Tag Archives: Cal Performances

Dancemaker Trisha Brown retires her choreographic cap

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Can a single-artist dance company become an ever-evolving, interactive, mobile museum?

That is the question, and the premise, of the Trisha Brown Dance Company’s revolutionary plan as the iconic, 76-year-old dancemaker retires her choreographic cap and becomes the company’s Founding Artistic Director and Choreographer.

As of February 2011 and after a series of minor strokes, Brown concluded 50-plus-years as a master creator of elegant physical vocabulary unfurled in magnificent metaphors of time, tasks and space.

Naming Diane Madden and Carolyn Lucas (long-time TBDC members since joining as dancers in the 1980’s) as Associate Artistic Directors, the company embarked in January on a three-year international “Proscenium Works, 1979-2011” tour. … Continue reading »

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The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

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bccdposterCOLLEGE BOUND Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and others want to create a “college-going” culture in the city. To that end, the mayor’s office, in conjunction with the Berkeley Alliance and UC Berkeley’s Center for Educational Partnerships is organizing the first city-wide College and Career Day on Friday. The idea is to help all students “visualize and prepare for a full range of post-secondary options through structural, motivational, and experiential college preparatory experiences.” More than 5,000 students will participate in city-wide events on College and Career Day. They will be encouraged to wear T-shirts with their favorite college logos, listen to their teachers describe their own paths to college, and various fun projects, such as a dorm room door decorating exercise. Mayor Bates will visit the King Child Development Center along with Oski the Bear, a school-wide assembly at Berkeley Technological Academy and a lunchtime rally at Berkeley High School. Details here.

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Hubbard Street and LINES Ballet: A recipe for perfection

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Hubbard Street Dance Chicago stormed onto the stage of Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall on Friday night and thundered its way through two beefy works of consequence and a collaborative world premiere with Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet.

Compelling dances result from simple, rare ingredients: fantastic dancers with bone-deep training baring their souls, and choreographers with dangerous love in every pattern, pairing, and pirouette. Add earthshakingly beautiful lighting, audacious or adorable sound scores, and costumes springing organically from the choreographer’s greatest aspirations — and, well, you might have a masterpiece.

Two of the works on HSDC’s docket rose close to attaining such majesty: Alejandro Cerrudo’s stunning Little Mortal Jump and King’s ambitious Azimuth. … Continue reading »

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Joffrey Ballet provides ‘mesmerizing’ performances

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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 »

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Rich and satisfying: ‘The Hard Nut’ cracks the mold

Mark Morris Dance Group
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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 »

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Mummenschanz reminds us of the miracle of the physical

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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 »

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A long time coming: John Ettinger plays Berkeley

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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 »

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‘Einstein on the Beach’: Much more than sum of its parts

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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 »

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Cal Performances continues to provoke with “Rhinocéros”

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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 »

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Anderson’s Dirtday! expresses bafflement at today’s world

Laurie Anderson returns to Cal Performances with Dirtday! Photo: Lucie Jansch
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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 »

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Ojai North: A jewel in Cal Performances’ crown

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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 »

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Dianne Reeves, a regal figure in jazz world, plays Berkeley

Dianne Reeves plays Cal Performances xxxx. Photo: Christian Lantry
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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 »

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Orchestras, circuses, dance, more at Cal Performances

Gustavo Dudamel conducts the Simon Bolivar youth orchestra. Photo: Bryan Reinhart
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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 »