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My review in today’s Chronicle:
“For two years now, the Oakland Ballet Company has been an irresistible underdog, replete with an against-all-odds story. Could Ronn Guidi really reclaim the troupe he founded in 1968 – the troupe that foundered and finally folded seven years after his 1999 retirement – and bring it back to life with its old plucky spirit? Oaklanders who knew Guidi and remembered the Oakland Ballet heydays of the ’80s and ’90s hoped yes – and gave Guidi a lot of credit for heart.
But Saturday at the Paramount Theatre, extra points for perseverance were no longer necessary. In its third repertory outing, the reborn Oakland Ballet danced like a company without need for allowances. This was a well-chosen program that kept matinee families happy while offering more serious ballet lovers much to admire.
The best decision Guidi made was bringing back former Oakland Ballet star Michael Lowe’s “Bamboo,” an imagistic mingling of Chinese childhood memories. Not a small portion of pleasure was thanks to Melody of China playing traditional instruments in the pit, but the charm of the choreography is all Lowe’s. Six women in elegant green leotards wafted like tender leaves, legs sprouting upward as the men in brown held their bodies upside down. Jenna McClintock and Ethan White danced a Tai Chi-inspired pas de deux punctuated by silent suspense. In the most memorable section, a gaggle of men as young ducks quacked with hands and mouths, lying on the lip of the stage with legs skyward like bobbing tails.
The ensemble moved harmoniously, led by gracious Gianna Davy. Harmoniousness, softness, an unassuming generosity: Those qualities are beginning to re-emerge as a company style and ethos, and they brought a good-natured vibe to Ron Thiele’s “How’d They Catch Me?,” which could have looked like a bad ’80s flashback. ”
Click here for the full review.