Helios Dance Theater
Gig Seeker Pro

Helios Dance Theater

Band Comedy




"Helios Dance Theater: finding romance in monsters and vampires"

Throughout her childhood in Milwaukee, Laura Gorenstein Miller remained convinced that she lived in a haunted house. “My sisters and I would walk past certain rooms and we’d hear voices of women having a tea party,” she recalls. “Maybe that was our overactive imaginations but the important thing is that we believed it was real.”

As an adult, Gorenstein Miller has no trouble accessing her youthful convictions about the supernatural. A choreographer with a penchant for narrative and emotionally driven movement, she channeled old childhood memories and dreams into her latest work for Helios Dance Theater, “Beautiful Monsters.” Premiering at UCLA Live’s on Saturday, the multimedia dance delves into the different facets of the vampire myth and depicts seduction, romance, death and nightmarish dream states.

“There is something erotic about vampires. They seduce you, they charm you and they mesmerize you. That interested me from a dance making perspective,” says Gorenstein Miller, who founded her company in 1996.

Jam packed with high-energy, sensual movements, “Beautiful Monsters” reflects Gorenstein Miller’s ongoing fascination with “choreographic extremes. I love when a release movement and a held position bump up against each other in the same choreography. That always excites me,” she says. “But it requires a very skilled dancer and I always look for classically trained dancers who can release.”

Helios’ upcoming performance will mark the first time in over a decade that a Los Angeles-based contemporary dance company will appear at a UCLA Live program at Royce Hall.

“It’s a huge honor and a great opportunity,” says Gorenstein Miller, who hopes to counter perceptions about locally created dance seeming second-rate compared with works produced in New York or Europe. “We’re an L.A.-based company and personally, I don’t plan on ever moving to New York.”

To read more about Helios Dance Theater, click here.

-- Susan Josephs - LA Times

"The Real Monster Mash"

Choreographer Laura Gorenstein Miller’s fascination with vampires and nightmares predates the current pop culture phenomenon to a time she lived in a haunted house and experienced firsthand the seductive duality of attraction and horror. That personal history fuels her latest, Beautiful Monsters, which Miller and her Helios Dance Theater unveil just in time for Halloween. The seven-member cast is led by Melissa Sandwig who was a Helios regular long before she rose to national prominence as the “naughty ballerina� on So You Think You Can Dance. Among Miller’s impressive collaborators, painter Sharon Ellis provides an original backdrop; animator-director Chris Miller brings hand-drawn animation to the mix, and film composer Paul Cantelon contributes an original score that features Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Angela McCluskey. In the wake of UCLA Live’s refocus this season, the selection of this highly praised local troupe for this major venue is an encouraging recognition that great dance doesn’t just come from out of town.
Sat., Oct. 23, 8 p.m., 2010 - LA Weekly

"Review of the Lotus Eaters"

Photo by Melissa Painter. Chris Stanley and Melissa Sandvig interlock in The Lotus Eaters.

Who knew that eating the mythical fruit of the lotus could yield such delectable results? For Laura Gorenstein Miller, artistic director of this Los Angeles-based company, her foray into Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem, “The Lotus Eaters,” via Homer’s classic, “The Odyssey,” has produced precisely that. A cornucopia of gorgeous dancing, divine choreography, dreamy music, and sexy costumes, The Lotus Eaters is a 10-part, 75-minute journey into sensual abandon and fierce physicality.

Helios, founded in 1996 by Gorenstein Miller, now features a new crop of indefatigable dancers—five men (Odysseus’ proverbial storm-tossed sailors stranded on an island) and five women (rapacious, lotus-eating movers and shakers). The original music (heard on tape) alternates between Rob Cairns’ percussive-dominant score and Grant-Lee Phillips’ plaintive songs. What could have been predictable and dulling instead is a perfect mash-up of sound and, well, glory.

Opening with a bang, the men, in hard-charging unison, stalked the stage with high kicks and in-your-face leaps, their shredded-looking tops and neo-harem pants decidedly un-Greek but über-hip. When the women appeared, slinky in silver lamé draped tunics (“Project Runway” finalist Rami Kashou designed the splendid garb), their stylized bent wrists and elbows reminiscent of Nijinsky’s nymphs in Afternoon of a Faun, the mood was heady.

After the seduction-by-fruit scenario, an array of potent group numbers followed, including dancers carrying other dancers on their backs—precious cargo, as it were. Solos and duets also thrilled. Chris Stanley partnered Melissa Sandvig in a daring pas de deux that was punctuated by intricate lifts and interlocking bodies, with Phillips’ sumptuous tune “Heavenly” the irresistible accompaniment. Sandra Chiu’s sultry back-bends wowed in “Illusion.” And Stanley, his arms outstretched, fingers splayed, feverishly lunged in a series of striking warrior poses in the penultimate scene, “Home.”

Kindred Gottlieb’s provocative lighting design also contributed to the evening’s success, as did Alison Van Pelt’s painted flowering tree backdrop. After taking time out to help raise her two young sons, Gorenstein Miller, in resurrecting Helios, has returned with a vengeance. Please pass the fruit!
- Dance Magazine

"Helios Dance Theater's leader dreams vividly"

Laura Gorenstein Miller uses a vampire tale to convey states of being. 'Beautiful Monsters' plays Saturday at UCLA.
October 20, 2010 | By Susan Josephs, Special to the Los Angeles Times
For Laura Gorenstein Miller, the ability to feel intense fear has both artistic and practical benefits. When embarking on a new project, "I'm always terrified, but
that's part of the motivation. It's why I still make dance, because I don't let that fear stop me," she said.
As she prepares for the world premiere of her latest work, Gorenstein Miller continues to abide by this philosophy but with an acute awareness that the
professional stakes have been substantially raised. Her company, Helios Dance Theater, which she founded in 1996, will become the first Los Angeles-based
contemporary dance group in more than a decade to appear as part of the UCLA Live season at Royce Hall when it performs "Beautiful Monsters" on Saturday.
Booked by David Sefton before he resigned as UCLA Live's artistic director in May, the multimedia, 65-minute show sets a new precedent for the presenting
organization, which has mostly solicited works from internationally prominent dance companies.
Inspired by Gorenstein Miller's childhood obsession with vampires (long before Stephenie Meyer penned her bestselling "Twilight" series), "Beautiful
Monsters" mines the different mythological aspects of the bloodsucking creatures. Filled with other literary references, including from "Romeo and Juliet," the
dance depicts seduction, romance, death and nightmarish dream states through vigorous movement that fuses classical ballet and modern release techniques
and sensual partnering maneuvers constructed of both intimate gestures and acrobatic lifts.
The work also serves as a prime opportunity for the 41-year-old choreographer to not only to put on the best show possible but to make a statement about "the
caliber of artists in Los Angeles and owning the fact that we live here."
"Why are we perceived as less than?" she said, referring to the notion that Los Angeles contemporary dance can never compete with works produced in New
York and other cities with exalted reputations for dance. "My response to that is there is a power to being in Los Angeles, with definite advantages."
To that end, the production credits for "Beautiful Monsters" reads like a mini who's who of Hollywood talent. Gorenstein Miller's husband, Chris Miller, an
animator and director of "Shrek the Third," has created a two-minute animated film that runs toward the end of the show. Composers Paul Cantelon and David
Majzlin, both of whom work in film and television, provide original music. Costumes are by Rami Kashou of "Project Runway" fame, who worked with
Gorenstein Miller on her last work, "The Lotus Eaters," while Los Angeles-based visual artist Sharon Ellis agreed to convert her 2003 painting "Water" into a
scenic backdrop.
"L.A. can be so industry-based that you often don't see collaboration like this," said Miller, who said he felt initially skeptical about working with his wife
because he didn't want to detract from her choreography. In the end, "this was a thrilling experience for me because in animation everything is so planned, but
here, I'm tying a piece of animation to an evening where anything can happen."
Cantelon, whose film credits include "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" and "New York, I Love You," has similar sentiments about the unpredictability of live
performance, which he feels adds new layers of meaning to his music. "It's thrilling to see the notes one has written come to life in dance," he said. "Plus
Laura's work is extremely musical … her movements become expressions of the notes themselves."
Unlike Cantelon, whose previous collaborations with dance artists included the late Rudolf Nureyev, Ellis had no previous experience working with
choreographers. A landscape painter who participated in the Hammer Museum's 2007 "Eden's Edge: 15 L.A. Artists" show, Ellis agreed to the project after
watching Helios' work and finding it "emotionally involving. What she [Gorenstein Miller] does is so in line with what I want my paintings to do, which is to
have an emotional impact," she said.
Gorenstein Miller's preoccupation with emotional states was on full display at a recent rehearsal, where she instructed her dancers to milk certain movements
for vulnerability, foreboding and other qualities. "Take ownership of her," she told dancer Chris Stanley, who plays "the vampire" in a duet with Melissa
Sandvig (a Season 5 finalist in "So You Think You Can Dance.")
The principal dancer in "Beautiful Monsters," Sandvig plays "the mortal" who undergoes transformations of death and rebirth. In the duet with Stanley, she
approximated lifelessness by dancing with stiff legs and a slack upper body. In a different scene, she performed a series of seductive undulations punctuated by
jerking movements intended to evoke a person fighting sleep.
Throughout the rehearsal, Gorenstein Miller, a tall, blond, no-nonsense woman, could discuss exactly what she intended to depict or suggest in every section.
"Here's my homage to flight and soaring," she noted in one scene. "And here's where I'm exploring how I can make parts of the human body look like wings."
"I'm the type of choreographer who doesn't care to make abstract movement," she observed in a separate phone interview. "Storytelling is what helps organize
my thoughts as a choreographer. I don't just go into the studio and tell my dancers to start moving. I go in and say, we're going to do a scene about a girl trying
not to fall asleep."
Ultimately, Gorenstein Miller has her childhood to thank for the creation of "Beautiful Monsters." Growing up in Milwaukee, she would listen to other kids tell
ghost stories and other tall tales in her backyard and "be fascinated. But I'd regret it at night. I had very vivid nightmares and I would sleep with the covers
covering my neck so the vampires couldn't get me," she said. "I still sleep this way." - Los Angeles Times


Current Work:
Beautiful Monsters is inspired by childhood dreams and nightmares, of vampires, of bodies transformed by magic, and of flight. The work looks at as a child how it is possible to be simultaneously captivated by, and frightened of, the idea of such creatures of the night. The Los Angeles incubated project drew contributions from stellar artistic collaborators, which is a goal with each of our works. Music by Paul Cantelon, Angela McCluskey, David Majzlin, Scenic by Sharon Ellis, Animation by Chris Miller (Shrek The Third), coustumes Rami Kashou.It premiered to a sold out audience of 1,800 and critical acclaim as part of UCLA Live’s Royce Hall Season.

The Lotus Eaters, music by Grant Lee Philips, Rob Carins, Scenic By Alison Van Pelt, costumes by Rami Kashou. The Lotus Eaters focuses a contemporary lens upon Homer’s classic, The Odyssey. Odysseus and his crew becomes stranded on the island where the lotus eaters live. Seduced into eating the lotus fruit, the soldiers succumb to a pleasurable state of forgetfulness and apathy from war, family, strife, and fear. Finally Odysseus’ judgment prevails and he urges his crew back to sea before they are lost to the honey-sweet fruit that wipes out ambition and memory. The Lotus Eater premiered at the Broad Stage, Santa Monica, 2009.



HELIOS is a company of dance artists formed by artistic director and choreographer Laura Gorenstein Miller that strives to create dance which explores emotional content and storytelling along with movement invention. Los Angeles based Helios is strongly committed to being a vibrant part of the arts, contributing through performances of its original work, dance educational outreach into schools, and collaborations with Los Angeles based artists. Helios envisions being a perpetual and vital hub for dance art in Los Angeles with a national and international presence.The Helios dancers are from all over the world, and are from movement backgrounds as diverse as surfing and marshal arts.