Tag Archives: Cal Performances

Ojai North! in Berkeley serves a cocktail of sounds, sights

Photo: Peg Skorpinski
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What happens when you shake, stir and allow to mingle a music-savvy choreographer (Mark Morris), two earth-and-occasionally-ear-shattering composers (John Cowell, Igor Stravinsky), a marvelously matched foursome (American String Quartet) and a nimble jazz/pop/avant-garde trio (The Bad Plus)?

You get a mixed drink — and that’s exactly what Cal Performances’ Ojai North! 2013 festival served up on Wednesday night at Hertz Hall. Ojai North! continues through June 15.

The performance came amid a day saturated with sound and sights: a red fish blue fish concert in the campus’s faculty glade preceded; a screening of Salomé with live accompaniment followed. Poised on the first-day precipice of Northern California’s strong-arm extension of Southern California’s annual Ojai Valley music festival, much mention was made of Morris’s position as Music Director. The appointment pivots each year: Morris is the first choreographer to assume the role. … Continue reading »

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Eifman Ballet tackles the turbulent life of Rodin

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Thirty-six years after Boris Eifman began honing his “dissident choreographer” chops as artistic director of Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg, a three-show Bay Area premiere of Rodin at CAL Performances revealed that nothing has changed.

And yet, everything is different.

Eifman is no longer shocking his homeland’s ballet traditionalists; his dancers are complex, first-rate artistic tools; there’s even a government-supported “Dance Palace,” slated for completion in 2016 and portending the company’s bold, permanent future.

“My method, my philosophy of theater — I don’t change,” he said, in an interview prior to Saturday’s May 11 performance.

But that doesn’t mean he’s not tinkering with the steps. … Continue reading »

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Feed your soul, feast your eyes: Alvin Ailey is in town

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The almighty power of contemporary dance is alive and kicking in Berkeley through April 28, after which the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will pack up their four, richly textured programs and hoof it to the next tour stop.

Until then, it’s “get thee to the church of alpha men and women” in Zellerbach Hall. Feed your soul, feast your eyes and raise your inner flag (no matter how tattered) of patriotism. Artistic Director Robert Battle’s company sprang to life on American soil in 1958 and 55 hinge-bending, lateral-leaning, gravity-defying years later, the jubilee shows no signs of abating. … Continue reading »

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Vienna, Kronos, much more in Cal Performances season

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Cal Performances 2013-14 season features a return residency for the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the world premiere of Mark Morris’s Acis and Galatea (see video above), a celebration of Kronos Quartet’s 40 years, and an emphasis on Brahms, with performances by Yo Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax and Anne Sofie von Otter, as well as a host of dance, new music, theater, jazz and early music concerts.

“These are all my children,” said Director Matías Tarnopolsky, explaining why it was so difficult to choose which performances to highlight.  … Continue reading »

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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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