Cumulus - Studio A's 20-year Dance Company (1984-2004)

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What thrived as Studio A's own dance company -- Cumulus --is now a shared venue for local choreographers known as DanceSpot

Terrance Curtis 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.

Sadly, artistic 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.

Christina Gonzales, 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.

Following Terrance's 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 !

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