Tag Archives: Cal Performances
The return of the Joffrey Ballet to Berkeley was a joyful reunion as anticipation turned to renewed admiration for fans of the brilliant, 57-year-old, American dance company.
Until their January Cal Performances doubleheader at Zellerbach, Joffrey appearances on Bay Area stages had been far too rare; especially after the company’s 1995 move from New York City to Chicago and Artistic Director Ashley Wheater’s arrival in 2007.
Long a purveyor of supreme choreography and phenomenal dancers, vintage and avant-garde ballets have been — and, good news, still are — their mainstay. A change of leadership and hometown has left intact a dazzling 21st-century repertoire; immensely personal, singular dancers; and immaculately restaged classics. … Continue reading »
Exploding onto the main stage at Zellerbach Hall like the Fourth of July wrapped in black, white, red and green packaging, Mark Morris’s The Hard Nut made its triumphant return to Berkeley.
A three-year hiatus extended the production’s every-other-year tradition with Cal Performances. The last time Bay Area audiences boogied to Act I’s Gallop or swooned during the Nutcracker Ballet-inspired spoof-fest’s breathtaking duets and glorious ensemble machinations was 2009.
Although little has changed in the elaborate, 20-year old production created in 1991 during Morris’ stint in Brussels as Director of Dance at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, audiences have. Expectations increase, rather than fall, when the economy slumps and the advent — some say onslaught — of technology raises the bar every time a production is remounted. The show’s big numbers (48 crew members backstage, 32 dancers, 20 pounds of confetti used in the snow scene) prove only that Morris wasn’t kidding when he said the production was not created to tour or to make money for the company. … Continue reading »
One day after feasting, football and family time on Thanksgiving Day, Cal Performances presents Switzerland’s Mummenschanz, a most bendable contemporary physical theater company celebrating 40 years in operation with their first North American tour since 2010.
Hailed for their ability to fold, twist, arc and teeter the human body into amorphous, immensely adorable creatures, the performance promises to delight anyone over the age of six. Even the younger set, who pose the particular challenge of wowing kids accustomed to Hollywood animation and 3-D special effects, can be reminded of one, astounding truth: these are real people performing mysterious, physical miracles — there’s nothing virtual about them.
Making their debut in 1972, Mummenschanz’s three founders brought a honed, sculptural sensibility to non-verbal theater. Dressed mostly in black, barefooted and with no sets or elaborate backdrops, storytelling burst from their dancer-bodies and the clever use of masks and props. … Continue reading »
Despite releasing three acclaimed CDs over the past decade featuring some of jazz’s most accomplished improvisers, John Ettinger is one of the East Bay’s best kept musical secrets. The El Cerrito violinist gained a good deal of attention in 2006 with “Kissinger In Space,” an album as strange, wondrous and amusing as its title. He’s mostly been out of sight since the release of his last CD, 2008’s beauteous “Inquatica” with Pete Forbes on drums, piano, and banjo, a multi-tracked improvisational duo session marked by his judicious use of space and a haunting version of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust.”
Ettinger presents a program of music drawn from his three albums for the first time Saturday at the Berkeley Art Festival space on University Avenue with a quintet featuring bassist Todd Sickafoose, drummer Lorca Hart, guitarist John Preuss and tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby. He never intended to keep his music on the down low, but with a day job at Ifshin Violins and a growing family, Ettinger put hustling gigs on the back burner. … Continue reading »
Like the birth of a child, Robert Wilson’s Einstein on the Beach: An Opera in Four Acts, co-written with Philip Glass, featuring choreography by Lucinda Childs and brought to Berkeley at October’s end by Cal Performances, presented a conundrum of experience.
The nearly five-hour opera can drive a person mad, or into ecstasy, or both. The only certainty is that after witnessing it, sight, sound, movement, and especially time, can never be the same.
The 1976 original, hailed by critics as revolutionary and largely credited with establishing Wilson, Glass and Childs as leaders in (respectively) contemporary theater, music and dance, today bears some resemblance to an old home movie made by an eccentric uncle. But, while madness in the hands of a family relative may result in silly entertainment, in the hands of three masters, it makes for brilliant, universe-shifting theater. … Continue reading »
The tragedy of a lonely man, confronted by his mortality and morality, has long been the stuff of playwrights, novelists, choreographers, composers and philosophers.
In a four-show Cal Performance appearance by the Théâtre de la Ville-Paris at Zellerbach Hall, Romanian-French playwright Eugéne Ionesco’s 1957 short story Rhinocéros explored solitary pathos in a metaphorical trampling of conformism in three acts.
The play, performed in French with English subtitles, follows the story of Bérenger, a disheveled white-collar grunt who’s prone to drink and to ogle Daisy, a coworker he adores. Falling instantly into arguments — with best friend Jean, with the competitor for Daisy’s affections, Dudard, and most often, with himself — Bérenger carves an anguished niche as rhinoceroses stampede into his village. Gradually, nearly everyone around him is swept up in desperate submission and they become the very beasts they initially fear. … Continue reading »
When Cal Performances presents musician-storyteller Laurie Anderson’s Dirtday!, the third part of a trilogy and co-commissioning project begun in 2002, one thing is certain: she won’t be “put in a bin”.
“I try not to label myself,” she says, while seeking words to define her genre in a phone interview several weeks before her Sept. 18 Berkeley appearance. “Music is freer now, there’s no necessity to categorize.” … Continue reading »
By Jason Victor Serinus
In only its second year, the artistic excellence of Cal Performances’ Ojai North festival already rivals anything that San Francisco’s venerable Opera and Symphony produce in late spring.
Ojai North opens today, June 11, and runs through June 14, less than a week after the annual Ojai Music Festival (OMF) concludes its 66th season in its idyllic open air Ventura County setting. Berkeley’s Ojai North offshoot will reprise a good chunk of the performances that … Continue reading »
It’s been at least two generations since jazz stars took on aristocratic titles, otherwise Dianne Reeves would surely be known as The Queen. The gorgeous singer with an even more glorious voice is one of jazz’s most regal figures, an artist who embodies the music’s enduring values of elegance, class and improvisational poise (which isn’t to say that she can’t get earthy when the music requires a little grit).
She’s a performer with a gift for transforming any space she inhabits into her living room, where she spins evocative tails for her listeners. Over the years I’ve seen her tear the roof off little theaters and mesmerize the Hollywood Bowl, where she put together events for several years as the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s first head of jazz programming.
“Small, large, it doesn’t make a difference,” says Reeves, 55, who plays Friday at Zellerbach Hall for Cal Performances with her longtime pianist and music direcotr Peter Martin, bassist Reginald Veal, drummer Terreon Gully, and Brazilian guitar master Romero Lubambo. “No matter where you are, it’s all the same place when it comes to communicating with an audience.” … Continue reading »
Cal Performances launched their 2012-13 season yesterday with a live Skype chat with conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, whose Philharmonia Orchestra will be in residence in November. “It’s a neat little program of concerts you’ve got for Berkeley,” Salonen told Cal Performances Director Matías Tarnopolsky. That “neat little program” includes massive pieces: Gustav Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, a concert performance of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck, and Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique.
As Tarnopolsky stressed, however, the 125 performances in the next season cover a bewildering range of genres, scales and periods. As well as the London-based Philharmonia, music director Gustavo Dudamel is bringing his Simón Bolivar Orchestra of Venezuela in late November — which will also be the occasion for a conference on music education (Venezuela’s La Sistema is envied worldwide). Three circuses — from China, Canada and Australia — will be performing; there are dance groups from Chicago (both Hubbard Street Dance and the Joffrey Ballet), Russia (both the Mariinsky Ballet and the Eifman Ballet) and Switzerland (the Béjart Ballet); jazz from two Marsalis brothers (both Wynton and Delfeayo); theater, including Eugène Ionesco’s Rhinocéros from Paris’s Théâtre de la Ville; world music including Benin’s Angélique Kidjo and Chucho Valdés & The Afro-Cuban Messengers; and chamber music from the Brentano, Afiara and Kronos quartets, among many others. … Continue reading »
No single concert can capture more than a small fraction of the music of India, a dizzying, multi-ethnic subcontinental nation that is home to one of the world’s oldest classical music traditions (not to mention polyglot pop scenes and numerous folk forms).
But Saturday’s Masters of Percussion concert at Zellerbach Hall features an extraordinary array of artists reflecting the striking contrasts and breathtaking creativity that make India such a vibrant cultural force. A mini-festival presented by Cal Performances, the event is the latest incarnation of a long-running cross-cultural showcase assembled by tabla master Zakir Hussain.
In past years, Hussain designed the evening as an extended encounter between the North Indian Hindustani and South Indian Carnatic traditions, but this season the focus has shifted. The concert still unfolds as a series of solos, duets, and ensemble jams, but rather than an internal Indian dialogue the concert features mostly Hindustani musicians with Uzbek frame drum expert Abbos Kosimov thrown in as a ringer. … Continue reading »
The mighty ship that is the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater docked at Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall this week for a residency that begins tomorrow, March 13, and runs through March 18. The company’s Artistic Director, Robert Battle, stands as the captain of an organization that has known only two previous leaders.
Battle has choreographed on the company Alvin Ailey founded in 1958 and drove to a pinnacle of international acclaim, before passing the reins to dancer Judith Jamison in 1989, but he has never performed as a member of AAADT.
All of which has meant that the passing of the baton in July 2011 was preceded by a long, intricately planned transition. Battle has been groomed for the role with the same care that is poured into each movement the dancers execute. … Continue reading »
On Friday and Saturday, the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company will present “Story/Time” at Zellerbach Hall courtesy of Cal Performances. Lou Fancher previews the show with the company’s Associate Artistic Director Janet Wong, and, below, sits down with Jones himself to talk about the new project and the impact it is having on his life’s work
When the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company catapults onto the stage at Zellerbach Hall on February 24 and 25, even the dancers won’t know exactly what will happen.
Just a few hours before the 8:00 pm curtain, they will have lined the backstage hallway, learning the sequence spewed out by Random.org and refined under the watchful eye of Bill T. Jones and his Associate Artistic Director Janet Wong.
“We use Random to spin the material to determine which story goes where and what dancer does which part,” Wong explains, in a 45-minute phone interview a week before opening night. “Everyone has a chart: sometimes it’s brilliant and sometimes it’s horrible.”
Her evaluations are hardly begin to reflect Wong’s high standards and intense commitment to Jones, with whom she has worked for decades.
“The reason Bill wanted to do this piece is that John Cage is a mentor,” she says, citing the inspiration for the new work. … Continue reading »