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“Matthew Bourne’s Early Adventures” is a timeless delight

Sir Matthew Bourne’s only appearance in the U.S. this year is a must see in Beverly Hills

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Matthew Bourne’s Early Adventures through May 21, 2017 at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. (Photo Courtesy Wallis Annenberg Center)

Matthew Bourne, or SIR Matthew Bourne if you prefer to be fancy, is hot.  

I don’t mean that in the way that you’re thinking (although he is an attractive man, to be sure), but that he is probably the most popular choreographer working in the field of dance today   – and not just in his native England, either.  

For thirty years he has created some of the freshest, most energetic, and downright fun dance productions ever imagined, and in so doing he’s widened the accepted boundaries of the art form itself.  He’s done it by relying on a heavy dose of influence from the film and theater he grew up watching and yoking the imagery and narrative focus from those sources to the free-form sensibilities of dance, by fearlessly infusing his work with contemporary perspectives on sex and sexuality, and- perhaps most importantly- by not taking it all too seriously.

Throughout his career so far, both with his own dance companies (originally Adventures in Motion Pictures, now New Adventures) and through his work as a director/choreographer in theater, he has continued to deliver productions that are not only graceful and athletic but clever and amusing, as cheeky and charming as they are sublime.  

Now, as part of a thirtieth anniversary celebration of his company, three pieces from the beginning of Bourne’s career are gracing the stage at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, allowing Los Angeles audiences to see first-hand how his unique approach to the art of dance burst forth in his work from the very first.

Those who are already dance aficionados will need no persuading to jump at the chance to see this marvelous performance, but less well-versed audiences need not fear feeling beyond their depth; Bourne’s work is nothing if not eminently accessible, thanks to his theatricality and his use of popular music and culture to anchor his productions firmly in the familiar and the contemporary.  

Likewise, though all three of these “Early Adventures” are undeniably British in their sensibility, and joined by the common thread of nostalgia for a bygone era, the tropes and social observations with which they bubble are universally recognizable enough to ensure that nobody will feel left out.

First up is “Watch With Mother- Seen but not heard”, a fairly brief 1991 piece about children’s playtime.  Accompanied by the incongruously refined piano music of Bach, Fauré, and Australian composer Percy Grainger, a group of precocious English schoolchildren engage in the standard pastimes, games, and horseplay of a simpler time; they also engage in the kind of cliquish childhood cruelty that seems timeless- though of course, one never doubts that such well-bred youngsters will be civil to their peers in the end.  

Bourne revels in the humor of having adult dancers playing the children, which invites the obvious parallels between the immature behavior of both age brackets, and also invites the audience to recall the childish glee of being naughty (or at least not-so-nice) when noone is looking.  It’s an adorable piece which perfectly sets the mood for the rest of the show.

Next comes “Town and Country- Lie back and think of England”, also from 1991.  A longer segment, this one is a pastiche which explores stereotypes of English character and behavior- particularly among the so-called leisure class- through the romanticized filter of stage, film, and fiction.  

Set to the quintessentially British strains of such composers as Edward Elgar and Noël Coward, it leads us through a series of vignettes depicting English life, first in the sophisticated city and then in the pastoral countryside.  Fanciful and rife with sharp but good-natured satire, these are mostly funny and often hilarious exaggerations of the stiff-upper lip gentility that permeates popular notions of what it is to be British; nevertheless, amidst all the wry social commentary there is room for moments of unabashed sexuality (notably in a brilliantly staged bathing sequence) and unexpected sincerity (in a moving pas de deux between two male dancers).  A wholly satisfying piece that offers a perfect glimpse at Bourne’s blend of wicked wit and tasteful sentimentality, this is the must-see highlight of the evening.

The final section is “The Infernal Galop- A French dance with English subtitles”, dating back to 1989.  As can be inferred from the title, it’s a look at France through the lens of uptight English imagination, featuring all the usual clichés of French culture presented in as exaggerated and cartoonish a style as one could hope.  

An eclectic mix of French music, from Piaf to Offenbach, provides the accompaniment to a parade of hilarious cultural stereotypes; highlights include a dance of seduction set to the iconic tune “La Mer” (in which the sea itself lures a trio of striped-shirted sailors to their doom), a hilariously homoerotic apache dance between two men who meet at a public urinal, and a finale which incorporates the obligatory can-can- performed with a characteristically French attitude of disdain, of course.  

More saucy than shocking, this high-spirited parody provides a delicious and upbeat climax to a performance which, judging by the exuberant expressions of the dancers during the lengthy standing ovation they received at the end, is clearly as joyous an experience to perform as it is to watch.

“Matthew Bourne’s Early Adventures” is a superb introduction if you are new to the work of this groundbreaking (and much-beloved) artist, but it’s also a great way to fill in the blanks for fans who have been following him for years, but have never been able to see the early stuff that started it all.  

Whichever category you fall into, don’t miss your chance to catch these rarely-seen gems; it’s their only appearance in the U.S. this year, and it only runs through this weekend.  What are you waiting for?  Get those tickets now!

 

TICKET INFORMATION:
Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
Bram Goldsmith Theater
9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA, 90210

Matthew Bourne’s Early Adventures:
May 17 – 21, 2017
Performance Schedule: Wed – Fri at 8pm; Sat at 2pm & 8pm; Sun at 2pm

Single tickets: $39 – $99 (prices subject to change)
Online – TheWallis.org
By Phone – 310.746.4000
Box Office – Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts Ticket Service
9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA, 90210


 

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Online Culture

18-year-old Out YouTuber, TikTok creator & entertainer celebrates first year

“I told myself for a long time, I was like, ‘One day, if I have someone to come out with, then I will come out”

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Los Angeles Blade photo montage

LOS ANGELES –  JoJo Siwa marked her first year of being an Out member of the LGBTQ+ community this past weekend in a series of photos and posts on her Instagram reflecting on the personal milestone achieved.

“🏳️‍🌈In the last 365 days I’ve felt more love than ever. A year ago today I posted this picture and shared with the world that I was gay🌈 I get asked a lot “was coming out scary for you”… and the answer is yes of course, anything that’s different about you is scary, however… it’s what makes me… me. so I had no fear with sharing it with the world❤️ I also get asked a lot “your demographic is so young are you worried about telling kids your gay”…. Truthfully I feel like I was put on this earth to be a role model for kids, and letting all the kids of the world know that loving everyone for who they are no matter what is something that I will always believe in and always share❤️ please never forget that no matter who you are, what you look like, who you LOVE that you are absolutely perfect. thank you for showing me the most love throughout this year and throughout my entire life. I love you all❤️🙏🏼🏳️‍🌈” Siwa posted.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly she said that she was inspired to reveal the truth about her sexuality earlier this year after falling in love with girlfriend Kylie Prew.

“I knew since I was little that I was never straight, I knew that. But I also was never like, ‘Oh, I’m gay,'” said Siwa.

She added, “I told myself for a long time, I was like, ‘One day, if I have someone to come out with, then I will come out.”

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Celebrity News

Thierry Mugler, iconic gay French fashion designer, dies at 73

Often, Mugler’s embrace of gay iconography overshadowed his House of Mugler world-class designs

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Photo Credit: Official Facebook page of Manfred Thierry Mugler

VINCENNES, France – Thierry Mugler, the openly gay, French fashion icon who dressed celebrities from Lady Gaga to Beyoncé, died Sunday at his home in Vincennes, France, outside of Paris. He was 73. 

His death was announced on his Instagram. According to a press release, Mugler died of natural causes. 

“May his soul Rest In Peace,” the post read.

Mugler was a beloved figure in the LGBTQ community who fought extensively for queer rights. Throughout his career, which started in the 1970s, he showcased many trans models, like Connie Fleming, Teri Toye and Roberta Close. 

In one of his more iconic runways, legendary drag artist Lypsinka opened his 1992 show at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, wearing four looks while exuding the Mugler’s trademark high-camp. 

Often, Mugler’s embrace of gay iconography overshadowed his world-class designs. 

“The outwardness of designers embracing being gay wasn’t then a thing,” Paul Cavaco, the fashion director of Harper’s Bazaar during Mugler’s heyday, told the New York Times. “People knew but you didn’t really talk about it. It was considered not chic. And here he was sending drag queens like Lypsinka down the runway.”

Cavaco added that even at Harper’s Bazaar, one of the most adventurous American fashion magazines at the time, Mugler’s clothes were passed over.

Still, Mugler dressed some of the world’s top supermodels and most famous celebrities in his broad-shouldered and sharp-tailored designs during his career.

In George Michael’s 1992 “Too Funky” video, Linda Evangelista, one of the most accomplished and influential models of all time, donned a Mugler design, as many did in the video. He also created flamboyant and theatrical looks for musical stars like Diana Ross, David Bowie and George Michael.

Part of what set Mugler apart from other designers of his time was his unique view of what fashion should be. 

“I don’t believe in natural fashion,” he told the Times in 1994. “Let’s go for it! The corset. The push-up bra. Everything! If we do it, let’s do the whole number.”

The House of Mugler, his brand, described the famous designer as a “visionary whose imagination as a couturier, perfumer and image-maker empowered people around the world to be bolder and dream bigger everyday,” in a LinkedIn post

Though he retired from fashion in the early 2000s, Mugler has still left his mark on the current fashion landscape. Some of today’s biggest celebrities – including Katy Perry, Rihanna and Cardi B – have worn iconic Mugler garments. 

In 2009, Beyoncé wore a Harley-Davidson corset designed by Mugler for a George Michael video. Lady Gaga donned a famous suit-dress and hat from Mugler’s 1995 collection in her 2010 music video for “Telephone.”

Mugler even briefly resurfaced in 2019 to create Kim Kardashian West’s infamous “wet look” at the Met Gala. 

Heartfelt messages from celebrities that Mugler has worked with poured in on social media and beyond after the news of his death broke. 


On her website, Beyoncé wrote: “Rest In Peace, Thierry Mugler.”

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Music & Concerts

Janet Jackson doc premieres this weekend

Remembering 10 times iconic singer was there for LGBTQ community

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Janet Jackson’s two-part, four-hour documentary debuts this weekend. (File photo by Shilla Patel)

LOS ANGELES – Iconic singer Janet Jackson, a longtime LGBTQ ally, unveils her long-awaited documentary simply titled “Janet” on Friday, Jan. 28. It concludes the following night; each installment is two hours long. 

Jackson has said she spent five years compiling footage and creating the documentary, which airs at 8 p.m. both nights on A&E and Lifetime networks. It was produced by Jackson and her brother Randy Jackson and it’s timed to commemorate the 40th anniversary of her 1982 debut album. 

An extended trailer for the film reveals Jackson will talk candidly about her brother Michael and the 2004 Super Bowl incident, including the news that Justin Timberlake reached out and asked her to join him during his widely panned 2018 Super Bowl return performance. 

Prior to the pandemic, Jackson announced a new studio album and tour titled “Black Diamond,” but both were postponed due to COVID. No official word about the status of either, but speculation is rampant that she will finally release the new album once the documentary airs.

“Musically, what I’ve done, like doing ‘Rhythm Nation’ or doing ‘New Agenda’ or doing ‘Skin Game,’ creating those bodies of work with Jimmy and Terry, I feel like I’ve laid a certain foundation,” Jackson tells Allure magazine in a new cover story this month. “I would hope that I’d be able to continue if I choose to. You know what I mean? But only time will tell.”

As Jackson’s legion of queer fans awaits this weekend’s premiere, the Blade takes a look back at 10 times Janet was there for the LGBTQ community. 

1. “The Velvet Rope” project. In 1997, Jackson released her critically acclaimed sixth studio album “The Velvet Rope,” an introspective and deeply personal collection of songs that touched on her depression, but also tackled LGBTQ issues. On the track “Free Xone,” she spoke out forcefully against anti-LGBT bias. She also covered Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s the Night,” without changing the pronouns in the love song, prompting speculation about her sexual orientation. But it was her international No. 1 hit “Together Again” that continues to resonate with LGBTQ fans. An upbeat, joyful dance song, it was conceived as a tribute to Jackson’s friends who died of AIDS.

2. GLAAD award. In 2008, Ellen DeGeneres presented Jackson with the Vanguard Award at the 19th annual GLAAD Media Awards. GLAAD’s president said, “We are delighted to honor Janet Jackson at the 19th annual GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles as such a visible, welcoming and inclusive ally of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Ms. Jackson has a tremendous following inside the LGBT community and out, and having her stand with us against the defamation that LGBT people still face in our country is extremely significant.”

3. Ebony magazine interview about her sexuality. In 2001, Jackson gave an interview to Ebony magazine in which she was asked about her sexual orientation. “I don’t mind people thinking that I’m gay or calling me gay,” she said. “People are going to believe whatever they want. Yes, I hang out at gay clubs … I go where the music is good. I love people regardless of sexual preference, regardless of race. No, I am not bisexual. I have been linked with dancers in our group because we are so close. I grew up in a big family. I love being affectionate. I love intimacy and I am not afraid to show it.”

4. Video support for It Gets Better, Trevor Project. In 2010, Jackson recorded a video for the Trevor Project and later appeared on CNN’s “Larry King Live” to promote awareness of youth suicide. “If you’re LGBT you’re probably thinking you’re all alone, but you’re not,” she said in the video. “I can relate because I was one of those kids who internalized everything.”

5. “State of the World Tour.” Jackson’s LGBTQ support continued in 2017. Her tour’s opening sequence highlighted a range of problems facing the world, from famine and war to police brutality and included a call for justice and for LGBTQ rights.

6. “The Kids.” Jackson has always employed a diverse crew of professional dancers for her videos and tours. Some of her closest friends and collaborators over the years have been prominent out gay and lesbian choreographers, singers, dancers, makeup artists and designers. She lovingly refers to her backup dancers as “the Kids.”

7. NYC Pride performance. In 2004, Jackson performed for a packed audience at Pride Dance NYC at Pier 54.

8. “Will & Grace” cameo. In 2004, Jackson made a memorable cameo on “Will & Grace,” judging a dance-off between Jack and another dancer.

9. HRC, AIDS Project Los Angeles awards. In 2005, Jackson was honored by both the Human Rights Campaign and AIDS Project Los Angeles for her work raising money for AIDS charities.

10. Janet’s Blade interview. In 2006, Jackson granted an exclusive interview to the Washington Blade. It was one of the rare times she touched on the Super Bowl controversy and her brother Michael’s acquittal on child molestation charges, telling Blade Editor Kevin Naff, “I got all of that out of my system, that’s not what I’m feeling right now. I wrote about [those controversies] but I didn’t choose to put it out there on the album.” In the interview, Jackson also reiterated her support for marriage equality, said she’d never had a sexual relationship with a woman and revealed that she’d never met Madonna.

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