A year ago, the Reseda Neighborhood Council started making plans with Continental Art Supplies to curate an art show in Continental’s Education Room with Reseda as the theme. The original idea was to put a call out to artists of the Valley, inviting them to submit works about Reseda. Since Reseda hasn’t had much of a reputation for being anything more than a city that people pass through on their way to get to somewhere else, I thought it would be a great idea to create an arts event that sounded trendy, exclusive and ironic. So “Reseda” was it. We went so far as to create a “list” (kind of like Studio 54) so people would wonder and want to get their name on it.
Writing you today from 30,000+ feet in the air. Crazy right? It’s my Atlanta to LA leg after the LA to NYC, NYC to LA, LA to Atlanta before the LA to New Orleans and after the LA to Park City go- round. Good fortune is smiling upon me with diverse projects in a variety of places with wonderful clients. Truly grateful!
I just went to Gallery 800's exhibit " Still Life" which features a collection of works by Evans Webb. What makes this exhibit extremely timely is the fact that Evans lost his fight with cancer on March 2, 2014. Evans Webb, a tireless and dedicated proponent of the Art Directors Guild Local 800, was an extremely talented artist and a man that cared about his fellow union members and a good friend of mine.
Melinda Sullivan is Doing it Right – an exclusive interview for Gotta Dance
Melinda Sullivan is an inspirational performing artist in our community. You’ll recognize her from SYTYCD season 7, with a comeback on season 11 to perform in a duet with fellow tap dancer Aaron Turner. She earned a place on Dance Magazine’s top 25 to watch for 2013, and won Capezio’s prestigious A.C.E. Award in 2012. That winning entry, entitled "Gone,” debuted in expanded form in New York in August 2013. She continues to develop her many talents and interests as a dancer, singer, and actress, which have given her a broad platform for her performance opportunities and artistic enterprises. I am grateful to Melinda who eloquently shares her experiences and latest projects with NoHoArtsDostrict.com.
KC: For our professionals and aspiring professionals out there, what can you share about the experience of working in the different mediums of stage, TV, and film? What’s lending to your success and how has that shaped how you prepare for a versatile career path?
MS: As a dancer, I am lucky to have a strong ballet and jazz foundation coupled with a passion for tap, more of a "niche" dance style. That has allowed me to be versatile while at the same time being unique. Also, dancing takes an incredible amount of mental focus. I'm thankful that I had that focus at an early age. The only way to push through the discipline and sometimes monotony of your technical training is to stay inspired. Look to the masters of your art form to get you to your next level. Read books, watch footage, listen to musical scores written for dance, etc.
Once dancing and performing become your job, you must seek balance between being an athlete, an artist, and a working professional. It can be tricky. Cross train and take care of your body, feed your soul with good art, and meet people in your field who you respect.
Most importantly, if you want to work in both LA and NY as a dancer, you ABSOLUTELY need to start singing and acting ASAP.
KC: You’ve had several roles portraying characters that emulate turn-of-the-century to mid-century styles and settings. Tell us about your influences and what you’re bringing forward from these eras in some of these roles.
MS: Campfire Vaudeville is a song and dance experience that one of my best friends Galen Hooks created. She brought me on as a performer and choreographer, and last year we had a few live appearances around LA coupled with some really incredible video content that Galen executive produced (directed by Charles Oliver). Campfire Vaudeville pulls from a few decades, but definitely turn of the century culture. The project was based on these songs that Galen had written that are influenced by early folk/spirituals, and we thought sand dancing/hoofing would go well with that music. Both art forms are at the root of American jazz music and the original American jazz dance, aka tap dance. You can watch the video here.
Then, by chance, I was referred to director Gilly Barnes for a video project as a part of a series called The Decade Series. It was a centennial film project for Vanity Fair. Gilly asked me to play a woman during the suffrage movement who had been imprisoned for marching to fight for women's voting rights. Gilly had done a lot of research and encouraged me to do the same. I am thankful for directors like Gilly who use dance to tell stories. In this case, the story was based on historical events, which made it even more powerful for me as the artist interpreting Gilly's direction and my choreography. The day of the shoot, the wardrobe department even had a vintage prison outfit that a woman had worn. It was a really incredible project to be a part of and the final edit was very powerful, as Gilly had another actor recite a letter that a marcher had written as well as footage from that time. You can watch the video here.
Shakin' The Blues Away is the second collaboration between myself and director Dante Russo. One of my career goals is to be involved in a movie musical, whether it be in front of the camera or on the creative side. This piece was an ode to MGM musicals, where were the golden age for this genre. I looked at a lot of the footage from that time of the female tap dancers, and I kept coming back to Ann Miller's piece. She was fiery, confident, showy, over-the-top—the epitome of a Hollywood diva. The movement is really specific as well, and was a great challenge for me as a performer and choreographer. I rehearsed for several months on the piece before filming it and had to work mostly on my upper body. Ann's style was very angular, and her body was able to create these incredible pictures. I had to work a lot on clarity of my body lines in front of the mirror, over and over. Also, she was able to change directions on a dime. That was a big part of my rehearsal process as well. And turns! Lots and lots of turns. All that ballet training came to use for the long turn sequence at the end of the piece. That particular shot for the film was shot with a crane, and I think we did it like 26 times in a row. It was quite an athletic piece, but it really inspired me to keep working in that direction with my performance quality. In general, that style of dancing takes a huge amount of core strength, so your legs and arms can go anywhere while you are still over your legs, and the ability to perform BIG, facially and energetically. No one will ever dance like Ann, though. She is truly one of the greatest! You can watch the video here.
KC: This summer your evening length show, Gone: A Sound and Theater Project, debuted at New York's Ailey Citigroup Theater. The reviews for both the choreography and music were fantastic! Will there be a restaging here in Los Angeles? What’s next for that production?
MS: Producing/choreographing/performing/writing Gone was such an incredible learning process. I literally got a taste of EVERYTHING: running my first audition, collaborating with a composer and director, assembling a lighting and sound designer, budgeting, fundraising, the list goes on. The performance in NY was part of the Capezio ACE Award Grant I received in the summer of 2012. Now that I don't have any deadlines, I have been taking my time to review the material and see what I would like to develop and change. I want to present a concert of my work here in Los Angeles in the coming months, and I would like to include excerpts of Gone in the evening. Nikos Syropoulos (composer of Gone) and I are continuing our collaboration and we are very excited about what we have learned from the process as well as what we will create next. You can watch a video rendition here.
KC: Tell us about the Melinda Sullivan Dance Project and what you’re working on now.
MS: The Melinda Sullivan Dance Project was created underneath the umbrella of the Pasadena Arts Council. PAC has a program called "Emerge Projects", which incubates individual projects and emerging organizations, offering them the ability to seek funding through fiscal sponsorship. In order to produce Gone in NYC, I needed to raise $15,000 in addition to the grant money I received in order to cover costs of production, travel, dancers, musicians, sets, etc. Establishing MSDP with PAC allowed me to receive donations through Kickstarter and use their resources, knowledge, and administrative expertise to act as a non-profit.
KC: Tell us about your work with the community and dance advocacy.MS: Teaching has become a big part of my life. I am constantly inspired by the students in my classes. When students are fearless, they can do anything! It is also fun seeing it click for people that as a tap dancer, you are a dancer AND a musician. As a teacher, class is the perfect place to play as a choreographer, and there’s nothing like watching the students bring your movement and rhythms to life. I teach regularly at The Colburn School in downtown Los Angeles, and I tour with New York City Dance Alliance. I've also had the opportunity to travel and work with students from around the world, in places such as Bogota, Colombia, Tapei, Taiwan, and Stockholm, Sweden. Tap dance is an oral tradition. My teachers passed down not steps and music but stories and artistry. I feel that it is my duty, as an artist and a student of such a wonderful cultural art form like tap dance, is to continue to share what I learned with as many people as I can.
Thank you Melinda! Follow her here.
“Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes”
You said it Oscar!
On location, Lancaster, CA, Cold, early and miles from anywhere, having the time of my life…
Since there are rather a lot of mistakes to make, and while I feel from time to time that I have made more of them than most humans on this earth, I thought I would continue along the oddly popular theme of my failures, just for a little while longer…
Well…..Well…..Well…..Here we are again! In my last installment I took you on a trip from the beginning of my career until my unleashing in Hollywood. Let’s just get right to it….shall we????
What are the credentials that actors need to succeed? Acting is one of the few professions that does not require a degree, or even specific training to get a job. It’s the only profession I’m aware of where if you have the best training in the world, studied at the finest institutions, performed theater all your life, and practiced under the most prestigious acting coaches and gurus - you are not guaranteed to get work.
Artists of every discipline are notorious for being lousy self promoters. Whether it’s because they’re overly right brained, rebellious to the expectation that they be smart business people in order to succeed, or just lazy, whatever the reason, it’s not enough to be unbelievably talented and prolific. If nobody ever hears or sees you, you won’t stand a chance of being able to make a living as an artist, musician, actor, writer, or whatever. You have to make the time to cultivate some business sense.
Who doesn’t want to get more done?
Hmmm……where do I begin? Well, honestly I never really considered myself a dancer! I was born with unbridled energy, rhythm and passion in Brooklyn, New York to a very loving Family in very close quarters and not much income. What we lacked in finances was filled with support, encouragement, hope, dreams and discipline.
“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone”
‘The Bite’, 52 films/52 weeks, 2011
Sometimes the easiest way to advise a person embarking on their dream is not to tell them what to do and how to do it, but what not to do and how to avoid doing that over and over again.
“As a white candle in a holy place, so is the beauty of an aged face.” - Joseph Campbell (Gaelic name Seosamh MacCathmhaoil), Irish poet.
These wise words were the inspiration behind photographer Robin Hart’s newest exhibit, “The Wisdom of Wabi-Sabi,” now open at the NoHo Senior Arts Colony Apartments, a Los Angeles senior apartment community centered around the arts. This wonderful new exhibit will be on display now through March 3, 2014, and is free to the public.
I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately. Yes you, seriously, you. The people I share my real experiences, lessons, successes and failures with. It’s an intimate relationship even though we may never meet in person and it is important to me that it is authentic and honest.
DancePlug was created by dancers for dancers with the simple purpose to raise the awareness of dance through media and the world wide web, as well as to provide a platform for dancers, teachers, and choreographers to promote themselves in an accessible professional way. DancePlug is also a leader in online dance classes. In these tech savy times, online classes may not be a unique feature, but DancePlug distinguishes itself with superb quality, both in videography and instruction.
Amongst the many other resources DancePlug offers are demo reels, audition listings, events calendar, a dance video library, and their bi-weekly web episode “The DancePlug Dish”.
The DancePlug Dish provides fresh news on various dance topics and individuals across the globe: from the Los Angeles star industry to world-renowned Ballet companies, from Broadway musicals to popular or traditional performances. The DancePlug Dish is a 10-minute show about the who, the where, and the when of the dance world. Tune in every other Wednesday 5pm PST.
For more info - visit www.danceplug.com
The beginning of the year is the perfect time to do a self-assessment; to review, make plans, and set goals. In my classes at the Actors Workout Studio, we spend time in January and February working on goals and actions, and discussing the actor’s business model. Painfully, a lot of actors don’t want to discuss the ugliness of business, just the beauty of making art. Some students even avoid my business classes altogether, and return when we get back to learning the craft.
We in the NoHo Arts District are proud to have known Spike Dolomite for years, and she is a regular arts and advocacy contributor to www.nohoartsdistrict.com. Above all, she is a champion of the arts in the Valley. So when we found out she was participating in Fun A Day, our team had to know more, and more importantly, we had to see what she was doing about it. Get ready, NoHo, and meet Spike, our “Pissed Off Art Mom of the Valley.”
What is Fun A Day?
Fun A Day started on the east coast about 10 years ago by artists who wanted to keep themselves stimulated and productive during the bleakest month of the year – January. The idea is to pick a project to work on every day during the month and have fun doing it. Then, at the end of the month, everybody who participated gets together to install their own work in a temporary space for a group, pop up show. Anybody can participate – visual artists, musicians, poets, performance artists, photographers, bakers, jewelry designers, young or old, professional or amateur. It has been making its way across the country. This is the first year that Los Angeles will be participating and Reseda is hosting. Chloe Cumbow is producing Fun A Day Reseda. She is rather new to Reseda, having moved here from Rhode Island. She produced it there for several years. A local business owner, Natalie Haim of H & M Appliances on Sherman Way, has donated an empty commercial space around the corner from H & M that she owns for our show. The show will be on February 28 and March 1.
What are you doing for Fun A Day?
I am having fun with my 11 year old daughter creating hearts to go along with the Reseda Neighborhood Council’s “I Heart Reseda” campaign that is so popular right now. People are loving on Reseda right these days! Our idea is to make various hearts and then place them throughout Reseda in various settings to give people that good heart filled Reseda feeling whenever they come across our hearts. So far we have made a giant metallic mosaic heart that we put on the front of Councilman Bob Blumenfield’s sign in front of his district office in Reseda, a big “2014” sign with the 0 a painted heart and the rest of the numbers filled in with glued buttons. We put that over the LA River on January 1 on Sherman Way. Sophie sewed a heart pillow that we hung on a tree outside of the Chairman of the Reseda Neighborhood Council’s house (Kevin Taylor). One side said “Reseda” and other side said, “Fun”. We made a cardboard box full of cardboard 3d hearts that spilled out of the box onto the sidewalk with caution tape around it. A shop keeper came out and asked us what we were doing. We said, “It’s art”. That was funny because the poor shop keeper didn’t want to come across as not being hip so we did what we could to make her feel hip to art. We’re going to yarn bomb a tree with crochet hearts next week. Keith Haring inspired hearts have appeared on street corners, on white tshirts hanging on hangers from utility poles, on tiles spread on sidewalks, and on cardboard signs, some with messages that read, “Put a bookstore here”, “Put an art gallery here”, “Put live music here”, “Put a cool café here”. We tried to be anonymous, like Banksy, but some people have us figured out. What’s fun about the Keith Haring inspired hearts is that we’re painting them in our garage and putting them around town just like Keith did around NYC in the 80s before he got famous. We get to feel what I imagine Keith Haring felt when he did his chalk drawings around NYC – it’s a lot of FUN!!!!!
What is your Vision for an arts-filled Valley?
I am a proud resident of the San Fernando Valley – well known for being the Pissed Off Art Mom of the Valley. I have spent the past 15 years championing arts education through the nonprofit that I started, Arts in Education Aid Council, getting the arts into Valley schools, and challenging the status quo as to what a quality public education really means (kids need the arts so they can challenge the status quo, think outside of the box, exercise their rights as free citizens, and express themselves freely). Our office was in Canoga Park for several years where we participated in community arts partnerships in the West Valley. The NoHo Arts District is our theatre arts district and it continues to grow. Pacoima is getting well deserved public attention for its murals. And Reseda is experiencing a renaissance right now where the arts are playing a vital role in bringing Reseda back through the arts. This is an exciting time for the Valley right now, but it’s nothing compared to what we’ll be seeing in the next 1-5 years. People are going to be traveling in the other direction to experience a thriving art scene. Over the past few years I have had people get all snotty with me, wanting to know why they couldn’t participate in exclusive events that were designed just for Valley artists, etc. I’ve even had people lie about where they live in order to get in on some of the events that I have produced over the years. It’s bugged me that people have lied, but it’s an indication that people don’t think of the Valley as being void of culture like they used to. It won’t be long when people will need to ask, “Which direction?”, when someone says they’re going over the hill for a night on the town. As the Pissed Off Art Mom of the Valley, I must confess, I’m gonna LOVE IT.
Spike Dolomite is an artist, cartoonist, writer, arts education activist, and health care reform advocate. She is a regularly featured cartoonist on NoHoArtsDistrict.com, and has a published book of cartoons, “ART by Spike Dolomite” which can be purchased at a number of arts centers in the Valley or online. She founded and runs a nonprofit organization thirteen years ago, Arts in Education Aid Council, to restore the arts to public schools of the San Fernando Valley. She became politically active after her first child was born eighteen years ago, and has become even more active after finding herself with Stage 3 breast cancer while temporarily uninsured in November 2011. Saved by the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), Spike has become a proponent of health care reform out of gratitude. “Left Turn in NoHo” is her new liberal political blog. As the Republicans get crazier and more medieval, Spike gets more outspoken and more liberal. To see some of her paintings and cartoons, visit her website, www.spikedolomite.com. For more information on her arts education nonprofit, visit www.aieac.org. To read her health care blog, “Health Hazards”, visit www.highdeductibles.blogspot.com. Get one new ART cartoon a day by liking ART by Spike Dolomite on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter @SpikeArt.
**** For information on Los Angeles theatre, tickets to theatre in North Hollywood's NoHo Arts District, theatre reviews, the NoHo Event Calendar, restaurants, news and local businesses in NoHo, bookmark nohoartsdistrict.com.
The Art Directors Guild (ADG, IATSE Local 800) Gallery 800 debuted their 2014 Season with Three Artists You Should Know which opened on January 11th with a hosted reception. Gallery 800 showcases guild members’ personal art in a series of shows throughout the year. The January 11 reception featured personal works from Production Designer/Art Director Al Brenner, Scenic Designer Chris Coakley and Graphic Designer/Illustrator Pierre Bernard, Jr. The exhibit will be on display now through February 15, 2014.
For some reason, the month of January is my time to re-evaluate and realign my life, goals, and purpose. It’s a time where I encourage myself to do something differently, be adventurous, or change a habit. And for Auld Lang Syne, each year I gather my intentions, light the candles and make resolutions to become a better person. Wish me luck.
Last week my friend, Mr. Dolce, who is a language arts teacher at Van Buren Middle School in Albuquerque, NM told me about a list he had found on the web that some of his students were discussing in a round table type format. He read the list, called 16 Harsh Truths that Make Us Stronger, to me over the phone and I immediately knew I wanted to see it for myself. The original list was written by Marc and Angel (of Marc and Angel Hack Life). As a ballet teacher I felt inspired by their list to write 15 truths about being a professional dancer. Some are adapted from Marc and Angel's list and some come from my own experiences. If you haven't looked at Marc and Angel's site, I highly recommend it. They have many inspiring posts.
A story should have a beginning, a middle and an end… but not necessarily in that order.
- Jean-Luc Godard
Well, thats one way of looking at it, but before the story there is the idea, and a beginning.
It seems as though the whole country takes to the streets in Iran, Turkey and Egypt when the people have had it with their government, at great personal risk. But not us. No, Americans love to pound their chests and brag about how great America is, rant and rave about how politicians are a bunch of bums, and refer to the Constitution as if they’ve actually read it, but take to the streets? Nah, we have better things to do with our time, like shopping, watching TV and feeding our addictions.