With a desire to share the global reach and expansive impact of art, Dimitri Chamblas, California Institute of the Arts’ (CalArts) new dean of the Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance, is bringing his choreography from the traditional theater space to a more unconventional venue — Los Angeles streets.
“I like the venues which are specialized but, in a way for me, it doesn’t make sense for me in my first year to just go to theaters and museums,” Chamblas said. “It’s more about meeting people, the vibe of the city, the noise, the light and the humans.”
As a world-renowned performer, choreographer, multidisciplinary artist and curator, Chamblas is known for his ability to connect dance to the visual arts, filmmaking, new media and architecture as it expands beyond the four walls of a black box theater.
In order to fully immerse himself and his students into the city of Los Angeles, Chamblas plans to kick off his first Winter Dance Concert with a free, 12-minute, flash mob performance on the steps and sidewalk surrounding the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
“I wanted to take the city as it is, and respectively, going into it and proposing something and leaving,” Chamblas said of his upcoming performance. “It’s not something with a beginning and an end, it’s an unconventional format but I like that… it’s an experience you share with people and it’s totally unexpected.”
Called “HHUMAAN,” the performances, on Dec. 15 and Dec. 17, intend to show how movement can bring urban, public spaces to life with choreographed movements from 70 CalArts students.
“I really love this idea of giving the city this and I really like (that it’s) the big gift,” Chamblas said. “It’s a first try also… we go into the city, it’s the first presence and then it will open for the future in many different ways because I want the city to be a stage for dance.”
“HHUMAAN” also marks one of the first times Chamblas is incorporating his students into his overall artistic vision to immerse into the public sphere and into the lives of Angelenos.
A native of Paris, France, Chamblis was surprised by the lack of human presence on the streets of Los Angeles.
“For me, it’s super strange not to have the opportunity of sharing public space with people,” he said. “First I was super impressed by the architecture of the city and I was much more excited by creating a dance piece for the streets than for the theater.”
Chamblas began his choreography by bringing together all of the CalArts dance students in one space — a rarity for the school — as the students worked to develop human gestures that escalated into dance movements.
“It’s cool because not only is this a good opportunity, but it’s a really great time for everyone and all of the schools to be able to dance together,” said Kayla Aguila, a third-year dance student. “We rarely get to dance with the BFA 1s since we’re in a different year so this is a really great opportunity for everyone to mesh together and connect.”
Working together, the 70 students fed off each other’s energy as they created movements and pictures with their bodies.
“We had a structured improve, so (Chamblas) has a structure of formations of where to be and tasks to do, and then after that, it’s up to us to interpret it and make our own gestures and make contact with each other,” third-year dance student Im Vorapharuek said.
Both Aguila and Vorapharuek are looking forward to performing in a new environment that breaks the boundary between them as dancers and the audience as pedestrians.
“Being able to see or experience dance in a different space and not just in front — like in 360 degrees or outside of the theater — it gives you such a different perspective and appreciation for the choreography, the dance, everything behind it,” Aguila said.
Chamblas also appreciates how this performance format naturally presents his audience with the opportunity to view dance from different points of view, as they look at “HHUMAAN” from windows, cars and the street.
“The street is the street so people are free. They can just pass by, they can stop, they can take pictures, they can talk at the same time,” Chamblas said. “I like that because what I want to catch with that is the life of Los Angeles and also proposing the audience to have an opportunity to be together but in an unexpected way.”
Winter Dance Concert
This flash mob-style performance also marks the beginning of CalArts’ annual Winter Dance Concert at the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT) Dec. 15 and 16 and at the CalArts campus Dec. 7 and 8.
“This winter concert is going to start with my thing in the streets then it’s going to be at the REDCAT on stage, but the program is interesting because I had the global thinking of the program,” Chamblas said.
All four concert pieces, choreographed by Rauf “RubberLegz” Yasit and faculty Laurence Blake, Nina Flagg and Julie Bour, will weave together to form one comprehensive piece with a singular artistic direction.
“For me, a theater is one space, it’s not about the stage for the dancers or the seats for the audience. You can do something in the seats and have things happening inside,” Chamblas said. “It’s CalArts dance, it’s global.”
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