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EVENTS & FESTIVALS

Strutting their stuff for a crowd that's in the know

January 24, 2008|Elina Shatkin

DANCING skews young, so it's fitting that at only 44 years old "Hairspray" director Adam Shankman will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at DMK's 9th Annual Carnival: Choreographer's Ball, a yearly blowout that amps up the already gilded monthly extravaganza.

Part nightclub, part talent show, Carnival features a who's who of local dancers grinding, pirouetting and popping-and-locking for an audience of their fellow dancers and the occasional dance-friendly celebrity.

"I love the atmosphere. It's like an old-fashioned burlesque party. The pressure isn't on, so people have been really free to express themselves," says dancer-turned-filmmaker Shankman. That doesn't mean the drive to impress is any less fierce. That's because Carnival is largely by dancers, for dancers.

"Everyone knows that when I get up at Carnival, it's going to be crazy," declares actor/dancer/comedian Robert James Hoffman III, costar of the upcoming dance movie "Step Up 2 the Streets." In past years his work has included such varied performances as a "Riverdance" parody and a street ballet version of "The Karate Kid" set to Peter Cetera's "Glory of Love." (In Hoffman's version, Mr. Miyagi walks off with the girl.)

At last year's gala, taking the stage as one of his alter egos, James Precious, he and fellow dancer Kato Bonner led "The Yes Dance," a raucous and raunchy parody of exaggeratedly effeminate male dancers. It met with wild enthusiasm. That only means that this year, Hoffman has to top himself.

Dancers spend weeks, months even, choreographing routines with elaborate dance moves, costume changes and lighting cues. "It's a chance for working choreographers to come together and showcase their work for the dance community," says Carey Ysais, Carnival founder.

It also serves as an unofficial casting call. "It's the only forum aside from dance classes where I can go and see who's new and great," Shankman says. It was at Carnival that the producers of "You Got Served" spotted Hoffman, landing him his first big-screen choreography credit.

"You want to come in and leave the biggest impact," Hoffman says. "You want to be the king of Carnival. And if you ask me, I've held that crown for a while."

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-- Elina.Shatkin@latimes.com

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DMK'S 9TH ANNUAL CARNIVAL: CHOREOGRAPHER'S BALL

WHERE: Key Club, 9039 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood

WHEN: 9 p.m. Wednesday

PRICE: $20 ($25 after 11 p.m.)

INFO: (310) 274-5800; www.dmkworld.com

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