Dedicated to news and information about the activities of the Helena Modjeska Art and Culture Club in Los Angeles. Since 1971, we have been promoting Polish art and culture in California through events, lectures, exhibitions, film screenings, concerts, book readings, and more...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Domoslawski & Kapuscinski at the Ruskin


After starting the 2010-2011 season with Stefan Wenta's ballet for the Luminario Ballet of Los Angeles (August 6) and a documentary about Marian Kolodziej at the ArcLight Cinemas-Hollywood (August 13, a report will follow), the Modjeska Club presents a literary event. Our guest from Poland will be a well-known Polish writer and journalist, Artur Domosławski, who will discuss the life and oeuvre of Ryszard Kapuściński (1932-2007) after the premiere of a documentary, Poet on the Frontline: The Reportage of Ryszard Kapuściński, by Gabrielle Pfeiffer.

The event will take place at the historical Ruskin Art Club (800 South Plymouth Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90005) at 6:30 p.m., on Saturday, September 11, 2010 at 6:30 p.m.

Ryszard Kapuściński
(1932-2007) was a famous Polish journalist, writer, poet and photographer, internationally recognized for his groundbreaking literary style and reports from around the world. He published 16 books during his lifetime, as well as six volumes of memoirs, two poetry collections. Two books appeared after his death and many volumes were translated. A 16-volume edition of his collected works was issued in 2008. Kapuściński received over 50 prizes and awards, including six honorary doctorates from universities in Gdańsk, Wrocław, Sofia, and Barcelona, as well as Silesian and Jagiellonian Universities.

Our guest, Artur Domosławski, is a distinguished Polish writer and journalist at “Gazeta Wyborcza” and Kapuściński’s biographer. A graduate of the State Higher School of Theater in Warsaw, he mostly writes about Latin America, anti-globalization movement, social conflicts, and religious issues. He published five books and hundreds of essays. His book, Latin-American Fever (Gorączka latynoamerykańska) is a report from travels throughout Central and South America. For the book America in Mutiny (Ameryka zbuntowana), he received the Beata Pawlak Prize. Published in 2010, Kapuściński non-fiction, has been engendered an intense debate in Polish and foreign media.

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    CALENDAR OF EVENTS - FALL 2010

    Our Calendar has been updated recently. We are pleased to announce that the Modjeska Club will host a meeting with Prof. Leszek Balcerowicz, a noted economist and politician, who led the transformation of Poland's economy into a modern, free-market system in the 1990s. Prof. Balcerowicz's earlier visit, planned for April 2010, was canceled due to the national mourning period after the crash of the Presidential plane near Smolensk, Russia.

  • October 10, 6:00 p.m.: An Evening of Song - with Marta Wryk, Soprano, and Adam Kosmieja, Piano (both from New York), at the South Pasadena Library Community Room, South Pasadena. Program includes songs and piano music by Dvorak and Chopin.

  • October 16, 2010, 6:00 p.m.: Meeting with Prof. Leszek Balcerowicz, economist and politician who reformed Polish economy in the 1990s, hosted by the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland

  • October 17, 2010 5:00 p.m.: Modjeska Club Honors Jan Nowicki, award ceremony and reception, event associated with the Polish Film Festival in Los Angeles.

  • October 26, TBA: Polish Jazz at the Jazz Bakery with Jan Jarczyk from Montreal, Darek Oleszkiewicz, and other musicians (co-sponsored by Modjeska Club).

  • November 21, 2010, 6 p.m. Kabaret Starszych Panow performed by our friends, Polish Club from Riverside.

  • December 11, 6:00 p.m.: Christmas Party (Modjeska Club Members Exclusive), private residence.

  • December 31, 2010, 8:00 p.m.: Sylwester - New Year's Eve Party (Modjeska Club Members Exclusive)

  • January 22, 2011, 6:00 p.m.: Travel to Tibet by Maria and Edward Pilatowicz, screening of film and discussion at South Pasadena Public Library Community Auditorium.


    * * *

    EVENTS OF OUR FRIENDS - FALL 2010


  • September 12, 3:00 p.m.: Chopin with Cherries - Poetry Reading from an anthology edited by Maja Trochimczyk, with 14 American poets and Prof. Rick Wilson playing Chopin on the flute, Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center, Venice, CA.

  • September 23-26, 2010, 8:30 p.m.: "In the Solitude of Cotton Fields" by Radoslaw Rychcik/Stefan Zeromski Theater, REDCAT at Disney Hall, Los Angeles. Experimental art-rock show dubbed as "a combination of a concert, disco, poetic slam, and club event" by Gazeta Wyborcza.

  • September 25-26, all day: Polish Festival of Los Angeles at the Our Lady of the Bright Mount Church, Adams St., Los Angeles

  • October 15-21, TBA: Polish Film Festival in Los Angeles - exact program will be posted on the Festival's website.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Stefan Wenta, Ballet, and Chopin

On August 6, 2010, over 50 Modjeska Club members gathered at the Ford Amphitheater to honor Stefan Wenta, an eminent choreographer, whose work, "Fantasy on Polish Airs" to Chopin's music was premiered that evening by the Luminario Ballet of Los Angeles. The ballet was one in a sequence of six works by different choreographers, set to a full range of music, including American jazz and rock (with inspirations from Broadway and the Cirque de Soleil), premiered by the two-year old troupe on a balmy Friday evening. For more information about this program, called "Taking Flight" and other projects of the troupe, see the Luminario Ballet website.

Stefan Wenta was a principal dancer and choreographer of the Warsaw Opera Ballet where he performed in such ballets as Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake and Coppelia. After receiving a scholarship to study in Paris, along with other Polish notables such as Roman Polanski, Zbigniew Cybulski and Andrzej Komeda, Stefan became the partner of the Paris Opera’s prima-ballerinas Yvette Chauvire and Lycette Darsonval. As the premier dancer of the Theatre d’Art du Ballet he performed in India, Indonesia, China, Africa and all over Europe.

In 1960 he came to America where he became the Artistic Director of the Western Ballet of Los Angeles and later the Wenta Ballet of Los Angeles. He choreographed numerous ballets and a number of films such as Logan’s Run, Our Man Flint, Fantastic Voyage and Warren Beatty’s Reds. Currently he is teaching at the MIMODA studio in Hollywood while finishing his novel, to be published in late spring of 2011.

Prior to the performance, the Modjeska Club members gathered for a potluck picnic-reception in the Amphitheater's plaza and witnessed a brief but poignant ceremony, when Mr. Wenta received a Certificate of Appreciation recognizing his achievements as a choreographer and honoring his contributions to Polish culture. Mr. Wenta spoke about his ideas of celebrating Chopin's 200th birth anniversary with a ballet set to one of the composer's rarely heard works, variously known as Fantasy on Polish Airs, Fantasia on Polish Airs, and Fantaisie brillante on Polish Airs in A major, Op. 13.

Composed in 1828, it is the second-ever piece by Chopin for piano and orchestra, written after the lovely Variations "La ci darem la mano" based on Mozart's aria. Some well-known Polish tunes make their appearance in the melodious score by a student composer, just 18 years old at the time, including an old, popular romance about Laura and Filon, "Juz miesiac zaszedl..." (Already the moon has set...) and a theme from Karol Kurpinski's Elegy on the Death of Thaddeus Kosciuszko. The piece ends with a vivacious Kujawiak, set in a faster tempo than typical for this usually melancholy folk dance, followed by an extensive coda, brilliantly choreographed by Mr. Wenta.

The difficulty of providing new choreography to old music based on "danceable" tunes set to traditional folk rhythms is considerable: the dancers could have been easily just dancing the mazurka or the kujawiak on the stage. Instead, Mr. Wenta chose to creatively use his corps de ballet and soloists, narrating a Polish story of suffering and triumph, with allusions to national dances and events from Chopin's life.

During the reception, he explained his understanding of the national character in dance music on the example of the mazurka and the polonaise choreographed by Russians and Poles. We will find out more about his conception of the piece and his creative ideas from the interview, soon to be published on my blog, Chopin with Cherries.

The photos from the "Ballet at the Ford Theater" may be seen at Picasa web albums. The full report in Polish will be posted on the Modjeska Club website. We will write about our August 13 event in the next post.

In the meantime, a reminder that the Modjeska Club Calendar of Events is filling up quickly - both by our own events and with those organized by others, as noted below.

    * * *

    CALENDAR OF EVENTS - FALL 2010

  • September 11, 6:30 p.m.: The Controversial Ryszard Kapuscinski, screening of a documentary on Polish journalist and writer, with his biographer's comments. Ruskin Art Club, Los Angeles.

  • October 10, 6:00 p.m.: An Evening of Song - with Marta Wryk, Soprano, and Adam Kosmieja, Piano (both from New York), at the South Pasadena Library Community Room, South Pasadena. Program includes songs and piano music by Dvorak and Chopin.

  • October 16, 2010, 6:00 p.m.: Modjeska Club Honors Jan Nowicki, award ceremony and reception, event associated with the Polish Film Festival in Los Angeles.

  • November 20, Kabaret Starszych Panow performed by our friends, Polish Club from Riverside, private residence.

  • December 11, 6:00 p.m.: Christmas Party (Modjeska Club Members Exclusive), private residence.

  • December 31, 2010, 8:00 p.m.: Sylwester - New Year's Eve Party (Modjeska Club Members Exclusive)

  • January 22, 2011, 6:00 p.m.: Travel to Tibet by Maria and Edward Pilatowicz, screening of film and discussion at South Pasadena Public Library Community Auditorium.


    * * *

    EVENTS OF OUR FRIENDS - FALL 2010


  • September 12, 3:00 p.m.: Chopin with Cherries - Poetry Reading from an anthology edited by Maja Trochimczyk, with 14 American poets and Prof. Rick Wilson playing Chopin on the flute, Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center, Venice, CA.

  • September 23-26, 2010, 8:30 p.m.: "In the Solitude of Cotton Fields" by Radoslaw Rychcik/Stefan Zeromski Theater, REDCAT at Disney Hall, Los Angeles. Experimental art-rock show dubbed as "a combination of a concert, disco, poetic slam, and club event" by Gazeta Wyborcza.

  • October 15-21, TBA: Polish Film Festival in Los Angeles - exact program will be posted on the Festival's website.


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Note: Photos of Stefan Wenta, Krystyna Kuszta (Vice President of Modjeska Club) and the Consul for Cultural Affairs of the Republic of Poland, Malgorzata Cup (by Maja Trochimczyk); and group photos from the informal event, with Stefan Wenta's impromptu lecture, conversations with club members, etc.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Ballet, Film and Theater in August

The Modjeska Club will gather for two events this month: on August 6 for the premiere of Stefan Wenta's ballet based on Chopin's music and on August 13 for the premiere of a documentary about Marian Kolodziej, an Auschwitz survivor, "The Labyrinth."

On Friday, August 6, 2010, at 8:30 p.m., at the Ford Amphitheater, Hollywood (the private event starts at 7:00 p.m.), in honor of Chopin's 200th birthday celebration, the LUMINARIO BALLET OF LOS ANGELES presents the premiere of a ballet by STEFAN WENTA

FANTASY ON POLISH AIRS, as part of its spectacle TAKING FLIGHT

The performance takes place
at the FORD AMPHITHEATER
on 2580 Cahuenga Bld. East
Hollywood 90068

Artistic director Judith Flex Helle explains that the ballet features a number of choreographers, “from Broadway to So You Think You Can Dance to Cirque du Soleil.” Mr. Wenta’s ballet celebrating Chopin’s anniversary is included among this rich variety of dance forms. For tickets and more information visit the www.luminarioballet.org


Stefan Wenta was a principal dancer and choreographer of the Warsaw Opera Ballet where he performed in such ballets as Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake and Coppelia. After receiving a scholarship to study in Paris, along with other Polish notables such as Roman Polanski, Zbigniew Cybulski and Andrzej Komeda, Stefan became the partner of the Paris Opera’s prima-ballerinas Yvette Chauvire and Lycette Darsonval. As the premier dancer of the Theatre d’Art du Ballet he performed in India, Indonesia, China, Africa and all over Europe.

In 1960 he came to America where he became the Artistic Director of the Western Ballet of Los Angeles and later the Wenta Ballet of Los Angeles. He choreographed numerous ballets and a number of films such as Logan’s Run, Our Man Flint, Fantastic Voyage and Warren Beatty’s Reds. Currently he is teaching at the MIMODA studio in Hollywood while finishing his novel, to be published in late spring of 2011.

* * *

A week later, on Friday, August 13, 2010, at 7:55 p.m. a short documentary, THE LABYRINTH, will have its premiere at the Arclight Cinema-Hollywood (6360 West Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90028-7323, 323-464-4226), followed by a VIP Reception co-hosted by our Club, the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Los Angeles and ARRI Camera Inc. Please do not be late; there is no late seating!

The film is a part of the International Documentary Association’s DocuWeeks 2010 Theatrical Showcase, which is an Oscar qualifying event. Additional screenings of The Labyrinth will take place during the week of August 13-19, in a set of three documentaries, including also Mozambique and Keep Dancing. Tickets for the premiere may be purchased at: www.newamericanvision.com/docuweeks/shorts.html.

The Labyrinth is an immersion into the artwork and testimony of Auschwitz survivor, Marian Kołodziej, a Polish-Catholic, who was sent to the camp on the first day it opened. This is a moving and touching film about resilience and hope in the midst of unbelievable suffering. This unique film focuses on Mr. Kołodziej’s extensive graphic pen and ink drawings and his testimony about his experiences in the death camp. After his liberation, Mr. Kołodziej went on to become a noted set and costume designer in theater and film.

Filmed on location at the St. Maximilian Kolbe Franciscan Center, near Auschwitz, Poland, the film features Roman Czarny as the voice of Marian Kołodziej. The original score was composed by Marek Żebrowski. The director/producer is Jason A. Schmidt, and producer, Ron Schmidt, S.J. The filmmakers will be on hand after the screening for questions and answers. For more information see: www.thelabyrinthdocumentary.com

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In addition, we will have an opportunity of attending
a solo theater performance by Ewa Boryczko, "Modjeska: The Artist's Dream!" at the Camino Real Playhouse in San Juan Capistrano (31776 El Camino Real). The world premiere is scheduled on August 13-14 at 8 p.m. For more information and to purchase tickets visit the project's website. www.helenamodjeska.com/index.html