L.A. has in the past been called a “melting pot” — a merging of multiple cultures in one city that has both its pros and cons. One major advantage, however, is the ability for Angelenos to explore others' cultures, and not just the ones you would expect.
From enjoying the topsy-turvy universe of the circus to comparing the worlds of surfers and beatniks to those who so desperately want to be back in the 1920s, culture in L.A. goes far beyond the expected. Here are five ways to explore those cultures this week.
5. Step Right Up
Performing talent from all over the globe comes together for almost a full month of Cirque-a-Palooza, a circus extravaganza hosted and co-produced by Cirque du Soleil comic-act designer Stefan Haves. Standards have been raised since the phrase “Run away and join the circus” was coined; now genius is now required before you can step into the ring — and these guys are the Einsteins of circus performers. Come let out all your pent-up oohs and aahs for 24 days of magicians, clowns, pantomime, object manipulation, body manipulation — really, any kind of manipulation — and much, much more. The festival kicks off Friday and Saturday with “Tricked Out,” a modern magic show performed by Justin Willman, whose illusions have landed him gigs on the shows of Ellen DeGeneres and Jay Leno, as well as a performance for the president himself — in the White House. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; Fri.-Sat., July 19-20, 8 p.m.; festival runs through Sun., Aug. 11; $30 general admission for single event, festival passes $99, VIP festival passes $150. (626) 356-7529, pasadenaplayhouse.org/box-office/special-events/cirque-a-palooza. — Anya Cohen
4. Beatniks vs. Surfers
Comparisons between the L.A. and New York art worlds are persistent and perhaps inevitable. The idea for decades has been that back East, everyone wears black and paints in black because it's all very serious and European and because, you know, gravitas, while out here in L.A. it's all easy and breezy and full of light and riots of color, from tie-dyed jams to tropical flora. This is a seductive trope in part because it's kind of true — or at least it was. These days everyone is from everywhere and geography is no longer destiny, making this the perfect time to re-examine the issue at Kopeikin Gallery. Curators Amir H. Fallah (an L.A. artist) and Colette Robbins (a NYC artist) have picked their teams and will be making their respective cases. One of the most promising of this summer's big group shows, “Desaturated Rainbow” features six artists (including the curators) representing their coasts, with L.A.'s team bringing all the intense color they can find and NYC working those shades of gray like there's no tomorrow. Nevertheless, other factors such as generation, pluralistic personal and popular culture, and a shared taste for hyper-detail and post-punk surrealism intervene to broker an accord before things get out of hand. Kopeikin Gallery, 2766 S. La Cienega Blvd., Culver City; Sat., July 20, 6-8 p.m.; Tues.-Sat., 11 a.m.-5 p.m., through Sept. 7; free. (310) 559-0800, kopeikingallery.com. — Shana Nys Dambrot
3. All You Need Is (Jewish) Love
Tu B'Av, a lesser-known Jewish holiday that celebrates love, is just around the corner. Sometimes called the Jewish Valentine's Day, Tu B'Av encourages matchmaking, lowered inhibitions and a general receptivity to all things mating-related. To mark the occasion, the East Side Jews, a self-proclaimed “irreverent, upstart, nondenominational collective of Jews living in L.A.'s East Side,” and Jewlicious, a youth-oriented, grassroots organization, together with Wilshire Boulevard Temple, are throwing Love Fest, which promises to be a veritable saturnalia of sultry singles. Among the highlights? “Sheva-Minutes-in-Heaven,” a kissing booth-style activity, which provides a chance to embrace the impulses familiar to every red-blooded Hebrew (and, OK, goyim too). Adding to the fun: a grind-friendly dance floor, live matchmaking with comedians Morgan Murphy and Brett Gelman, a long-exposure photo booth, food trucks and a cash bar. Harvard Boulevard between Sixth Street and Wilshire, and in the parking lot at the corner of Sixth Street and Hobart Boulevard; Sat., July 20, 9 p.m.-1 a.m.; $20, $15 if you come with a single friend. (323) 663-2255, lovefest2013.eventbrite.com. — Anna Jones
2. Flaming Youth
Modern flappers and dapper daddies, this is your night. The Last Bookstore, which hosts weekly SpeakEasy! open-mic nights on Mondays, is kicking it up a notch tonight. Local theater company the Savage Players is using the bookstore's grandiose backdrop — soaring ceilings, marble pillars — to present its new production, The Old Hideout, featuring the jazzy vocal stylings of Julia Keefe and the titillating burlesque dance talents of Cecilia Fairchild. Prohibition-era cocktails will be flowing and prizes will be awarded for the best-looking themed attire. So rouge your knees, polish up your Oxfords and head out for a fun night on the town that's sure to be the bee's knees! The Last Bookstore, 453 S. Spring St., dwntwn.; Sun., July 21, 8-10 p.m.; $15; event is 21 and over. (310) 853-0712, speakeasy-juliakeefe.eventbrite.com. — Anna Jones
1. Finger-Twisting Good
One of L.A.'s most eagerly awaited summer treats is the iPalpiti Festival of International Laureates. IPalpiti means “heartbeat” in Italian, and these amazing, award-winning young soloists from around the world have been described as sharing one heart and soul. The “Musical Peace Corps,” as it's known, is not only an orchestra but a collection of virtuosi, all of whom get their chance to shine in a series of concerts around the city through July 27. One highlight is a solo recital by Romanian violin sensation Alexandru Tomescu, titled “Paganini: Devil or Angel?” Nicolo Paganini was not only the violin sensation of his day but also a revolutionary composer who gave the violin a whole new scope and substance. A technical genius and an incorrigible show-off, Paganini took violin technique into an unheard-of realm of wizardry, and his works are still among the most fiendishly difficult in the repertoire. Tomescu has made Paganini his passion, devoting himself for the last several years to “The Paganini Project,” in which he's performed all 24 of the composer's famed Caprices. At this week's concert, Tomescu will perform and discuss a selection of the Caprices, so get ready for fireworks. Leo Frankel Concert Hall, private home, Beverly Hills (address given with ticket purchase); Mon., July 22, 8 p.m.; $50. (310) 205-0511, ipalpiti.org. — Mary Beth Crain
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