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November '99 Newsletter from San Francisco


November Preview

We all thought we could breathe a collective sigh of relief after "Crazy October" but the dance schedule for November isn't letting up, with Bay Area companies and one visiting company presenting some exciting fair. Here are some highlights.

- The modern dance event in San Francisco may be the world premiere of "Strange Attractors, Part 1" by the Stephen Petronio Dance Company.The title of the work comes from chaos theory and the work will be danced to commissioned music by Michael Nyman. Fans of Petronio may be in for a surprise, for at a preview talk earlier this year, the dancer-choreographer described his new work-in-development then as being different in style from his previous works, due to Nyman's music. The company will perform at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBC) Nov 4-6. The program will also include a 1997 production called "Drawn That Way."

- In the world of ballet, fans appear excited about "Les Noces" which opens the new season of SMUIN Ballets/SF. It will be interesting to see how Michael Smuin has updated this classic work by Nijinska-Stravinsky. Also on the bill is "Quattro a Verdi", "Chants d'Auvergne" and a world premiere to Chopin. Cowell Theater, Fort Mason, Nov 2-7, 11-21. The company will also be performing "The Christmas Ballet" Nov 26-28 at the Mountain View Performing Arts Center.

- Oakland Ballet will be presenting yet another tantalizing program, marked by "The Tender Land," a work staged by Eugene Loring expressly for Oakland Ballet. In this final program of the season, prior to the Nutcracker, Oakland will also be dancing Ronn Guidi's "Selections From The Seasons" to music by Glazunov, Marc Wilde's Bolero to Ravel (of course) and a world premiere pas de deux by Alonzo King. Paramount Theater, Nov 12-14.

- World premieres will also mark the Lawrence Pech Dance Company program at YBC Nov 18-21, with works by Pech, Robert Moses, Antonio Castilla, and SF Ballet's Julia Adam (This must be exciting times for Adam, as she has been choreographing on a fairly regular basis and will have a work featured by SF Ballet in its upcoming season). The LPDC press release describes the world premiere ballets as coming from a "stylistically diverse array of choreographers, composers and live musicians."

- ODC/SF will be back with its ever popular holiday work, The Velveteen Rabbit, Nov 26-28, Nov 30-Dec 12 at YBC, with narration by Geoff Hoyle (an actor friend of the dance world) and based on music by Benjamin Britten. The Nov 28 matinee performance will also feature a "Milk & Cookies Party and Family Dance Workshop."

- ODC/SF's KT Nelson will also be busy with two works for Diablo Ballet. She will be watching over "Walk Before Talk" at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley Nov 5 which will be performed by members of both Diablo Ballet and ODC/SF (It should be interesting to see how ballet dancers and modern dancers avoid stepping on each other's toes). This program will also feature a rare work by Norbert Vesak called "Ecstasy of Rita Joe", Nikolai Kabanaiev's "Variations on a Theme" based on a guitar concerto by Jason Becker, and Kelly Teo's "Quantum." Later in the month, Nelson will be one of three choreographers creating new works for Diablo Ballet. The other choreographers are Alonzo King and SF Ballet's Christopher Stowell. The program will also include Ben Stevenson's "End of Time," making Diablo Ballet the only other California company, besides San Francisco, with a Stevenson work. Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek. Nov 26-27.

- This must be a month of world premieres, as Axis Dance Company will be previewing a new work by Joe Goode with the intriguing title of "Jane Eyre." The program will also include two other works. ODC Theater, Nov 7.

For a full schedule of ballet and modern dance performances, check out the November calendar at Michael Phelan's very useful Baydance.

October Round-up

It was indeed a crazy month for dance fans in the San Francisco Bay Area. There were just too many performances to fit into our handheld Palm computers and more than a few dance fans finally gave up on the idea of seeing every program. Some of us gave it the old college try though. Here are a few highlights.

- We were treated to two tanztheater performances from Germany. Pina Bausch Tanztheater Wuppertal brought "Nelken," a theatrical piece of dance that kept the audience on its edge with its surrealism and intensity. Most fans are not used to being screamed at by dancers and it was as well that the company performed in Berkeley. While audience members left the grittiness of this city behind as they headed home across the bay or through the tunnel, they almost certainly took home with them the ironies and hardness of this work, in which innocent children’s games are taken to a higher intense level, in the process, resembling fascism.

- Prior to Bausch, Bay Area fans had a glimpse of what was to come when Sasha Waltz & Guests presented "Zweiland", also in Berkeley. While "Nelken" was hard-edged, "Zweiland" was much more of an "ooh-aah" type of performance, with spectacular gymnastics, slapstick humor, virtuoso performances, and a kiosk-like structure that was constantly being taken down and rebuilt in different configurations. According to Waltz, the kiosk represented her sense of Berlin as a city constantly under construction.

- Another theatrical performance, though in ballet, was that of "A Midsummernight's Dream" by the San Jose Cleveland Ballet. While the ensemble performances seemed to lack uniformity, a few of the individual performances were sensational, especially that of Cuban Ramon Moreno in the electrifying role of Puck with his super arabesques. The costumes, although at times lacked definition, were designed to dazzle the audience with their operatic grandeur. The children loved it.

- Oakland Ballet also dazzled in the sexy Nijinska-Stravinsky classic, "Les Biches." Marcie Ryken was most definitely the star of this performance, with her amazing ability to express her character’s sensuality. The company also performed Ronn Guidi's "Rhenish Symphony," a tribute to Massine’s sweeping, lyrical style, and Betsy Erickson's "Beneath The Wake," another work with a sweeping style that was less lyrical and more spectacular, especially with its backward leaps. According to an Oakland Ballet company member, this work was the result of a unique workshop that paired Erickson with the dancers in a collaborative environment without the urgency of having to produce a work for presentation.

- The jazzy sounds of Miles Davis returned to Concord Pavilion when Diablo Ballet premiered a Kelly Teo work, "Dancing Miles," based on the great jazzman's music. In this stylish work, three pairs of dancers expressed the different relationships Davis enjoyed with each of his three wives. The program opened with Balanchine's "Pas de Dix," with Karyn Lee Connell and Kyongho Kim excelling in the leads; Connell with her secure turns and classy looks and Kim with some nice leaps. The company also performed Sally Streets' "Three to Tango," a sexy but also irreverent excursion into tango.

- Hubbard Street Dance Chicago brought to Stanford two slightly different programs. Fans’ favorites included: Jiri Kylian’s "Sechs Tanze," a brilliant and witty send-up of classical ballet with dancers in "period" undergarments; David Parsons' "The Envelope," which was funny but repetitious; and Kevin O’Day's "To Have and To Hold," a very sexy pas de deux, with Cheryl Mann displaying an amazing ability to express sensuality through the articulation of her upper body.

- San Francisco Ballet didn't perform at home in October but they certainly impressed ballet fans elsewhere. In Orange County, the company treated fans to several casts of "Giselle," which received mixed reviews for Helgi Tomasson's choreography that, according to the program notes, daringly returned to the roots of classical ballet. Joanna Berman shone in an impeccable performance, in spite having to dance opposite Cyril Pierre for the first time. Newcomer Lorena Feijoo was also delightful as Myrtha and it will be interesting to see what Tomasson has in store for her in the upcoming season. In London, Tomasson was also daring in bringing his "Swan Lake" to the home of the Royal Ballet. He must have known what he was doing as the knowledgeable Brits approved of his production. They also gave Mark Morris' "Sandpaper Ballet" seven standing ovations, quite unusual for the otherwise reserved Brits according to the report from our UK correspondent, Stuart Sweeney. Needless to say, the Brits loved our SF Ballet (Sorry London, you can't keep them. They're ours).

Well, it was fun writing this newsletter and I have to thank my friend Stuart Sweeney for "encouraging" me to do it. For a capsule review of dance performances nationwide, check out Genevieve Turcotte’s wonderful column at Voice of Dance. And remember, enjoy as much dance as you can (with "enjoy" being the operative word here)!

Azlan Ezaddin (okay, Stuart, you can let go of my arm now)

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