By David Martel
Arts in NoHo are flourishing. Shirley Martin has made an incredible contribution to the community with The Martin Dancers, a multi-cultural dance troupe she choreographs, as well as the The MKM Cultural Arts Center learning space. The goal of both ventures is to heighten the understanding and appreciation of unique art forms.
On Nov. 12, a group of The Martin Dancers’ twelve talented young men and women performed at The MKM Center. The mesmerized crowd watched each artiste represent a different cultural style including Filipino, Spanish, and Israeli dance. A full percussion band accompanied the exotic and rarely seen movements. The showing was for the NoHo Arts Festival that offered a free sample of the best dance, food, music, and fashion in the area.
Dancer Brittany McCabe explains that Martin choreographs each movement in a way that provides “the leeway to make it your own.” This is evident in both the actions and eyes of the performers. Members of the percussion band spend significant time rehearsing with the company. They ensure that the beats of the music and kinetics of the dance align to the comfort and liking of all involved.
The MKM Arts Center — where the dancers train — also houses studios where community members of all ages can take courses in a variety of arts including the martial kind, in a Kung Fu class, seven days a week. Other offerings consist of acting, ballet, and a course in Hawaiian music.
Martin wants her dancers’ performances to be engaging, accessible, and appropriate for all ages. Her skill is being able to do this while at the same time bringing forth a stage of intrigue, passion, suspense, and honest conflict.
Historically, Martin’s organizations have benefited from the generosity of foundation funding. The economic state has considerably lessened the help they have received, which makes community support and attendance of classes and events even more important. Notwithstanding the tremendous amount of work put into running the two ventures, Martin makes sure that they support community outreach initiatives such as the North Hollywood Police Department’s Jeopardy Program.
How often does a weekend go by without providing us with real substance or growth? Now you know of a place to be inspired right in your neighborhood. After walking into The MKM Cultural Arts Center for a class or an event, you will quickly understand what a special place it is.
On Sundays, starting Dec. 11 at 2:30 p.m., you can catch Big Black, an international master conga player, in “Art of the Conga Drum” at The MKM Center. The names of The Martin Dancers Musicians are Roosevelt Mitchell and Chris Walker. The MKM Cultural Arts Center is located at 11401 N. Chandler Blvd. in North Hollywood. Call (818) 752-2616 for more information on The Martin Dancers or any of the center’s classes or programs.