Flooded with assignments and deadlines and churning out pages of the novel (they’re crap for now, but it feels so good to move forward) and so just catching up with this site.

I reviewed the National Ballet of China the other day for the Chron:

“The obligatory pre-curtain announcements had a different flavor Friday night at UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall. The usual stream of welcomes and warnings about cell phones ran on and on — but in Chinese. In the middle of the flowing foreign tongue came a single, blunt English phrase: Wells Fargo. A highly expectant audience, nearly filling the house, chuckled.

Movement has its languages, too, and ballet must have seemed as out-of-place as that “Wells Fargo” when the dance began taking root in China last century. Ballet traces its history back 400 years in Western civilization; the National Ballet of China, presented by Cal Performances over the weekend, was founded in 1959.

Over the decades the company has struggled valiantly to reconcile a Western dance form with Chinese culture, producing Chinese versions of staples like “Swan Lake” on the one hand, and Communist propagandist ballets like “The Red Detachment of Women” on the other. “Raise the Red Lantern,” created in 2003 in collaboration with famed film director Zhang Yimou, has been positioned by the company — and received elsewhere — as a breakthrough in merging pas de deux with Chinese elements: in this case, Peking Opera.”

I wasn’t quite blown away. Click here for the whole enchilada.

And, the Mark Morris Dance Group returns to Cal Performances tomorrow night for two weeks and two programs. I interviewed (or attempted to) Mark Morris for last Sunday’s Chron:

“Everyone knows Mark Morris gives good interview. He’s everything you think the reigning genius of American modern dance should be: confident, imperious, larger than life.

He breezes into rooms trailing a pashmina wrap or billowing in an oddly flattering dress-length tunic. He tosses his head of famously unruly curls (now cropped) and owns the space with the same full-bodied magnetism that made the Mark Morris Dance Group a critical sensation when it debuted in New York in the early 1980s. Morris narrows his eyes as he exposes the ludicrous assumptions underlying your impertinent questions. If you’re very lucky, he takes a shine to you and makes you a conspirator in his antics, while casually dispensing gems of insight about everything from obscure Milhaud compositions to the state of American arts criticism.

But woe betide the journalist charged with interviewing Morris via phone, disarmed of eye contact with which to fend against his impatience.

It’s not that Morris is cranky, though he has every excuse to be: His Mark Morris Dance Group is in the midst of a taxing 25th anniversary tour, which will take it everywhere from Kansas City to Glasgow, and bring it to UC Berkeley’s Cal Performances on Thursday. After Berkeley, the group will tour the United Kingdom for six weeks before returning to the Bay Area to dance “The Hard Nut,” Morris’ loony, much-loved take on “Nutcracker.” In the meantime, Morris has Purcell’s “King Arthur” to adapt for the English National Opera and a “big premiere” for next summer, which he “can’t talk about yet,” to get rolling.

It’s just that Morris holds his interviewers to high standards. Some of his demands are invigorating; others are impossible to satisfy. On this particular day, on lunch break from frenzied rehearsals at his $7.4 million dance center in Brooklyn, he’s tired of vague questions — a reasonable enough complaint. So what kind of specific question might an interviewer ask?

“Why doesn’t ‘Sylvia’ travel?” he says, referring to the sumptuous three-act commission for San Francisco Ballet that made such a splash in 2004. “That’s a question to ask. Everyone in New York wants to see it.”

OK, then: Why doesn’t “Sylvia” travel?

“I can’t say because I don’t get into that part of the business,” Morris counters. Subject closed.”

We did manage to talk a bit more. Click here for the rest.

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