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Arts and Entertainment

Between Sane And Insane: Inside L.A.'s Boldest New Dance Show

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Professional dancer Yusuf Nasir has spent his career performing and touring with some of the biggest names in pop, from Lady Gaga to Jennifer Lopez. Now, he's striking out on his own as a director and choreographer, with his own full-length dance production addressing intimate mental health issues, as well as broader social and cultural topics.

Nasir's show, The Shout, premieres Wednesday night at North Hollywood's El Portal Theatre. Performances will run nightly through Sunday. Nasir told LAist that the show, which delves into the unresolved grey areas of madness through dance, was deeply autobiographical. "It's based on a period that I went through, dealing with personal mental health issues in my past," he said. Set to the sounds of The Knife, Bjork, Jasmine Sullivan, Adam Levine and Nina Simone, the evocative production uses a full cast of dancers (21 in total) to explore the repressed emotions that are trapped within us all, and the thin line between sane and insane.

Part of what drives Nasir's choreography is the belief that "art should be based on something tangible that even the non-dancer or non-artist can understand."

Up to this point, Nasir has had a hugely successful dance career (think VMA performances with Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga, and roles in Kylie Minogue, Cee-Lo Green and Jennifer Lopez's music videos), but this will be the first time he's steering his own vision into a major production. What, we asked, was the catalyst for making the leap?

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"You can't dance forever," Nasir said. "And there was a strong desire to want to not just create dances, but to create things that, in some way, shape, or form are going to effect people, and make them feel something that they either didn't know they could feel, or didn't want to feel."

Through dance, and specifically this performance, he aims to "bring topics that are really hard for people to discuss out in the open and onto the stage, and do so in a beautiful way."

The Shout will run from September 21 to September 25 at The El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood. Tickets range from $16 to $31 and can be purchased here. El Portal Theatre is located at 5269 Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood.

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