Beauty’s subtle dance at Zellerbach Playhouse

Since the mid 20th century almost every art practice from the visual arts to performance has found the seductive powers of beauty troublesome. Too often it is accused of being the velvet glove for entrenched powers, a softening blow in league with oppression. So it is with some irony that Pavel Zustiak named his most recent performance piece, which premiered New York Live Arts in 2015, Custodians of Beauty. Cal Performances presented Custodians this past weekend at the...

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The comfort of being a face in the crowd in “Alone Together”

For its final production of the 2018 season, ODC Theater featured Of Iron and Diamonds V3: Alone Together, an entertaining piece full of self-conscious humor and dynamic reframing of what it means to perform and to watch. This reversal is built into the theater’s arrangement: the audience sits onstage, facing the tiered seating where much of the action happens. Performed on December 6, the piece opens with audience and performers peering at each other from the across the room,...

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High voltage Cirque du Soleil

The circus is in town! Hurrah! Last week the Cirque du Soleil set up its big top tent for its latest gloriously glitzy, jaw-dropping production, Volta. Presenting, as always, a ferociously paced but immensely enjoyable show, the company has changed since its first shuddery start in Canada in 1984. I saw the original US 1987 show at the Los Angeles Art Festival, the run that would vault the company into international success, and although the amount of shiny costumes has multiplied...

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“ECHO / riding the rapids” in a flurry of symbols

“Doesn’t he look like he’s trying to get into a body?” asks Sara Shelton Mann, director of ECHO / riding the rapids, leaving her seat in the audience to join one of her principal dancers on stage. The dancers’ responses, after she resumes her seated anonymity, range from graceful to violent, ultimately crystallizing in a symbolic reality where every decision reflects a previous one. Their performance on October 11 at ODC Theater built a world through solo and paired movement...

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Sappho’s body is breaking in “extreme lyric I”

Translating a translation highlights the fragility and multiplicity of meaning. A coproduction of Hope Mohr Dance and ODC Theater, extreme lyric I directly challenges the stability of gender and identity by embodying Anne Carson’s translations of Sappho. Although Mohr intends to “shed postmodernism with this work and investigate the lyric,” a precise, definable sense of self, the self implied by the I of the title, remains just out of reach. Sappho’s poetry,...

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Each year a newer, more contemporary Smuin

“How can I describe you?” So starts the music by Nico Muhly and singer Teitur that is the inspiration for Val Caniparoli’s wry and sassy ballet, If I Were A Sushi Roll, which Smuin premiered in San Francisco on April 20. The ballet continued its run as the centerpiece of company’s Dance Series 2 this past week at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, before moving on to Mountain View and Carmel. The singer goes on as the Smuin ensemble, costumed as Men and Women in...

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