Lauren Jonas has held a steady hand to the rudder of the toy boat that is Diablo Ballet. It's seen some rough weather, but she's an artistic director whose vision is broadminded and inclusive. She finds the dancer survivor who has swum to shore rather than washed up on it, towels him or her down, shapes him or her up, and keeps the resulting loyal ensemble busy with challenging opportunities tied to the equally faithful musical support of jazz musician and arranger Greg Sudmeier. It's not easy! Venues are expensive. They have inflexible rules, but undaunted, Jonas has engaged her company in a bit of guerilla traveling throughout the Bay Area--from Foster City, to library branches surrounding the company's home base in Walnut Creek, to that city's Lesher Center, to the company studios--converted to performance space. The newest venue is the Del Valle Theater on Tice Boulevard, hidden from view by a slope that is home to a senior citizen care center. The theater's comfortable seating, available parking and good-sized stage, make it ideal for the company. Put Roy Bogas on the stage with a piano, as Diablo did to accompany the dancers in Christopher Stowell's Tolstoy's Waltz, and you've got everything you could need or want. This event, to mark the farewell of Diablo's Edward Stegge, the eldest, but in spirit--the youngest--of the Diablo dancers brought together the new venue with the old sense of esprit de corps of which Stegge is the iconic embodiment. His contribution was captured perfectly in Tribute to Edward Stegge, a filmed homage by Walter Yamazaki with an original score by Justin Levitt. Stegge has been a mainstay of Diablo's PEEK school outreach program, and kept dancing even after a serious offstage head injury put him out of commission for six months a number of years ago. Sean Kelly, whose marvelous holiday jazz piece A Swingin' Holiday has delighted Diablo audiences for the past two seasons, returned to restage it in order to feature Stegge on the new stage. Resident choreographer Robert Dekkers also shared his quick-witted talents in a new piece called Well Enough (alone), danced more than well enough by the company's golden Christian Squires and Tetyana Martyanova, who has blossomed over the past year, under Jonas's sheltering direction. A highlight of the evening was the announcement that sales of a custom "Edward Stegge" wine label will afford Stegge a future tied to the company as its liaison with the schools. What could be better!
"Live your life as an exclamation, not an explanation!" Eddie Izzard