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5 Dance Shows to See in L.A. This Week: A Street Dance Troupe Turns 20

Culture Shock L.A.
Culture Shock L.A.
Photo by Ja Tecson

This week's dance shows include the last chance to see a new Romeo and Juliet, the first chance to see a Bessie-award winner and street dance in concert.

5. Sharpening the edge

The challenge of being cutting-edge is keeping that edge honed. Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, urban dance collective Culture Shock L.A. has maintained its edge, continuing its dual mission of bringing urban dance from the street to the stage and giving back to its community. This concert offers a rainbow of hip-hop dance styles, with Culture Shock L.A.'s dancers joined by guest troupes including the Kinjaz, Mischief Makers, the Company and Versa-Style Dance Company, plus guest appearances by members of Poreotics (America's Best Dance Crew season-five winners), Kaba Modern, Quest Crew and Mos Wanted Crew.

The anniversary celebration continues Sunday with what promises to be an equally lively open competition of 2v2 All-Styles and 2v2 Breakin' Battles. From its California base, Culture Shock now has eight troupes based in cities throughout the United States and Canada, offering a rich mix of performance, community events and well-regarded educational programs targeting schools in underserved communities. With b-boys and b-girls showcased on TV competitions such as America's Best Dance Crew and holding their own with more traditional dance styles on So You Think You Can Dance, it's clear that, although the war for respect isn't over in the professional dance realm, street dance sure knows how to battle. Concert at Long Beach Terrace Theatre, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach; Sat., July 12, 7 p.m.; $26. Battles at Wilson Park, 2200 Crenshaw Blvd., Torrance; Sun., July 13, 1 p.m.; free to watch, $5 to compete. (310) 918-7193, www.cultureshockla.org.

4. A soccer game where Brazil wins

Come for the samba, stay for the soccer at this pre-show to the 7:30 p.m. soccer game between L.A. Galaxy and Real Salt Lake. Brazil may still be licking its wounds over the loss to Germany, but this time Brazil wins. It’s Brazilian Heritage Night, celebrating the country hosting the FIFA World Cup. Batala Los Angeles, Samba Da Mudança Samba School, L.A. Samba Kids and Sambarinas will strut their stuff and Mestre Roque’s BodySport Capoeira will offer that acrobatic martial-arts dance. At StubHub Center, 18400 Avalon Blvd., Carson; Sat., July 12, 4:30 p.m., $40-$65, 818-566-1111, www.home?depotcenter.com.

National Ballet of Canada's Romeo and Juliet
National Ballet of Canada's Romeo and Juliet
Photo by Bruce Zinger

3. Canadians with swords

Star-crossed lovers, two heavily armed families vying for political dominance — long before Game of Thrones, Shakespeare branded the enduring appeal of these elements with Romeo and Juliet. However luscious its language, it's the play's physicality that lends itself to dance: the lovers' passionate meetings, the deadly sword fights erupting between the families' armies, the doomed timing of the sleeping potion. Those physical possibilities and the timeless appeal of the love story have enticed choreographers to put their own stamp on the tragedy ever since Sergei Prokofiev composed the score in the 1930s.

The latest to take on Prokofiev and Shakespeare is Alexei Ratmansky, the former Bolshoi Ballet director and one of the most important classical ballet choreographers working today. Now choreographer in residence at American Ballet Theatre, Ratmansky continues to work with other major international companies, including the National Ballet of Canada, which commissioned a new Romeo and Juliet in 2011. Southern California gets its first look at it this week when the company arrives for five performances. Unlike choreographers such as Angelin Preljocaj, who set the lovers in a militaristic, Blade Runner-esque future, or Mark Morris, who inserted a happy ending, Ratmansky's is steeped in the traditions of classical ballet yet tweaked to bring more individuality to Verona's populace. He also has Juliet awaken just after Romeo has taken the poison but while he still has a few moments to live — just enough time for one last pas de deux at the Music Center, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave., dwntwn.; Thru Sat., July 12, 7:30 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., July 12-13, 2 p.m.; $34-$125. www.musiccenter.org.

2. Do you wanna dance?

Whether your passion is the joyous gyrations of Bollywood dance or the smooth moves of the Lindy hop and swing dance, two summer programs offer free lessons that prove dance isn’t just for the professionals. This week’s installment of Dance Downtown may not generate any Bollywood stars, but should be fun to participate in this fusion of classical dance from India and movie musicals.

Over in the Cahuenga Pass, the Pasadena Ballroom Dance Association teaches the Lindy Hop and basic swing dance in this week’s edition of JAM Sessions at the Ford. Since one is Friday and the other Monday, it is possible to do both. Bollywood and Lindy Hop, now that’s got some possibilities, but an unlikely combo for Dancing With the Stars. Bollywood dance at Dance Downtown, Music Center Plaza, 135 Grand Ave., dwntwn.; Fri., July 11, 6:30 p.m., free. 213-972-7499, www.musiccenter.org. Lindy Hop and Swing at John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. E., Hlywd.; Mon., July 14, 7 p.m., free with reservation. 323-461-3673, www.fordamphitheatre.org.

Okwui Okpokwasili in Bronx Gothic
Okwui Okpokwasili in Bronx Gothic
Photo by Ian Douglas

1. She shimmies and she speaks 

Okwui Okpokwasili has a long list of theater and dance credits in New York City, including Hippolyta in Julie Taymore's Midsummer Night's Dream. Showbox LA built its rep supporting and presenting experimental performers, mostly local, but also imports. For the launch of its 2014-2015 season, Showbox LA presents the west coast premiere of Okpokwasili’s solo show Bronx Gothic, directed by Peter Born, and written by Okpokwasili. In the extended opening moments, Okpokwasili shimmers and shimmies with her back to the audience, then goes on to combine dance, spoken word and performance to recount two girls on the edge of adolescence exchanging graphic notes about sex. This is Okpokwasili and Born’s second collaboration; their first, Pent-Up: A Revenge Dance, garnered a 2010 New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” award. Not a bad calling card for this show at the Highland Park Ebell Club, 131 S. Ave. 57, Highland Park; July 17-19, 8:30 p.m., $20. 323-478-9562, www.showboxla.org.


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