The old world elegance of the Mariinsky Ballet

Watching the Mariinsky Ballet’s La Bayadère reminds the viewer that ballet has a deep history, which is not merely relived by the company but revitalized and reinscribed. What lies behind that vivid portrait of a cultural world that is over 150 years old is the company’s dedication to and perfection of classical ballet technique. All of that was on view at Cal Performances last week when the company brought its opulent production of the Petipa ballet to Zellerbach Hall,...

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The otherworldly beauty of Sankai Juku

The extraordinary butoh dance company Sankai Juku performed this weekend at Zellerbach Hall as part of Cal Performance’s World Stage series. The company was formed in 1975 by Ushio Amagatsu, who is choreographer, designer and director. Like much of Japanese dance and theater, the 90-minute performance moved at a slower pace than American and European dance. But it is precisely this slow and sustained movement deeply attached to the ground and gravity that creates the performance’s...

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Mark Morris meets Mozart

Mark Morris Dance Group, long loved by audiences in Berkeley, presented the choreographer’s Mozart Dances this past weekend at Cal Performances’ Zellerbach Hall. The company premiered the work at the Lincoln Center in New York City in August 2006, and performances in Berkeley followed soon after. The dance is set to two piano concertos and a sonata for two pianos by Mozart. The formidable Inon Barnatan was the pianist, and the Berkeley Symphony was directed by long-time MMDG...

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Someone’s sneaking ’round the corner …

Kurt Weill and Bertholt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera has long been my favorite opera. By the time I was 12 I knew every word of every song in this darkly comic study of the cruelties of human nature revealed in the interlocking mechanisms of class and capitalism. Mess with my memories of Threepenny and you mess with my primal love of theater. Which is what happened last Saturday at the West Edge Opera’s production of Threepenny. When the lights went down...

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Sketching out the new in ballet

At the end of Amy Seiwert’s new ballet, Verses, the woman sitting next to me in the audience said, “That was lovely. It made me want to be a dancer, and I have never felt that before.” What more can we ask of art, than it urge us to open our eyes and our desires to experience the world in as many different ways as possible? What more can a choreographer hope for, than to reach, ultimately, deep into our sense of empathy? Although choreographer Amy Seiwert has been the...

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Not so safe choreography at SAFEhouse

At a small gallery space in the Tenderloin on May 17, SAFEhouse for the Performing Arts presented three performances developed during its RAW (resident artist workshop) program. Several Bay Area choreographers created three dynamic pieces that overlapped in their consideration of intimacy, boundaries, and the creative process. The evening opened with Steven Horner’s Encountering, performed by himself in the round and hinging on heavy audience participation. Each seated spectator...

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