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Fall 2000 Newsletter from San Francisco


Fall Preview

This fall, Bay Area dance enthusiasts will be treated to a myriad of exciting dance events, including opening galas by Bay Area companies and performances by internationally acclaimed dance troupes, the most anticipated of which might be the appearance of the Sydney Dance Company (SDC) at Stanford. The athletic and bold SDC, Australia's premier dance company that featured heavily in the Sydney Olympic Arts Festival [forum], will be performing Artistic Director Graeme Murphy's "Salome" October 13 and 14 at Stanford's Memorial Auditorium in Palo Alto. Murphy's sense of adventure and style is captured in "Excuse Me I'm Not a Sausage Machine," an interview by criticaldance.com correspondent Jennifer Leake.

Another international company whose upcoming Bay Area debut is generating excitement is Julio Bocca and Ballet Argentino. Bocca, a former star with American Ballet Theatre, will be bringing to Berkeley a young ensemble of dancers for a mixed repertory program that will of course include a Piazzolla tango. Cal Performances, Oct 24-25.

Berkeley will also be the host for two other perennial Bay Area favorites, Mark Morris Dance Group [forum],who will be performing "Four Saints in Three Acts" and "Dido and Aeneas" (Cal Performances, Sep 21-24), and Bill T Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company in the Bay Area premiere of "You Walk?" [forum] (Cal Performances, Oct 27-28).

ODC/SF, the Bay Area's favorite local modern dance company, celebrates the company's 30th anniversary and the ODC Theater's 20th anniversary with a special performance and gala on Sep 23 at the ODC Theater. ODC/SF will be joined on stage by the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company.

In addition to Ballet Argentino's tango work, music by Astor Piazzolla will also be featured in Artistic Director Alonzo King's "Tango" when Lines Contemporary Ballet opens its season at the Mountain View Performing Arts Center Sep 29-30 and Oct 1. The program will also include King's "Who Dressed You Like a Foreigner?" a contemporary ballet accompanied by tabla percussionist Zakir Hussain. Later in the fall, the company will reprise "Tango" along with a new work by King at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBC) Oct 20-22, 25-29.

Alonzo King fans who can't get enough of his works will be pleased to note that Oakland Ballet will feature this prolific choreographer's "Love Dogs," danced to Poulenc and inspired by the Persian poet Rumi, in its opening gala (Paramount Theater, Sep 15-17). However, it is a new ballet by former Paul Taylor star Mary Cochran that is creating the buzz in Oakland. Her "Onomatomania" to be performed with pianist Awadagin Pratt will be danced to Johannes Brahms' Variations on a Theme by Handel [forum]. Later in October, the company will perform Carlos Carvajal's magical "Crystal Slipper," the Cinderella tale set to music by Bohuslav Martinu (Paramount Theater, Oct 20-22). Eyes will be on Oakland Ballet this season as it embarks on its first season under new Artistic Director Karen Brown.

Diablo Ballet is also creating somewhat of a buzz with the West Coast premiere of a work by Houston Ballet choreographic prodigy Trey McIntyre. The company will be dancing "Touched" -- McIntyre's first ever ballet, set to music by Dave Brubeck -- giving Bay Area audiences their first glimpse of the genius of this young choreographer, whose most recent ballet "Bound" generated much critical excitement in Houston. The company's season opener [forum] will also include its signature piece, "Pas de Quatre et Pas de Six," by Nikolai Kabaniaev and Balanchine's "Apollo." YBC, Sep 15-16.

San Jose Cleveland Ballet, whose survival appears to hang in the balance... again [forum], is scheduled to open its 15th anniversary season with Dennis Nahat's "Celebrations and Ode." This ballet, set to Beethoven's 7th and 9th Symphonies, is danced in eight movements, ending with the "Ode to Joy" sung by the San Jose State University Chorale. San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, Oct 13-15.

Going back to modern dance, Erica Essner Performance Co-Op will present "Sudden Pictures," a program that will include two premieres, "Kandinsky 2000" and "Snapshot," as well as a repertory work, "Ravish," from 1999. According to the press release, "These works represent two vastly different approaches to dance expression Essner's company has taken -- the first is work that emphasizes pure movement and the visceral aspects of partnering, the second is rooted in sociological commentary." ODC Theater, Sep 28-30, Oct 5-7.

Liss Fain, no stranger to the marriage of dance and technology, will present a unique event when her company, Liss Fain Dance Company, performs "Quarry," [forum] a work that promises to stretch both technology in dance and the meaning of site-specific dance. This work combines, via video and Internet technology, a live performance on stage in San Francisco with a sculpture in progress on a hillside in Davenport, CA. Both events will be broadcast live via the Internet. Cowell Theater, Sep 28-30, Oct 1.

Another company that uses technology, or at least speaks to it in its works, is Capacitor, an eclectic troupe of dancers, artists, aerialists, jugglers, musicians and martial artists, under the direction of Jodi Lomask. Capacitor will be performing "Within Outer Spaces," a work designed to investigate the "multiple gravitational forces that keep the tumbling earth aloft in its elegant orbit." Oakland's Alice Arts Center, Oct 12-14, 19-21.

The "Fantastiks," the movie adaptation of the musical by Michael Smuin and featuring dancers from his Smuin Ballets/SF, will be making its Northern California premiere Sep 18 at the AMC Kabuki 8 Theater and will include a pre-screening reception and a post-movie dessert party.

As a treat to Bay Area ballet fans, four ballet dancers will talk about their careers at the Bay Area Ballerina Luncheon in Walnut Creek, at Scott's Seafood and Grill Oct 7. Lauren Jonas, Corinne Jonas and Erika Johnson from Diablo Ballet and San Francisco Ballet's Rachel Chew will comprise the panel, to be moderated by Rebecca Crowell of Danville Ballet. Go to the press release for more information.

For a comprehensive list of dance events in the Bay Area, please consult Michael Phelan's Bay Dance website.


Summer Review

Summer is typically a slow season for dance, but not so this past summer in San Francisco, with more than a few festivals igniting the imagination of dance-going fans. The San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival for example drew in capacity crowds in June. No less than 28 ethnic dance companies, ranging from the Chinese Performing Artists of America to the Lowiczanie Polish Folk Ensemble of San Francisco, presented a feast of culture within the gothic confines of the Palace of Fine Arts. [forum]

SummerFest, a showcase event for local choreographers, proved once again that there is plenty of emerging talent in the Bay Area, even if you had to sit through some of the less brilliant works. The standouts, in the eyes of San Francisco dance critics, it seems were two premieres: Stephen Pelton's "the path of rocks, lit only one," danced by Katie Moreman and Summer Lee Rhatigan; and "Nine Valentines" by Stanford graduate Lea Wolf. [forum]

And then there was AfroSolo, a remarkable event that featured solo performances by black artists from music and theater as well as dance. San Francisco Ballet's Chidozie Nzerem captivated more than one critic in his virtuosic performance of a work by Robert Henry Johnson. [forum]

San Francisco Ballet (SFB) suffered bad weather at its annual appearance at Stern Grove. Its dancers almost voted to cancel the performance but decided instead to go on stage with leg warmers in front of an appreciative but slightly perplexed audience. Despite the strange attire, the company did well to please both the fans and the critics, especially in Mark Morris' zany "Sandpaper Ballet." [forum]

However, the company did not fare so well with Los Angeles critic Lewis Segal when it made its appearance in the Tchaikovsky Festival at the Hollywood Bowl. Segal appreciated neither the dancing nor Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson's choreography of "Swan Lake." [forum] It makes one wonder if new artistic staff trainee Bruce Sansom, until very recently a world class dancer with the Royal Ballet, will be consulted in future productions of this Tchaikovsky classic. [forum]

Segal may not have liked SFB but he certainly gave Diablo Ballet glowing reviews in the otherwise lack-lustre BalletFest at the Luckman Theater in Los Angeles. If he and the other critics are right about the quality of the Southern California-based ballet companies, then the organizers of this inaugural event had better invite more Bay Area companies to next year's show. [forum]

Another Bay Area company that collected glowing reviews on tour was Alonzo King's LINES Contemporary Ballet. The company stunned critics at its first appearance at the prestigious Jacob's Pillow, prompting one critic to hint that King may be one of several choreographers representing the future of ballet. [forum]

There were of course lots more dancing in the summer than can be reported here, including Sonya Delwaide's sensuous "Deja Entendu" and Axis Dance Company's premiere of Bill T Jones' "Fantasy in C Major." For reviews of these and other performances, please visit our forum.


Until next time,
Azlan Ezaddin



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