RedCat, Ohad Naharin, and the Beauty of Downtown L.A.

Last Friday night, my friend Debra Levine invited me to a winter dance concert by students of CalArts (California Institute of the Arts, a prestigious arts college here), at  the RedCat in downtown L.A. For New Yorkers, the RedCat reminded me a lot of the BAM’s smaller Harvey theater. It was about the same size, very low-key, and had a very similar, comfy cafe / bar off to the side.

There were four pieces on the program, all of them modern: Yes Is Not Passive, by Stephanie Nugent; The Sea, the Sea, by Colin Connor; and two by Ohad Naharin – Humus and Echad Mi Yodea. I’d never seen Echad Mi Yodea before – and it’s one of the pieces Naharin’s most known for. I don’t know how I’ve missed it, but I do think I’ve seen excerpts. Anyway, it was by far my favorite piece on the program. Here’s a version, performed by Israeli dancers. In the version I saw, everyone was dressed in full black suits, black shoes, and hats. They all stripped down to their underwear by the end, except for the dancer in the front right-side chair, who kept falling at the end of each line. I really loved this piece. So much energy and layered with meaning.

I also liked Yes Is Not Passive, the first piece. There were many different parts, but my favorite was a solo where one man – Jose Luis Trujillo – simply stood in front of the audience and shouted “Yes” so many times his voice became distorted and his contorted face nearly began to melt with sweat. It reminded me of William Forsythe or Pina Bausch. Captivating.

I was also captivated by the architecture of downtown L.A. This was the first time I’d been to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (an opera house where ballet and other kinds of dance performances take place), and the gorgeous Walt Disney Concert Hall (pictures below). So so so stunning!

All of the buildings together were very much like Lincoln Center, except with that breathtaking architecture, far more magical. I was really truly blown away. I was also blown away by how dead it was. It really broke my heart that there were so few people out and about down there on a Friday night during holiday season when you’d expect there to be concerts and performing arts events galore. (Bill T. Jones’ Fela! is playing in one of the buildings.) L.A. is definitely a very different town from N.Y. in so many respects.

Afterward, we went to a small, popular hole in the wall in Little Tokyo (also in downtown) where I had the best meal (salmon teriyaki) I’ve had since I moved here. And after that Debra drove me down the east side of Sunset (the only stretch of Sunset I hadn’t been on) to the trendy neighborhoods on that side of town: Los Feliz, Echo Park, and Silver Lake. Echo Park looked pretty happening and like a place I wouldn’t mind living. And it’s very close to Dodger Stadium 🙂


  1. As you like the Disney Concert Hall by Frank Gehry, you might be interested in Gehry’s own house in Santa Monica, built in the 1970s (1002-22nd St.):

    The Gehry-designed engineering building at UCIrvine was actually torn down a few years ago. He said originally that he wanted it to illustrate that buildings are temporary and not meant to last forever. So he designed crumbling staircases, rusted railings, etc. that drove the campus maintenance people crazy.

    Cal Arts was founded by the Disney family. They wanted an institution that paralleled Cal Tech in Pasadena. It’s not clear that the Disneys were happy with the way Cal Arts evolved, but it has achieved stature on its own.

    I’m not surprised that downtown was deserted. Not that many people live there, although some loft and condo buildings have attracted people in recent years. You’re seeing the results of endless sprawl and lack of focus in LA. “When you get there, there’s no there there” was actually said about Oakland, but it also applies to LA.

    • You are such a wealth of information, Ballet Lover! Thank you for all this – I will definitely go out to Santa Monica to see his house. The info about the engineering building at UCIrvine is hilarious. Thank you for all those links!

      Funny, I almost lived downtown. I almost lived in Bunker Towers, a big high rise. I’d been looking at their website forever before I came out here and ended up choosing Burbank because it just felt more homey and I had a good sense about it. But out in Burbank I kind of feel like I’m missing out on the action. But because of that I’m getting a lot of writing done – a lot more than when I was on the UWS in NY. So, I’m kind of torn. But I still wonder how much I’d be enjoying L.A. if I lived in Bunker Hill. It’s still sad people don’t go out down there even if they don’t live there though, just to check out the Philharmonic or Fela! or whatnot. The performing arts in general don’t seem to be a big part of L.A. life.

  2. Tonya, maybe next year you should take a visit to beautiful Denver. We had a snowstorm last Wed, so we had a white Xmas this year! Xmas eve, I took a friend of mine to the “Garden of Lights” at the Botanical Gardens. It was truly magical, with the snow adding to the dazzling lights lighting up outdooors. Even the places without the light displays looked gorgeous, with the foot of snow covering the landscaping that was only lit with “regular” lights.

    I bought us some hot chocolate, and roasted nuts from a vendor positioned at the beginning of the tour. A truly great Xmas eve.

    There truly is nothing quite like Denver during christmas. The Colorado Ballet does an excellent production of the Nutcracker with a live orchestra, performed at the new Ellie Calkins Opera House in the Performing Arts Center. Downtown is bustling and festooned with lights. This year there even is a skating rink rigged up in the heart of downtown, which also features theatre (A Christmas Carol is done every year by the Denver Center) and even a free tuba concert every year in Larimer Square! I think about 300 tuba players show up every year. It’s quite something.

    The city is very green, with trees and parks filling the downtown area. To top it off, the local residents decorate the old “grande dame” victorian homes they own to spectacular effect, with thousands of lights, every year.

    The only downside is the politics, even in “liberal” Denver is quite conservative.

    In the summer, there are the music and dance festivals in Vail, Breckinridge and Aspen.

    So, come on, give Ballet Lover a call, maybe he could put you up for a visit!



  3. Jose Luis Trujillo


    Thanks so much for coming to see our show! I’m so excited you enjoyed “Yes Is Not Passive.” Stephanie Nugent is truly an LA artist with a vision. I definitely agree with you, LA audience isn’t as exposed to the performing arts as New Yokers are, but I’m still hopeful this will change. I lived in both coasts and the experience between the two are evident. Out of all my years living here I wish LA would budge and support dance a little more; from the Music Center to the smallest of theater, but because its vast geographical region, its complicated and limited transportation system, not to mention its horrendous traffic, Angelinos are missing out on an opportunity to make this city a more vibrant place to be!
    Hollywood casts a big shadow down here, but [we] could try a little harder to be part of a more diverse, artistic community if only we took the risk to get out there and explore downtown LA for what is fighting to become… a true melting pot of culture sharing, a place where movies like “Crash” wouldn’t have to remind us that we’re not so different after all. It’s okay to smile and greet a stranger on the subway. You never know how far a smile will go…

    Thanks so much for your support! It’s people like you who make this city more special. YES, yes, yes…

    • Thank you so much for commenting, Jose! Yes, I really enjoyed your performance – the whole evening in general. I’m glad you understand what I mean by the differences between LA and NY. It’s not just me – the performing arts scene really is so different here. I keep asking new friends I meet here, what do people do here for fun? It seems no one really goes out. They tell me people have more space here than in NY, so they tend to have a lot of house parties. But I still prefer to go out, and I’m sure others would if they tried it more often. We need to think of ways to get people out of their houses more and see these brilliant performances!

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