Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Andrea Gomez

The Palm Springs Dance Project has burst onto the scene as a new and exciting dance program that merges professionals with local students—and the public will get to see the fruits of the program during a series of events taking place Thursday through Saturday, March 5-7.

Darcy Carozza, the founder and executive director, started dreaming up the Palm Springs Dance Project in 2015, when she was the managing director of the Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum.

“At that time, I noticed that dance was lacking at the theater, so I created a series of events that included dance,” she says.

A breakthrough moment came, she says, when around 40 local students were performing onstage at the theater.

“The event went so well—and it was inspirational,” she says. “I wanted to create more events—and that, basically, is where the Palm Springs Dance Project came from.”

Carozza produced an event called the Palm Springs Dance Festival over the last several years.

“In 2019, I listened closely to what our community was looking for—and that was dance education for our local students,” Carozza says. “We were able to develop a program where all of the students that we brought in would be covered under a grant and receive intensive dance training. It’s really been a grassroots effort between local donors and local collaborators.”

Those collaborators in the Palm Springs Dance Project include the Palm Springs Unified School District and FIND Food Bank, which provides free lunches for the students.

The upcoming events will not only help fund programming costs; they’ll also help introduce the project to the community. First comes Dancin’ in the Streets, a flash-mob performance, set to take place at Village Fest in downtown Palm Springs from 6:30 to 9 p.m., Thursday, March 5.

“It’s going to be a great event for the community. Everyone can get some flavor of the program, with some entertainment, because we’ll have our students performing alongside some professional dancers,” says Carozza.

Deborah Brockus, the program’s artistic director—and an acclaimed dancer in the Los Angeles dance scene—is the choreographer.

“What Deborah has done and is doing now is creating customized choreography based on our dancers’ strengths,” Carozza says. “You’re going to see some classical contemporary dance, hip hop and jazz. It will be energetic and entertaining; they’ll be running out with spotlights and loud music.”

At 7:30 p.m., Friday, March 6, students will be given their moment to shine in the Community’s Finest Showcase, a “pre-professional” variety show at the Annenberg; tickets are $25 to $28.

“Our scholarship students will be performing for the community, but we have invited many of the dance studios (in) Palm Springs. … That will showcase the training and education that is available right here in Palm Springs,” Carozza says. “Students will dance to genres like lyrical, modern, hip hop and jazz, among others.”

At 7:30 p.m., Saturday, March 7, all eyes will be on The Main Event: An Evening of Extraordinary Dance, a professional concert dance program. BrockusRED, founded by Brockus, is set to perform alongside Luminario Ballet and Lula Washington Dance Theatre at the Annenberg. Tickets are $55 to $130.

Carozza says the audience can expect an “energetic, powerful and uplifting program of dance. We’re very excited, because we will also be staging the first-ever aerial dance at the Annenberg Theater.”

The dance will be performed by Luminario Ballet, but the Palm Springs Dance Project had the hang point permanently installed to be used in the future.

Carozza says she’s trying to expand the reach of the program through different mediums—and the Palm Springs Dance Project has partnered with the Palm Springs Cultural Center to show dance-oriented films, including a Sunday, March 1, screening of Billy Elliot, with a post-movie discussion centered around #BoysDanceToo. Panelists will include former Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo member Howard Sayette, musical choreographer/director José de la Cuesta and choreographer/director Douglas Graham.

“We want to grow and broaden our programming for events year-round,” Carozza says. “Really, our goal is to build a thriving dance community in the greater Palm Springs area. We want opportunities to really engage and give back through the staging of these events.”

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The Coachella Valley is home to picturesque mountains, gorgeous blue skies—and an ample number of residents who can afford fine art.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that Palm Springs has become a beacon for art-lovers in Southern California and beyond. The art scene is vibrant and bubbling with growth, with dozens of art galleries here, as well as numerous art shows—none more prestigious than Art Palm Springs, the annual five-day art exhibition and show at the Palm Springs Convention Center. Scheduled to coincide with Presidents Day weekend and Modernism Week, Art Palm Springs attracts a growing number of art-lovers each year.

While exhibitors from all around the globe take part, Art Palm Springs is special and personal to the participating galleries that call the Coachella Valley home.

“For us, it’s (important) because it’s the regional fair. We are pretty much at home, and it’s nice to get to play in our own sandbox,” said Alec Longmuir, director of art at Melissa Morgan Fine Art, a contemporary art gallery located in Palm Desert.

Melissa Morgan Fine Art focuses on contemporary artwork with an international roster of well-known artists, featuring works that patrons would normally see in Los Angeles, New York, London or Paris galleries. Longmuir said that although the gallery travels all over the world for different types of art fairs, Art Palm Springs feels different.

“It’s near and dear to our hearts; we like the organizers very much,” Longmuir said.

The relationship between the festival and the gallery has always been interactive, even throughout the various management changes within Art Palm Springs.

“The first year we did it, we did a big retrospective for Andy Moses, and they honored him at the fair,” Longmuir said. (Andy Moses and his father, Ed Moses, were Art Palm Springs’ Artists of the Year in 2018; in fact, Andy Moses graced the cover of the February 2018 edition of this very newspaper.) “Then last year, we did an exhibition for Anthony James, who has been all over the news as of late.”

James’ sculptures and installations are known for experimentation with light and color—and received major attention during the 2019 Art Palm Springs.

“We’ve had a good turnout,” Longmuir said. “We are always happy to support (Art Palm Springs), and they’ve supported us.”

Galleries participating in an event like Art Palm Springs need to not only show off art that meshes with the aesthetic of the gallery; they need to show off art that’ll appeal to the attendees.

“We know what sells!” Longmuir said. “We know that we are in Palm Springs, and in the desert, some people have a higher net worth acquired, so they can afford some great artwork.”

While Melissa Morgan participates in a variety of shows and fairs, Art Palm Springs is the only major art show in which Barba Contemporary Art participates, owner Michael Barba said.

“We’ve been involved for a year,” said Barba, whose gallery is located on Indian Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs. “The quality of art that they show is really great. When I opened my gallery, I believe I was approached by them—and it was a natural fit.”

Barba said his gallery focuses on contemporary abstract art.

“About half of our artists are local, relatively speaking,” Barba said. “They are local to the Coachella Valley, Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree and Palm Springs. There are a lot of paintings, but we also have sculptures and other arts.”

It’s important to replicate the gallery experience in the exhibition booth at the fair, Barba said.

“We bring to the fair art that is representative of the art that you would find in the gallery,” he said. “I try to make the booth at the fair feel like another room in the gallery, so that if someone walks into the booth, or they see it from the convention center, they can have an idea of what the gallery feels like, and what they can expect if they come into the gallery.”

Barba said Art Palm Springs offers his gallery exposure to a wider range of art-lovers.

"It’s a local event, and I think it’s good exposure for the gallery,” Barba said. “A lot of people, whether they come downtown or they just come for lunch, they might not necessarily wander around looking for art galleries. But people who go to the fair are going there specifically for art.”

In other words, the fair is a form of advertising.

“It’s a way people can be introduced to (the gallery),” Barba said. “Obviously, sales are ideal, but the main reason why we are in the fair is exposure. It’s a form of advertising, and it is a way of reaching people who are interested in what we are selling.”

Five-time Art Palm Springs exhibitor Jorge Mendez, of Jorge Mendez Gallery in Palm Springs, carries contemporary art and deals directly with established artists who have exhibited before at other museums or galleries. He agreed that the fair helps his gallery receive attention from art-lovers it wouldn’t otherwise receive.

“It’s a great experience and great for exposure for the rest of the valley.”

Art Palm Springs is the only large fair at which Jorge Mendez exhibits. Mendez said he does so because it allows him to share the limelight with renowned artists—from places as far away as Asia and Europe—without ever having to leave home.

“(I exhibit) only because it is a very reputable fair,” he said. “It’s basically in my backyard, so it’s very easy for me to transport the artwork.”

Art Palm Springs takes place Thursday, Feb. 13, through Monday, Feb. 17, at the Palm Springs Convention Center, 277 N. Avenida Caballeros, in Palm Springs. Single-day admission is $25; VIP tickets, which include the Thursday night VIP reception and are good for admission throughout the festival, are $100. For tickets or more information, visit Below: "How Far Can I Go" by Ariel Vargassal at Jorge Mendez Gallery.

Every January, the desert gets a dose of Hollywood-awards-season glamour with the Palm Springs International Film Festival. This will be its 31st year, and the event is larger than ever, boasting estimated audiences of more than 135,000 and attracting cinephiles from all over the globe.

This year, screenings begin on Friday, Jan. 3, and go through Monday, Jan. 13—and the 2020 version of the festival will have a little more of a local flair.

The reason: The festival’s first-year artistic director, Liliana Rodriguez, is a Coachella Valley native, and she’s making sure the festival’s local roots remain interwoven into its DNA.

“Recently, I’ve been focusing on injecting more of a local feel into the festival with more films in Local Spotlight, as well the new local jury,” she said.

The Local Spotlight film program has expanded this year to feature three films: The 11th Green, House of Cardin and Iconicity. All three films have a distinct style and offer unique perspectives from hometown filmmakers, bringing the relationship between community and festival closer together.

“Locals love the festival and look forward to it every year,” Rodriguez said. “Being a Coachella Valley native myself, it only makes sense to make it something that (locals) can be a part of as well as take pride in.”

The Annenberg Theater, the Camelot Theatres at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, Palm Springs High School, the Regal Cinemas Palm Springs, the Palm Canyon Theatre and Mary Pickford Is D’Place will host more than 500 screenings of more than 180 films, across every genre, during the festival run.

“I work really closely with our six programmers, who travel the world to find movies for our audience,” Rodriguez said. “There is a lot of discussion about what movies we felt would make a great fit. It is another beast having to schedule all the films. Programming for a film festival is very intense, but always rewarding when you see it all come together.”

One of Rodriguez’s favorite PSIFF programs this year is the Gay!la program. “We're showing Portrait of a Lady on Fire, which I often think about out of the blue, even if I saw it first months ago,” she said. “After that, we have Gay Chorus Deep South, a really powerful documentary.”

With more than 180 films in the festival, Rodriguez said it is hard to select just a few must-watch films. “Some personal favorites are Pain and Glory from the great Pedro Almodóvar; First Love for genre fans; and Song Without a Name for something that will stick with you for a long time after you leave the theater.”

Rodriguez said that while the festival features a lot of glitz and glamour, it also has a lot of events that are meant to please true film-lovers—including some events that are free and open to the public.

“Here at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, there’s an emphasis on making sure that all attendees leave with something memorable,” she said.

One particularly interesting free event is “Shortlisted: Best International Feature Film Panel,” taking place at the Annenberg Theater at 4:45 p.m., Monday, Jan. 6. The event will feature a discussion with directors whose films are on the Oscar shortlist for Best Foreign Language Film.

For first-time festival goers, Rodriguez recommends checking out the festival’s website, as well as the social-media picks each day—or they can take a different approach, and just pick something spontaneously.

“Some of my favorite stories are from people who tell me they went into a movie totally blind and loved it!” she said.

“It starts with the movies for me, so I really hope people will find something they really connect with. There are so many films from all over the world. Bringing those films to our festival-goers and having them experience the stories they bring has always been the goal.”

The Palm Springs International Film Festival takes place from Friday, Jan. 3, through Monday, Jan. 13, at various venues. Tickets to individual films are $13, starting for the general public on Friday, Dec. 20; six-pack tickets are $69. For tickets or more information, visit