Ballet ’round the Bay

This year I decided to start seeing as much ballet as time and money will allow (in addition to my San Francisco Ballet subscription which I’ve had for a few years now), and boy, it is hard work! Ha, not really, but my already glacial blogging pace hasn’t kept up so far. My performance reviews end up being tweets at intermission:

(Apparently I love exclamation points as well.)

So given the fact that I’m seeing another performance tomorrow night and next Friday night (San Francisco Ballet’s Programs 6 and 5, respectively), let me catch up with a quick listing of what I’ve seen recently and call it a day.

Whew. I used to keep a spreadsheet of the ballets I’d seen–nerd!–with the pieces and choreographers noted; I need to get back to that! It’s nice to look back and jog your memory if and when you’ve seen a certain piece before.

Aside from San Francisco Ballet, the other companies above are ones I saw for the first time: Company C, Diablo Ballet, and Ballet San Jose. It was great to check these folks out, and I look forward to seeing more of them in the future.

By the way, to help dispel the myth of ballet as a wholly expensive pursuit (or an image of me as made of money), let me say that there are a bunch of ways to save money on tickets. Keep your eyes peeled for discount tickets on Goldstar or on deal sites like Groupon. Or check if the company you want to see offers standing room or rush tickets or other discounts. I try to post ones in the Bay Area to my Twitter feed when I come across them. (Full disclosure: Thanks to Diablo Ballet for inviting me as press to their performance in Walnut Creek.)

All right, enjoy the rest of the week, and I’ll leave you with this video by Company C, which was shown as a prologue at their recent performances:

Dancing through a prism

War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco — February 17, 2012

On Friday night I saw San Francisco Ballet’s Program 2, which consisted of Wayne McGregor’s Chroma, Mark Morris’s world premiere Beaux, and Christopher Wheeldon’s Number Nine.


For me the revelation of the evening was Chroma. I had only heard about it fleetingly and seen only very short video clips of it, so I went in with few set expectations. Well, actually my one expectation based on the photos I’d seen was that it would be very stark or cold and I wasn’t sure I would like it or get into it. Finally seeing it totally blew that away.

The music for Chroma, by Joby Talbot and Jack White III, was much more lush, lyrical, and cinematic than I’d expected. And paired with the starkness of the set and lighting, and the boldness of the choreography, there was a kind of tension in the whole thing, a dynamic range of music and emotion that I enjoyed. Well done.


I wanted to love Beaux more but unfortunately it felt like the weak link. I was excited by the idea of a new, all-male work by Mark Morris with costumes by Isaac Mizrahi, but the costumes and lighting — mostly pink and orange — were a distraction. (Thom says the costumes are Slim Goodbody-ish.) I enjoyed the middle and later movements more, where the lighting wasn’t as harsh as the beginning. I know this makes me sound old! Otherwise the choreography, which made me think men at leisure in some sylvan utopia, is playful, fraternal, even emotionally touching, which you rarely see in ballet partnering among men.

Number Nine

I had first seen Number Nine last year at its premiere (and again at this year’s gala). I felt like the dancing was just a tad imprecise now and then during this most recent time, but it’s still a relentless, colorful delight. Indeed when I first saw it last year I was distracted by the bright costumes and saturated lighting but here coming after Beaux, it was almost refreshing. (See video.)

By the way, Number Nine is the ballet I’m having fun with here:

Now do I just pop on down to the costume shop to get fitted for a bright yellow unitard?

» See also: Reviews from the Chronicle (“Ballet’s candy-colored ‘Beaux’ plays with imagery“) and San Francisco Classical Voice (“Beauxs will be beauxs“). Program 2 runs through Saturday, February 25. The main cast I saw on February 17 is listed below.

Continue reading “Dancing through a prism”

Bella Notte: San Francisco Ballet gala

War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco — January 19, 2012

Last Thursday night I went to the San Francisco Ballet opening night gala performance. What an entertaining and inspiring evening of dance!

I went on a totally last-minute decision; even though I had been tempted in the months leading up to it, I thought, well, as I subscriber I see SF Ballet enough that I can save my money, that I don’t need to go to the gala. (Then again when you’re obsessed with something, there’s no talking rationally!) The program and casting were announced a few days beforehand, and I thought, OK, twist my arm, I’ll get a performance-only ticket (i.e., no fancy pre- and post-performance shindigs) and go check it out.

First, the glitz. I threw on my tuxedo–so glad I finally bought one a few years ago–and headed to the Opera House.

Complimentary bubbly? Don’t mind if I do!

Most of the orchestra-level crowd sauntered in well past eight. I assume that one can’t help but dawdle when one has dinner across the street at City Hall and then is greeted by free-flowing Champagne in the lobby.

People-watching from the Ballet Shop on the mezzanine during intermission:

So, the dancing! It was all pretty amazing. I had seen two of the pieces before, and while I’d heard of some of the others, like Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, it was the first time I’d seen them performed live. I’m still rusty at writing reviews (and I’ve procrastinated on this post long enough), so I’ll lead you to the San Francisco Chronicle‘s review, which covers all the bases: “Gala’s depth, daring.” (See below for program listing.)

I will say that one of my highlights was the one-two punch of Maria Kochetkova and Joan Boada in Voices of Spring followed by Yuan Yuan Tan and guest star Alexander Riabko in Lady of the Camellias. One so light and exuberant, the other so dark and moving. Also I appreciate them showing off the men (they are inspiring!), especially in the lively men’s section from Classical Symphony and the fun piece Solo, whose lighthearted camaraderie reminded me a bit of Kings of the Dance.

So I think I’m hooked. I went stag this time, but next year I’m bringing Thom and we’ll just have to do the after-party too. Cheers to a new SF Ballet season!

Continue reading “Bella Notte: San Francisco Ballet gala”

Trey McIntyre Project

Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley — November 18, 2011

Last night I went to see Trey McIntyre Project at Cal Performances in Berkeley. This was my first time seeing them, and I’m so glad I roused myself out from under the weather to see them. What an exciting, energetic dance company!

They performed three pieces:

  • In Dreams (music by Roy Orbison)
  • Gravity Heroes (music by Antony and the Johnsons, The Sex Pistols, Benjamin Britten, Tommy James and the Shondells, and Ray LaMontagne)
  • The Sweeter End (music by Preservation Hall Jazz Band)

As you can see, the music was eclectic (and in the case of Gravity Heroes, the set was kind of surreal: piñatas!) but everything and everyone worked well together and you could really see the strong ballet underpinnings in the choreography, which melded ballet, modern, and jazz. The pieces were so different it’s hard to pick a favorite; each moved me in a different way, but all stretched my ballet mind a bit more.

I would love to see more of Trey McIntyre Project — and indeed my partner Thom, who went with me last night, said they may be his “new favorite dance company” — I’ll definitely try to catch them if they tour through here again. Also, I’ve never been to Idaho, but hey, when I do visit, I’ll be sure to check in on them.

See also: Program notes (PDF) and PBS NewsHour story from December 2010:

Addendum: See also San Francisco Chronicle review, “Jazzy Number” (November 21, 2011): “smart, vibrant dancing,” “robust muscularity of McIntyre’s freewheeling choreography.”