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Faces To Watch 2008

December 30, 2007|Lewis Segal

JACOB 'KUJO' LYONS

BREAK DANCER-CROSSOVER CHOREOGRAPHER WHO'S NOT SLOWING DOWN

The B-boy/break-dance scene is a world unto itself, and although Lyons has been a fixture in it for 15 years, the rest of us discovered him only recently, when he turned up as a stunt dancer for various local companies -- doing handstands on ice, for example, or fearsome gymnastic whirling balances that even L.A.'s hell-for-leather modernists don't attempt. But he didn't stop there: He slowed down complex steps for maximum control and even found a dimension of lyricism in them, and he premiered his inventive crossover choreography at some of the Southland's most prestigious showcase events.

At 31, he still dances brilliantly and heads his own company (Lux Aeterna), but he also helps create opportunities for others in such portmanteau events as "Breaking the Cypher," which he co-produced at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre in October. He's obviously poised for breakout success in 2008, and it's possible that commercial dance will gobble him up ASAP. But some of us are hoping that his street style and aptitude for contemporary dance theater will keep him grounded and intent on exploring realms of physical prowess that no one in any academy ever envisioned.

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NINA ANANIASHVILI

PRIMA BALLERINA-COMPANY LEADER

IS A GEORGIA PEACH

Lots of star ballerinas jete from one company and idiom to another, but Ananiashvili took the time to learn every kind of ballet that a Bolshoi luminary wouldn't ordinarily be expected to master: Bournonville, Balanchine, virtually the whole realm of classicism. Besides earning a reputation as preeminent stylist, she used her popularity to renew the credibility of her mother company at a low period in its history, dancing every first night in every ballet on a grueling American tour to reassure audiences and presenters that the Bolshoi still mattered, if only because she was at the top of the roster.

Now, at 43, she's preparing to tour as artistic director of the State Ballet of Georgia -- no, not Scarlett O'Hara's Georgia but the one from the former Soviet Union. Based in Tbilisi, where Ananiashvili was born, the company dates to 1852, and this will be only its second U.S. visit. At UCLA in February, Ananiashvili will dance "Giselle" and Balanchine's "Chaconne" at some performances. And if she's transferred her excellences to her new colleagues, expect to find deep dramatic insight, exciting technical exactitude and elegance galore.

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ARSEN SEROBIAN

BALLET DANCER-ONLINE MEDIA MOGUL WITH DREAMS OF TURNING WEBSITE INTO TV

Bolshoi-trained and a former dancer in the Moscow Ballet, Serobian still performs and teaches ballet in the L.A. area. But at 29, he dreams not about dancing but about turning his multifaceted website, dancechanneltv.com, into a full-fledged television entity, a network bringing every kind of dance programming into American homes. And with experience in online technology beginning in his early teens -- plus a business degree from Ohio's University of Akron -- he has all the skills he needs as well as boundless energy.

Check out his site and you'll find him in many roles: producer, director, business manager, cameraman, editor, subtitler. And one of his dancing partners says he's also good with a whip (onstage, of course). Television is where our culture markets itself, and getting dance there, front and center, is a key factor in audience development. Serobian wants dancers to have a say in how dance reaches mass audiences, so even though he hasn't yet raised the $20 million he will need to launch, he's living his dream, sleeping in his studio across from a giant green-screen and making that website a down payment on his life's work.

-- Lewis Segal

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