Whether the moneyed tech population of Silicon Valley will support the reinvented Ballet San Jose remains to be seen, but whether Jose Manuel Carreno was the right choice to lead this company’s upgrade was perfectly clear Saturday night at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts. The first repertory program of Carreno’s reign was ingenious programming, to be sure: the ageless, elegiac craftsmanship of Balanchine’s 1934 “Serenade,” the busy, street-wise energy of Jorma Elo’s 2006 “Glow-Stop;” and the in-your-face angst (mixed with some playful lounge music) of Ohad Naharin’s collage of dances from the ‘90s, “Minus 16,” replete with audience participation finale.
This was a smart slate not only in the range of emotion and physicality it fed the audience, and the balance between crowd pleasing (the Elo) and classic (Balanchine). It was also brilliant in the growth it demanded from Ballet San Jose’s lovable, eager dancers. Everywhere in the ensemble, veteran company members who once stagnated became standouts: Jeremy Kovitch was a muscled wonder of deep presence in “Glow-Stop;” Beth Ann Namey brought an ease of lyricism to “Serenade.” Alexsandra Meijer has long shone as the top technician at Ballet San Jose; now she is joined by the equally elegant and musical Ommi Pipit-Suksun, whom fans will remember from her soloist days at San Francisco Ballet, and the two presided angelically in both the Balanchine and the Elo. There were new men commanding attention, too, especially the slinky Bosnian dancer Damir Emric, and corps member James Kopecky, who had the perfect unnerving intensity required for a company to pull off Naharin.
The audience was robust and raucously appreciative. But recently Ballet San Jose had to cancel Saturday afternoon shows and live music because Carreno’s kick-off gala, last November, did not net major donors. So listen up, Silicon Valley: Aren’t you always looking for the hot new thing? Here’s a tip: Ohad Naharin, danced with fervor by San Jose’s own—that’s a sure bet. Any sensible VC firm would make a sizable Series A investment in Carreno’s Ballet San Jose.
PS: Here’s an informative article from Allan Ulrich about all that Carreno is up to.