San Francisco Ballet: the hunger for dance

On February 13, San Francisco Ballet premiered its latest collaboration with Trey McIntyre, The Big Hunger. In the program notes, McIntyre explains the concepts behind the ballet, which he set on the company this past summer. It’s based on the beliefs of the Kalahari Bushmen as described in the Korean film, Burning. The Bushmen claim there are two hungers in life: the small hungers that drive our everyday existence and the big hunger that is our longing for existential...

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A miraculous Cinderella

Figures in deep blues and green whirl across the stage to a hectic waltz by Prokofiev. Above them a clutter of candelabras shines down like stars in the night sky, and two figures, a prince in a deep red jacket with military decorations and a young woman in a dress covered in pheasant feathers and wearing a gold mask and gold slippers, appear and disappear among the whirling figures. They lose each other, they find each other. The scene, from San Francisco Ballet’s production of...

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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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