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Bright lights, big talent: inside the magic of the Choreographer's Carnival.

After nine years on the Los Angeles scene, The Carnival Choreographer's Ball has become a vital institution in the commercial dance community. On the last Wednesday of every month, agents, choreographers, and dancers descend on the Sunset Strip's Key Club for a high-energy dance showcase. According to director Carey Ysais, Carnival packs the venue to capacity with crowds of 900-plus. No small feat, especially in its home base of Hollywood--where club nights come and go faster than you can say "short attention span."

So what's the secret to Carnival's lasting appeal? Perhaps L.A.-based choreographer Jayson Wright describes it best: "Carnival is our way of staying in touch with who's doing what. It's like Christmas once a month for choreographers." Indeed, Carnival seems to be the gift that keeps on giving. Ysais estimates that 30 percent of participating dancers get bookings as a result, while many choreographers have landed pivotal jobs. Star choreographer Brian Friedman has said Carnival helped him get noticed, while Robert James Hoffman believes he wouldn't have landed plum roles in You Got Served and Step Up 2 the Streets without Carnival.

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The seeds for Carnival were planted in 1999, when Ysais was working as a club promoter in L.A. He and friend Kimo Keoke sought to create an event similar to the "Move to Groove" choreography showcase, which had been a popular staple at Prince's Glam Slam club in the early '90s. "We believed dancers needed a new venue like the 'Move to Groove Ball' to present their work," says Keoke, now Carnival's artistic director. "Carnival gives all of the choreographers free license to do what they want, so it has become edgy and crazy and provocative. That formula is what has made it such a success over the years."

The works shown at Carnival are known for pushing the envelope. From modern to krumping to aerial arts, no dance genre is off-limits. To be chosen for Carnival, choreographers must submit their work for review, although established elite are given a free pass. ("People like Marty Kudelka or Eddie Garcia obviously don't have to audition," says Ysais.) Carnival has attracted an impressive list of boldface names: The ever-evolving cast of choreographers has included Wade Robson and Shane Sparks, and audience members have included celebrities like Christina Aguilera, Missy Elliott, and Janet Jackson--all scouring for talent.

On the heels of a blowout ninth-anniversary celebration in January, Ysais and his cohorts are looking toward the future. Carnival now holds events twice a year in NYC and London alongside the monthly L.A. soiree, and expanding to Japan and Australia is in the works. "Carnival is a world brand now," says Ysais, "and we have some television and film deals on the table."

As Keoke sees it, the party won't be stopping anytime soon. "By holding events in hotbeds of the entertainment industry, there is an endless talent pool," says Keoke. "Young dancers and choreographers will always be rolling in and keeping the stage fresh."--Jen Jones
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Title Annotation:dance matters
Author:Jones, Jen
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Company overview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2008
Words:502
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