2012 preview: The year in arts and culture
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Faces to Watch in 2012: Dance, Theater, Architecture and Art

2012 preview: The year in arts and culture
Faces to Watch in 2012: Pop Music, Classical and Jazz
Faces To Watch in 2012: TV, Film, Media and New Media
Benjamin Millepied, choreographer
One could say that Benjamin Millepied, the recently retired principal dancer with New York City Ballet, has moved to Los Angeles simply to be with his love, actress Natalie Portman. The protégé of Jerome Robbins could have led an itinerant existence, making dances for the likes of Paris Opera Ballet and American Ballet Theatre. Instead, this popular and admired choreographer (including “Black Swan”) accepted a high-profile commission from the Music Center to start L.A. Dance Project, a seven-dancer (counting Millepied) collective also comprising artists, composers and a producer. The debut is set for Sept. 22 and 23 at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

It’s too soon to tell how prominent a role Millepied and L.A. Dance Project will play in the local scene. Millepied held dancer auditions in November but has not yet hired anyone. In the meantime, audiences here will get their first glimpse of Millepied’s work when Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève performs his works at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in mid-April.

--Laura Bleiberg (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Natalia Osipova, ballerina
Even in a crowded field of remarkable Russian ballerinas, Natalia Osipova stands apart, a feisty thoroughbred with sensitive artistic gifts. As Kitri in “Don Quixote” this dark-haired pixie caused jaws to drop when she rocketed to heights one expects from the male lead. Her every movement looks utterly spontaneous, an in-the-moment style of dancing that puts the viewer on notice. If you blink, you might miss something extraordinary.

Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev, her equally remarkable partner and fiancé, shook up the dance world in November when they left the Bolshoi Ballet to join Russia’s upstart and lesser-known Mikhailovsky Theatre (the new home of artistic director Nacho Duato). Osipova will have time to be a guest star with other companies, including American Ballet Theatre. She is one of three women tapped for the role of the eponymous Firebird in Alexei Ratmansky’s new version for ABT. It will have its world premiere March 29 to April 1 at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

--Laura Bleiberg (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Meg Wolfe, independent choreographer and dancer
Wolfe has risen to prominence in Los Angeles’ small but proud avant-garde dance scene. REDCAT presented her group work, “trembler.SHIFTER,” last June. She will perform solo in January on a 4-by-4-foot stage in “Ten Tiny Dances,” part of the inaugural, alternative arts, Off Center Festival at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

Since arriving from the Big Apple in 2004, she has made it her mission to help other independent, dance-based performance artists. To that end, she directs Show Box LA, a nonprofit organization that has been a presenter, publisher (a dance journal, Itch), and sponsor of Anatomy Riot, a series of informal showings at which dancers can workshop new material. Wolfe is bringing Anatomy Riot to an end on Jan. 22. Her next project: Native Strategies, a “network of performance artists, producers and critical thinkers” devoted to shining a global light on L.A.'s performance community.

--Laura Bleiberg (Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times)
Telly Leung, actor
Leung will go from his current engagement on Broadway in “Godspell” to an ambitious and risky project taking shape at San Diego’s Old Globe: a musical about the internment of Japanese American citizens during World War II. In “Allegiance,” written by Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione, Leung plays a young man (George Takei of “Star Trek” plays the character later in life and Lea Salonga is another star) forced into the Heart Mountain camp in Wyoming, where he becomes a writer for the official camp newspaper who experiences tangled loyalties. Leung may be familiar to sharp-eyed “Glee” fans -- he is a member of the Warblers, the show choir at the private school the characters of Kurt and Blaine attended in the second season. He also played Angel in the production of “Rent” that Neil Patrick Harris directed at the Hollywood Bowl in 2010.

--Kelly Scott (The Old Globe)
Pam MacKinnon, director
She may not be a household name, but Pam MacKinnon ranks among the leading theater directors in the country, having worked with top playwrights including Edward Albee, Theresa Rebeck, Gina Gionfriddo and Richard Greenberg. This month, MacKinnon will direct the L.A. debut of Bruce Norris’ Pulitzer Prize-winning “Clybourne Park” at the Mark Taper Forum. (The production is scheduled to transfer to Broadway in the spring.) The drama, which MacKinnon previously directed in 2010 at New York’s Playwrights Horizons, is inspired by the events of Lorraine Hansberry’s classic “A Raisin in the Sun,” which will run in repertory at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. “Clybourne” will give L.A. audiences a chance to experience MacKinnon’s knack for rendering challenging plays with utmost clarity and directness.

--David Ng (Center Theatre Group)
Elena Roger, actress
With her prominent nose, petite frame and accented English, Argentine-born Elena Roger would hardly be an odds-on favorite for Broadway stardom. But watch out. New York is about to get “just a little touch of star quality” when the 37-year-old actress reprises the title role of Evita Peron in the Michael Grandage revival of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, which played the West End in 2006. The New York production will costar Ricky Martin as Che.

But all eyes will be on Roger in the part of Argentina’s legendary and controversial first lady, which made a Broadway star out of Patti LuPone and became a vehicle for Madonna in the film version. Roger was an established musical star in her native country but barely spoke English and was a total unknown in the U.K. when Grandage tapped her. The risky bet paid off. Echoing his peers, critic Paul Taylor in the Independent wrote that Roger was “simply sensational” as she charted her anti-heroine’s canny moves from trashy opportunist to folk saint. After that triumph, Roger proved her bona fides in both farce (“Boeing Boeing”) and tragedy (winning an Olivier for “Piaf” and receiving more raves in a revival of Sondheim’s “Passion”). “I love playing awful women,” she once told an interviewer. But don’t cry for her. She’s wonderful doing so.

-- Patrick Pacheco (Frank Ockenfels / The Hartman Group)
Peter Zellner, architect
The 42-year-old L.A. architect’s first ground-up project, a 3,000-square-foot West Coast outpost for New York’s Matthew Marks Gallery, is set to open Jan. 19 in West Hollywood. The plain white box of a gallery includes an assist from artist Ellsworth Kelly, who added an exterior sculpture in the form of a thick black stripe along the very top of the building.

-- Christopher Hawthorne (Sebastian Artz / hello lovely)
Amanda Ross-Ho, artist

Amanda Ross-Ho: A Faces to Watch 2012 item in the Jan. 1 Arts & Books section said artist Amanda Ross-Ho graduated from the master’s program at UCLA. She received her MFA from the USC Roski School of Fine Arts. —

For Amanda Ross-Ho, the process of making art seems to be the proverbial riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Reasonably, she’s made art’s inscrutable genesis and evolution the subject of her work.

For the audience, the widely varied sculptures, paintings and photographs that emerge exude an uncanny, inescapable charm. Whatever the form, they’re like extended members of a family that share the same DNA but don’t look much like one another.

Ross-Ho has shown in more than half a dozen solo exhibitions at galleries and project spaces since graduating from the master;'s program at the USC Roski School of Fine Arts in 2006. In June, the Museum of Contemporary Art will present her quirky work at its Pacific Design Center outpost.

-- Christopher Knight (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
Unknown, J. Paul Getty Museum director
The J. Paul Getty Museum has been without a director for two years, and acting Director David Bomford recently announced he’ll also be gone by February. New Getty Trust President James Cuno hopes to name a permanent replacement by summer. Although the job seems to be a plum, the appointment won’t be easy.

That’s because the Getty is the only major American art museum whose director reports to a paid president rather than a board of trustees. Full responsibility for the museum without full authority has caused friction in the past, partly explaining rapid turnover in the job: Including Bomford, four people have occupied the Getty director’s office in just the 14 years since the Brentwood museum opened.

-- Christopher Knight

Pictured: View of the museum courtyard fountain in front of the West Pavilion of the Getty Center, seen from the terrace of the Exhibitions Pavilion, on July 29, 2007, in Los Angeles. (Robbin Goddard / Los Angeles Times)
Ken Price, artist
In the 1960s, when sculpture had gotten very big, Ken Price made sculpture that was emphatically small -- often small enough to hold in your hand. When industrial materials such as stainless steel, rubber and plastic resins were being embraced, he used clay -- the oldest sculptural material of all. As debates erupted over color in sculpture and whether it should be intrinsic or could be applied, Price mingled traditional ceramic glazes with vivid acrylic paints on his sculptural clay objects.

The result has been one of the most distinctive bodies of work produced by an American sculptor since World War II. In September, the Los Angeles artist, 76, will be the subject of an eagerly anticipated retrospective exhibition at the L.A. County Museum of Art. (It will travel to the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.) As a no-doubt enlightening bonus, “Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective” will be shown in an installation designed by his friend and colleague, architect Frank O. Gehry.

-- Christopher Knight (LA Louver)