REDCAT NOW Fest Brings Raw Beauty to Life


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By Melina Paris, Culture Reporter

Its gaining toward the end of summer which means it’s time for three weeks of the New Original Works Festival at the Roy and Edna Disney/Cal Arts Theater, or REDCAT. Count on seeing innovative multidisciplinary works at the NOW Fest which promote experimentation and discovery.

Art was in motion during the second week of the event, July 26 to 28. Three pieces all based in dance were widely different in approach. Each act paid homage to the individual body and its agency, as opposed to hegemonic representations of the body.

KyungHwa Lee’s Malleable Bodies: Flusser, Plasticity, and the Corset explored the body through forms and technology as different as idealized versions of the body throughout history. Lee used 3-D printing and virtual reality technology, juxtaposed with the human form. Lee’s work considers individual evolution, including themes of gender identity and embodiment through a context of technology.

Six dancers entered in a line, three of each sex dressed in nudes and connected only by their shadow forms and appearance. Classical string music turned somewhat foreboding. The dancer’s images reflected on a screen behind them. Their forms employed this space, intuitively expanding their presence through supple movement.

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Starting the second act, dancers donned illuminated forms. They appeared in silhouette as a tutu or even butterfly wings. They lit up their respective muscle groups of torso, chest, buttocks, hips, back and thighs and were as beautiful as chandeliers. The Roman statues, David and Venus de Milo appeared on screen in repetition. Different images took shape, icicles, circles and lines all in black and white like an x-ray. Technological sounds of machines, like MRI’s, were audible. This repeated as the dancers moved in concentric circles while on screen, a machine either constructed or deconstructed the buttocks and lower extremities of a female mannequin. It’s black and white footage harkened back to mid-century Twilight Zone. Soon, a parade of digital body forms pictured with pending musculature enhancements to replace their original body forms appeared on screen.

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The dancers returned with enhanced muscle groups, just as those visualized forms on their musculature, including ballooning breasts. There was but one dancer left with no enhancements. X-ray images appeared on screen depicting the David and Venus de Milo.

The lyrics to the once again, soothing music sang,

“I want to go somewhere with you, together.

Who are you? Where are you?”

Milka Djordjevich: CORPS

Choreographer, performer and teacher, Djordjevich, is based in Los Angeles. Her work questions preconceived notions of what dance should or should not be. In CORPS, the all-female dancers move as a unit with meditative power. Their dance begins in militaristic momentum. They wore a relaxed uniform of grey sweats, tee shirts and white socked feet. Opening in rhythmic strides back and forth across the stage, their movements soon expanded. Their hands came to shoulder then hip, the other hand to their buttocks or on those of the one next in line. One dancer trailed off then returned to the unit in formation, repeating motions, tossing in a subtle spin.

The CORPS captivated as rhythms and beats percussed them forward, escalating into jazz forms as the music built. Hands waved, shoulders swayed in pas de bourree’s and step ball change’s as two dancers broke off then returned again as one unit.

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Facing the audience, they extended jazz hands then rhythmically patted their abdomens. The music got funkier and dancers became more free, breaking off on their own. Dancers delineated a line between measured form and into wilder expressions: gyrating and flowing until they resumed again as a unit, holding onto each other and yielding downward. Forced by gravity, they arched back supported by their elbows, on the floor, their knees and eventually whole body swayed. Finally stretched out on the ground, they rolled onto their bellies, arms stretched outwards as they appeared to try to rise, struggling and collapsing again and again.

CORPS was perpetual kinesis rendered from collective feminine power.

 Sebastian Hernandez: Hypanthium

In the opening of Hypanthium, a voice says, “Welcome to the great game. How bad can it get?” The loaded question came alongside film footage of Hernandez, distraught, running in heels on an overpass in Downtown LA., accessorized with long white gloves and purple streamers cascading from their head. There was no telling where they ran to or why but the soundtrack coupled with machinery noises and racing cars told of turmoil.

Experimental in nature, Hypanthium’s movements struggle with notions of sisterhood, space, power and survival amidst memories of ancestral trauma. The piece, named for the part of a flower that holds the nectar, expresses continuous struggle between togetherness and separateness.

Hernandez, in red, Angel Acuna, in white and Autumn Randolph in black, dominated that struggle with sensuality and power. They joined tenderly and parted with strength, each state of being had the same intensity.

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The music frequently switched between serene and frenzied, a statement on the varied states of where we reside at any given time and of finding our center. Movements were raw and on que the bass thumped. The dancers either elevated in leaps or entwined together against all else, basked in form, symmetry and athleticism. In a vignette with wooden chairs capable of rocking forward or sideways through their symmetrical construction, the dancers convened, encircled in what could have been a Pow Wow. It had the appearance of an acknowledgement of the past.

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A voice speaking prose came through and the dancers wrapped themselves in streamers matching the color of their costumes, collapsing onto the floor. Using box tape, they wrapped their arms and legs. Sitting together and leaning on each other they helped one another cut and chew off their tape as the light dimmed, together.


Anguish & Obsession: An American Love Story


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In Anguish, the model is bound with her hands tied behind her back and blindfolded with police tape. Courtesy photo.

By Melina Paris Contributing Writer

Huss Hardan knew that not everyone was going to find Anguish & Obsession: An American Love Story palatable.huz01

In fact, he even warned potential spectators that the exhibit includes the kind of “mature” content that might make people with milder dispositions uncomfortable.

At the April First Thursday Artwalk in San Pedro, Hardan noticed that a few people walked a few feet into huZ galleries — where the exhibition is on display — then turned around and left. Hardan’s theory is that people with milder dispositions tend to be offended by the political statement and not offended by the nudity.

The images in Anguish & Obsession: An American Love Story express the abuse of power, fetishistic obsessions that some have with firearms, the disastrous consequences of such obsessions and the danger of militarized police.  Hardan believes that some people do not want to acknowledge that bad things happen to people, often because they are in a privileged position. He references a subset of people who tend to be white, wealthier and very isolated. He says they don’t want to know there is political and social strife going on that doesn’t affect them.

“People who actually bother to come to galleries want to see it,” Hardan said. “You always want a reaction but the reaction was, they did not consider the message, read the statement, or ask what it was about.”

The space inside of huZ galleries is open, clean, and black and white. The feel of the exhibit is minimalist, grasping and slightly sterile –that is, until you see the photos. The exhibit is organized as two halves: the left with digital black and white photographs and the right comprised of photographs taken with 15-year-old expired film.

Yellow police tape was woven through the exhibit and each print was displayed in steel frames and hung from silver chains.

He was surprised to get such a positive response, especially from the younger crowd. He expected the split between younger and older to be wider. Anguish and Obsession — An American Love Story is beautiful and disturbing, artistic and inspired, brave and playful, and dangerous and painful.

For the exhibit, Hardan created a hybrid style from Helmut Newton and “Weegee,” a 1930s and 40s photographer named Arthur Fellig. Much of Weegee’s work depicted realistic scenes of crime, injury and death. By tuning his radio to the police frequency, Weegee often arrived at a crime scene ahead of the police. This gave him the nickname after the Quija board, the popular fortune-telling game.

Helmut Newton, a widely imitated photographer, was known for his provocative, erotically charged black-and-white photos.

Hardan explained that initiating this hybrid created much more of a high contrast shot so it makes the photographs much more impactful. Subtlety wasn’t the idea here.

The titles of the photographs on the left side also served as thematic concepts: Photograph, Seduction, Obsession, Realization, Anguish andThe Slaughter of the Innocent.

The titles on the right side include: Prelude, The Innocent, the Frenzy, The End of Seduction, Repose and Regret, The Denial Within, Opening Pandora’s Box and The Slaughter of the Innocent.

The focal point of all of the prints is a model of African descent and a military-style automatic assault rifle. The result is an exhibit that intentionally, or not, delves into race, gender and gun politics.

In Seduction and Obsession, Hardan captures beautifully composed photos of the model draped with white linen in bed with a gun. The photos have a high-gloss magazine quality. In Seduction, the model looks quite pleased and in charge, even playful by facing away from the gun, almost as if she is teasing. In Obsession, she looks directly at the gun as one would towards a lover. She and the weapon are both under the sheets, closer.

The Realization and Anguish regret and pain are articulated. It doesn’t feel any more as if the composition is just about the model and the firearm. In Anguish, the model is bound with her hands tied behind her back and blindfolded with police tape. In the final photograph the model appears as if she were fatally shot, as she futilely clutches her stomach to keep from bleeding out.

The exhibit’s right side continues the narrative with the Prelude by starting at the beginning but as a negative photograph. The sheets are black instead of white, with silver edges, as is the gun.

From The Innocent to the End of Seduction, the imagery are slight variations of the exhibit’s left side before ending with a reflection of Slaughter of the Innocent as a negative photograph.

Hardan’s intention in the way he composed his photographs in the exhibit are readily apparent. His juxtaposition of these images are curious. Particularly in the print titled, Repose and Regret.

The artistry of the whole image with two ghost-like forms under the main photo grabs attention, more so than the visually intensified emotional consequences of the photos. It’s easy to become distracted with the beauty and execution of the photograph, instead of the emotional effects it portrays.

Hardan wanted the model for this exhibit to be a black woman. His model was incredible, he said because the photos were shot in the pitch black studio.  First the lights were on to get focus, then with all lights off he took the shot in the dark with a flash.

“It is amazing that her facial expressions are very natural,” Hardan said. “You need someone who is very strong willed for this and very comfortable with themselves. She is not a shy person. You need that to have a message.”

He also chose to have a black model because of the things that are happening to black people. “They are happening far more,” Hardan said. “Abused would be a word, when you just look at things like the incarceration rate, when the crime bills are written specifically to address minority crimes.”

This exhibit is about the obsession of whatever system takes advantage of you. Hardan cites the political system as an example, with incarcerated people losing the right to vote. He wrestled with the fact that a convict served their time, but still serves it — forever. With our incarceration rates, this removes a huge segment of the population. Prisons are for profit. So it’s a business. Then, convicts surely are taken out of the voting pool.

You also see abuse of power when the person seems to be a willing participant. But then, you can see where it turns, the person has been almost suckered in and is then abused. The dynamic changes, they become a victim and they lose their rights.

Hardan’s depictions provide the pieces of the puzzle that is our obsession and its potential effects on us.


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David Ivar’s Sweet Thursday: A sense of place through past and present


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By Melina Paris, Music Columnist

San Pedro artist David Ivar of the band, Herman Dune will soon release an indie-folk album called, Sweet Thursday, entirely recorded in two days here in town at Ivar’s Santa Cruz Studio.

This is all clear enough but may become puzzling as the multiple expressions of David Ivar are revealed.

David Ivar is a singer, performer and songwriter who has performed under the names Yaya, David Ivar, and Black Yaya. He has been recording since 1999, releasing records and touring the world.

David Ivar is also a visual artist of ink, watercolors, oil, pencils, collage and sculpture. He has shown his work around the world since 2006.

Sweet Thursday’s title comes from the third volume of the Cannery Rowtrilogy by John Steinbeck. Its nine tracks are set for a May 17 release.

Random Lengths News spoke to Ivar about his new record, his affinity for San Pedro and The Grapes of Wrath author.

“Steinbeck is important to me, and even more so since I moved to San Pedro,” Ivar said. “Grapes of Wrath was a shock to me, not only for the sheer beauty of the writing, the fabulous descriptions of California, and the mix of sweet eroticism and spirituality, but also because the characters of Sweet Thursday are full of human emotion, and none of them is greed.”

Ivar continued on about Steinbeck and California:

“People of the hills above Cannery Row don’t care about careers, money, having more things than their neighbors, but want to drink wine, watch the sun rise and make love.

“Living in big cities like Paris and Los Angeles, where life is centered around gathering enough dough to survive, can really make you forget the real joys of existence, and Sweet Thursday is one of these books that are here to remind you what they are (including reading Steinbeck).”

“The similarities with the harbor neighborhood of San Pedro where I live and the Monterey of Cannery Row, as in Steinbeck’s books, because now it is more of a farce really. It really struck me, and I took it as a sign that I had found a home…”

Born and raised in Paris, France, to a Swedish mother and Moroccan father, Ivar came to San Pedro in 2015. To his pleasant surprise he discovered a link to the union. Ivar’s grandfather, from a village in Northern Sweden, was the union representative of the International Steelworkers Union. Ivar was reminded of his grandfather when he learned about Joe Hill (1879 – 1915), the martyred Swedish-American labor activist and songwriter, who joined the Industrial Workers of the World in 1910 and served for several years as the secretary for the San Pedro local. Hill wrote the iconic songs, The Preacher and the Slave and Casey Jones — A Union Scab.”

“When I moved here, literally four blocks from my house is a plaque to Joe Hill,” Ivar said. “My friends who are political got so excited when they saw the plaque. So I started reading about him… I started reading his lyrics and singing his songs. I found, especially when you move to a new town and when you have something that feels familiar, close to your heart, that it’s nice.”

Ivar shot all nine of his videos for Sweet Thursday in San Pedro. Its sound blends folk and alt rock and even a little bit of soul. This French man has created a very American sound on Sweet Thursday. The album is written by Ivar who plays guitar and sings, while Kyle McNeill plays bass and harmonizes and Lewis Pullman plays drums.

Ivar lavishes high praise on his bandmates for the groove they set.

“Nowadays, a lot of people use machines (for) the beat.” Ivar said. “When you don’t do that and you record everything together, it’s really nice to have a good groove coming from the rhythm section. The drummer and the bassist grew up together. They really have something.”

The first track, Oh Sweet Thursday, blends folk by way of vocals and funk, through guitar stylings neatly packaged in a lighthearted rhythm-driven number.

Several of Sweet Thursday’s songs reference local haunts as well as some just across the Vincent Thomas Bridge, which is also the title of their song, Vincent Thomas Blues. It opens with a fast rhythm-and-blues riff that leads into a blues refrain.

Well, I never had a pistol, I never had a knife but I’ve got a killer woman and I trust her with my life.

Love Cat Blues is reminiscent of Johnny Cash, a country ballad with a waltz tempo. It includes only Ivar on guitar with McNeill on upright bass and singing backup.

The album was mostly recorded in single takes. Ivar said he loves recording this way.

“You don’t have anything to do after you’ve recorded,” he said. “When you spend time in a studio, adding arrangements and stuff, you work so much after recording the song, per se, that you can’t even hear the song. When you work too much on the song it’s hard to even listen to it anymore.”

Ivar will release one Sweet Thursday video each Thursday starting April 12.  Every song will debut on a different blog or website, which will have it exclusively for one week. One of the blogs called Folk Radio is out of the United Kingdom. Another one called Psychedelic Baby is by a blogger from Slovenia who writes about the Beat generation. Locally, Evelyn McDonnell will premiere a video on her blog, Populism, April 19.

On April 12, Ivar will begin taking orders for the album, offering vinyl, cassettes and digital downloads. A card with a pin will come with the download and include album information, such as the credits and feature artwork by Ivar.

“These days when someone buys or listens to an album on the computer, they have nothing to hold on to [or] just to flip over and look at,” Ivar said. “For people who know they are not going to listen to a physical album, and that’s most people, this will come with a pin that I designed. It’s cool to have something even though most people tell me there is no need for it.”

Ivar noted the vinyl will be very well made and crafted in Nashville, where he said they still make good sound for records. Ivar designed everything and took great care with details. The record will be made at United Records Pressing, which Ivar said has the most luxurious options because there is still a market in Nashville for reissues of country music or where people are collectors.

“If someone makes the effort, when everything is for free, to actually buy something because they care about it, I as an artist should care at least as much and make something out of it,” Ivar said.

Ivar also created a fanzine he wrote and illustrated. It’s something he does with all of his albums but this one is much bigger, at 48 pages. He will also sell his original illustrations, art and watercolors for the album. But the most coveted items will be three oil paintings in which Ivar is dressed as he is on the album.

Everything will be available for pre-sale through his website, April 12 to May 17, after which only the album will be available.

And about those various names? Ivar came up with the name Herman Dune at age 12, when he read Frank Herbert’s famous science fiction book, Dune. Most people think it’s his name but his name, Ivar, is Swedish and actually pronounced, ‘E-var.’

Yaya came a little bit later. He used to host an open mic, folk music night in Paris and every night played records afterward. He would always open with the Lee Dorsey song, Yaya. So, people started calling him Yaya.

With Black Yaya, Ivar changed the name on one record, wanting to break the continuity of Herman Dune.

“It’s funny because that is the record with the most listens on Spotify,” Ivar said. “It’s just something that I did on the side. I don’t know what it is but maybe it’s part of the creativity and persona that I do the different names.”

To hear David’s music and see his artwork, visit:

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The Egyptian Lover is Loved Around the World


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By Melina Paris, Music Columnist

From Europe, East Asia and back through the United States, Greg Broussard, aka the Egyptian Lover, has been on tour since 2018 began. He is bringing the West Coast electro sound of the 1980s to the world. And he’s still rolling.

On his brief return to the states and just ahead of Long Beach’s 13th annual Freestyle Festival in May, the turntable master spoke to Random Lengths News about the emergence of the early ‘80s local hip-hop scene and the upcoming festival.

Broussard got his start after he was promoted to main disc jockey with Uncle Jams Army, the Los Angeles based  hip hop crew. Their singles What’s Your Sign, Dial-a-Freak, and Yes, Yes, Yes influenced electro, old school hip hop, and early West Coast hip-hop.

Uncle Jams Army partied locally at The Penthouse in L.A. and The Playpen in Carson, which is no longer open, Alpine Village, Veteran’s Auditorium in Culver City and hotel parties at The Holiday Inn in downtown Long Beach, to Pomona Fairgrounds. Students even got up close and personal with the group at many high school parties.

As the ‘80s began, their popularity progressed so fast that a bigger venue was needed to house their parties. Alpine Village became the site of the groups Breakout Dances, which  garnered attendance that got them dubbed the Number One Dance Promoters in Los Angeles. By 1983 the group expanded its roster recruiting underground DJs and MC’s who were creating a cult following. The most well known was the Egyptian Lover.

Uncle Jams Army played in such iconic halls as the Bonaventure Hotel, the Biltmore Hotel, and the Los Angeles Convention Center. Ultimately they performed at the Los Angeles Sports Arena in front of 10,000 people.

Hip-hop being fairly new, Uncle Jams Army was the first on the West Coast to play fresh singles by Run DMC and Houdini before anyone knew who they were.

At that time, rap was pretty new to everyone, Broussard said. “Everyone wanted to hear that music loud and the only way to hear it loud was to go to parties.”

And Southern California fans liked the parties. Still do.

There is a lineup of nearly 20 bands at the Freestyle Fest, but Broussard has only performed with the West Coast groups flavored with hip-hop and rhythm-and-blues. One of those outfits is Freestyle Evolution (formerly Freestyle), of Don’t Stop the Rock fame. They were the first ones to use the term “freestyle.”

Broussard is used to performing for a couple hours at a time. He performed for at least that long this past December at Jim Callon’s JDC Records in San Pedro, and his groove-inducing style of electro funk kept a full house of fans, notably including millennials, dancing to his beats.

Though Broussard’s set at Freestyle will be shorter, he is aiming to bring his best. So what can one expect from the Egyptian Lover’s performance?

“I am going to rock the house and kill the show,” said Broussard. “When I bring my 808 live, it’s going to leave a memory for everyone at that show.”

That 808 is his Roland 808 drum machine from the ‘80s which he still uses for his music.

“When you hear this analog drum machine through the speakers, live, it’s like nothing else you’ve ever heard in your life,” Broussard said proudly.

Broussard returns to JDC Records in August to celebrate the release of his new record, 1985. His album, 1984 is out now. He calls it 1984 because he recorded it the same way he recorded his first album in 84, in the same studio and on the same equipment.

1985 comes with a few old school surprises, featuring songs with two more artists who enjoy fame around the world,  including Newcleus, who produced Jam On Revenge (The Wikki Wiki Song) and Juan Atkins, who started the group Cybotron.

The last leg of Broussard’s international tour included stops in Munich and London. He noted that European fans really do their homework on the artists they pay to see.

“The fans in Europe really love the music,” he said. “It’s all new to them, even though it’s from the ‘80s. The kids hear the drum machine for the first time and they lose their minds. They will do more research on the artist, find out how many records he has, what studios they recorded in and they know the words to the songs.”

While this will be the first Freestyle Fest for Broussard, he stays in demand, touring every month except December. He has a performance in South Korea on March 22,  followed by a couple dates in Johannesburg, South Africa before his return to Long Beach for the Freestyle Festival.