CriticalDance Forum

Oakland Ballet 2005- 2006
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Author:  OaklandBallet3 [ Wed Sep 28, 2005 12:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Oakland Ballet 2005- 2006

Oakland Ballet’s 40th anniversary season gets underway with a World Premiere tribute to Ella Fitzgerald by five-time Tony nominated choreographer, Donald McKayle. Ella will feature spectacular live music by jazz sensation Ledisi along with Marcus Shelby and his Jazz Orchestra. The program will also include excerpts from Les Biches and Les Noces, and the return of Eugene Loring’s Billy the Kid. The evening will conclude with an expanded production of Michael Lowe’s Double Happiness, which features live music by Melody of China.

Calvin Simmons Theatre
Ten 10th Street, Oakland, CA

Friday, October 14th at 8pm
Saturday, October 15th at 8pm
Sunday, October 16th at 2pm

Ticket Prices: $7-$54

Tickets: (online) www. (Phone) 1-866-468-3399


Author:  ksneds [ Wed Sep 28, 2005 3:59 pm ]
Post subject: 

Oakland Ballet invites you to attend an Exclusive Sneak Preview of ~ ELLA ~ a world premiere tribute to the musical genius of Ella Fitzgerald. Making his choreographic debut with Oakland Ballet, 5-time Tony nominated choreographer Donald McKayle will discuss his thoughts on making this historic ballet. In addition to Mr. McKayle, celebrated Jazz Composer Marcus Shelby will also take part in this discussion.

Friday, October 7, 2005 – 8:00 pm

Julia Morgan Center for the Arts
2640 College Avenue, Berkeley

Cocktail reception to follow compliments of Central California Wine Growers and Grace Street Catering by Erin McKinney. Enjoy California Artisan Cheeses served with baguettes and assorted fruits, paired beautifully with a variety of Milla Vineyard wines, including “Mingle, 2004” described as a “berry pie in a bottle.” Other 2004 wines to be served include: Merlit, Ruby Cabernet, and Miscella.

Event Tickets: $20.

Due to limited space, tickets for this event must be purchased in advance. No tickets will be sold at the door. Please order your tickets by October 5 by calling (510) 286-8915.

For more information, please contact Jill Lounibos:

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue Oct 11, 2005 11:57 am ]
Post subject: 

Catherine Schutz previews the Friday, October 14 opening of Oakland Ballet's 2005 season on

Inside Bay Area

Author:  LMCtech [ Wed Oct 12, 2005 5:26 pm ]
Post subject: 

Mary Ellen Hunt previews in the Contra Costa Times.

They're back on their toes

By Mary Ellen Hunt


Watching dancer Preston Dugger ease through a solo to the Duke Ellington standard "In My Solitude," it's hard not to link the wistful lyrics of the song to the challenging year that the Oakland Ballet has endured.

A year and a half ago, there was gloom in the air when company artistic director Karen Brown announced that the troupe had to cancel its fall season, effectively going dark for a year and retaining a skeleton crew of three staff members, including herself.


Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Oct 17, 2005 2:42 pm ]
Post subject: 

Reviews from opening night, October 14, 2005.

Michael Wade Simpson in the San Francisco Chronicle:

SF Chronicle

Mary Ellen Hunt in the Contra Costa Times:

CC Times

Author:  DavidH [ Mon Oct 17, 2005 5:02 pm ]
Post subject: the Chron review:

"Billy the Kid" was choreographed for the Oakland Ballet in 1976 by Eugene Loring using Aaron Copland's eponymous suite. It was at one time a company calling card, a piece they toured all over the country.


Music by Aaron Copland, specially orchestrated by the composer for ABT
Choreography by Eugene Loring
Libretto by Lincoln Kirstein
Scenery and costumes by Jared French
Lighting by Jean Rosenthal

World Premiere:Ballet Caravan, Civic Opera House, Chicago, Illinois, 10/16/38

Original Cast: Eugene Loring, Marie Jeanne, Todd Bolender, Lew Christensen
ABT Premiere: Civic Opera House, Chicago, Illinois, 12/8/40
Cast: Eugene Loring (Billy), Alicia Alonso (Mother/Sweetheart), David Nillo (Alias), Richard Reed (Pat Garrett)

Perhaps the reviewer meant staged for the Oakland Ballet..... [/quote]

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Tue Oct 18, 2005 12:05 am ]
Post subject: 

Perhaps the reviewer meant staged for the Oakland Ballet.....

Or it could be that an over-zealous sub-Editor intervened. In any event, it is a real howler as:

- "Bill the Kid" is a historically important US ballet

- the Chronicle wording implies that an existing score was used to make the ballet, whereas it was commissioned specifically for the ballet.

It's only one notch below the oft-repeated uber-blooper: that Fokine's "The Dying Swan" is part of "Swan Lake".

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue Oct 18, 2005 2:56 pm ]
Post subject: 

The Chronicle ran a correction:


Author:  LMCtech [ Tue Oct 18, 2005 4:17 pm ]
Post subject:  A review in the Oakland Tribune...

from a reviewer I've never heard of (anyone else know this person?)...

The Oakland Ballet returns with a slightly too-full plate
By Jeanne Fogler, CONTRIBUTOR

THE 40th anniversary season-opening program for the Oakland Ballet marked the company's return from a year-long hiatus after the cancellation of last year's performance schedule.

And if that weren't enough pressure, the dancers took the stage Friday in a new location, the Calvin Simmons Theatre, a departure from their longtime home at the Paramount.

The program, which ran through Sunday, was clearly designed to serve up a feast of the Oakland Ballet's strengths. The result was an evening of strong artistry, although presented on a platter that may have been slightly too full.


Author:  salzberg [ Tue Oct 18, 2005 6:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A review in the Oakland Tribune...

LMCtech wrote:
from a reviewer I've never heard of (anyone else know this person?)...

She got the provenance of Billy the Kid right:

Choreographer Eugene Loring, who created this groundbreaking piece of Americana in 1938 for Ballet Caravan, agreed in 1976 to stage it for Oakland, leading to other collaborative efforts that lasted until his death six years later.

Author:  Toba Singer [ Sat Oct 22, 2005 8:15 am ]
Post subject: 

Oakland Ballet, Calvin Simmons Theatre, Oakland, CA, October 16, 2005

Speaking to a full house at the Calvin Simmons Theatre, Oakland Ballet Director, Karen Brown, offered words of welcome in celebration of the company’s recovery from a financial setback that resulted in last year’s season being cancelled.

This season’s opening program featured a very appetizing mixed rep, which included excerpts from Bronislava Nijinksa’s “Les Noces” and “Les Biches;” Michael Lowe’s “Double Happiness,” accompanied by Melody of China; Eugene Loring’s “Billy the Kid;” and Donald McKayle’s “Ella,” accompanied by the Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra, and vocalist, Ledisi.

The first two pieces have as their themes, the alienated roles society imposes upon women—from opposite ends of the social spectrum. In “Les Noces,” a peasant wedding marks the end of a young woman’s connection to her girlhood and family of origin, as she is symbolically tethered, by the plaiting of her hair, to the ties that bind her not only to her husband, but all wives who find themselves in similar circumstances. In “Les Biches,” a 1920s French vamp, is beset with all the trappings and affectations of her privileged social position—a cigarette holder, a model’s swaybacked sashay, and a burden of pearls that she has no idea what to do with. They serve to wrap her up in an ungainly package that—like the braid in the previous piece—she cannot break free of. Of the two pieces, “Les Noces” reads a bit better on the small stage than does “Les Biches,” which requires more distance from the audience to successfully convey the froideur of the vamp. The technical challenge in “Les Noces,” to maintain the upper body in a “held” position, while the legs and feet do all the work, was met well by the dancers, in their traditional costumes of brown jumpers with white bodices. There is a parallel challenge in “Les Biches,” but it is relieved by the opportunity taken by the single female to dance with two male partners.

“Double Happiness” is a tongue-in-cheek look at the Asian journey, and is divided into three parts. The first, “Gold Rush Folk,” opens with Gabriel Williams in Chinese dress, wearing a cowboy hat, representing the ambivalance of the immigrant hybrid. He launches his journey from behind a Chinese screen, and returns there for refreshment before partnering the eye-catching Mariko Takahashi. They polka and do a cowpoke prance, acquitting themselves joyously. The traditional Western clop, clops, signalling the arrival of a horse, are played on a Chinese instrument to great comic effect. The couple’s duet is made funnier when they do crossover trades of her scarf and his hat—taking a quick dive behind the screen for the sake of exaggerated modesty (and presumably, the less amusing purpose of appropriating scant moments of privacy from the ever-present scrutiny of non-Asian spectators.)

As the dancers cross the stage in the opening moments of Eugene Loring’s “Billy the Kid,” and the plaintive strains of Copeland’s music call out, you take in the backdrop—a desert filled with cacti, and see how the poses of the dancers mimic the cacti. You are experiencing the nodal moment in this piece. It is a moment further engorged by the regional history the work represents, as well as the dance history gathered up in the folds of its choreography. The trouble is that even though there is a story, and the story is based on a legend, both the legend and the choreography depicting it have become dated, and no matter how well it is danced, there is no escaping that. It is the elephant on the prairie. Part of the problem resides in the fact that the piece is built around a one-joke portrayal of cowboy culture and that joke is the caricature of the bow-legged cowpoke, slowed in his movements. The piece brings in all the cowboy paraphernalia and appurtenances: from boots and ten-gallon hats to dance hall girls, and mimed pistols, ropes and knives. Most of the dancing is limited to bringing those elements to life as realistically as possible, in an era when they have been replaced by ninjas, ho’s, box cutters, cattle prods, shaved heads, and AK-47s. No matter how well they are mimed, they tend to be dwarfed by what we collectively know about their state-of-the-art successors. The dance hall girls are too timid—again, diminished by their modern-day prototype: Pam Greer, with a razor blade tucked under her tongue in “Fort Apache in the Bronx.” That’s the problem. As for the men, working in boots, where music is sparse, can be tricky. The footwork has to be as clean as a time step, because it is the only visible and audible effort, and must appear effortless, lest the audience wince in empathy with the struggling dancer.

The tension is relieved when Donald McKayle’s “Ella” is unloosed to the music of Marcus Shelby, with Ledisi at the mike, giving us Fitzgerald’s “A Tisket, a Tasket.” Here we are treated to the real talents resident in the newly forged company, aided and abetted by eight students from the Oakland School of the Arts, who display great promise. Our eyes keep returning to Mariko Takahashi, Paunika Jones, as well as Genevieve Custer and Zara Hayes, who, in "Begin the Beguine," have substituted unflinching precision, attack and verve for their earlier "Billy the Kid" dancehall girl diffidence.

The audience showed its appreciation for an ambitious program and the rebirth of Oakland Ballet. Hats off to Karen Brown, who is anything but a quitter. Utilizing her tremendous gift for mobilizing, organizing and inspiring, she went out in search of all the pieces necessary to put Oakland Ballet back together again, and what might have looked like Mission Impossible two years ago, has now ended up as Mission Accomplished. Bravo!

Author:  LMCtech [ Mon Nov 28, 2005 1:17 pm ]
Post subject:  A review of the latest offering

From the SF Chronicle.

Forget Mickey Mouse -- Oakland Ballet stages a darker and creepier 'Sorcerer's Apprentice'

Michael Wade Simpson, Special to The Chronicle

Monday, November 28, 2005

Surely the most unusual ballet costumes to be seen on a local stage this year were worn by Jennifer Tierney and other members of the Oakland Ballet in a production of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" at the Calvin Simmons Theatre over the weekend.

Tierney, playing a broom that comes to life, was in toe shoes, a wood-colored unitard and had broomsticks for arms that reached to the ground. The crutchlike extra limbs added to the creepy quotient of this darker version of a tale made famous in the animated Disney film "Fantasia," but also offered an opportunity for some fascinating dancing.


Author:  LMCtech [ Mon Nov 28, 2005 1:39 pm ]
Post subject:  More on the same

From the Contra Costa Times

Oakland Ballet stays in step with seasonally lighter fare

By Mary Ellen Hunt


With only three shows to make a case for its resurgence this season -- and one of those a "Nutcracker" -- you might think that Oakland Ballet would bring out the heavy guns from its repertoire. However, the second program on its season lineup, which opened last weekend at the Calvin Simmons Theatre, was mainly composed of lighter fare, perhaps appropriate to the family-oriented, seasonal themes that many companies stick to this time of year.

With a revival of founder Ronn Guidi's "Peter and the Wolf" and the brief and entertaining marionette-style diversion "A Short Solo" by Dudley Brooks, the evening was in need of some weight, some heft to remind us of why this company has always been considered a consequential asset in the Bay Area dance scene.

Certainly, Scott Rink's "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," which the company performed for the first time Friday night, was more in the vein of weighty works, and not a ballet geared toward young children. Although it had its own set of difficulties to overcome, there was promise and it offered enough intriguing images and conceits to satisfy.


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