Conovan, David Adrian Freeland Jr. and Daisy Kate Jacobson performing “Quartet for Five,” choreographed by Bobbi Jene Smith and Or Schraiber, at the L.A. Dance Project 2022 gala on Oct. 29, 2022.
(Jason Sean Weiss /

For their 10-year anniversary gala at the estate of Jeanne and Anthony Pritzker in Beverly Hills the night of Oct. 29, L.A. Dance Project commemorated a decade of dance before the community that kept itsart alive. Walking through the estate, dancers moved from room to room, arms outstretched to welcome everyone in before diving into a routine that kissed the ground of every part of the estate. Meanwhile, the audience watched, mesmerized by the performance outside and inside the house, often moving along with the dancers.

The anniversary gala came shortly after the company presented its new work, “Be Here Now” — choreographed by LADP artistic director and co-founder Benjamin Millepied — alongside Gisèle Vienne’s “Crowd” on Wednesday and Thursday at LADP’s downtown L.A. studio for Van Cleef & Arpel’s Dance Reflections initiative.

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Millepied looked at Saturday night’s performance as a testament to the resilience of LADP.


“After 10 years, it’s a community that we’ve created, it’s a community of artists, it’s a community of people who love the company,” Millepied said.

A bearded man in a dark suit smiles as he speaks into a microphone.
Benjamin Millepied addresses the crowd at L.A. Dance Project’s 2022 Gala on Oct. 29, 2022.
(River Callaway /
Two men flank a woman, all smiling.
Lawrence Bender, left, Cindy Cederlund and Travon Free at the L.A. Dance Project 2022 Gala.
(River Callaway /

Three dressed-up women stand holding drinks and looking intensely at the camera.
Olivia Rouyre, left, Valentina Bilbao and Laura Love at the L.A. Dance Project 2022 Gala.
(River Callaway /
A man and a woman, dressed in black, stand holding drink glasses and smiling for the camera.
Adam Silverman and Louise Bonnet at the L.A. Dance Project 2022 Gala.
(River Callaway /

At the gala, LADP received nearly $1 million for programming and operations in addition to $1.5 million from Van Cleef & Arpels, a longtime supporter of the company.

Arriving guests were welcomed up the driveway and into the home under a skylight that kept the night in view. Out back, the Los Angeles skyline demanded attention, but soon enough dance took over, as performers erupted across the estate — in some cases, right in the middle of the mingling.

Company member Marissa Brown performed short phrases across the grass, turning heads as she lifted her leg and swung an arm in balance. Choreographer Randi Freitas performed alongside a crew of dancers krumping and tutting to Kendrick Lamar down a black runway in the yard.


Other performances included Andy Akiho — who composed the music of “Be Here Now” — with cellist Coleman Itzkoff, Daeun Jung, Darrel “Friidom” Dunn and Shantel Ureña.

A man in dark shirt and blazer and blue jeans stands next to a woman in a short peach dress and blazer.
Aaron Young and Laure Heriard Dubreil at the L.A. Dance Project 2022 Gala.
(River Callaway /
A woman with long dark hair in an ice blue one-shoulder full-skirted gown.
Berit Labelle at the L.A. Dance Project 2022 Gala.
(River Callaway /

Stacen Berg, a partner and executive director of the gallery Hauser & Wirth and also a board member of LADP, said what struck her the most over the dance company’s 10 years was its commitment to collaborate with other art forms.

“What is different about what LADP is doing is the combination of the visual arts and dance,” she said. “And that’s always been this throughline for what Benjamin has been bringing to Los Angeles.”

In fact, the first performance she saw from the company was a collaboration with Sterling Ruby titled “Murder Ballads.” She also recalled an LADP collaboration with Charles Gaines for the revival of Bella Lewitzky’s “Kinaesonata” in 2019. Gaines contributed to the visual concept of the piece, and after viewing it, Berg said “he felt like dance was the fullest art form because it touches all of your senses.”

Suddenly, a haunting “follow me” echoed from the speakers in the home. A group of people dressed in black, wearing white masks with painted faces, brought their hands up in the middle of the crowd to guide guests to the outdoor stage for a series of performances by the company and remarks by Millepied and LADP Executive Director Lucinda Lent.

Two dressed-up women stand smiling for the camera.
Sara Sampaio, left, and Elsa Hosk at the L.A. Dance Project 2022 Gala.
(River Callaway /
A man in a dark suit speaks into a microphone before a seated audience.
Mark Terbeek addresses L.A. Dance Project gala attendees.
(River Callaway /

For the record:

1:28 p.m. Nov. 3, 2022An earlier version of the above caption incorrectly gave Mark Terbeek’s last name as Tarbeek.

Millepied said the company began as “an experiment” in 2012 after he retired from New York City Ballet and co-founded the company with Charles Fabius. With the help of Jane Jelenko, who connected with Millepied in 2006 about the possibility of starting a festival or company, the first performance of LADP took place at Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2012. Over time, he said, “The company became this motor on its own.”

The night also highlighted LADP’s two-week summer dance intensive in collaboration with Everybody Dance LA! and Ghetto Classics Dance, educating youth ages 4 to 19 in low-income areas of Los Angeles. Kids from the 2022 summer intensive got onstage to perform a routine full of house dance and charisma.

Several young people in black T-shirts that say "Everybody dance LA!" perform onstage.
Students of L.A. Dance Project’s summer dance intensive perform at the LADP 2022 Gala.
(Jason Sean Weiss /
Five young people in black perform onstage.
Students of L.A. Dance Project’s summer dance intensive perform at LADP’s 2022 Gala.
(Jason Sean Weiss /
A young woman in black dances with her arms outstretched in front of her
L.A. Dance Project’s summer dance intensive students perform.
(Jason Sean Weiss /

Nina Flagg, the creative director and choreographer of the program, said it was the first time she and the rest of the instructors got to see them without directing them. She was able “to sit and watch their joy.”

“To think about that journey that we took together over those two weeks and to see it full circle this evening, and for them to be so confident and to take the stage and command on and celebrate themselves, it’s more than we could have asked for,” Flagg said.

LADP opened its part of the evening with the U.S. premiere of “Quartet for Five” choreographed by LADP artist-in-residence Bobbi Jene Smith and Or Schraiber. Using “String Quartet No. 5” by Philip Glass as their score, dancers swept their hands into a strong narrative about conflicting relationships between five dancers. The next piece was an excerpt of “Be Here Now” that displayed the virtuosity and personality of the company through detailed choreography that embraced technical difficulty and ordinary movement. The performances ended with an excerpt of Millepied’s “Romeo & Juliet Suite,” which began onstage but continued throughout the estate as a camera followed dancers and projected the performance on the wall behind the stage. Dancers Daphne Fernberger and Nayomi Van Brunt wove through the house and into the backyard as the tensive dance of forbidden love continued on the grass and landed with a kiss in front of the Los Angeles skyline.

Company member Shu Kinouchi said the event let “people know what we are capable of, showing what we can do with dance.”

“Now we are going to push for even more,” he added.

Two dancers standing next to each other with their hands up
Jeremy Coachman, left, and Lorrin Brubaker perform “Quartet for Five,” choreographed by Bobbi Jene Smith and Or Schraiber, at the L.A. Dance Project 2022 Gala.
(Jason Sean Weiss /
Daisy Kate Jacobson dancing with her hands outstretched and her head thrown back.
Daisy Kate Jacobson dances in “Quartet for Five” at LADP’s 2022 Gala.
(Jason Sean Weiss /
Six dancers sit in a triangle formation onstage
Doug Baum, left, Oliver Greene-Cramer, Mario Gonzalez, Shu Kinouchi, Vinicius Silva and Peter Mazurowski perform “Pillar I” of “Be Here Now” choreographed by Benjamin Millepied.
(Jason Sean Weiss /
Courtney Conovan dancing with her hand against her side, looking forward
Courtney Conovan performs “Quartet for Five.”
(Jason Sean Weiss /
Two men in dark costumes dance onstage.
L.A. Dance Project’s 2022 Gala featured the company’s dancers.
(Jason Sean Weiss /

Before dinner, Lent and Millepied welcomed attendees to partake in a new tradition made at the 2021 gala: a communal shot of tequila. For Lent, it was her favorite part, especially watching from the stage as a community came together.

On the walk over to dinner — which took place on what seemed to be a basketball court — conversations about the performances played in the air.

“We remember the residue of the experience and what we feel in terms of energy,” Lent said, recalling those talking around her. “It’s not always the visual or those tangible things but the way that dance and art make us feel.”

Two women seated at a table turn to smile at the camera.
Jaime Ray Newman, left, and Alia Shawkat enjoy dinner at the LADP gala.
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Two women flank a man, standing and smiling.
Lucinda Lent, left, Benjamin Millepied and Nina Flagg at the LADP gala.
(River Callaway /
Two seated women turn in their chairs to face the camera.
Lucinda Lent, left, and Alicia Silverstone at the LADP gala dinner.
(River Callaway /

At dinner, Smith explained that the 10 years of LADP showed “how much dedication goes into making anything work.” She considers it a practice in itself.

The gala closed with another dance, but this time everyone was invited to participate. Attendees took to the dance floor where company members had performed earlier, moving their hips to the beat. In one moment, Akiho bounced his shoulders with a smile on his face. In the next, company member David Adrian Freeland Jr. helped fellow member Brunt get the perfect video, strutting and posing mid-dance.

Lent said that the “magic of L.A. Dance Project” comes from the community of artists dedicated to creating something new for the city.

“To be here after 10 years and have survived the pandemic, and to be growing stronger, I think is a testament to the culture of the company and what the company stands for, and how important it is for us to represent Los Angeles,” Lent said.