Feeling stuck in a rut? Doing all the traditional things, but not exploring the outer edges of culture? Such routine-locked Angelenos will appreciate the niche opportunities in L.A. this week, featuring everything from a pirate ballet to a web series showcase. There's no time like the present to seize the weird and embrace a new niche.
5. Pirates on Pointe
If Captain Jack Sparrow added pointe shoes to his flamboyant garb, he'd fit right in with American Ballet Theatre's Le Corsaire. Filled with good pirates, evil pirates, avaricious slave traders, acquisitive pashas and beautiful slave girls in tutus and pointe shoes, this 19th-century, full-length ballet contains some of Marius Petipa's most gorgeous choreography. Rudolf Nureyev introduced himself (and Le Corsaire) to the West as the high-flying, bare-chested slave, partnering with Margo Fonteyn in a pas de deux now enshrined in the repertoire. But in its original form, the dance is a pas de trois between the beautiful Melora and the pirate Conrad, with the slave stepping in when Melora needs serious lifting. The change to a pas de deux, like the ballet's plot, does not withstand deep thinking. The company's more serious, thoughtful side was on view at Thursday's opening, which featured a mixed bill boasting George Balanchine's Apollo and Symphony in C, plus Chamber Symphony from ABT's resident choreographer Alexei Ratmansky. In contrast, Le Corsaire is best approached as a terpsichorean roller-coaster ride with dancers turned loose in a swashbuckling extravaganza. Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at the Music Center, 135 N. Grand Ave., dwntwn.; Thurs.-Sat., July 11-13, 7:30 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., July 13-14, 2 p.m.; $34-$125. (213) 972-7211, musiccenter.org. -- Ann Haskins
4. Ellison Gets Clipped
Many beloved writers from science fiction's golden age have moved on to that great time machine in the sky -- including Ray Bradbury last year and the brilliant Richard Matheson just last month -- but one of this city's most contrarian voices remains as feisty and unpredictable as ever. Of course, Harlan Ellison has always been far more than just a writer of speculative fiction. After escaping Cleveland in the mid-1950s, the prolific Angeleno penned stacks of television screenplays, crime fiction, fantasy, horror and distinctively barbed film criticism and culture-savaging essays. He also toiled as everything from a nitroglycerin truck driver in the Appalachians to a hired gun "for a wealthy neurotic." Whereas most science-fiction scribes are as terminally nerdy as their geeky fans, Ellison is an unabashed Casanova who once appeared on a (banned) episode of The Dating Game; marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Ala.; toured with The Rolling Stones before they were famous; and memorably faced down a thuggish lounge singer's bodyguards in Gay Talese's classic New Journalism piece, "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold." Ellison even went undercover and joined a Brooklyn gang, an experience that fueled his admittedly smutty and luridly pulpy juvenile-delinquent short-story collections Pulling a Train and Getting in the Wind, which have been newly edited by former Cramps drummer Miriam Linna and reissued on Norton Records' groovy spinoff imprint, Kicks Books. In typically provocative style, Ellison isn't just signing books this afternoon -- he's getting his locks shorn like Samson at a public "haircut party" at Sweeney Todd's Barber Shop before marching down the block for a reading at La Luz, where he'll be introduced by fellow wiseacre Patton Oswalt. Sweeney Todd's Barber Shop, 4639 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; and La Luz de Jesus, 4633 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; Sat., July 13, 2-5 p.m.; free. (323) 666-7667, laluzdejesus.com. -- Falling James
3. Four Surrealists of the Apocalypse
Robbie Conal is one of the great political illustrators of our time, an activist artist who has used his trademark portrait style and razor wit to expose the most egregious hypocrisies around. But first and foremost, he's an innovative and fearless painter, inspiring teacher and, increasingly, a curator with a smartly skewed perspective on L.A.'s visual landscape. Conal has put together Fever Dreams, a show of recent work by himself and three of his most surrealistic cohorts. It's the kind of show where "reality" is referred to in quotes, and much is made of how the cloud of smog and pop-culture flotsam that fills our lungs, eyes and minds has infected us all -- and now we're running a temperature. Starting with his own series of photo-based paintings inspired by the oil-slick panoramas of polluted sunset skies, Conal adds Mark Licari's erratic, expressive lines and cheeky, psychedelic take on beer bottles and bedsheets and other mundane features of our surroundings. Stas Orlovski creates drawn animations that blend elements of nature with memories of our haunted collective unconscious; and Amir H. Fallah's surrealistic compositions feature vibrating palettes and assemblies of figures, props and occasional texts that blow straight into the dreaming mind of the latter-day daytripper. Koplin Del Rio, 6031 Washington Blvd., Culver City; Sat., July 13, 5-7 p.m.; runs Tues.-Fri., 10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m., Sat., 11 a.m.- 5:30 p.m., through Aug. 24; free. (310) 836-9055, koplindelrio.com. -- Shana Nys Dambrot
2. YouTube, We Tube, We All Tube for Web Series
As a member of El Cid's in-house booking team, Michael McCarthy has scheduled every kind of live event, from punk band shows to the bar's long-running flamenco dinners. But it wasn't until McCarthy started booking a short-film showcase three years ago that he realized there was a huge demand for an offshoot screening series exclusively devoted to web-based videos. Held the third Wednesday of the month, Web Series Unplugged is now a gathering at which filmmakers, comedians and artists can stream new web videos in front of a captive audience, sans computer screens. "There's a disconnect built into this art form," McCarthy says, but Web Series Unplugged attempts to bridge that disconnect by inviting everyone to watch the Web together, with cocktails and Spanish tapas, no less. During the two-hour show, expect to watch videos ranging from conceptual sketch comedies to episodic dramas to animated shorts, all less than seven minutes long and with the filmmakers in attendance. El Cid, 4212 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake; Wed., July 17, 9 p.m.; $8. (323) 668-0318, elcidla.com. -- Jennifer Swann
1. Sex, Drugs and Pop Culture Riffs
Why do supervillains always have more interesting powers than superheroes? Why do serial killers have fan clubs? Do we need another hero? Do we need to find the way home? The wisdom of noted philosopher Tina Turner notwithstanding, cultural soothsayer Chuck Klosterman searches for answers to all that and more in his new book, I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling With Villains (Real and Imagined). It's his latest meditation on the role of the hero in modern popular culture -- and how he grew to appreciate anti-heroes as he evolved to appreciate the complicated nature of people who are slightly more multidimensional than comic book characters. "I am convinced we do not only love ourselves in others but hate ourselves in others, too," quoth German thinker G.C. Lichtenberg, and so it is for New York Times Magazine columnist and essayist Klosterman as he delves deep into heroic matters of ethics and empathy. Skylight Books, 1818 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz; Wed., July 17, 7:30 p.m.; free. (323) 660-1175, skylightbooks.com. -- David Cotner
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