My review is in the Chronicle today. A side note: One of the final lines used to read: “Every character in “The Secret Gardens” grows and changes. That’s its strength, scene to scene, and its Achilles heel, taken as a complicated whole.” I talked to the copy editors half an hour before the copy shipped and this line still stood. I have no idea why it was changed.
“Blame the spring weather, but it’s impossible to resist the obvious metaphors served up by Artistic Director Ronn Guidi’s choice of “The Secret Garden” as his latest step in reviving the Oakland Ballet Company. Inside the bustling Paramount Theatre on Saturday afternoon, little boys and girls in their theater finest settled in noisily to watch a growing ballet troupe. And like the exuberantly yellow and purple final scene of this endearing two-hour production, the Oakland Ballet was once again blossoming.
The backstory couldn’t be more springlike, or more improbable. For 33 years, Guidi, an Oakland native, led this company-that-could to community adoration and even international note. After he retired in 1998, it faltered, and closed in 2006. But in recent years, Guidi has brought the company back to life, starting with his “Nutcracker” and relaunching officially with a repertory show in October. With “The Secret Garden,” Guidi’s Oakland Ballet Company puts down fresh roots.
The old Oakland Ballet made its greatest reputation in the 1980s and 1990s with revivals of lost Ballets Russes masterpieces, and Guidi plans to mark the 100th anniversary of Serge Diaghilev’s revolutionary company with a special tribute next year.
In the meantime, “The Secret Garden,” which Guidi created in 1996, offered a solid reminder of Guidi’s virtues as a choreographer and director, virtues that help explain both what attracted him to those Ballets Russes treasures and what uniquely suited him to give them new life. Ballet, in those gems by Bronislava Nijinska and others, was not some inhuman endeavor of posing and posturing – it was vibrant theater. And in “The Secret Garden,” as in everything Guidi touches, it is not technique and pretty lines that count, but flesh-and-blood characters.”
Click here for the full review.