Photo Flash: Sneak Peek - Complexions Contemporary Ballet and Lula Washington Dance at Ford Theatres

With support provided by L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, the Signature Series concludes this summer on Saturday, August 10 at 8 p.m., when Angelenos can experience an evening of dance featuring a special appearance by Complexions Contemporary Ballet, who mark their return to Los Angeles with a mix of repertory and new works and a performance by Los Angeles' own Lula Washington Dance Theatre. Scroll down for a sneak peek at the groups!

To coincide with the 20-year anniversary of the Ford Partnership Program, which nurtures locally based artists and arts organizations, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission presents the inaugural Zev Yaroslavsky Signature Series. This two-concert program benefitting the Ford Theatre Foundation pairs world-renowned performers with a local artistic treasure, celebrating Los Angeles as a destination for world-class artists, who find here both collaboration with, and inspiration from, celebrated local artists.

"Over many decades, the Ford has become one of our most distinctive County performing arts venues, a first-class and truly unique space," Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said. "I am committed to seeing that the Ford's diverse programming remains accessible to all of our Los Angeles communities."

The Ford Theatres, owned and operated by the County of Los Angeles, has a rich history dating back to the 1920s. Former L.A. County Supervisor Ed Edelman championed the venue, supporting the creation of the first summer season, named "Summer Nights at the Ford," in 1993. The program was designed to enable Los Angeles County music, dance and theatre groups to produce successfully in a major venue, providing production and marketing support and often facilitating their first important public appearances.

Twenty years later, the program is more robust than ever and has served hundreds of arts organizations and producers. "Supervisor Edelman saw the Ford as a County asset that was being under-utilized," says Laura Zucker, Executive Director of the L.A. County Arts Commission. "He challenged us to find a way to restore the shine to this local treasure and we responded with a program that offers a physical location, technical assistance and a way to generate revenue for arts organizations. We've watched these groups flourish, building capacity and connecting to new audiences."

Adam Davis, Managing Director of Productions, L.A. County Arts Commission said, "To celebrate our 20th anniversary of the Ford Partnership Program and honor Supervisor Yaroslavsky, we've chosen for the inaugural Signature Series several National Treasures - each pairing for the first time."

Davis continued, "Dance has always been a big part of our summer season and having three of the most acclaimed choreographers - Dwight Rhoden, Desmond Richardson and Lula Washington -- bring their respective dance companies to the Ford stage is an exciting addition to the Signature Series. Complexions Contemporary Ballet's performance will include a solo by Desmond Richardson and a piece featuring music by U2 while Lula Washington Dance Theatre performs pieces from their extensive repertoire. Being able to see these two revered companies in the same evening is a special treat for Los Angeles."

It is artistic directors Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson's lifelong appreciation for the artistic and aesthetic appeal of the multicultural that forms the cornerstone of Complexions Contemporary Ballet's singular approach to reinventing dance. Founded in 1994, Complexions' groundbreaking mix of methods, styles, and cultures has created an entirely new and exciting vision of human movement over the past 18 years.

Complexions has received numerous awards including the New York Times "Critics Choice" Award. It has appeared throughout the US, including The Joyce Theater/NY, Lincoln Center/NY, the Brooklyn Academy Of Music's/NY, the Mahalia Jackson Performance Arts Center in New Orleans, the Paramount Theatre in Seattle, the Music Center in Los Angeles and the Winspear Opera House/Dallas.

The company has appeared at major European dance festivals including Italy's Festival of Dance for four consecutive years, the Isle De Dance Festival in Paris, the Maison De La Dance Festival in Lyon, the Holland Dance Festival, Steps International Dance Festival in Switzerland, ?ód? Biennale, Warsaw Ballet Festival, Kraków Spring Ballet Festival, the Dance Festival of Canary Islands/Spain and Le Festival des Arts de St-Sauveur/Canada, and in Korea, Spain, and Australia.

The company's foremost innovation is that dance should be about removing boundaries, not reinforcing them. Whether it be the limiting traditions of a single style, period, venue, or culture, Complexions transcends them all, creating an open, continually evolving form of dance that reflects the movement of our world-and all its constituent cultures-as an interrelated whole.

It is Rhoden and Richardson's unique career paths that have paved the way for them to re-define dance-as their multifaceted resumes will show, neither has ever been comfortable with his art being placed in a box. Instead, from E! to PBS to VH1, from Cirque du Soleil to the Joffrey Ballet, the two have allowed the transformative power of their art to flow freely throughout the entertainment world-their creative vision restricted by nothing but the limits of the human body itself.

Together, Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson have created in Complexions an institution that embodies its historical moment, a sanctuary where those passionate about dance can celebrate its past while simultaneously building its future. In the 16 years since its inception, the company has born witness to a world that is becoming more fluid, more changeable, and more culturally interconnected than ever before-in other words, a world that is becoming more and more like Complexions itself.

The Lula Washington Dance Theatre (LWDT) is a Los Angeles-based repertoire dance ensemble that performs innovative and provocative choreography by Lula Washington. The company tours internationally. Lula Washington has steadfastly focused on using dance to explore social and humanitarian issues, including aspects of African-American history and culture.

LWDT was founded in 1980 by Lula and Erwin Washington in the inner city area of South Los Angeles. Since then, LWDT has risen to become one of the most admired African-American contemporary dance companies in the west - known for powerful, high-energy dancing, unique choreography and exceptional educational residencies. LWDT's repertoire unveils honesty, integrity, and creativity of unparalleled power - with Lula Washington as the main choreographer and "voice" of LWDT.

The company is composed of young athletic dancers, many of whom were groomed in Lula Washington's inner city dance studio. While Washington encourages her dancers to be excellent performers, she also emphasizes the importance of being leaders in their communities.

Lula Washington was the first recipient of Maria Shriver's Minerva Award, given to women who make a significant impact on women, girls and families in California. She choreographed movements and rituals for the Na'vi people in James Cameron's film Avatar and company dancers performed in the film as Na'vi. She also choreographed the dancing fishes in the Disney film The Little Mermaid. "Under The Sea," which won the Academy Award for best song, was choreographed by Washington, as was "Kiss the Girl."

Lula Washington augments her choreography with dances by master artists Donald McKayle, Katherine Dunham, Donald Byrd (The Color Purple), Louis Johnson (The Wiz), Christopher Huggins, and local icon, Rudy Perez. The company also performs works by talented, emerging choreographers such as Tamica Washington-Miller, Associate Director of LWDT.

LWDT has performed at such venues as Lincoln Center Out of Doors, the Joyce Theatre, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Jacob's Pillow, the Ordway Theater in Minneapolis, the Pioneer Center in Nevada, the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and at theatres in Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Mexico, Russia, Spain, and the Virgin Islands. In addition to touring, LWDT dances in scores of schools each year.

Tickets ($45 to $85) can be purchased at fordtheatres.org or by calling (323) 461-3673. For more information: www.FordTheatres.org, Facebook.com/FordTheatres, Twitter.com/FordTheatres. The Ford Amphitheatre is located at 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hollywood Calif., across the street from the Hollywood Bowl and south of Universal Studios.

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Complexions Contemporary Ballet. Photo Credit: Jae Man Joo.


Lula Washington Dance Theatre. Photo Credit: Ian Foxx.

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