The Majesty of Movement
By Aida Solomon
The McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert is presenting the first ever International Dance Festival this year, with a huge kick off from the 16th Annual Choreography competition. The highly anticipated event will feature performances by three dance groups and daytime performances for the local community.
The McCallum Theatre opened in the winter of 1988 named in honor of an infamous desert family and has been featuring some of the best and most diverse performing arts showcases in Southern California ever since.
CEO and President Mitch Gershenfeld, the mastermind behind the festival, credits the recent trend of dance competitions to reality shows that have increased interest in the arts. “It seemed a natural progression for us to host a new venture that will attract to the Valley dance aficionados, both old and new.”
The 16th Annual Choreography Competition, which premieres the first weekend of the festival, is a much-anticipated event that allows both professional and undiscovered talent to and compete for cash prizes. All of the choreography is original, with dancers from all over the United States showcasing the most elaborate and unique performances under the solo, duet, small group and ensemble categories. Also dubbed “Dance Under the Stars” the festival will also feature workshops, awards and residences for stellar participants. The Choreography Competition is a program put on through the Theatre’s education department and aims to provide the community the opportunity to experience the performing arts at affordable prices.
The I.aM.mE Crew is one of the powerhouse dance crews that will be setting the stage on fire after the weekend kick-off. First introduced to the world on the wildly popular MTV reality show America’s Best Dance Crew (ABDC), I.aM.mE Crew is a hip-hop based ensemble featuring dancers Phillip “Pacman” Chbeeb, Di “Moon” Zhang, Olivia “Chachi” Gonzales, Brandon “747” Harrell, and Emilio “Millie” Dosal, and Jana “Jaja” Vankova based in Houston, Texas. Ranging from early teens to their late ’20s, the I.aM.mE Crew creates a spectacle with tight choreography and fluid formations that wows audiences. After the crew won the coveted first prize on Season 6 of ABDC, I.aM.mE Crew have been performing all over the world krumping, tutting, and breakdancing skills alongside their “Brain Bangin’” self-proclaimed swag.
Next on the roster is the Lula Washington Dance Theatre (LWDT), a dance ensemble with a rich history and even worthier cause. Created in 1980 by Lula Washington, the dance ensemble was originally gathered to serve underrepresented inner-city dancers in South L.A. The LWDT will be performing a set with a soundtrack by Terrence Blanchard, five-time Grammy winner composer and musician. In addition the LWDT will be performing different pieces including an “Ode to the Sixties,” a piece based on the Langston Hughes poem called “I’ve Known Rivers,” and “Beautiful Venus and Serena” about the tennis superstars who are also originally from South Los Angeles. Lula Washington and her dancers are multi-faceted creating choreography using classical ballet and modern techniques while incorporating elements of African and Caribbean dance.
Finally we have BJM-Les Ballet Jazz de Montreal to round off the group coming all the way from Canada. The world-renowned “jazzy” ballet company was founded in 1972 by Genevieve Salbaing, Eva von Gencsy and Eddy Toussaint and is known for its modern and sultry numbers. Also celebrating its 40th anniversary, BJM has made its mark in the performing arts world with vivacious and impressive physical prowess of its dancers.
While audiences have the great opportunity to witness the talents of three unique and talented dance troups, the McCallum Theatre Institute will also be presenting a Lifetime Achievement Award to Jacques D’Amboise, creator of the National Dance Institute and legendary choreography and dancer. More importantly, the McCallum Theatre Institute will also be featuring artists as a part of the Field Trip Series, allowing the local youth to partake in the performances. Although this just the beginning for the Palm Desert International Dance Festival, it already shows promise to become a lasting ritual in the I.E.
Palm Springs International Dance Fest at McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Dr.,
Palm Desert, (760) 340-ARTS, www.mccallumtheatre.com. Nov. 9-10. $25-$200.