California Literary Review

Dance Vine

San Francisco Ballet — Promotions & New Company Members


June 22nd, 2011 at 12:30 pm

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson’s Romeo & Juliet © Erik Tomasson

San Francisco Ballet has announced four company promotions, two new company members, and six new apprentices for the 2012 Repertory Season.

Soloist Vito Mazzeo has been promoted to principal dancer effective July 1, 2011. In addition, Patricia Keleher, Raymond Tilton, and Caroline Diane Wilson, apprentices during the 2011 Repertory Season, will join the ranks of the corps de ballet effective July 1, along with former SFB School Trainees Francisco Mungamba and Wan Ting Zhao. A complete and updated announcement and company roster will be distributed in July.

Read more…

Review: Boston Ballet’s Bella Figura


May 6th, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Altan Dugaraa, Sarah Wroth and Yury Yanowsky in Kylián’s Bella Figura. Photo by Gene Schiavone.

In Boston Ballet’s program Bella Figura, at the Boston Opera House through this Sunday, all three pieces stretch conventional notions of what is beautiful.  William Forsythe’s The Second Detail is set to a booming electronic score by Thom Willems and mixes in hyper-extensions and lazy postures with classical technique.  Jirí Kylián’s Bella Figura manages to demonstrate the beauty in hunched shoulders.  And Helen Pickett’s new ballet Part I, II, III begs the audience to find beauty in a pas de deux in which one dancer (Kathleen Breen Combes) is often confined to the wobbling, tentative steps of an infant.

When the curtain rises on The Second Detail, the stage looks leeched of color: the leotards worn by the dancers are an icy, bleached blue, the walls are muted gray.  Along the back edge of the stage is a row of simple black stools, where throughout the piece dancers perch to rest.

It feels both stylish and vaguely unformed — an aesthetic that runs through the piece, from the attitude of the dancers to the block-lettered “THE” placed challengingly on the lip of the stage.  A lot of the movement is almost abrasively big: legs that climb so high they no longer seem connected to a body, piqué arabesques just on this side of control, and showy, outstretched arms that rival those of self-satisfied gymnasts as they stick their landings.  This sort of showiness is offset by the often-funny ennui displayed by the dancers, who step casually out of triple pirouettes, their arms still swinging round their hips with the momentum of the turn, or whip off amazing technical feats before slouching off to the sides of the stage.  Willems’ score, too, is both defiantly audacious and slightly aimless, sometimes sounding like fading music at a creaky carnival.

Read more…

San Francisco Ballet Announces 2012 Season


April 20th, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Maria Kochetkova and Gennadi Nedvigin in Wheeldon's Number Nine

Maria Kochetkova and Gennadi Nedvigin in Wheeldon’s Number Nine.
© Erik Tomasson

As each ballet season draws to an end, the speculation about the next year’s offerings begins. Well, San Francisco Ballet fans don’t have to wait any longer. This week, SFB released the upcoming season, and it looks to be amazing!

Included in the lineup are works by some of the world’s most influential choreographers, including four world premieres. The 2012 season also features spectacular full-length story ballets, including the SFB premiere of John Cranko’s dramatic masterpiece Onegin and a newly designed production of the delightful classic Don Quixote.


Three-Act Story Ballet
Composer: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky; Choreographer: John Cranko

Joining SFB’s repertoire for the first time, John Cranko’s intensely dramatic work Onegin is a masterful ballet adaptation of the early19th-century novel in verse, Eugene Onegin, by Alexander Pushkin. The passionate story of Russian aristocrat Eugene and his lost chance for love with the beautiful Tatiana, unleashes heartbreaking themes of unrequited love, anguish, and tragic irony. Set to a powerful score by Tchaikovsky, this production features lavish scenery and costumes by award-winning designer Santo Loquasto and lighting by James F. Ingalls.


Music: Joby Talbot, Jack White III; Choreographer: Wayne McGregor

This critically acclaimed, award-winning contemporary work by Wayne McGregor appears again in 2012 after wowing audiences in the 2011 season.

Morris World Premiere
Mark Morris returns to create his eighth work for San Francisco Ballet.

Number Nine
Composer: Michael Torke; Choreographer: Christopher Wheeldon
Wheeldon’s ballet for 24 dancers returns for an encore season.


San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson's Trio

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson’s Trio.
© Erik Tomasson

Le Carnaval des Animaux (Carnival of the Animals)
Composer: Camille Saint-Saëns; Choreographer: Alexei Ratmansky

Not performed here since 2004, Alexei Ratmansky’s delightful ballet set to the famous Saint-Saëns score by the same name, brings a whimsical menagerie of animals to life.

Yuri Possokhov World Premiere
A new work from San Francisco Ballet’s Choreographer-in-Residence.

Composer: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky; Choreographer: Helgi Tomasson

Tomasson’s grand ballet in three movements set to Tchaikovsky’s emotionally diverse music, Souvenir de Florence, returns for a second season.


Romeo & Juliet
Three-Act Story Ballet
Composer: Sergei Prokofiev; Choreographer: Helgi Tomasson

“For never was a story of more woe, than this of Juliet and her Romeo.” — William Shakespeare

Helgi Tomasson’s critically acclaimed ballet adaptation of this timeless Shakespearean masterpiece returns. Two innocent youths meet by chance, relishing the discovery and passion of first love, only to be shattered by tragic twists of fate and the destructive hatred of their own families. Set to one of Prokofiev’s most evocative scores, this production is filled with beautiful dance, riveting battles, and compelling drama, all amidst stunning production designs by Jens-Jacob Worsaae and lighting by Thomas R. Skelton.


The Fifth Season
Composer: Karl Jenkins Choreographer: Helgi Tomasson

One of Tomasson’s contemporary neoclassical works, The Fifth Season ranges in mood and movement from the more intimate and passionate, to crisp and vibrant.

Edwaard Liang World Premiere

Former New York City Ballet dancer and internationally renowned choreographer Edwaard Liang creates his first work for San Francisco Ballet.

Glass Pieces
Composer: Philip Glass; Choreographer: Jerome Robbins

Set to music by one of the 20th century’s most well-known contemporary composers, Glass Pieces remains among the most visually engaging ensemble ballets in the Robbins repertoire.


San Francisco Ballet in Possokhov's RAkU

San Francisco Ballet in Possokhov’s RAkU.
© Erik Tomasson

Raymonda — Act III
Composer: Alexander Glazunov; Choreographer: Rudolf Nureyev

Not performed by SFB in over ten years, Nureyev’s Raymonda — Act III is an elegant, refined, and challenging ballet in the classical Russian tradition.

Composer: Shinji Eshima; Choreographer: Yuri Possokhov

Set to an original score by SFB Orchestra member Shinji Eshima, Possokhov’s dramatic tour de force makes a triumphant return after bringing audiences to their feet at every performance this past season.

Ashley Page World Premiere

Ashley Page, currently artistic director for Scottish Ballet, creates his first work for SFB.


Divertimento No. 15
Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; Choreographer: George Balanchine

Scotch Symphony
Composer: Felix Mendelssohn; Choreographer: George Balanchine

The Four Temperaments
Composer: Paul Hindemith; Choreographer: George Balanchine

This program pays homage to SFB’s 60th year of performing the works of 20th-century choreographic legend George Balanchine, one of the most admired luminaries of American dance. Featuring a diverse array of Balanchine styles, the program begins with the technically pristine classicism of Divertimento No. 15, set to music by Mozart. It is followed by Scotch Symphony set to music by the same name composed by Felix Mendelssohn — a work inspired by images and lore of Scotland, and not performed by SFB in over 40 years. The program closes in grand style with one of Balanchine’s signature neoclassical masterpieces, The Four Temperaments.


Don Quixote
Three-Act Story Ballet
Composer: Léon Minkus; Production and Staging: Helgi Tomasson & Yuri Possokhov


Helgi Tomasson and Yuri Possokhov’s staging of Don Quixote returns, now with new scenery and costumes by Tony Award-winning designer Martin Pakledinaz and lighting by James F. Ingalls. Miguel de Cervantes’ romantic and witty story, placed in the colorful streets of Spain, comes to life with a lively cast of characters, along with the bravado and excitement of some of classical ballet’s most technically demanding dances.

Review: Dance Under the Influence at MAD


April 13th, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Dancers of New Chamber Ballet in Miro Magloire’s Silk — adapted for the stage at MAD as Silk for 2. Photo by Kristin Lodoen Linder.

The Museum of Arts and Design has a new series this year, dedicated to exploring the intersections of the fine arts and dance. Called Dance Under the Influence, its stated purpose is to serve as a venue where choreographers may show dances inspired by visual arts. Tonight, in the penultimate performance this spring, audiences will be able to watch new work by Ron Brown, Sean Curran, and Nelida Tirado.

Last month, in the second performance of the series, the relationship between the two art forms was not particularly explicit. Of the three choreographers (Miro Magloire, Ben Munisteri, and Michelle Wiles), only Munisteri cited particular works that inspired his piece. What emerged instead — in both the dance works shown and the discussion after the performance — was a reflection on space in dance and and other visual and performing arts. The stage the choreographers had to work with was tiny, only eight feet deep and twenty feet wide: in this nearly two-dimensional space, the choreographers had to figure out how to create the illusion of depth. It was not unlike the challenge painters have, said Magloire (artistic director of the New Chamber Ballet): to flatten something from three to two dimensions, while still retaining a sense of liveliness, of depth and movement, is difficult, but not impossible.

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Review: Mark Morris Dance Group


March 25th, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Petrichor. Photo by Brian Snyder.

In the last section of Mark Morris’ Festival Dance, one dancer picks up his partner and spins around so that her legs fly out with centrifugal force, and just when it seems he will put her down (she’s been up in the air for quite a while and the musical phrase is coming to a close), she hitches her arms more securely about him and they continue on. It’s a bit like someone who won’t stop talking though short of breath, too giddy to stop the flow of words.

Festival Dance, a new work with music by Johann Nepomuk Hummel, is filled with joyous moments like this one. It begins with a couple, dancing playfully: they bounce each other up and down like ping pong balls; he crouches behind her to propel them both forward with quick, running steps. These idiosyncratic dances (and those of other couples) lead into a more sedate second movement, in which two dancers trying to reach each other weave in and out of lines formed by the rest. The tone of the final section is lighter: those lines make a reappearance, but here the dancers put aside some of the still austerity of the second movement as their steps become vivacious, imbued with brisk happiness.

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Review: Buglisi Dance Theatre and Paul Taylor Dance Company


March 20th, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Buglisi Dance Theatre: Letters of Love on Ripped Paper

Terese Capucilli in Letters of Love on Ripped Paper. Photo by Kristin Lodoen Linder.

This month I have had the chance to see performances by the Buglisi Dance Theatre and the Paul Taylor Dance Company. These are choreographers with vastly different aesthetics — Jacqulyn Buglisi tends towards grace and grandeur, while Taylor’s pieces often seem to delight in the everyday.

The dancers of Buglisi Dance Theatre are perhaps the chief reason to see this company, which performed at the Joyce last week.  These remarkable dancers have formidable technique (many are trained in the Martha Graham style), and they are capable of infusing their dancing with drama, humor, and wit. Their gifts were particularly evident in Requiem, the first piece on the program.  In this work, the gravitas of Fauré’s score flows up their straight backs and out through their eyes; there is conviction in every contraction of their spines, every movement of their hands and arms.

There are two images that have been rattling about in my head since watching this Requiem.  One is more blatantly magnificent: the five dancers step onto raised platforms and wrap their long skirts about their feet so they look seven-feet tall; they are goddesses, austere and larger-than-life as they reach their arms upwards into light.  The other image is from the very beginning of the piece, when the curtain parts to reveal these same square blocks, swathed in yards of rich fabric like abandoned furniture covered against dusty light that bends its way through shadows.  It is only when these figures began to move that I realized that I was looking at five dancers, their bodies, once collapsed in on themselves, now slowly unfurling.

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5 Questions with San Francisco Ballet Dancer Nicole Ciapponi


March 18th, 2011 at 11:45 pm

Lynda Gutierrez and Cason McBride, David Herrera Performance Company

Nicole Ciapponi in Tomasson’s Giselle
©Erik Tomasson

Created in 1870, Coppelia is one of the oldest and most popular full-length ballets in constant production throughout the world. Curiously, though, it has not been a part of the San Francisco Ballet repertory. To remedy this, SFB is presenting this season the company premiere of the Balanchine/Danilova Coppelia. Recently, I had a chance to speak with a new SFB corps de ballet member Nicole Ciapponi about this ballet and her new status as a full-time company dancer.

California Literary Review: The company has a pretty long season with a varied repertoire. Last year you were a company trainee. What has changed for you now that you are officially in the corps? What is your biggest challenge?

Nicole Ciapponi: When I was a trainee with SFB, I had very difficult schedule. As trainees, we faced the challenge of performing both our own repertoire, and at the same time being heavily involved with the company’s repertoire — balancing two different schedules.

Since joining the company this past year, I have found it easier since I only have to manage one schedule. On the other hand, it is more physically demanding because we constantly have to change from one style to another and excel artistically at a professional level.

The biggest challenge I face everyday is always to be prepared and ready to do anything that is asked of me.

Coppelia is your first comic ballet. How do you find this different from the more dramatic ballets?

Although I enjoy dancing both dramatic and comedic ballets, the nice thing about dancing a comedy is that I can have a more light-hearted approach to my character.

You performed the “Friends” section at a showcase presentation in Canada. Has your approach to your part changed now that the choreography is integrated into a complete ballet?

In our showcase, we performed the “Friends” section as just a challenging technical dance, not as if we were portraying a character. Dancing the role as part of the entire ballet, there is the added responsibility of telling a story to the audience.

So far, what has been your favorite ballet this year to work on?

My favorite ballet to work this season (so far) was the William Forsythe The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude. This ballet really pushed my technique, plus it allowed me to present my personality on stage. It was truly amazing to have the opportunity to perform this piece and hope that I can perform it again in the near future.

Do you have a preferred dance style? Dream role? Choreographer wish list?

I don’t have a preferred style. I would say that I am open to all kinds of different movement in any style of dance. For me, the thrill of dancing is that I am challenged physically, technically, artistically — while always striving to reach perfection.

For a dream role, I would say Kitri in Don Quixote because this was the first full-length ballet I saw on video. Becoming the character of Kitri would be an exciting experience on stage.

As to choreographers I am fortunate that SFB has an exceptional artistic staff — one capable of creating world-class choreography in-house. As for choreographers outside of the company, SFB consistently brings in choreographers whose works I am particularly eager to learn.

San Francisco Ballet
Coppelia (Balanchine & Danilova/Delibes)
March 19–27, 2011
War Memorial Opera House

ROYAL DANISH BALLET: Video Chat with Nikolaj Hübbe and Live Stream Preview of 2011 U.S. Tour


March 17th, 2011 at 11:30 am

Lynda Gutierrez and Cason McBride, David Herrera Performance Company

Ulrik Birkkjær as James in The Royal Danish Ballet’s production of La Sylphide.
Photo by Henrik Stenberg / RDB ©

One of the most anticipated events of the late spring dance season is the return of the Royal Danish Ballet for a short U.S. tour, including engagements in Orange County and Berkeley, Calif., Washington, D.C., and New York City.

To augment the audience experience of the tour, on Sunday and Monday, March 20 and 21, at 4:30 p.m. (Pacific Time), there will be a live stream of the company dancing excerpts of works to be presented. Log in at USTREAM for this unique opportunity to sample what this celebrated company will be bringing to the U.S.

Additionally, The Royal Danish Ballet Artistic Director (and former New York City Ballet principal) Nikolaj Hübbe will share his vision for the company in a discussion moderated by John Meehan, Professor of Dance, Vassar College. This event, approximately 30 minutes of dance interspersed with 15 minutes of commentary, is part of the Guggenheim’s Works & Process.

Dancers will perform highlights from August Bournonville’s La Sylphide, Bournonville Variations, The Jockey Dance, and A Folk Tale, plus Jorma Elo’s Lost on Slow and Nikolaj Hübbe’s new staging of Napoli.

For more information regarding the tour:

May 24–29
Orange County, CA
Segerstrom Center for the Arts
Tickets and Info

May 30–June 4
Berkeley, CA
Zellerbach Hall
Tickets and Info

June 7–12
Washington, D.C.
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Tickets and Info

June 14–19
New York City
David H. Koch Theater (formerly the New York State Theater)
Tickets and Info


Works currently programmed for this preview, along with anticipated casting assignments include:

Bournonville Variations — Excerpts
Music: Bournonville schools arranged by Martin Åkerwall
Dancers: Alban Lendorf, Ulrik Birkkjær, Thomas Lund, Nicolai Hansen, Alexander Stæger

Lost on Slow — Excerpts
Music: Antonio Vivaldi
Choreography: Jorma Elo
Dancers: Kizzy Matiakis, Amy Watson & Jean-Lucien Massot

The Jockey Dance
Music: C. C. Møller
Choreography: August Bournonville
Dancers: Thomas Lund, Alban Lendorf

A Folk Tale — Excerpts
Music: N. W. Gade, J. P. E. Hartmann
Choreography: August Bournonville
Dancers for the Pas de Sept: Gudrun Bojesen, Susanne Grinder, Kizzy Matiakis, Amy Watson, Ulrik Birkkjær, Nicolai Hansen, Alexander Stæger

La Sylphide (Window and Death Scenes)
Music: H. S. Løvenskiold
Choreography: August Bournonville
Dancers: Gudrun Bojesen, Ulrik Birkkjær

Napoli — Excerpts
Music: E. Helsted, H. C. Lumbye, H. S. Paulli, Ole Bull
Choreography: Nikolaj Hübbe
Dancers: Susanne Grinder, Alexander Stæger (Act I Pas de Deux).

5 Questions with Choreographer David Herrera


March 10th, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Lynda Gutierrez and Cason McBride, David Herrera Performance Company

Lynda Gutierrez and Cason McBride, David Herrera Performance Company
Photo by

David Herrera Performance Company (DHPC) will present the premiere of American Layercake, a new dance theater performance by choreographer David Herrera in collaboration with director Jean Johnston. Performances are scheduled March 11–13 at Dance Mission Theater in San Francisco. Herrera and Johnston’s cross-disciplinary approach to American Layercake follows a family’s inner struggle in achieving individual, family, and national identity. Music is by Josh Roberts, media design by Olivia Ting, and scenography by Meghan Beitiks.

The following is an interview conducted during a recent rehearsal for this program.

California Literary Review: Could you tell us a bit about your background and influences?

David Herrera: I began late (for a dancer) as an undergrad in the theater department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, I decided to take a modern dance class and soon realized how little knowledge I had of my own body. My love affair with movement began with that discovery. After finishing my bachelor’s degree, I returned to school and earned a post-graduate certificate in the cross-disciplinary study of dance theater.

The major influences on my personal style is a mish-mash of contact, lifting, ethnic/cultural dance, Cunningham, Theater, Release, Limon, and Feldenkrais. I took most of my style and discipline from former Merce Cunningham dancer Mel Wong, but enjoy working within the other techniques. Before moving to San Francisco in 2004, I was coached by William Alderson in Los Angeles. Now that I am in the professional circuit, I attend various styles and classes throughout the greater San Francisco Bay Area.

In bringing in a theater professional, you have taken a unique artistic approach with this work. What have you gained from this partnership? What was the biggest surprise?

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Interview with ASFB’s William Cannon


February 27th, 2011 at 11:08 am

I recently had a chance to talk with dancer William Cannon of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, currently performing at the Joyce in New York City. Below are some of his responses to questions about contemporary ballet, working on new choreography, and the pieces that ASFB is bringing to New York — Jorma Elo’s Red Sweet, Jiri Kylian’s Stamping Ground, and Cayetano Soto’s Uneven, a New York premiere.

California Literary Review: One of the most exciting aspects of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet is its commitment to commissioning new works. Could you tell me a bit about your experiences working with choreographers on new pieces?

William Cannon: It’s a really fantastic process to be able to be a part of creating something new, and its also a great experience getting to work with a variety of choreographers, just having different experiences and seeing how different people work — and what different choreographers are able to bring out of myself and of all the other dancers in the company.

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Company C Contemporary Ballet: Pulse, Appalachia Waltz, Ominous Rumblings of Discontent, Indoor Fireworks


February 18th, 2011 at 9:45 am

Company C Contemporary Ballet: Indoor Fireworks

David Van Ligon, Chantelle Pianetta & Jackie McConnell in Charles Anderson and Benjamin Bowman’s Indoor Fireworks.
[Photo by David DeSilva]

From the large resident and touring grand ballet companies to the small start-up performance groups, Bay Area audiences definitely are spoiled when it comes to dance options. While the larger companies depend on a solid mix of the classics and expensive new commissions to establish their brands, the smaller companies often successfully rely on the charisma and talents of a single choreographer.

Company C Contemporary Ballet Artistic Director Charles Anderson has chosen his own direction — the thirteen-member company, named as one of Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch” in 2010, specializes in works from master choreographers such as Paul Taylor, Val Caniparoli, and Twyla Tharp, including some that are infrequently performed. Then, Anderson adds commissioned works and his own choreography to the repertoire.

For the Spring 2011 program, seen at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on Feb. 13, Anderson chose two established works and presented two world premieres. The most anticipated was the world premiere of Indoor Fireworks set to music by New Wave icon Elvis Costello.

Chantelle Pianetta, Company C Contemporary Ballet: Indoor Fireworks

Chantelle Pianetta in Charles Anderson and Benjamin Bowman’s Indoor Fireworks.
[Photo by David DeSilva]

Anderson and co-choreographer Benjamin Bowman have crafted an appealing crowd-pleaser that offers individual showcases for the company’s talented classically trained dancers. Winning solos by Chantelle Pianetta and Robert Dekkers highlighted the energetic ensemble work and well-crafted and technically solid duets. My only quibbles with the ballet: it stuck a bit too literally to the song lyrics and the piece ended on a curious down note. Instead of ending with a send-them-out-of-the-theater smiling number, the choreographers chose to conclude the piece and the evening in a more somber manner. The audience, though, seemed ready for Indoor Fireworks to end with the previous section — the familiar “Peace, Love and Understanding” and appeared puzzled by the additional section.

Two company premieres, Pulse (Daniel Ezralow) and the gentle and wistful Appalachia Waltz (James Sewell), opened the program. In Pulse, Ezralow uses a sliding controlled second position to propel the dancers through fleeting encounters, effectively turning the notion of impact choreography on its head. The conceit works — right at the time it looks as if the slide speed should result in a collision, the dancers veer off, missing one another yet again. It is a tribute to the dancers, who all displayed distinct personalities in Indoor Fireworks, that they were able to dance behind a virtual mask, emphasizing Ezralow’s Greek chorus commentary on personal relationships.

The premiere of Maurice Causey’s Ominous Rumblings of Discontent was less clear. The black and gray color scheme, murky lighting, ominous score, dancer vocalizations, and tricky partnering seemed to be on a journey. Just not sure where it was going.


Company C Contemporary Ballet tours locally and performs each of its programs several times throughout the Bay Area. The last performance of the company’s Winter Program will be on Mar. 19 and 20 in Mountain View. This is an engaging company presenting intriguing material. Definitely worth making an effort to see.

Company C Contemporary Ballet
March 19–20, 2011
Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts
Tickets: or 650.903.6000

Golden West College Professional Dance Invitational


February 17th, 2011 at 11:23 am

Likolani Brown, Andrew Veyette, Sara Adams and Lauren Lovette in Valse Fantaisie

Marko Westwood, Nevada Repertory Dance Theater.
[Photo by Jeff Speer]

It Takes a Festival…

Bottom line: budget cuts, closing venues, and economy-related attendance declines have made it difficult for choreographers and small dance companies to find opportunities to perform. While funding has always been an issue for artists, the current economy has made things more difficult than usual.

This makes events like Las Vegas’s annual late summer Dance in the Desert Festival and the Golden West College Professional Dance Invitational (Feb. 18 and 19) more essential than ever. Now in its sixth year, the Golden West weekend offers Southern California audiences the opportunity to experience two evenings packed with a selection of professional dance companies in a variety of disciplines, including contemporary ballet, classical modern, Middle Eastern, and jazz.

Nannette Brodie, Director of Dance for Golden West College and host of the event, brings her company Nannette Brodie Dance Theatre to perform its newest work, Body of Water, along with Tango Point. Other Southern California companies participating are Jazzworks-Long Beach, under the direction of Andrew Vaca, Kenneth Walker Dance Project, Donna Sternberg and Dancers, Intersect Dance Company, and Angelika Nemeth with the Middle Eastern Ensemble (Friday only). Luminario Ballet will present two duets, one choreographed by the late Michael Smuin.

YouTube Preview Image

Luminario Ballet

San Francisco Bay Area companies include Anandha Ray, with Moving Arts Dance Company, and David Herrera Performance Company.

Two Nevada groups, Kelly Roth and Dancers and Marko Westwood’s Nevada Repertory Dance Theater also will be coming. Desert Dance Theatre, Dulce Dance Company, and Scorpius Dance Company will represent Arizona.

And There’s Classes

Dancers also can take advantage of a variety of classes at the Invitational’s Master Class Series. The classes will take place at Dance Asylum Dance Studio in Costa Mesa on February 18 and 19, 2011. Classes are $10 each, cash or check.

Golden West College Professional Invitational
Robert B. Moore Theater, Orange Coast College
Costa Mesa, CA
Feb. 18–19, 8:00 p.m.
Information: 714.895.8281 or

San Francisco Ballet: Giselle Redux


February 12th, 2011 at 10:49 am

Likolani Brown, Andrew Veyette, Sara Adams and Lauren Lovette in Valse Fantaisie

Maria Kochetkova in Tomasson’s Giselle
© Erik Tomasson

A Deep Bench

Many dance companies would kill for the depth of talent present at San Francisco Ballet. Take, for example, the recent production of Giselle. This is a company that can field five excellent lead couples and has multiple casting choices for the rest of the assignments. The level is so high that soloists, principal dancers, corps members share assignments with no diminution of overall results.

Nevertheless, sometimes the elements and stars align in perfect harmony to produce a performance that will live forever in the memories of those in attendance. The Giselle on Thursday, Feb. 10, was one such night.

The Elements

Let’s begin with the corps. Even on a bad night, SFB’s corps de ballet is on the high side of very good; some days, though, it really clicks. In Giselle this means that in both acts all groups hit their spacing so that the critical action is clearly revealed, and in Act II the dancers execute the notoriously difficult “Giselle hop” sequence, keeping legs aligned while maintaining a spooky, distancing demeanor. When the corps is on, Act II becomes eerie and dangerous. On Thursday, the group executed the famous bits beautifully, and then added extra elements.

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Review: Parsons Dance at the Joyce


February 7th, 2011 at 12:04 am


Bachiana with Eric Bourne, Steven Vaughn, Miguel Quinones

Name a piece “Bachiana” and you invite comparison to two twentieth-century greats: Fokine’s Chopiniana, with its nimble-footed sylphs, and Balanchine’s swan song, Mozartiana — one of the choreographer’s last ballets. Both of these works engage seriously with the music, illuminating its contours, reacting to changes in tone and rhythm.

David Parsons’ Bachiana, set to Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 1 and Air on a G String, does none of this. There is, of course, the obligatory nod to the courtliness of the music (in a slow section of the piece, two dancers bow to one another graciously); and there are occasional movements that fit the music comfortably. The partnering is, at times, vaguely witty: in one pas de deux, the delightful Elena D’Amario perches her knees on the shoulders of her partner (Jason MacDonald) and mimics his movements with light gestures of her arms. Overall, though, the piece reads like Paul Taylor Lite (it’s a bit like Taylor’s Airs, but without the nuance).

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A Gala Celebration with San Francisco Ballet


January 29th, 2011 at 10:21 pm

San Francisco BalletKatie Faulkner, Private Freeman: little seismic dance company

Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith in Liang’s Somewhere In Time
© Erik Tomasson


I love ballet gala performances. I love the idea of them, the look of them, the air of anticipation. Although some ballet company galas occur during the regular season, at San Francisco Ballet, the Gala happens a few days before the opening program. And it’s excitement personified. The audience has endured an eight-month drought, relieved only by one foggy outing at Stern Grove and the annual Nutcracker, and attendees are thrilled to see new company members and favorite performers alike.

As usual for these events, Wednesday night’s audience came in their finest duds — men in tuxes and dress suits, women in satiny slip-style evening gowns, feathery cocktail dresses, and way too many fluffy tulle numbers with guaranteed-to-trip-the-guy-behind-you trains. Champagne flowed, and the buzz was heartfelt and genuine.

The Show

This year’s Gala featured two world premieres, one U.S. premiere, and one SFB premiere interspersed with a couple of old chestnuts, some work unique to the event, and a preview of things to come, all leading up to the feel-good finale from Balanchine’s Symphony in C.

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