Dance, Environmentalisms and Mixed Media by Jesse Leaneagh

Nkechi and I went to Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s red, black & GREEN: a blues (rbGb) at the Walker last Saturday, and we both walked away pretty stunned. The piece opens with an interactive element where the audience walks onstage while the set is assembled and reassembled as the four performers mingle among the crowd. At one point, Joseph cut a watermelon and squeezed lemon juice on it, and we tried to get closer to smell it. Surprisingly, we were handed a slice and able to eat it while watching, taking our participation to an even more visceral place.


rbGb as a performance explores the challenges and victories of connecting urban America and multicultural America to the green movement, including “the challenge of living green where violent crime and poor education pose a more imminent danger than ecological crisis,” according to Joseph. You can hear more from the artist in the full interview I conducted.

The piece took us through the journey of Joseph’s national work with the LIFE is LIVING Festival: A Tribute to Green Living project. Drawing together several political issues at the nucleus of progressive culture– environmental justice, the lives and communities of under-resourced people and people of color (what Joseph calls “urban America” and “multicultural America”), Joseph is a natural genius at combining art, politics,  public space, and community into one performance.

The piece opened with the lament of a mother whose son was tragically gunned down by a stray bullet, which was an anecdote from on of the LIFE is LIVING experiences.  And for me, it was difficult not to connect this to the recent tragedy of Trayvon Martin in Florida. The 17-year-old, African-American youth was carrying only a bag of skittles he had just bought at the convenience store when he was inexplicably shot and killed by a neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman. If you are unare of this cuurent event, there is no rational explanation for why Martin was shot, and the neighborhood watch captain is not being prosecuted. There is currently a petition you can sign to pressure the Florida’s 18th District State’s attorney to investigate the murder and prosecute George Zimmerman.

I guess for me, rbGb reminded me of the potential for art to be connected to real life. The potential for art to be involved in discussions that led to actions that change peoples’ lives. We began out of our seats, on the set. Our position as passive audience members was challenged from the start. In that way, it was art that feeds back into life; it didn’t stay still and it asked me to think harder, make new connections, and question states of mind I had held previously.

You can catch rbGb next month in Chicago at the Museum of Contemporary Art: April 12-14.

by Jesse Leaneagh

ARENA Bikini Beach Baby Recap!

Well , we certainly had a fabulous time Saturday night at the Calhoun Beach Club. If you missed the 5th Annual Arena Bikini show on Saturday, you missed a great production! The Beach Baby!  themed swimwear show was awesome, and packed with well over 300 people! This year we really loved how each designer was given the same vintage theme with the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s as inspiration. It really helped in producing a cohesive show, even with the dancing. Mathew choreographed great dance segments that really highlighted many of the popular moves from those eras.

Our segment of six looks ran first, complete with three men’s and three women’s looks; the theme being vintage lingerie swimwear. We are still waiting for our photos in color, which we will upload to facebook. In the mean time, take a peek at a few b&w photos:

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I really wanted to show the different styles of that time but still mix in current trends. So we showed the white bridal one-piece as something a beach bride could wear today, and classic high waist that speaks of a past time, but I also still wanted to keep the ‘sexy’ aspect of lingerie with the garters and micro mini skirt!

Here is a video of the final walkthrough– would have been amazing if Corey had captured the begining since we were behind stage and did not get to see our models.

All of these styles and more will be available for purchase on our site in a few weeks, but until then feel free to contact Adrienne directly via email if you need one sooner:

{All photo and video credit goes to Corey Tenold Photography}

Spotlight: LA-based Choreographer & Dancer

We honestly can’t say that we’ve met too many people who have  danced for Rihanna, been in a Beyonce video or appeared on the hit television show Glee. But we do want to introduce you to a woman who has! Equally beautiful as she is talented, we have a spot light feature on LA based Choreographer and dancer: Shara Smallwood.
AS: Tell us about yourself….

SS: My name is Shara Smallwood… born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota and now calling Los Angeles my home away from home. I moved here to pursue a professional dance career in choreography, performance, and creative directing.  I have been dancing and entertaining every sense I could walk!

AS: Did you study dance?

SS: Yes. I have trained formally at the Summit Dance Shoppe of Plymouth Minnesota, Zenon Dance Company of Minneapolis, and the University of Minnesota collegiate dance program. Now, my training is professional dance companies such as Lula Washington Dance Theater, the Edge Performing Arts, and Debbie Reynolds.

AS: What do you do when you are not dancing?

SS: When I’m not performing or choreographing, I love to spend time with my family and friends. They keep me grounded. I also love to relax at the beach, take yoga regularly, travel, and hit the red box. I am known to be a movie hoarder.

AS: How do you know Adrienne?

SS: I met Adrienne in highschool!

AS: What are some of the things you are currently working on?

SS: I have currently just finished working on Glee, as a dancer as well as choreographing the “Just dance” Hip-Hop production in West Hollywood. I am currently working on choreographing the show “The Groove of James Brown,”a new dance project focusing on African American music. I have recently landed a spot at “In-Shape Personal Fitness”, a personal training facility, as a dance fitness trainer. Classes include hip-hop aerobics and salsa training.

AS: What keeps you motivated?

SS: I stay motivated by prayer, my family, and friends. And of course… from myself!

AS: Any wise words of wisdom for aspiring artists out there?

SS: To all of the inspiring artists out there– it sounds cliché, but do not give up on your goals and aspirations. Good things come to those who play hard, pray, and have the passion. Continue to keep yourself self-motivated while working on your craft, and never be afraid to work towards the life of your dreams.

If you are in LA or just want to check out Shara’s classes and updates, she’s on Facebook. She also has some incredible footage of past performances and current projects on her Vimeo.

Dancing for Joy!

Well it’s Monday again and we are excited because our week is getting off to a great start. ArielSimone has several amazing projects lined up– One of which is creating the costumes for an emerging artistic talent. Nkechi Deanna Njaka will be presenting new choreographic work in the 9×22 Dance Lab Evening this Wednesday, June 22.

Hold tight! We will have some photos of the costumes and dancers after the performance, but we just had to share the flyer with you because we are so pumped! We are excited for this new direction in design and the exposure to the dance and multidisciplinary arts communities.

Stay tuned- we can’t wait to share photos of the final product with you and hear what the choregorapher/dancers think!