Reviews of shows from the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts and other local venues published by the Los Cerritos Community News. The writer and paper are in their twentieth year of covering these events.

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Location: Fear City, Ca., United States

"My name is Addison DeWitt. My native habitat is the theater. In it I toil not, neither do I spin. I am a critic and commentator. I am essential to the theatre - as ants to a picnic, as the boll weevil to a cotton field." George Sanders in "All About Eve"

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Viver Brazil September 24, 2011

 Viver Brazil Brings Culture, Capoeira, and Dance to Cerritos

                                                              By Glen Creason

    The Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts just happens to be the perfect place for dance performances from all over the world. It is such good fortune for locals that we can learn about other cultures in such a stimulating way with the music and choreography of places as exotic and far flung as all the continents on planet earth, excepting possibly Antarctica. On a rather energized Saturday the group Viver Brazil visited, not from South America but Los Angeles where the troupe formed in 1997 to show this amazing Brazilian dance culture to the rest of America. This is an uncompromising show with live music, non-stop singing and spirited choreography put together by a husband and wife team of Linda Yudin and Luiz Badaro. The six pieces performed were unique unto themselves but are all based on centuries old traditions of Brazilian folklore and religion.
    The opening piece with dancers in pure white was a celebration of the tradition of the Great Spirit. This dance to Orixas was the connection to their own cultures by slaves brought from Africa which they integrated into Brazilian life. With five percussionists providing a textured and rhythmic beat the ten dancers turned the stage into fascinating tableaux of color and movement.  The second piece turned to the broadest exploration of the “Great Chain of Life” that saw synchronicity punctuated by breakout solos in an extremely intricate and demanding style of modern dance. Remarkable throughout was the robust singing of    Katia Moraes,  providing a narrative that  rose above even the thundering drums of five tireless drummers. Ms. Moraes is a vocal powerhouse who seems ready to sing at full throttle all night long.
     The second half was even more engaging with the initial piece “identity” trying to connect the artists on stage with the people in the audience. It also included a finish with a flourish, an extremely physical mixture of dance and gymnastics based on capoeira (a mixture of martial arts, dance and sports training) by Leandro DaSilva that left the audience agog and caused a sigh or two from ladies in attendance. “In Motion” was the highlight of the entire show with the dancers turned loose for some full out expression on a canvas “painted” with sound and motion of another Brazilian martial arts called Samba de Roda spiced by contemporary West African and Brazilian dance moves. One of the most compelling parts of the entire performance is that the dancers really work hard and are not afraid to show sweat which demonstrates the passion of the dance. There was plenty of perspiration and plenty of passion. There was just a small break with a charming duet between Katia Moraes and Vania Amaral comparing Rio and Bahia that good-naturedly called out each region that then blended into a wild finale celebrating Carnaval. Here the dancers used the tradition of blocos afro or parading in groups to show community and affection for the society.  In dazzling costume and dancing that seemingly defied bodily limits the Viver Brazilians seemed as fresh and strong as in the opening number   while warming  the big hall with a particular Brazilian glow.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Ray Chen Violin with Julio Elizade piano

        Ray Chen Violin at Cerritos: Youth, Passion and Genius

                                                             By Glen Creason

     Sometimes an artist is just so great in performance it is both inspiring and humbling. Such inspiration came in abundance at a mid-week concert at the Performing Arts Center and the humility came when an observer tried to do justice to this superb concert by young violinist Ray Chen.  Chen was just amazing on every level imaginable for this demanding and expansive show, joining with pianist Julio Elizade for one of the finer Cerritos evenings of classical music in recent memory. The technical skill and command of the stage were obvious from the opening strains of the first brilliant notes of Giuseppe Tartini’s “Sonata in g minor” tripping from the delicate passages of the opening movement to the dramatic and physically demanding “Allegro assai-Andante assai” at the finish. Chen stood like a matador, smiling dreamily while his hands caressed the instrument seeming to enjoy the music as much as the many admirers in the audience who watched in awe. “Sonata in A Major” by Cesar Franck was next ranging from melancholy to elation with an increased participation by Elizade’s piano producing a crisp interplay between the two principals. Chen took themes from the first three movements of the sonata and repeated them in a grand journey of the “Allegro poco mosso” which focused on the violin once again. Insouciant young Ray Chen never seemed to break a sweat, despite his dabbing at his forehead occasionally rather elegantly with a handkerchief.
     A short intermission was followed by one of the greatest and most challenging violin works in existence, J.S. Bach’s “Chaconne from Partita in d minor” composed of four dances with their rapidly repeated themes and a truly grand finale of the “ciaccona” which was beautifully accomplished by Chen with such dazzling ease it boggled the audience who actually gasped at some of the technique. Several audience members, delighted by the performance shouted bravo while taking leave of their seats at its spirited conclusion. While such a demanding piece might sap any violinist, Chen seemed to gain strength and confidence, launching into the highly romantic pair of jewels by Henryk Wieniawski, “Legende, Opus 17” and “Variations on the Original Theme, Opus 15” which utilized all the technical skills of the young maestro. At this point Chen had played an hour on stage without looking at a sheet of music. Kind of like standing in front of an audience and reciting the first one hundred and fifty pages of “Moby Dick” without glancing at the book. Beyond the dazzle of the instrumental pyrotechnics was a soulful and emotional performance that mesmerized the house. The cheering audience asked for more and despite appearing to have given everything he had Chen just brought out two encores, one a gorgeous Gluck melody and a final Wieniawski “Caprice in A Minor” that finished off a glorious evening in perfect style and more shouts of  “bravo!”  One final note was the fine work as page turner for the briskly paced concert by our own Daniel Penland, sometimes seen in the Performing Arts Box Office but on this night, elegantly attired and sitting with the great artists on stage helping the music to flow into the great hall.