Monday, December 19, 2011

Paulo Szot Conducts Master Class

Metropolitan Opera star and Tony® Award winner Paulo Szot conducted a master class for four promising young singers at the Center last week. The singers were Emily Dyer of Chapman University, Alyssa Willis of Cal State University, Long Beach, Sepideh Moafi of UCI and Sydney Daebritz of the Orange County High School of the Arts. Each performed either a selection their operatic or musical theater repertory. (Photo above: Alyssa Willis; photo below: Sepideh Moafi)

( Photo above: Emily Dyer)

(Photo above: Sydney Daebritz) All photos by Troy Grover
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Friday, November 4, 2011

Toys for Tots!

The Guilds of Segerstrom Center for the Arts is holding its 16th Annual Holiday Toy Drive on November 29 and 30. All toys are distributed through the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program. Toy Drive Co-Chairs Loretta Freund and Kathy Busse are asking those wishing to make sure every child in Orange County has a wonderful holiday to bring new, unwrapped toys that are in their original manufacturer’s packaging to Segerstrom Hall between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on the 29th and 30th.

Photo is from last year's toy drive

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Seeing Pink

The Arts Plaza of Segerstrom Center was the starting and finish line for the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer on Sunday, October 9. This year’s second walk from Segerstrom Center raised more than $240,000. And more than 10,000 dedicated community members participated in this inspirational 5K walk to honor and celebrate breast cancer survivors, educate people about the disease and raise funds and awareness to create a world with less breast cancer and more birthdays.

Liz Shivener, who portrays Fiona in Shrek the Musical, playing now through October 16 at the Center, got up early herself to welcome and cheer on the walkers, and sang “Morning Person” from the show.

Photo: Liz Shivener sings “Morning Person” from Shrek the Musical.

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

It Isn't Easy Being an Ogre

In fact, it takes about one hour and 45 minutes to become the title character in Shrek the Musical. Jesse and Kristin Wallace with their children Alison, James and Lauren, won a contest sponsored by Parenting OC magazine and were invited to watch Lukas “Shrek” Poost during his transformation. Here they are backstage on Wednesday, October 6 with Poost. Shrek is at the Center through October 16.

Photo by Eva Lempert

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Believe All Ogre Again, Free Mini-Performance by Shrek Cast Members This Thursday

Join us for a free mini-performance by the cast of Shrek the Musical at South Coast Plaza this Thursday, October 6 at 4 p.m. on the ground level of Carousel Court. Cast members will sing a selection of songs from its fun and lively score. Afterwards, cast members will be available to sign autographs and meet audience members. There will also be ticket giveaways to see Shrek the Musical during its engagement here now through October 16.

Photo by Joan Marcus

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Friday, September 30, 2011

American Cancer Society Holds 5K Walk at the Center Oct. 9

On October 9, the American Cancer Society will hold its second annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5K walk at Segerstrom Center. The Orange County community is invited to take part in the noncompetitive walk, which was created to celebrate survivors who have battled the disease and raise funds to fight against breast cancer. Last year, more than 80,000 people participated and raised more than $2.6 million in California. During this year’s walk, KCBS-TV anchors Paul Magers and Paul Harvey will be on hand to lend their support. To sign up or learn more about the walk, please click here.

We hope this year’s walk is the most successful yet!

Photo is from last year's walk, which was held at the Center.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Process: Jorma & Marcelo

This is the last week of rehearsals for the Kings of the Dance. The show will open in Moscow in just seven days before the production comes to the Center for its American premiere. While many of the pieces are already set and being polished in rehearsals, today's focus is in on a completely new work being created by Jorma Elo for Marcelo Gomes. Elo, the Finnish-born resident choreographer of Boston Ballet, has set his new dance, Still of King, to the first movement of Franz Joseph Haydn's Symphony No. 100 in G major. Elo cues the music and Gomes walks slowly to the center of the room. The dancing that follows is brilliant, full of mercurial shifts of mood, fluid, modern and expansive.

Elo and Gomes have been working for the past four days, but there is still a section of music that needs to be choreographed. They move silently to a far corner of the room, and Elo remains motionless for some time, his head bowed slightly. The dancer watches for what's to come. Throughout the rehearsal Elo hardly speaks and when he does, it's so softly as if to himself. Finally he turns to face the mirror and bourrees in 6th position back to the center of the floor. He pauses contemplating his shape in the mirror, then a shoulder wave ripples through his body. He marks the sequence again with Gomes following closely. “Ok, let's see what this looks like,” Elo says in his characteristic hushed voice.

Elo seems to be that rare choreographer who creates directly on and in front of his dancers. Before setting each phrase he assumes the last pose of the preceding movement and remains completely still in a deep inner space until he knows exactly what the next steps will be. It's a zen-like process. He signals a jump, and as Gomes vaults into the air, Elo softly exhales, “Jesus, you are so good at it.” Gomes smiles warmly. His ability to immediately interpret the outline of movement indicated by the choreographer, giving it full weight, emotional color and life, is astonishing to watch.

“Will I survive this?” asks Gomes. “You'll die,” says Elo in a reassuring tone. “Good!” is the dancer's breezy reply.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

A King Makes Music and Dance

Guillaume Côté returns to the Center as part of our upcoming Kings of the Dance.  The star of The National Ballet of Canada will not only display his amazing prowess as a dancer, but he'll also compose one of the scores to be heard in this program of new ballets.  Côté talks about music and dance coming together for him in Kings of the Dance 2011.

How did it happen that your music became part of the Kings of the Dance?

One of the most wonderful things about Kings of the Dance project is that (producer) Sergei Danilian is always eager to do something different. His choice of repertoire is always a very thoughtful process. He asks for our opinion every step of the way and makes sure we are involved and happy with what we are dancing.

In this circumstance, Sergei saw Marcelo's choreography last year in New York and asked him if he could create for this year's galas. Marcelo and I have collaborate as 'composer/choreographer' on couple of different smaller projects and he jumped at the opportunity to get me involved with Kings. As soon as Sergei, Marcelo and I started brainstorming we thought this would be perfect. It would not only be a very inspiring process for us but we think that being part of the show as creators would also add a little different dimension to the evening.

Did you compose the music specially for the project or had you made it before and it was just waiting for the right moment?

This piece was created specially for Kings of the Dance. I have written many different styles of music in the last years. From electronic soundtracks to classically driven work. After having many conversations with Marcelo about the direction we wanted to go, we decided to go as grand and melodic as possible. In a way I've always stopped myself from writing a piece that fell into a 'romantic' category, but for this project I let myself go.

How did it feel when you got the proposal to be a composer for one of the pieces in the Kings of the Dance?

I was thrilled! I love working with Marcelo and I know that no matter what happens, the process of creating this will be truly wonderful.

How does the music reflect the dancing and vice versa, how does the dance reflect the music?

I approached this creation as an opportunity to make a tribute to the Russian romantic composers. I've always held composers such as Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky and other close to my heart, so I wanted to try capturing the feel of their music. I've always felt intimidated to try this but I thought, what better time than now.

Once I found the themes for the piece, I started thinking about the Kings involved in this year's project. I tried to split the sections in what I thought was 'personality' influenced. Knowing all the guys pretty well I wanted to personalize it a little.

Also, for the recording of the final score, I collaborated with a fantastic virtuoso pianist. His name is Andrei Streliaev. His incredible artistry was a great influence as well.

How does it feel to have these two parts of your life come together?

I am thrilled that I get the chance to display both my passions in this year's Kings of the Dance. I've been a composer all my life, but this project will have my two true loves come together: dance and composition. It'll be a very exciting evening.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Paper Cranes Reach Japan

One thousand paper cranes folded by the local community to help raise hope and spread awareness for the victims of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami are now being displayed in Japan as a symbol for revitalization at the Fukushima Cultural Center. Currently, the Fukushima Cultural Center is not fully operational but they hope to be very soon. (The photo above shows the display in their lobby along with the letter we sent.) Paper cranes were also sent to the Sendai Philharmonic Orchestra.

Several months ago, the Center and the Philharmonic Society of Orange County hosted an event to fold paper cranes. In Japanese culture, cranes are a symbol of hope and prosperity and folklore says the act of folding 1,000 cranes grants a wish. The event was a huge success and more than 2,000 cranes were folded and sent to Japan.

It was a very special day and we want to thank everyone again for their participation in this extraordinary effort.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Our Kings are Hard at Work

Sept 18.  The first full week of rehearsals has just ended and looking back, it's amazing how much has been accomplished in such a short time.

Mauro Bigonzetti has made remarkable progress on the opening ballet of the program, Jazzy Five. The music is by Federico Bigonzetti, the choreographer's son, and its sometimes soulful, sometimes playful, rhythmically incisive sound lends the ballet an easy-going, but earnest quality. The introductory dance begins as the five men in the cast move slowly downstage holding on to each other as if they were syrtaki dancers. The image is one of communal coming together. Suddenly they break apart into a pair of brief but strikingly different duets for Sarafanov and Coté, and Gomes and Hallberg, interrupted by a brief solo by Vasiliev who comes ripping down center stage in a huge heal slide before settling in a side split on the floor.

The opening section is followed by solos for each of the men, and although these brief dances are very different from each other in mood and quality of movement (reflecting the individual qualities of the artists they are meant to present), there are connecting leitmotifs threaded throughout – complex arm movements, spiraling turns, held poses, and transitions that compress the dancers' line only to stretch it to the maximum a moment later.

The ballet currently slated to close the evening is Marcelo Gomes' KO'd to a piano sonata of his fellow king, Guillaume Coté. The music is beautiful and lushly romantic, and Gomes responds with steps that are structured, intelligent, and flow easily together. He does almost nothing that would seem forced or superfluous. His language is well developed with hints of the deep knowledge of dance history that he carries as a performer. There are intentional, albeit brief, homages to ballets by Balanchine, Wheeldon, Ratmansky – but nothing obscures Gomes' own by turns elvish and deeply romantic point of view. As a choreographer Gomes may be an emerging artist, but he is certainly an assured one.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ivan Vasiliev rehearsing for Kings of the Dance, part II

New York, City Center studios.

Rehearsal day 5. It's remarkable, but Vasiliev's entire 10 minute solo, renamed The Labyrinth of Solitude, has been set by mid-day Saturday, the 4th day of rehearsal. De Bana's response to music is organic. He listens to a few phrases and then dances through them alone. Ivan stands off to the side, watching intently. If the choreographer is satisfied (indicated by a quiet, “Yes, that's it” to himself), he proceeds to teach the steps to the dancer whose sponge-like ability to absorb and internalize every gesture is uncanny.

The next two rehearsals are spent on smoothing out transitions between sections of choreography and on details of timing and musicality. Everyone is tired, but the mood in the room is easy and jovial. Now and then, de Bana urges his dancer to soften his natural attack, at other times he asks for stronger arms - “I know they are falling off by now, but it's like you've really hit a wall here, make them really shake, make them powerful!” Up until the last moments of rehearsal nuances are layered over an existing structure of steps. As Vasiliev does the final run-through, complete with a vaulting manege of split jetes, the room is stunned. It's a breathtaking performance.

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Friday, September 9, 2011

Ivan Vasiliev in Rehearsal for Kings of the Dance 2011

We are very pleased to have special guest blogger Anya Korisch writing from City Center in New York where she’s behind-the-scenes at rehearsals for Kings of the Dance 2011. For the next few weeks, we’ll be posting Anya’s insider photos and updates. Her first blog post, below, provides a front row seat to the solo piece, Labyrinth of Solitude. Kings 2011 will receive its American premiere here Oct. 21 – 23.

Sept. 8th, second day of fall rehearsals. City Center.

With the Moscow world premiere less than a month away, rehearsals for Kings of the Dance 2011 are in full swing at the City Center studios in New York.

This week, choreographer and former Compania Nacional de Danza principal dancer, Patrick de Bana, is choreographing a new solo, Labyrinth of Solitude, for the Bolshoi's youngest, and arguably brightest, star – Ivan Vasiliev. The music is a stirring orchestral version of Tomaso Antonio Vitali's Chaconne in G Minor for Violin and Piano. When finished, the solo will be 10 grueling minutes long, and de Bana and Vasiliev have only six days to complete it start to finish. It helps that Vasiliev is a quick study – by the end of second day, they have set over five minutes of the music

In keeping with the title, the piece begins with Vasiliev, his back to the audience, slowly trotting center stage, taking small bouncing steps like a bull or prize-fighter in the ring. “Use your bones, feel your bones,” de Bana tells him. The direction produces a more articulated, weightier quality of movement. At another point, demonstrating a pose of almost extreme contrapposto, de Bana tells Vasiliev to think of the Nijinsky photographs, their oppositions of lightness and weight, the suggested stillness at the heart of the movement. “When I look at you, I think of Nijinsky,” de Bana tells Vasiliev. The dancer doesn't flinch at the comparison.

The choreographer's feedback is full of imagery and he is concerned that each movement convey an emotion, a message to the audience. At the first rehearsal, trying to describe an effect he is looking for, de Bana tells Vasiliev of his own experience watching bullfighting. On day two, the choreographer says, “This is your labyrinth of solitude, but it's your own mind, you know.” Vasiliev immediately hits the right emotional tone. “He is amazing,” exclaims de Bana. “Did you always learn this fast?” Vasiliev nods.

Most of the movement is extremely fluid with huge jumps that are Vasiliev's specialty, bursting into the air like sudden gusts of wind. From day one, even while marking, he colors each movement with an emotional quality and de Bana urges him to play with the timing of the music, to feel free to go slower or faster within the phrase in order to produce the pitch that in the end will fit the music perfectly. “Be the echo,” is the last comment of the long second rehearsal day.

Text and photographs by Anya Korisch

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

What Do You Want to See at Movie Mondays?

This summer’s free Movie Mondays are sadly over but you can vote for next year’s movies by clicking here. We’d love to hear your ideas on which movies you’d like to see in the future as well as any ideas on how we can improve the overall Movie Mondays experience. Thanks to all the movie-lovers who came out this summer. We had a blast and can’t wait to see you next year!

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

There are Only Winners at Free Movie Mondays

Last night’s Victor/Victoria pre-screening contest was a fun gender-bending name game. The game was won by the men (pictured above). They all received tickets to see jazz legend Sonny Rollins when he visits in September. Whoopie pies from Corner Bakery were given to the women’s team.

Before last week’s showing of Harold and Maude, people were encouraged to come dressed as their favorite odd couple. The grand-prize winners were Mike Evert and Matthew Bell from Orange (pictured above) and they won tickets to see Mary Poppins. Other odd couples who participated in the contest won cookies provided by Corner Bakery.

The Centers’ Jonathan Vietze and KCRW’s Matt Holzman at Harold and Maude (pictured above from L to R). KCRW was a media sponsor of the movie.

There are two more movies left this summer: Chicago on August 1 and The King and I on August 8.

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Mary Poppins Cast Pops into Newport Beach Public Library

Steffanie Leigh, who portrays the legendary nanny in Disney’s Mary Poppins now playing at the Center and her colleagues in the show, Hannah Chin and Anthony Christian Daniel, stopped by the Newport Beach Public Library on July 21. During this special visit, the artists read the first chapter from P.L. Travers book, which introduced Mary to the world of literature and imagination in 1934. They answered questions about the show and their careers from the nearly 100 children plus parents who gathered for the afternoon event. The highlight had to be when Steffanie, Hannah and Anthony got everyone to their feet and showed them how to spell out ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ just as they do it in the show.

These afternoon gatherings organized by the Center and the library illustrate how shows and ballets and other stage productions so often originate from great works of literature. Reading them as well as seeing them provides wonderful insight into the stories and their journey through time from page to stage.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mary Poppins Cast Visits CHOC Children's

Nicolas Dromard, Rachel Wallace, Neka Zang and Nic Thompson from the cast of Mary Poppins visited CHOC Children’s on Wednesday. They visited children in the playrooms and stopped into a number of private rooms. They colored with them, played air hockey, posed for photos and even sang a little bit of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” All agreed that Mary Poppins herself would have said they brought a very special spoonful of sugar into their young lives.

Pictured above: Rachel Wallace and Nic Thompson at CHOC Children's

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mary Poppins welcomes KTLA to the Center

KTLA's Allie MacKay spent the morning at Segerstrom Center for the Arts as she went behind the scenes of Mary Poppins, now onstage at the Center.

MacKay talked with Nicolas Dromard who plays Bert as she begins her transformation into the world's most beloved Nanny.

Next, she's on to costumes, hair and make up


With her transformation complete, MacKay talks with Steffanie Leigh, who stars as Mary, on what it's like to play such an iconic role.


Mary Poppins is onstage now through August 7.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

And BINGO was his Name-O

Before the screening of Beach Blanket Bingo last night, the Movie Mondays’ crowd joined in on a rousing game of…you guessed it, BINGO. Lucky grand-prize winner Paul Fabares (pictured above with his winning card) won a fabulous four-pack of tickets to see Disney's Mary Poppins, which plays the Center starting this Thursday. Other winners received Mary Poppins merchandise and gift certificates to Quattro Caffé. As everyone is a winner at Movie Mondays, attendees were offered a one-night-only opportunity to buy Mary Poppins tickets at a 50% discount. We’re already working on more fun prizes and discounts to give to the Movie Mondays faithful.

Next Monday, moviegoers are encouraged to dress up as their favorite odd couple (fiction or real-life) in anticipation of the showing of Harold and Maude. Prizes will be given to the best couples so don’t hold back. Hope to see you!

Pictured above: Cody Nunes and Ashley Morales from Costa Mesa

Pictured above: Cheri Wilson, Anna Vrska, Erica Tucker from the Newport Beach Film Festival; NBFF selects a selection of the best animated short films to show before each movie

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Free Movie Mondays Starts Tonight 7/11

Free Movie Mondays returns tonight, July 11 with the '60s surfside party film, Beach Blanket Bingo. Arrive early to join in on a rousing game of BINGO for a chance to win tickets to Disney's Mary Poppins, which will run July 14 - August 7. BINGO starts at 7:30 p.m. with the movie beginning at dusk. Guest are encouraged to bring beach chairs or other easily portable seating items, as well as snacks and picnic suppers.

Here's the rest of the Movie Mondays line-up:
– July 25 Harold and Maude
– July 25 Victor/Victoria
– August 2 Chicago
– August 9 The King and I

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