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When word got out that a new location of the hipster haven Ace Hotel was opening in downtown Los Angeles, the excitement around town was palatable. When it was later announced that Benjamin Millepied’s West-Coast-based dance troupe LA Dance Project was going to take up residency in the hotel’s interior theater — they maintained the original United Artist’s Theater that was built on the property in 1927 — it seemed as though the stars were aligning for the fledgling company. This collaboration, kicking off with a performance on February 20th, marks a new level of permanency for the LA Dance Project, and catapults the contemporary company to the forefront of the Los Angeles’ arts scene.

Though they’ve been performing both at home and abroad since their 2012 debut at The Music Center’s Walt Disney Concert Hall, as many LA-based dance companies before them, there seemed to be a lack of certainty in whether it would stay in the City of Angels for the long run. By taking up residency at the Ace, LA Dance Project is now part of a huge renovation process taking place downtown, and a fast growing cultural scene that’s been attracting artists and patrons alike to the once cultural wasteland that was Los Angeles.

LA Dance Project dancer Morgan Lugo gives {DIYdancer} an inside scoop on how the company functions and their feelings towards their new home at the hotel.

Originally from North Carolina, Lugo says he was hand-picked by Millepied to join LA Dance Project two years ago. It was a huge leap of faith for the southerner turned New Yorker to move west, but Lugo confesses to “loving Los Angeles because it’s so much freer, less claustrophobic and not so set in its ways.”

“It’s like that old saying, ‘LA is where art is made, but New York is where it’s shown.’” Lugo adds, “I like being where the art is happening, and the vibrant art scene that’s starting up is making LA a place where more work is going to be shown.”

Lugo describes LA Dance Project as being less of a company and more of a collective.

“We all pitch in on the business side as well as the creative side. Because we’re just starting out, we’re sort of working off a newer model of dance company,” says Lugo. “We all have our voices heard, so what you see on stage is truly collaborative. We’re not just dancers who do the moves, we are asked for so much more, and that’s thrilling.”

The company is comprised of a tight-knit group of just eight dancers, including ballet master Charlie Hodges, and with the diversity of their previous performance venues – from the middle of the desert to Los Angeles’ bustling Union Station – Lugo says they don’t shy away from traditional performance spaces.

“It keeps it exciting, having to perform in a space so unconventional, but it can be a little stressful,” says Lugo. “It adds another layer of responsibility.”

The Ace offers an exciting opportunity for LA Dance Project to embrace the traditional feel of a true vaudeville theater, with a fresh downtown LA twist.

“We’re all so happy to have found a place that’s so beautiful, but also perfectly represents our own mission.  It’s about bringing dance back, the arts back, but also bringing it to a completely new audience.” Lugo divulges, “We want to use everything LA has to offer in the name of spreading art to more people.”

Ace’s renovation of the once dilapidated United Artist’s Building, perfectly echoes LA Dance Project’s desire to create something new, while harkening back to the rich artistic history lurking within the city.

Lugo also serves as the company photographer, taking photos in rehearsals and capturing the “inside perspective and day to day normalcy of what LA Dance Project does,” he says. He confesses that photography began as a creative outlet away from dance, but, upon taking Millepied’s 35mm on tour, he fell in love with capturing the behind-the-scenes moments for the company. It speaks again to the creative, collaborative nature of the company — everyone is making art in every media they can.

As for the program slated for the Ace Hotel, Lugo hints that there are new works which have the company “moving in ways we never thought possible,” along with some cutting edge technology, and moments that really “tap into the individuality of each dancer.”

The program includes U.S. premieres of Reflections, choreographed by Millepied with music by David Lang, and Murder Ballads, choreographed by Justin Peck with music by Bryce Dessner of The National. These two works will be paired with an exclusive sneak peek of a new piece by Hiroaki Umeda, in preparation for its upcoming premiere in Paris next month.

All in all, a show that any proud Angelino won’t want to miss.

For more details visit LADanceProject.com

Written by Heather Toner

Heather Toner

Heather danced with the Mandalone Company, Milwaukee Ballet, Ballet Austin and the California Contemporary Ballet before hanging up her pointe shoes to explore other ventures where eating was more encouraged and her hair need not be in a bun. She has an english degree from UCLA, and is the manager of social media and promotions for The Music Center; Los Angeles’ premier center for the performing arts. When not blogging, tweeting and instagramming about her passion for the arts, Heather enjoys making short films, all kinds of crafting and discovering new artists in the City of Angels.