Review: The Luminous and Exhilarating Luminario Ballet Presents HARD AS A ROCK at Avalon Hollywood

Luminario Ballet's Annual Gala and Performance

By: Dec. 12, 2021
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Review: The Luminous and Exhilarating Luminario Ballet  Presents HARD AS A ROCK at Avalon Hollywood

The evening, at the fabulous Avalon Hollywood, which used to be where they filmed The Hollywood Palace back in the day, filled with pizazz, fabulous old Hollywood theatre decor, gorgeous people on and off stage, awards and honors given in appreciation, former honoree recipients in attendance, and spectacular, titillating and awe-inspiring, boundary-pushing performances.

Each time I see Luminario Ballet perform, I realize something new and intriguing about them.

Luminario Ballet is unique. It combines so many disciplines, and it does it incredibly well, with fervor, creativity, hard work and Judith FLEX Helle, the Managing and Artistic Director of this select group of gypsies. It is her sum of experiences that give them their own unique brand. Her background encompasses vaudeville, burlesque, ballet, jazz, modern, cirque du soleil, the circus, gymnastics, aerial work, saloon hall... etc.

Unique ~ a sort of chameleon in the dance world.

It works for me. I love the hype, the build-up, the excitement beforehand, and the satisfying delivery of everything you could want and more. Or should I say glorified.Review: The Luminous and Exhilarating Luminario Ballet  Presents HARD AS A ROCK at Avalon Hollywood

The influences of classical ballet training, Cirque du Soleil, Bella Lewinsky, Lula Washington, Rudy Gernreich, Ballet Maestro Stefan Wenta; music from Led Zeppelin to Vivaldi, being well-traveled, generational, just a bevy of things that make up this company's foundation and repertoire.

The first portion, the Gala, the guests, honorees and audience, after being served dinner were privy to the awarding of trophies to the invaluable Renae Williams Niles (APAP board, LA Phil, USC Kaufman School of Dance, Dance at the Music Center) Jamal Story (choreographer for Luminario since 2009, dancer with CHER, Motown the Musical, asst. chor. for The Color Purple w/Donald Byrd, dancer w/ Complexions, DTH) and Luminario Ballet founding member Bianca Sapetto, of Cirque du Soleil, and her husband, NIN guitarist Robin Finck who co-created "LedZAerial" with Judith in 2002.

Judith and her co-host, Grasan Kingsberry, did the honors, bringing each Honoree up to receive their trophy, with fun and interesting patter all throughout, including a silent auction they cleverly announced from the stage. The recipients were honored for their dedication, contributions and tireless efforts to Dance, and to Luminario Ballet. Each were given time on stage where anecdotes were exchanged as we learned about their connections and the artistry of these inductees.

"If The Walls Could Scream" kicked off the dance presentation portion. Choreographed by Jamal Story, with an interesting combination of music by composers Phillip Glass, Photek, Mumadji and Nina Simone; dancers Anais Blake, Adrian Hoffman, Chasen Greenwood, Kelly Vittetoe, Nicholas Sipes, and Sadie Black, partnered each other through different combinations, and short scenarios of couples or trios in stages of relationships, highlighting some beautiful lifts, strong pointe work, clean lines, lovely port de bras, floorwork and technically intricate leaps. Emoting the ins and outs of romance through their movements with panache, it painted a picture of how love can be so wonderful yet so perplexing.

Review: The Luminous and Exhilarating Luminario Ballet  Presents HARD AS A ROCK at Avalon Hollywood The second offering was the film "L' Invalide," which I was privileged to review earlier this year, conceived, choreographed and directed by Judith FLEX Helle, which she worked on during the beginning of the pandemic. This amazing piece of work will blow you away. On this evening, it was viewed on a huge screen on stage with screens on either side of the house, where images, art, and swirling effects that complimented the film were also operating, making it feel like a multimedia, dreamy, psychedelic happening. Loosely based on Lewis Caroll's "Alice in Wonderland," we go on a fantastic voyage with our main character. The music selections used were "Black Rabbit" by Prince Fatty and ShaniceShneice, "Angelica in Delirium" by G.O.L. and "I Lie" by David Lang. The phenomenal dance artists were Shannon Beach (featured Aerialist, contortionist, dancer, actress), Alexander Stabler, Jasmine Perry, Miguel Reyes Santiago and Sadie Black.

The following link will take you to my original review of "L' Invalide": Review: The Luminous and Exhilarating Luminario Ballet  Presents HARD AS A ROCK at Avalon Hollywood


You may also view the captivating 12-minute film @

There was an interlude piece not listed in the program, an emotive solo by Jamal Story, that was to a voice-over monologue spoken by Barak Obama. In front of a white scrim, he acted out and danced the words in the dialogue, in a very demanding, controlled, purposeful manner, evoking the theme of Veterans, the struggles, the loss, the heroism; accenting certain strong points with jump splits, wonderful floorwork and even a back-flip at the end.

The next piece, "Six Feet A-Heart," began with four dancers in four different spots on stage, dressed in varying degrees of red, making bold moves under the spots. Sadie Black, en pointe, and the male dancers, Adrian Hoffman, Nicholas Sipes and Chasen Greenwood then danced to Music, "Ache" by Emawk. Again, they changed positions and formations, constantly moving, in different groupings and pairings. The dancers were extremely clean as they worked off each other so nicely and, similarly to the first piece, it seemed to be about love and romance and closeness. The music's syncopated beat gave the dancers a definite feel as they cozied up to each other on the floor or lifted another dancer up into a split to exit.

Review: The Luminous and Exhilarating Luminario Ballet  Presents HARD AS A ROCK at Avalon Hollywood Fourth on the bill was a solo, "Mutatio," choreographed and performed by guest artist Alexander Stabler to "Change" by The Deftones. On stage, an oversized wooden bunk bed sits. As the lights brighten, we see a dancer rolled up in a tight ball underneath the bed. What ensues is an intense inner and outer struggle for him to find the right positions to work his way to the top and escape this madness. His movements are sometimes frantic, sometimes slow and even, as he shows off his flexibility, strength, balance, power and agility doing gymnastic headstands, handstands, splits, going upside down, all very controlled, balancing somehow in a diagonal angle with his legs off the floor and out to the side. Some seemingly impossible positions that flowed from one to the other with the music's rock-song accents and groove, he constantly seems trapped, until he finally triumphs, slowly standing upright as the music and lights fade. Fascinating to watch!

"Sanctity" began with all three film screens flashing images of the universe, the stars and celestial images, a singer on stage (Morgan Sorne, performing music he composed) and the lovely, stately entrance of Aerialist Alicia Cutaia, in a white, filmy dress. As she was lifted up in her rigging, turning, spinning, the video playing as well, it was a grand panorama of really incredible aerial artistry in motion. The exciting Aerial Choreography was done by Bianca Sapetto-Finck, one of the Honorees, and a founding member. With such ease, Alicia Cutaia summer-saulted, balanced on her toes, did splits with her feet in the straps, aerial cartwheeled, and went into a backbend followed by spins in double attitude. It was a remarkable blend of visual and aural saturation to witness. Review: The Luminous and Exhilarating Luminario Ballet  Presents HARD AS A ROCK at Avalon Hollywood

The grand finale of the Gala performance was the premiere of Helle's "Hard As A Rock," choreographed to Vivaldi's "Storm" and John Williams' "Mombasa." The dancers, Chasen Greenwood, Kelly Vittetoe, Nicholas Sipes, Sadie Black, and Aerialists Darielle Williams and Maya Kramer were on fire the whole number. A mixture of classical music and ballet dancing with a high-strung, intense film score and high-flying aerial work. Dressed in gold lame' leotards or briefs, showing lots of skin otherwise, their feet in different styles of black socks, they performed overhead lifts, grand jete's in a circle, a la seconde' turns and triple pirouettes to mostly allegro tempo, not missing a beat or step and selling it all like nobody's business. Adding in the aerial work, it was an eye-popping extravaganza, and a perfect way to bring this fabulous show to an end.

Review: The Luminous and Exhilarating Luminario Ballet  Presents HARD AS A ROCK at Avalon Hollywood Bravo for all of the hard work, blood, sweat and tears, for so many years, especially the last two, and the abundant creativity you continually present, Luminario Ballet!

Photos Courtesy of Emerson Chen, Ted Soqui and Luminario Ballet

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