thrived as Studio A's own dance company -- Cumulus --is now
a shared venue for local choreographers known as DanceSpot
and William Brown formed Cumulus as an outgrowth of their
Los Feliz dance academy, Studio A Dance. By doing so, Curtis
and Brown supplied their students a venue in which to present
significant dance accomplishments.
But rather than stage typical
small-town recitals, the two studio owners took the idea one step further.
The goal was to give amateurs an experience of professional theater--an
attainable task due to the support
of faithful friends. Curtis spearheaded this feat by approaching dancers
he had met during his career. He asked if they would like to perform
on the same stage with his students. His idea was met with open arms,
and shortly thereafter, a Los Feliz community dance theater was born
known as Cumulus.
Pennies were gathered to buy stage lighting, set materials, and original
costumes. Soon, the Hillhurst Avenue weekday teaching space was transformed
into a weekend working theater. Wooden risers were built for audience
seating and a movable partition was erected as curtain.
Cumulus debuted in 1984 with
a tremendous response. In the initial presentation, the guest performers
included Lady Lizbeth Buckley (wife to Lord Buckley, the revered
comedian) who inspired audience
members with excerpts from her one woman show, and Christine Verse formally
of the Brussels Ballet Company dancing to the melodic voice of Edith
Piaf. Word of mouth caused Cumulus to extend a second and third weekend
performing to a packed house.
Since then, each spring over
the past fifteen years, Cumulus has hosted several dance companies and
new choreographers. Included in this acclaimed roster are Jamie Nichols'
Fast Feet, Ken Talley formally of Bella Lewitsky's Dance Company and
the Donlavy Dance Company. Even with these high-profile entertainers
on board, to this day the community-based venue highlights Studio A's
students as equal headliners.
The result? Brilliance.
During Cumulus' evolution,
innovative performances gracing the stage have included unconventional
musical theater pieces, poetry with dance, sign language with dance,
and other cutting-edge solo and ensemble work. In fact, the finale of
each show brings both the professionals and amateurs on stage dancing
together. Choreographed by artistic director Terrance Curtis this more-often-than-not
humorous dance number throws the receptive audience into stitches. This
past year Curtis choreographed a piece as a parody on runway fashion
shows entitled "Calvin."
Cumulus has had its share
of tearful moments as well. Because the dance community has
lost many talented artists to AIDS over the past decade, many
performers have paid tributes. One moving piece entitled "Gone
Too Soon," choreographed by a Studio A instructor
paid homage to a
dear friend and shining choreographer who staged many well
known shows during his sadly cut-short career.
director Terrance Curtis passed away in September '03, but
the tradition continues. In fact, Terrance's dancers immediately
gathered and presented a tribute concert for Terrance in 2004.
The process was documented by film maker Brian Stephens. This
film was presented at the Cumulus production in November 2005.
Bill Brown is now the creative director and looks
forward to directing the yearly event.
Another benefit of Cumulus
productions is what the company has brought to the community at large.
Dance is often an art form that many never see first hand. Thanks to
Cumulus, an eastside community has something to look forward to every
spring and summer (August workshops are also staged at Studio A Dance).
Additionally, Curtis and Brown
contribute theater space so performers can donate proceeds for various
causes. Recently, moneys have gone to organizations like Being Alive
and Pediatric AIDS Foundation. One other credit of Studio A Dance worthy
of mention is the volunteer work by owners Terrance Curtis and Bill
Brown. Throughout the
past, Brown has given his time offering on site movement classes to
various halfway houses. Curtis on the other hand has offered his studio
and teaching skill gratis to youngsters in need of a positive focus.
newscaster at Fox TV brought a group of East LA gang girls
to the studio to learn ballet. Mr. Curtis not only taught
them dance, but extended a philosophy of how this art form
can enrich their everyday lives. The emotional experience
witnessed by camera eventually became a thirty-minute special
televised on the network. On another occasion, Curtis taught
ballet and jazz to a group of gay and lesbian runaways who
were bussed to the studio from a Hollywood halfway.house.
untimely passing in 2003, Studio A presented Cumulus the following
spring with a final tribute honoring Terrance's life and his
choreography. This final exclamation point on Cumulus's 20-year
era led into Bill's idea of DanceSpot
opening up his theater to the next generation of choreographers