Tag Archives: Zellerbach Hall

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

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JENNIFER KOH Violinist Jennifer Koh is no stranger to Berkeley, although Berkeley audiences may know her as Einstein, a role she undertook when she played in Einstein on the Beach at Cal Performances. This time she plays as herself — a powerful soloist — when she performs Sibelius’ Violin Concerto with the Berkeley Symphony tonight, Thursday Oct. 2, at 7 p.m. Also on the program are Elgar’s Enigma Variations and Oscar Bettison’s Sea Shaped in its world premiere. Tickets for the Zellerbach Hall show cost $15-$74. … Continue reading »

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Magical, misfit marriage of Ira Glass and dance

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Dance is primarily show, don’t tell. Radio is tell, can’t show. Put them together, you get the magical, misfit marriage that is “Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host,” coming to Zellerbach Hall on Saturday, Mar. 29, presented by Cal Performances.

Mysteriously blending the talky talent of Ira Glass, host and creator of the public radio program This American Life, with the devastatingly beautiful, humanistic choreography of Monica Bill Barnes and her longtime collaborator, dancer Anna Bass, a miracle arises. Both genres get a leg-up: elevating the no-talk, all-talk mediums to something one might find in a dream. A sort of surreal landscape where anecdotes are inscribed with arabesques and the moral of each story is mired in marvelous muscularity. Imagine a dichotomous duet as sweet as the chocolate-peanut butter pairing of a Reese’s, but better for your health.  … Continue reading »

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The Moth: A storytelling phenomenon comes to Berkeley

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Thank goodness for boring, sappy poetry. Without it, there might never be The Moth.

And thank goodness for the third annual Bay Area Science Festival, which brings marvelous scientific minds to the masses with ten days (Oct. 24-Nov. 2) of interactive events throughout the Bay Area.

Thirdly, you may thank your lucky stars (especially if you hold a ticket) for five storytellers and an underground gang of directors and hosts bringing epic insights to Berkeley with “The Moth: The Big Bang” at Zellerbach Hall as part of the science festival on Monday, Oct. 28.

The Moth is a 16-year-old storytelling phenomenon founded by poet and novelist George Dawes Green. Once tortured by listening to a poet whose “aesthetic screen” he believed was in serious need of lowering, Green’s urge to simply hear a story — a true, soul-shifting confession or a comic collision of self-awareness spoken aloud — became overwhelming.

“That was it — that was the germ,” he writes, in a forward to The Moth, a collection of 50 true stories selected from the live shows and recently released by Hyperion. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Alvin Ailey camp teaches more than dance

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Like characters in an ancient Roman frieze, eight young boys assume motionless poses, then spring to pumping, rolling, spinning life in front of the Zellerbach Playhouse on the University of California, Berkeley, campus.

It’s a rehearsal, but in light of the fierce pride and near-divine determination in their expression — and exploding from their agile bodies — it impresses as so much more. They are AileyCamp dancers, they are men-to-be, they are special.

AileyCamp, organized in Berkeley by Cal Performances every year, is a national program based on the principles of Alvin Ailey, an African American son of a single parent who made his way to the pinnacle of the dance world as a performer, choreographer and founder of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Along the way, he developed an ambitious philosophy: circumstances do not define the human spirit, and children are often the best place to look in order to learn life lessons. Expanding on his ideas, and using the Horton technique — the modern dance methodology behind the fearless, muscular physicality of the Ailey style — he focused AileyCamp on communication.

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

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PREPARE TO BE BEWITCHED   Thaisa Frank’s short fiction has been captivating readers for decades, even before the publication of her highly regarded and widely translated novel Heidegger’s Glasses. Now Frank has collected 61 old and new stories in Enchantment: New and Selected Stories, published this week by Berkeley’s Counterpoint Press. As Booklist puts it:”The title of this collection hints at its contents — delectable stories with touches of the surreal as well as many plot twists and surprises. From short-short story to novella, each narrative demonstrates mastery of the genre.” Frank will be reading from Enchantment at Mrs. Dalloway’s on College Avenue at 7:30 pm on Friday, July 13.

A SALUTE WOODY GUTHRIE  In 1988, Peter Glazer, the chair of UC Berkeley’s Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies, wrote a musical based on the life and songs of Woody Guthrie. Almost 25 years later, Woody Guthrie’s American Song has been performed hundreds of times, on stages from Seattle to New York. Glazer himself has directed the award-winning play 25 times and his latest interpretation is playing at the Freight & Salvage Coffee House until July 22. On Saturday, July 14, the 100th anniversary of Guthrie’s birth, Glazer and the cast from the musical will hold an open house from 1 to 5 pm and perform some classics like “This Land is Your Land.” There will also be a discussion of Guthrie with Glazer. The Freight is also displaying the first public exhibit of The Kids Write to Woody . . . Woody Writes Back, letters Woody Guthrie wrote in the summer of 1955 when he was bed-ridden with Huntington’s Disease at Brooklyn State Hospital. A few dozen children attending a summer camp outside St. Louis had sent post cards to Guthrie, and he answered each one individually. … Continue reading »

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Marcel Khalifé: Defending causes with popular songs

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Long before the Arab Spring upended the Middle East’s calcified political order, Marcel Khalifé threw down a musical gauntlet, challenging the forces of repression and reaction with his supremely sophisticated, wildly popular songs.

An evocative vocalist and master of the oud, the pear-shaped 11-string fretless Middle Eastern lute, Khalifé was finishing his studies at Beirut’s National Higher Conservatory of Music when civil war erupted in 1975. He sought succor in the flowing verse of celebrated Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, setting his poems to music.

Recording songs such as “Jawaz al-Safr” (Passport) and “Ummi” (My Mother), Khalifé combined aesthetic innovation with a genuinely populist sensibility. The music captured the imagination of huge swath of the Arab world, and Khalifé became a star transcending the region’s religious and national fissures. … Continue reading »

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Bill T. Jones and “Story/Time”: Anything might happen

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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 »

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In Berkeley: Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, Jack DeJohnette

The Standards Trio: Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette
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Listen to Keith Jarrett playing Paris Concert while you read our reviewParis Concert by Keith Jarrett

Every performance by pianist Keith Jarrett comes freighted with outsized expectations. One of jazz’s most popular and influential pianists and composers since the early 1970s, Jarrett performs at Zellerbach Hall on Saturday with his “Standards Trio” featuring sublime bassist Gary Peacock and ingenious drummer Jack DeJohnette, a prolific ensemble that’s recorded a series of often ravishing live albums for ECM.

As the group’s nickname implies, the trio is a vehicle for exploring American Songbook standards and modern jazz staples, rather than for Jarrett’s original compositions or the extended extemporaneous improvisation captured on his 1975 monster hit album “The Köln Concert.”

At his best, Jarrett can reach astonishing heights of lyricism propelled by DeJohnette’s feathery caress of his cymbals, though recent Bay Area performances have been hit or miss affairs. At some concerts, half a set passed before the trio hit its stride and found its way into a startlingly beautiful place. But much of the drama surrounding a Jarrett performance is temperamental rather than musical. Famously irascible on stage, the pianist has been known to stop playing mid-tune if distracted by an offending cough during a pianissimo passage. He’s also not shy about critiquing his instrument if he finds it unsatisfactory (take note Cal Performances). … Continue reading »

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Premiere Ethnic Dance Festival makes its Berkeley debut

African Heritage Ensemble, one of the many ethnic dance companies performing this weekend in Berkeley. Photo: World Arts West
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A world-renowned dance festival is crossing to Bay Bridge to make its debut in Berkeley this weekend, on June 11th and 12th, when the SF Ethnic Dance Festival performs at Zellerbach Hall.

The New York Times’ Chief Dance Critic, Alastair Macaulay, described the second of last year’s San Francisco Festival’s four weekend programs as “a glorious achievement”.

Julie Mushet, Executive Director of World Arts West, which organizes the festival, said: “We always sell out in San Francisco, and our stats … Continue reading »

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