Happy New Year 2013!

Arabesque at City Hall in Pasadena, California.

Happy New Year! Yes, this blog and I are very much still alive. The last several weeks of 2012 were quite busy for my ballet calendar: in addition to regular classes, I was in a performance workshop, which culminated in a student showcase! It was my very first time performing ballet for an audience and marked my return to the stage after an absence of more than ten years (I say as if there has been a public clamoring in the meantime). OK, it was basically a recital for an audience of mostly family and friends, but still, it has rekindled my thirst for performing.

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Smuin Ballet’s energetic season opener

Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, San Francisco — October 5, 2012

Smuin Ballet is one of my favorite dance companies here in the Bay Area, so I’d been eagerly awaiting their new season. And when they announced the return of Trey McIntyre‘s Oh, Inverted World (to the music of The Shins), I was over the moon, since I had missed its premiere in 2010. Their opening night last Friday did not disappoint. Once again, my collected tweets:

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Pirouettes and popcorn: Royal Ballet’s ‘La Fille’ at the movies

Last weekend, I had a joyous time watching my first full-length Royal Ballet performance and my first La Fille Mal Gardée at that, all from a convenient nearby movie theater. As a ballet geek-in-training I’ve been trying to watch as much ballet as I can. It’s about time I start expanding my scope beyond the local companies, and if a movie theater can provide a spark of the opera house experience (for now), I’ll take it. And the day I went happened to be the day of the Olympics closing ceremony in London, so I was already in an English mood!

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‘Sketch 2: The Women Choreographers’

ODC Theater, San Francisco — August 2, 2012

Amy Seiwert‘s Imagery presents Sketch 2: The Women Choreographers, a program of three new contemporary ballet pieces developed with the company by Gina Patterson, Julia Adam, and Amy Seiwert. My very quick Twitter takes from Thursday’s sold-out opening night:

Here is a bit of rehearsal footage of Sarah and Weston in their captivating pas de deux from In the Time:

I enjoyed all the pieces, and Sleep Sketches was a nice whimsical counterpoint to the other two more sober dances. The final performance of the program is tonight, Saturday, August 4 at 8 p.m. at ODC Theater, San Francisco (tickets).

» See also Facebook album of performance photos; Carla Escoda’s preview on Huffington Post (“Storming the citadel“) and Allan Ulrich’s review in the San Francisco Chronicle (“Seiwert ‘sketch’ riveting“).

Program notes are below:

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Ballet boys on ‘Jeopardy!’

Last night on a Kids Week episode of Jeopardy! one of the categories was “Boys in Ballet.” Neat! The kids left it to the very end, though it turned out to be a pretty easy category. By the way I was surprised there wasn’t a clue about Billy Elliot. Here are the clues and responses; test your knowledge!

Clues

  • $400 This stretchy one-piece garment for both sexes was named for a guy, a French acrobat
  • $800 In the ballet Checkmate, the red one of these gets to die an agonizing death at the hands of the black queen
  • $1200 Boys’ classes often emphasize jumps, maybe even the difficult tour en l’air, which means this in the air
  • $1600 (Daily Double) A boy named Fritz breaks this title gift given to his sister Clara by Drosselmeyer
  • $2000 After a performance, ballerinas curtsy; men perform a small one of these equivalent gestures
“What is…?”

Correct responses

  • Leotard
  • King
  • Turn (The contestant answered twirl, which was accepted.)
  • The Nutcracker (The contestant–the same one who answered twirl/turn above–risked $1000, but couldn’t come up with an answer.)
  • Bow

How’d you do?

Post:Ballet presents ‘Triads’

Herbst Theatre, San Francisco — July 21, 2012

A quick-bite review: Founded in 2009 by dancer and choreographer Robert Dekkers, innovative dance company Post:Ballet capped its third season with a program entitled Triads, consisting of four pieces, including a world premiere. The first half of the program (sensual Mine Is Yours and darkly whimsical Happy Ending) was beautiful but left me a little cold and puzzled. It was the second half that delivered. A pas de deux from Interference Pattern felt intimate and honest; Jonathan Mangosing and Christian Squires were a pleasure to watch. When in Doubt, whose original score included recorded spoken word from the dancers themselves, had depth both in choreography and meaning.

Kudos to Robert Dekkers for taking risks and pushing the ballet envelope. This was my first full evening of Post:Ballet, and I look forward to many more seasons of interesting, imaginative dance. (I also have to say I love the styling of their new headshots!)

Post-performance Q&A with Post:Ballet dancers and collaborators

Post:Ballet director Robert Dekkers

» See also: Post:Ballet Facebook page, and Triads reviews from the San Francisco Chronicle and California Literary Review.

Program listing and video excerpts are below:

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‘Masha’: A portrait of Maria Kochetkova

San Francisco Ballet principal dancer Maria Kochetkova is certainly a ballet star, and the Vogue Theatre was packed last week with local balletomanes (as well as several dancers) for a preview of Masha, a documentary that follows Maria’s participation with the Bolshoi Reflections project in Orange County and Moscow.

The film gives us a glimpse of life behind the scenes, as it wanders with Maria through costume fittings, rehearsals, performances, and more personal moments like that classic ballerina ritual, preparing (i.e., violently breaking in) pointe shoes. (Without a narrator, this fly-on-the-wall style brings to my mind Frederick Wiseman’s 1995 film Ballet, a profile of American Ballet Theatre.) I enjoyed it thoroughly: there are both grand and intimate moments, even slightly comical ones, and they all make you realize how much work goes into ballet despite how effortless it seems from afar. More importantly you get a glimpse of Maria as a dancer at her craft: very detailed and direct as she figures out if a costume will fit right, perfects a particular step or move with the choreographer (in one of the scenes, Jorma Elo), and so forth. Here’s a clip:

After the screening, Maria took the stage to answer audience questions, which ranged from her childhood and training to her onstage state of mind (“freaking out!”; she tries to work extra hard in the studio so she doesn’t have to overthink during performance) to if she had kids whether she would encourage them to take ballet (yes, why not?) to dream roles she hasn’t yet played (she’s starting to run out, but upcoming SFB production Cinderella appeals). I love Q&As. This was the first time I had attended one with Maria, and it was lovely to get a sense of her quick, sparkling personality away from the Opera House stage.

Directed by Bronwen Parker-Rhodes, Masha now continues in editing and is likely to have a further or final-cut screening later this year. I’m looking forward to it!

» See also: A couple of videos featuring Maria Kochetkova, San Francisco Ballet Artist Spotlight; and one of the pieces featured in Masha, Jorma Elo’s One Overture.

Dance diversity at Dance/USA

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco — June 28, 2012

I am continually amazed not just at the amount of dance being performed in the Bay Area but also at its diversity, which was showcased recently at a couple of performances produced in conjunction with the Dance/USA annual conference, held in San Francisco last week.

By the way I totally missed the boat with the Dance/USA conference: granted I am not a dance professional, but as a local dance geek-in-the-making I should’ve volunteered or networked my way into some of the sessions. Still, I followed the conference tweetage (and picked up a few interesting ideas to chew on) and made some great online connections. Hello, new followers!

As I was saying, the conference put together a couple of performances (each with a different program) highlighting Bay Area dance companies, and I went to the evening performance last Thursday. I loved the range of dance: not only ballet and modern, but the fortunate concurrence of the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival facilitated plenty of ethnic dance numbers, including Native American, flamenco, West African, Hawaiian, and a fusion of South Indian classical and Japanese taiko, which I especially liked.

I’ve been to a few similar Bay Area-wide dance concerts in the past few months now (namely benefits like Dances from the Heart and Get in Front, at which I had first seen two of the Dance/USA numbers), and each has inspired me in my own dancing and renewed my pride in the local dance community. I hope they continue, ’cause I’ll keep coming back for more.

Notes: The dances I saw are listed below, some of which I’ve annotated with YouTube clips (not necessarily the same dancers). The program notes for the two performances are available in PDF (it’s in booklet format for printing, so the PDF layout is pages 4, 1 and 2, 3).

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