Dancers Trending

Best Picture or Not, La La Land Won Sascha Radetsky's Heart

I like to think of myself as a maverick, bucking trends, trotting down my own path. I'd rather camp in a snowy forest than bronze on a sunny beach. I prefer B.B. King to Beyoncé. I have yet to see Hamilton.

Still from La La Land. PC Dale Robinette.

But over the weekend, I did see the film that waltzed home with an armful of Oscars (if not, in the end, Best Picture): Damien Chazelle's La La Land. And, a bit reluctantly, I found myself aswoon in the jade pools of Mia's (Emma Stone) eyes, stirred by Sebastien's (Ryan Gosling) heartfelt idealism, rooting for the two dreamers to triumph in their respective art forms and, especially, in their romance.

I let go of my cynicism and gave in to the film. And I loved it.

Sure, Mandy Moore's choreography could have delivered more sophistication and polish, but not without bona-fide dancers—and lesser, or at least less-accomplished actors—in the leads.

Still from the opening scene of La La Land. PC Dale Robinette.

The score—whimsical classical, swelling ballads, jazz ranging from big band to bebop, and A Flock of Seagulls flyby—was subtly, earnestly affecting. A measure of restraint seemed to bind the music and dancing and buoy their collective potency; as Seb's forebear Thelonious Monk famously observed, What you don't play can be more important than what you do.

Although Mia's final song veered precariously into the sentimental, after exiting the theater, I didn't feel like anything had been shoved down my throat, the way I do when I watch a superhero movie, or a current White House press briefing. On the contrary, there was a hint of jaunt in my gait, and I felt light as air. I may or may not have performed a dorky little soft shoe for my wife when she emerged from the Regal Union Square Stadium 14 ladies' room.

Some people have expressed reservations about La La Land's embrace of nostalgia. But I'd venture that our intellectual wingspan is broad enough to honor historical periods' redeeming features, however trivial—in this instance, the mainstream popularity of dance and jazz—while still recognizing their grave failures.

Questions have also been raised about the responsibility of artists in turbulent times such as our own, about the ethics of creating apolitical, escapist works when the here and now call for urgent action. But La La Land guilelessly celebrates the arts, and thus the film is a political statement, if a faintly self-indulgent one. Regardless, is offering a two-hour egress from reality such a dereliction of duty? Maybe we'll return refreshed, inspired, our jaws set and shoulders leveled to tackle the issues of today.

I'm convinced that the La La Land quibblers are part curmudgeon. Give them a dozen roses, they'll grasp the petals and sniff the thorns. I'm several parts curmudgeon myself, so I can spot the species.

But I did watch and thoroughly enjoy several of this year's Best Picture Oscar nominees: Manchester by the Sea (poetic, in its way, and duly sad), Moonlight (beautiful, relevant and deserving of its win), and Hell or High Water (saw it twice because it's plain badass). Comparing them is like comparing a Braeburn apple to a Florida orange to a Texas prickly pear; they're all diverse and worthwhile flicks.

Still from La La Land

None, however, have lingered with me like La La Land. None of them compelled me to dust off a Coltrane or Bud Powell masterpiece and gather my girl up in my arms for a swing around the living room. None made me loath to let go of her afterwards.

La La Land is all shimmering stars, silhouetted palms, sunsets burning grandly over sweeping Los Angeles skylines. The eyes, and all the senses, are fed a feast: the film's photography, writing, sets and costumes, music, singing, and yes, dancing, are the ingredients of a sublime meal.

The passions get their fill, too; above all, La La Land is a love story, although the film doesn't require the backdrop of a sinking ocean liner or whizzing bullets to make you feel the stakes. It just needs a little song, a little dance, a little surrender from the so-called mavericks among us.

Show Comments ()
Advice for Dancers
Only you can truly decide if you're ready to start your career. Photo by Thinkstock.

My dance coach wants my word that I'll keep competing under his school's name for the next year and not audition. I'm 18 years old and already doing lead roles and winning medals. I love his teaching, but shouldn't I be ready to go out and get a job?

—Gil, Las Vegas, NV

Keep reading... Show less
News
Ballet of Difference is now home to a number of Cedar Lake alumni, such as Matthew Min Rich and Ebony Williams, here in Richard Siegal's Pop HD. Photo by Ray Demski, Courtesy Siegal

How do we make ballet, a traditionally homogeneous art form, relevant to and reflective of an increasingly diverse and globalized era? While established companies are shifting slowly, Richard Siegal/Ballet of Difference, though less than 2 years old, has something of a head start. The guiding force of the company, which is based in Germany, is bringing differences together in the same room and, ultimately, on the same stage.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Training
BalletMet in company class onstage before a show. Photo by Jennifer Zmuda, courtesy BalletMet

Before she became the 20th century's most revered ballet pedagogue, Agrippina Vaganova was a frustrated ballerina. "I was not progressing and that was a terrible thing to realize," she wrote in a rough draft of her memoirs.

She retired from the Imperial Ballet stage in 1916, and for the next 30-plus years, devoted herself to creating a "science of ballet." Her new, dynamic teaching method produced stars like Rudolf Nureyev, Alla Osipenko, and Galina Ulanova and later Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov. And her approach continues to influence how we think about ballet training to this day.

But is the ballet class due for an update? Demands and aesthetics have changed. So should the way dancers train change too?

Keep reading... Show less
Health & Body
How do you warmup? Photo by Jim Lafferty

For many dancers, a "warmup" consists of sitting on the floor stretching their legs in various positions. But this strategy only reduces your muscles' ability to work properly—it negatively affects your strength, endurance, balance and speed for up to an hour.

Save your flexibility training for the end of the day. Instead, follow a warmup that will actually help prevent injury and improve your body's performance.

According to the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science, a smart warmup has four parts: "a gentle pulse-raising section, a joint mobilization section, a muscle lengthening section and a strength/balance building section."

Keep reading... Show less
News
Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's Harbor Me. Photo by Laurence Phillipe, Courtesy Joyce Theater

Claude Debussy's only completed opera, Pelléas et Mélisande, emphasizes clarity and subtlety over high-flung drama as a deadly love triangle unfolds. Opera Vlaanderen and Royal Ballet of Flanders are commemorating the 100th anniversary of the composer's death with a new production of the landmark opera that is sure to be anything but traditional: Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Damien Jalet are choreographing and directing, while boundary-pushing performance artist Marina Abramović collaborates on the design. Antwerp, Feb. 2–13. Ghent, Feb. 23–March 4. operaballet.be/en.

Dancers Trending
Jumatatu Poe's Let 'im Move You. PC Theo Cote, via 18th Street Arts Center

Black History Month offers a time to reflect on the artists who have shaped the dance field as we know it today. But equally important is celebrating the black artists who represent the next generation. These seven up-and-comers are making waves across all kinds of styles and across the country:

Keep reading... Show less
Career Advice
Alessa Rogers appreciates the European approach to working. PC Agathe Poupeney, Courtesy Ballet du Rhin

When a new director began transforming Atlanta Ballet a couple of years ago, longtime dancer Alessa Rogers decided to finally explore her dream of dancing in Europe. "I always had this wanderlust," she says. She wasn't set on a particular city or company, but thought learning French would be fun. She began her research that September, making note of repertoire and the number of dancers as well as which companies employed foreign, non–European Union dancers. "I saw that Ballet du Rhin was looking for dancers," says Rogers. "They also had a new director coming in, so I thought it could be an opportunity." After sending a video, Rogers traveled during her layoff week to take company class. She was offered a job on the spot.

Uprooting and moving out of the country, far away from your support system, language and customs, is not something to take lightly. While it can push you as an artist and be an exciting opportunity for personal growth, working as a dancer in a foreign country comes with its challenges. Lots of research and an adventurous spirit are required.

Keep reading... Show less
Breaking Stereotypes
Christopher Williams' "Il Giardino d'Amore." Costume by Andrew Jordan, Photo by Paula Court

Justin Lynch is surprisingly nonchalant about the struggles of being a full-time lawyer and a professional dancer. "All dancers in New York City are experts at juggling multiple endeavors," he says. "What I'm doing is no different from what any other dancer does—it's just that what I'm juggling is different."

While we agree that freelance dancers are pro multitaskers, we don't really buy Lynch's claim that what he does isn't extraordinary. In fact, we're pretty mind-boggled by the career he's built for himself.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancers Trending
Lil Buck at Gala de Danza. Photo by Dan Krauss

At the annual Gala de Danza in Los Cabos, Mexico, the lineup of performers is usually pretty typical gala fare: You can expect celebrity performers like Lil Buck, reality stars like Ballet West's Beckanne Sisk and "So You Think You Can Dance" finalist Tate McRae, plus principals from top companies like New York City Ballet's Tiler Peck and Daniel Ulbricht.

What's absolutely not typical? The venue.

Keep reading... Show less
In The Studio
LINES Ballet company members Adji Cissoko and Shuaib Elhassan in rehearsal.

At 5'10" I felt like an ant in the studio with Alonzo King LINES Ballet. The San Francisco-based company is full of statuesque dancers whose passion is infectious. Every story was told not only through their movement, but through the expression on their faces and their connection to one another.

We talked to artistic director Alonzo King about his love of collaborations and why he thinks politicians need to dance more.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Viral Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get Dance Magazine in your inbox

Sponsored

Giveaways