My review in today’s Chronicle:
” “Welcome back, Oakland Ballet!” a man called during the standing ovation at the Paramount Theatre on Saturday. Onstage stood the city’s native son, Ronn Guidi, 72 years old, beaming after an unlikely resurrection. It was hard to know what was more heartwarming: that ballet was back in Oakland, or that Oakland Ballet was back in the world.
Guidi tested the waters for a comeback with performances of his “Nutcracker” last year, but Saturday’s two shows marked the inauguration of his reborn Oakland Ballet Company, and the first repertory program staged under his direction since his sudden retirement in 1998. This was a well-chosen, eagerly danced selection showcasing the warmth and humanity that brought Oakland Ballet such unlikely international repute in the 1980s and ’90s, when Guidi hit his stride reviving rare Ballets Russes masterpieces and Americana classics. The show also drove home how much was lost while the old Oakland Ballet – which shut its doors in 2005 – foundered under Guidi’s successor, Karen Brown.
Saturday’s matinee was class all the way, from the live music by the Oakland East Bay Orchestra to the thoughtful program notes. And the most encouraging sign was that these 23 dancers clearly knew what – and whom – they were dancing for.
Take Vaslav Nijinsky’s 1912 “Afternoon of a Faun,” one of those lost masterpieces with which Guidi built the Oakland Ballet’s name. It was good to see the curtain rise on Leon Bakst’s lush, gorgeous backdrop (repainted by Ron Steger) and Greek-inspired costumes. It was even better to see Ethan White as the Faun and Jenna McClintock as the Nymph invest the revolutionarily spare choreography with its full eroticism, saying so much with a stare or a tilt of the chin while the Debussy score swirled and swelled. When White returned to his Faun’s nest with the Nymph’s scarf, the clarity of his arching back and gasping mouth left little doubt just what kind of climax (ahem) Nijinsky meant to suggest.
White, moonlighting from Smuin Ballet, has never danced better, and his performances say much about what Guidi does best. Under him, the Oakland Ballet found its niche not through technical virtuosity, but through theatricality, passion and heart.”
Click here for the full review.