August 8, 2013

Dance visionary finds spirituality in her art

Posted in Between Us column, Entertainment, Spirituality at 5:39 am by dinaheng

Joy, sorrow, anger, pride… whatever emotion you can think of, has been choreographed by Lula Washington.

Washington, the founder and artistic director of the Lula Washington Dance Theatre, is a leader in the world of movement, creating a repertoire company that performs experimental works and taps into the spirit of African-American dance. In 1983, she    started her own dance school, offering low cost and free dance classes to neighborhood children through an after-school program called “I Do Dance, Not Drugs!” in Los Angeles.Dinah Eng

The choreographer, known for fusing African and Afro-Haitian dance styles, will bring her magic to “An Evening of Dance: Complexions Contemporary Ballet and Lula Washington Dance Theatre” this Saturday, Aug. 10 in the Ford Theatre’s Inaugural Zev Yaroslavsky Signature Series, benefitting the Ford Theatre Foundation.

The Ford Theatre, owned and operated by the County of Los Angeles, offers a diverse slate of programming, which has been championed by L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

“Zev raised funds to renovate the Ford, and my husband was talking to him about his connection to art,” Washington says. “Zev said when he was younger, he had a job turning the page for the conductor, and whenever he looked up, he could see the ballet on stage.”

So Washington created a tribute called “Turn the Page,” which will premiere Saturday night.

Lula Washington.  Photo by Frances Dowdy.

Lula Washington. Photo by Frances Dowdy.

“What the page meant is different for every dancer on stage,” she says. “I’m inspired by things that happen globally, and in my community, and do works from my thoughts and feelings about it. As I was working with this piece, the Trayvon Martin verdict happened. I couldn’t let it go without being addressed.

“Some people were distressed and angered, and took to the streets to march to show their dissatisfaction. For many people, and from my point of view, here again was another injustice done to an African American. My creative release was part of ‘Turn the Page.’”

The woman who choreographed Disney’s “The LIttle Mermaid” movie and created the cultural/ritual movements and various sequences in James Cameron’s movie “Avatar,” says dance is a spiritual art form.

“You go through emotions, your body is twisted and turned, and your sweat is left on the dance floor,” Washington says. “It’s therapeutic and has a natural, healing power, and is prayerful. What I love about dance is that it allows the shyest person to express themselves through movement.

“I think there’s movement with everyone from the tiniest to the oldest, as long as there’s the will to move. So many people are shy to dance because they’re afraid of looking silly and what people will think. But those of us who love it don’t care. You need to move to have longevity. It’s just joyous.”

Dancers with the Lula Washington Dance Theatre. Photo by Ian Foxx.

Dancers with the Lula Washington Dance Theatre. Photo by Ian Foxx.

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