Catching up on this week’s dance writing for the San Francisco Chronicle. First, Diablo Ballet:
“The case for survival was in the dancing Saturday.
Diablo Ballet needs half a million dollars by July 1 to carry on; the chamber-size East Bay company, which for 13 years has been heavily funded by Ashraf Habibullah, the founder of an engineering company called Computers and Structures Inc., recently lost most of his sponsorship. So far $100,000 has come in, and the troupe is resolute, according to co-Artistic Director Nikolai Kabaniaev, who took the stage between ballets at Walnut Creek’s Lesher Center for the Arts. “It’s going to be a difficult road, but we’re confident and determined,” he said. “We’re here to stay.”
That looked like good news indeed during a revival of KT Nelson’s hip 2000 work “It’s Not What You Think,” to the pop music of Bj?rk. I’ve long thought that Nelson’s flirty, high-voltage commissions count among the things Diablo does best, along with respectable stagings of Balanchine and certain family-friendly one-act story ballets of Kabaniaev.”
With the good comes the ugly, further down:
“It was an up-and-down night at a crucial crossroads for the company, for if “It’s Not What You Think” is Diablo at its best, Kabaniaev’s 2005 “The Legend of Taj Mahal” is Diablo at its worst. Forget the silly necrophiliac story — dying Shah dances with long-dead wife — forget the PG-rated sex, the pastiche soundtrack. The real sin here is the absolute absence of choreographic interest, the vapid, paint-by-numbers phrases. And the only real redemption was the steely dancing and chiseled torso of Bohnstedt.”
Click here for the full review.
Next up, the debut of a new collective by two stars of SF modern dance:
“As up-and-coming choreographers, Bliss Kohlmyer Dowman and Kara Davis enjoy more advantages than most. Unlike so many would-be dancemakers who graduate from college and blithely put on a show, Dowman and Davis have spent years of apprenticeship as stars of the San Francisco scene: Dowman in the companies of Janice Garrett and Robert Moses, Davis dancing with Margaret Jenkins, Kunst-Stoff, Garrett and — well, just about everyone else.
Both women are riveting presences, and they count among their willing friends many of the Bay Area’s finest dance performers. This made Friday’s opening for their newly formed Project Agora at Dance Mission Theater far more rewarding than most debuts.
“Agora” means “a public forum” in Greek, and this self-described curatorial organization comes with a grandly stated ambition: to “promote creative dialogue between artists.” Grammar sticklers might want to correct that preposition to read “among artists” (as in, three or more) but perhaps “between” is really correct since, at this point, Agora counts only two.
Sure, there was also a dance film from Greta Jorgensen, but it was dull and felt like filler. The meat was that Dowman and Davis each had a premiere, and Dowman reprised a work from last year.
It’s too early in their careers to crown one of these women the real talent, but Davis stole the evening with her “Second Infinity.” It had the best music of the program — a doleful score by Sarah Jo Zaharako, performed live on violin, bass and cello, then augmented with feedback and electronic distortion — but, more important, for a fledgling choreographer, “Second Infinity” had keen structure and mounting tension.”
Click here for more.
And finally, a feature on a ballet teacher who actually got my butt back into class for the first time in four years last week–a humbling but gratifying experience:
“Sally Streets opens her arms into an elegant second position, her face with its crown of spiky hair raised nobly to the mirror. “One, two, three,” she counts, feet moving in tidy tendus as her students watch carefully. “Five, six, and a seven and … what happened?”
She marks the steps with narrowed eyes, catches the missing piece of logic, smiles grandly. “I made a mess. That’s part of the experience.”
Looking spry in purple leggings at 73, Streets has a rich trove of ballet experience, but she rarely makes a mess. Her classes are so concise and clear that flop-footed hobbyists and polished retired professional dancers alike flock to them, making their way from a quiet, leafy stretch of Berkeley’s College Avenue to a studio tucked in the back of the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts.
This morning, Streets’ devotees include former Diablo Ballet dancer Erika Johnson and past Oakland Ballet star and choreographer Michael Lowe. But by far, Streets’ most famous onetime student is her daughter, New York City Ballet principal Kyra Nichols, who retires next month after an astonishing 33 years as one of that company’s most beloved ballerinas.
It’s not the only milestone on Streets’ mind: Last month the school she founded, Berkeley Ballet Theater, celebrated its 25th anniversary. Once a neighborhood operation, BBT now counts 275 enrolled children and sends alumni to prestigious programs like Juilliard and SUNY Purchase. And though Streets is artistic director emerita, she shows no signs of slowing, teaching five days a week and demonstrating combinations — even thigh-busting d?velopp?s — full out.”
Click here to read on.