IF you happen to be at the Getty Center this Sunday, don't be surprised if you come face to face with a playful dragon or gryphon (a mythical creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle) guided by riders walking on stilts. As it turns out, the evocative life-size articulated puppets, known as the Dragon Knights, are among the many animal-related performers who will be populating the Getty's pre-summer Family Festival.
Family festivals are nothing new for the Getty -- in March, its festival celebrated the arts and cultures of the ancient Mediterranean -- but this time around the quarterly event brings to life not just one but two family-friendly exhibitions: "Oudry's Painted Menagerie," which focuses on the exotic animal portraits of French artist Jean-Baptiste Oudry, and "Medieval Beasts," which looks at real and imagined animals as depicted in Middle Ages manuscripts.
In addition to wandering beasties, the festival also features a Japanese lion dance known as \o7shishimai\f7, Native American tales inspired by Aesop's fables and Oudry's paintings and told by Navajo author Geri Keams, and animal dances set to African rhythms by Leon Mobley & Da Lion.
"There are so many ways that stories about animals are told, not just throughout history but around the world," says Laurel Kishi, the Getty's performing arts manager. "And Los Angeles being a very diverse and multicultural city, we thought it would be fantastic to look at the array of how animals are portrayed or performed in various traditions."
According to Kishi, many performers spent time in the exhibitions searching for inspiration, so don't be surprised when the two-person theatrical act Animal Logic hits the stage with a story based on Oudry's portrait of Clara the Indian rhinoceros.
"Images from the exhibition will be referenced in many of the performances and workshops, so we are definitely encouraging visitors, particularly children, to see the original works," Kishi adds. "Find the animal will definitely be a theme of the festival."
And in Cerritos ...
African storytelling, taiko drumming, classical music and all manner of dancing are among the offerings Sunday at the Family Arts Festival at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.
The participatory-minded festival also includes a musical zoo where kids can familiarize themselves with instruments, as well as face painting, arts and crafts, puppetry, balloons and more. Dancing will abound, with performers displaying styles including country and western, flamenco, Eastern European and Polynesian. In all, more than 40 performers are scheduled, on five stages.
* Getty Center Family Festival, 1200 Getty Center Drive, L.A. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Free (parking, $8). Info: (310) 440-7300; www.getty.edu.
* Friends of Art Education's Family Arts Festival, Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, 12700 Center Court Drive, Cerritos. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Free. (562) 467-8844.