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Art Spectacle Jolts Travelers at LAX With Breakdance, Bird Projections

The music-dance work "Everywhere Nowhere at LAX" is part of the first public art exhibition at the airport.
Christopher Wyrick

A ubiquitous sleek black stretch limo pulls up at LAX beside Terminal I and there is a pause before anyone exits. Suddenly a chain of people who appear wholly disconnected -- a businessman, a belly dancer, a street kid with torn seams -- file out and begin to move in sequence as they subvert the commuters’ robotic march toward the aptly named terminal. They are now pulsing and dancing with an African/Caribbean/Indian/Brooklyn(?) hybrid motion to the techno thump of a tabla-driven sound. The rollerboarding crowds around them slow their pace and began to perk up in anticipation for who knows what comes next.

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Dancer and choreographer Sarah Elgart and composer Yuval Ron and a team of amazing artists and technicians created this site specific performance spectacle titled Everywhere Nowhere at LAX -- which took place Saturday, Sept. 28, at 7:30 pm and repeats today, Sunday, Sept. 29th, at 7:30 pm -- as part of the first public art festival at the airport, Influx: Art at LAX, which includes an exhibit of sculptures, murals, videos and other artworks throughout the airport.

Elgart and Ron worked with director Kevin Kerslake, artist Stephen Glassman and costume designer Swinda Reichelt to produce this wonderful anomaly. On Saturday, a small crew of dancers performed a series of short compositions amid shrouded olive trees and screens with projections of birds in flight. In one piece, the street-tough kid rides a child’s tricycle out in the atrium between terminals to the hypnotic slowed churning sound of a helicopter blade. He breakdances with the small vehicle as a hawk beats its wings in slow motion in a large projection over his head, transporting the audience in time and place from the mundane common space of the airport atrium.

Elgart said that the performance was commissioned jointly by Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) and the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs following a similar performance that she executed previously at the Van Nuys Flyway Bus Terminal. She spoke with The Hollywood Reporter following the performance on Saturday night. 

“I’m really happy to create art that a passerby can encounter. If you go into a theater you usually know what you are going to see. You have expectations and you expect it to deliver based on what you’ve heard or based on the ticket price. But here, some people come expecting something because they were invited and have preconceived notions, but so many other people are just passing by. We had audience members up there,” she said, pointing up to one of the jetways between terminals, “who were working and who were seeing this beautiful girl lift thirty feet in the air and saying ‘Thank you, God!’ You know? So to be able to engage a mostly unsuspecting audience who are in this very difficult, caustic space with some beauty is a great pleasure.”

Elgart and Glassman have been working together on public art projects and site-specific installations for nearly ten years. Los Angeles World Airports has been able to greatly expand its art program due to the Public Percent for Art Program, a law passed by the city of Los Angeles in 1989 that directs one percent of capital improvements toward public art. According to LAWA art manager Sarah Cifarelli: “The LAWA Art Program provides diverse and memorable art experiences for passengers, visitors, and locals at our airports. For artists, the airports can serve as cultural laboratories in which to create distinctive and engaging art encounters. For viewers, the Art Program provides access to an array of contemporary artworks that reflect and celebrate the region’s creative caliber, while enriching and humanizing the overall travel experience for millions every year.”

Both performances are free and open to the public, and take place in the outdoor courtyard located on the Arrivals level in between Terminals 1 and 2 at LAX.

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An artwork and tour of Influx: Art at LAX takes place Sunday from 5 pm to 7 pm, prior to the performance of Everywhere Nowhere. Influx features 11 original, site-specific art installations located throughout LAX and includes the work of 45 Los Angeles-based artists. On view through the end of 2013, Influx is a virtual survey of Los Angeles’s diverse art practices, also mixed-media works and ink drawings.

Maps of Influx will be available at the Art Walk Welcome Table at the Terminal 1 Arrivals level. As they explore the Influx installations, visitors can call in using their cell phones and listen to prerecorded audio interviews with the artists. The Influx Art Walk map is also available for download.

Convenient parking is available across from the performance in P-1 and P-2A; parking rates apply. Once you park in the garage, take elevators to the ground floor and cross the roadway to the performance area. For more information, send an email to art@lawa.org.

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