Archive | July, 2019

SF BAllet at Stern Grove July 28

30 Jul

The weather was kind to humanity attending San Francisco Ballet’s appearance at Stern Grove July 28. Fog did come in more or less mid-way, but spared the temperature drop which union rules dictate the dancers must not appear. This year individual seats at the picnic tables replaced the splintery green benches serving audiences for many decades. The press table, 57, was way to stage left; Brooke Byrne and I trekked with pillows and lunch down a path from the Wawona Parking Lot, then down the central road from the corner of 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard. Bags were checked, lists were consulted, badges and wrist bands were supplied, the latter two indicating we were entitled to the VIP table treatment.
Toba Singer came with her son, James Gotesky, Houston Ballet and School; Paul Parrish came soon after. Missing was Rita Felciano, getting ready for a European trip; with the absence of an ailing Teri McCollum and the recently late Allan Ulrich, it seemed something of  lonely survival with our number. You You Xia, head honcho for the Ballet’s communications,  came by to greet us. Clad in grey, it was her first Stern Grove event.


I sometimes wonder the rationale behind the Ballet’s Stern Grove programming – we have witnessed some wonderful moments; – with the Bizet Symphony in C  Sofiane Sylve earned an Isadora Duncan Dance Award for example, and I remember Muriel Maffre and Pierre-Francois Villanoba dancing a memorable pas de deux from In the Middle Somewhat Elevated.

What was programmed was Balanchine’s Scotch Symphony [Mendelsohn]; Rubies pas de deux [Stravinisky]; Sleeping Beauty’s wedding pas de deux [Tchaikovsky]; Diving into the Lilacs, Yuri Possokohov’s tribute to his schooling at the Bolshoi, and Hurry Up We’re Dreaming [various contemporary tunes]by Justin Peck. The dancers were admirable but I wasn’t carried away and I do relish waxing rhapsodic.

Matilde Froustey and Joseph Walsh were the Sylphide and James in Balanchine’s nod to Bournonville. From a distance, they were comely and competently paired. The originals were Maria Tallchief and Andre Eglevsky with Patricia Wilde as the Highland Fling exponent, here danced by Dores Andre. Seen at a distance Andre was fleet and insouciant. In an interesting comparison Sunday’s couple looked the part; I would have preferred to see Andre executing beats and heel and toe movements from the rich Iberian traditions As a reader can obviously gather, Scotch Symphony is not one of my Balanchine favorites.

Rubies was up next with Misa Kuranaga and Esteban Hernandez in this middle of Balanchine’s Jewels, music by Igor Stravinsky; they were wonderfully adept. However, and without doubt unfairly, I think Edward Villella should have been invited to provide a master class in this all-important reference to the raffish side of being  from New York.

The Sleeping Beauty pas de deux featured Sasha de Sola and Benjamin Freemantle. De Sola had danced this in the spring repertory and continued to provide an authoritative rendition technically. It may well have been Freemantle’s debut as Prince Desire. There was a lovely spring and almost pause in his jetes, but he otherwise seemed diffident and tentative though clearly deferential. This may by necessarily royal,  protocol upheld;  But this was, after all,  a wedding pas de deux; I wanted radiance and joy in those enchainements.

An excerpt from Yuri Possokhov’s Diving into the Lilacs featured Yuan Yuan Tan and Carlo di Lanno which displayed their long elegant line Little of the original production were evoked for the curtains in the original set were missing through which the principals and the supporting dancers moved.

Following the second intermission Justin Peck’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming closed the performance, with continued brilliance by Dores Andre and Joseph Walsh and an evocative pas de deux by Luke Ingham and Elizabeth Powell.  Peck’s opening gambit made me feel he had learned a lot from Jerome Robbin and Glass Pieces plus the sense of youthful, street smart New Yorkers.

During this final ballet, the young woman assigned to our area began to collect the badges at the tables below us, carry the empty wine bottles to a disposal bin. Earlier she had periodically dislodged, gently and with decided politeness, a gamut of multi-ethnic attendees who wanted to perch on the stone work supporting the terrace where our table was located,

Brooke, Paul and I retraced our steps, finding the rain trench a welcome guide  till we reached the Grove entrance where the shuttle was getting ready for another trip. I had lurched up the hill and found the asphalt to the Wawona parking lot a welcome relief to the appreciable climb from the meadow floor. We stood by Brooke’s cars for a few minutes, Paul and Brooke making fine-tuned technical observations. Then it was time for departure and the end of a very pleasant afternoon.

ODC’s Summer Sampler One, July 26

29 Jul

The powers that be with ODC never fail to amaze me with their accomplishments. The most recent is Program One of what seems to have become an annual Summer Sampler. July 26’s program was a four-way choreographic premiere . Titled Up for Air [Decameron] the credits included Brenda Way, Kate Weare, K.T. Nelson and Kimi Okada. Weare is ODC’s choreographer in residence.

But first, the foyer of ODC’s Theatre was crammed with voluble dance lovers, reinforcing the evidence of the sign Sold Out. Amplifying the volume of conversation was yet another filling the room with words identifiable perhaps one in seven or eight, the voice of The Donald,  with which ODC planners decided deliberately to annoy the audience. The reason escaped me while waiting, unless it was a reminder crazier behavior was out there beyond the reception hall and the work we were privileged to see.

When we were let in the door leading to stage left and the seats, a lone figure, Emilie Mann, was seated stage center as a scarlet exclamation point, surrounded by what seemed to be extra large cotton balls, singing a capella.

With Decameron in the title  Up For Air drew impetus from the 14th century Italian author Giovanni Boccaccicio [1313-1375] when seven women and three men sequester themselves in the Tuscany country side to escape the Plague [Florence was estimated to have lost at least half its population] While confined, the ten told stories each night. ODC used the requisite number of women, but increased the number of men to four, utilizing two men and one woman from Kate Weare’s ensemble.

Into this spread of white fluff and its seated singer, came Began Schwab in white, rather like Columbia Picture’s icon, swathed in a royal blue blanket, pace slow, deliberate, arms majestic and eloquent. She traversed the stage diagonally to downstage left. The blanket was later used to move Emilie Mann downstage left where she sang, on her back, while plucking notes on the guitar. Other music was interspersed.

There followed a ten-dancer marathon of unusual combinations, extensions and formations, mixing physical challenges, tender partnering and extraordinary physical facility, this latter particularly by Mia I. Chong clad in a short orange tunic who also danced with James Gilmer in obvious mutual tenderness. Inaugurating the movement may have been the cue for the other dancers; Allie Papazian, clad in a swimsuit-like garment of black and white stripes, provided a fascinating physical dynamic with Rachel Furst whose classical form was wonderfully precise.. Nicole Vaughan-Diaz and Douglas Gillespie exchanged pushes, pulls accented by hits with remarkable grasps, pulls, balances. There also  was a shared suggestive lesbian encounter with its special unspoken tentative questioning.  Kegan Schwab, visibly pregnant, undertook a special pas de deux.

During the course of the work three adjustments of the fluff were accomplished by the artists; one with squared piles, messed up by movement; another a serpentine walk, again disturbed, and the final construction a line leading to upstage right traversed by the players.

Natasha Adorlee Johnson; Tegan Schwab; Jeremy Bannon-Neches; Rachel Furst; Mia J. Chong; James Gilmer; Allie Papazian; Jasmine Rivers; Nicole Vaughan-Diaz; Ryan Rouland Smith and Douglas Gillespie were the eloquent artists.

Clearly a special work, I was unable to dissect which section was choreographed by which inventive mind.  I really didn’t want to. As we filed out, I saw the fluff was actually a mammoth supply of artificial apple blossoms, lightly tinged with pink. I just hope Up for Air (Decameron) gets seen during the 2020 spring season at Yerba Buena.

Grocery Outlet Surprise July 5

28 Jul

South Van Ness Avenue is the site of Grocery Outlet where there are frequent bargains in kitchen ware, fresh produce, spirits and packaged sweets. After a foray to acquire a sewing gadget at Discount Fabrics, I stopped in to take advantage of their ready supply of thin asparagus. My route usually starts on the right side, winding up on the left side where breads, cookies and candy line both sides of the aisles.

Striding past me was a tall figure, familiar for his managerial skills in presenting the performing arts: Andrew Wood, executive director of the San Francisco International Arts Festival (SFIAF) whose late May-early June schedule floods Fort Mason with an amazing array of artists, local and international, starting in the early afternoon on weekends, winding up around midnight, each of the venues featuring two, sometimes three differing artists or groups. It’s like an urban fair with the range of art forms substituting for livestock and poultry and may have its model The Edinburgh Festival. One of his early shining achievements was to present Akram Khan for the first time in San Francisco, an accomplishment which sealed my admiration for Andrew’s abilities.

Andrew’s efforts are show-cased and have brought to Fort Mason not only groups from abroad but diverse and remarkable artists including the Mansako no Kai, the Kimura family of kyogen artists from Japan {He is one of Japan’s National Living Treasures] as well as a range of local ethnically oriented ensembles: Theatre Flamenco; Yaelisa & Caminos Flamencos; Gamelan Sekara Jaya; Chitresh Das; Abhinaya Dance Company; Larry Reed and his Shadow Light Production as part of 400 artists appearing since the first festival in 2003..

“Andrew,” I exclaimed, really surprised to see him. He paused, smiled, gave me a
slight hug and I asked him how he felt this season had played. In that slightly
clipped English accent with its rapid delivery, he replied, “Oh, quite good. Since Fort Mason became our partners in 2015, we’ve been able to consolidate the program there and slowly pull the venue back into the Bay Area’s performing arts orbit.”

He continued, “One thing we are trying to do is establish a program for younger artists who have graduated from colleges with art degrees. We launched it as a prototype this year and a number of artists presented their work at the Festival for the first time. We are currently working with the various institutions of higher leavening to figure out who will participate in 2020.”

The Festival, scheduled may 19-31, 2020, at Fort Mason with the theme In Diaspsora:I.D. For the New Majority will feature emerging artists from the following institutions: California State University East Bay; California Institute of Integral Studies; Embark Arts; Mills College; San Francisco State University; Sonoma State University and Stanford University.”

And to my question regarding international artists, where last minute visa refusals seem to be a continually dicey factor, he replied in a rather cheery manner, “That’s a problem, With the current Administration USCIS has gone from being a service organization – albeit one with a sometimes dubious understanding of service – being part of the lock-down security state. We are working with our attorneys to figure out what type of legal response might be best to be able to support the continued concept of international cultural exchange.”

Over the next decade the Festival has the opportunity to draw lucky emerging artists from California State University East Bay; California Institute of Integral Studies; Embark Arts; Mills College; San Francisco Conservatory of Music; San Francisco State University; Sonoma State University; Stanford University; University of California Santa Cruz; University of San Francisco.  I would fervently hope that SFIAF will become an annual hunting ground for performing arts presenters.

A Nahat Return to San Jose, July 19-14, 2019

24 Jul


Dennis Nahat flew to San Jose July10-14 to discuss the Chinese Arts Festival Performance he will coordinate and stage manage in October. In the midst of these duties he made time to visit his cousin Rose and me here in San Francisco; we ate dinner at the Darbar on Polk Street. Darbar is the label given to the elaborate regal gatherings and audiences the Mughals held during their hegemony over the sub-continent. The last great hurrah worthy of the name was when George V and Queen Mary made the voyage to India in 1906 and the entourages of Indian maharajahs came to be received. I met an American woman in 1952 who had been present; she was related to the tap dance virtuoso Paul Draper; of course, I was duly impressed for both reasons.

There’s something about Dennis Nahat that gives me a similar sensation. He is forth-coming, he sees ramifications in any situation and he rarely hesitates. I remember him saying, following his forced departure from Ballet San Jose in 2012, “If I am not wanted, that’s fine – I’m out of here.” Not prone to burning bridges, he simply leaves.

Just about a year ago, he and John Gerbetz moved to the Las Vegas area, truckloads of his archives, and productions preceding their arrival in Vegas warehouses. In the years between the ouster of the company he founded and brought to San Jose and the move, he was both busy and generous with his time and his ballets, mounting works for Company C and Menlowe Ballet, and working with Donald McKayle in McKayle’s final residency at the University of California, Irvine.  Dennis and McKayle’s widow , Lea Vivante, created The Donald McKayle legacy with Dennis responsible for seeing that McKayle’s works are suitably restaged.

One such restaging will occur in November at Lincoln Center’s Koch Theatre, when the Paul Taylor Company will present a program of three McKayle works. Dennis will be there to insure details are correct.

Over palak paneer, naan, biryani and mango lassi, Dennis caught me up on the
disposition of his own productions. “If some one wants them, they can have them.”

I suspect someone wanting to mount a work would ask Dennis to come verify details but that remains in the future. There will be a new mounting of his rock extravaganza, Blue Suede Shoes, about to be announced by the Alabama Ballet for an October 2019 opening in Birmingham.

Dennis also clarified for me the reasons for the sequence of his early career – a
short sojourn with the Joffrey, dancing for Bob Fosse in Sweet Charity (Fosse had attempted to mount a work for the Joffrey which never made it to the stage) and then joining American Ballet Theatre when Michael Smuin, Paula Tracy, Cynthia Gregory and Terrence Orr from San Francisco Ballet moved into the ranks of ABT.

In his sojourn with the reconstituted Joffrey Ballet, or City Center Joffrey Ballet, it seems that at Jacob’s Pillow Dennis was partnering Noel Mason in toe shoes and Dennis was in soft ballet slippers. In performance a head on collision brought a Mason toe shoe down on Dennis’ big right toe, creating pain and swelling, resulting in chipping of the bone. but it was necessary for Dennis to emulate the cliche that the show must go on, aided by aspirin and water, which Dennis learned actually was gin. Soon after the performance Dennis was placed on a bus to Manhattan to hobble to Lenox Hill Hospital for an operation the next morning and for treatment and recuperation.

While Dennis was still recuperating, he encountered Bob Fosse who had made an ill-fated attempt to mount a work for Joffrey. Fosse needed replacements for the cast of Sweet Charity. Remembering working with Dennis at the Joffrey, Dennis was hired on the spot. “I could dance in a firm shoe,” Dennis explained. He performed in Sweet Charity for two years to the date, taking daily classes with Anthony Tudor at the Met [Tudor taught at Julliard when Dennis was a student there ] and privates with William Griffith. The toe, well on its way to healing, Dennis joined ABT iin late 1968.

Amy Seiwert’s Sketch, Season 9, July 17, 2019

21 Jul

As if completing her first season as artistic director for Sacramento Ballet wasn’t demanding enough, Amy Seiwert charged ahead with Imagery’s Season 9 Sketch opening at ODC’s Theater Wednesday, July 17,  to a crowd familiar with itself, creating quite the happy buzz. They had come to see Seiwert’s Verses, Stephanie Martinez’ Otra Vez, Otra Vez, Otra Vez, and Ben Needham-Wood’s All I Ever Knew.

Before the three part program started with its eight dancers, Seiwert and Ben Needham-Wood, Imagery’s first artistic associate,  informed the audience of Imagery’s premise. Siewert wanted the choreographic collaborators to undertake a work stretching the boundaries of classical ballet without consideration that it might be taken into a repertoire, ever be repeated, or parts of it get incorporated in another work.

Needham-Wood stated that this year’s challenge was how visuals and technology, i.e. video, could be utilized in a work. This proved to be quite disparate for the three choreographers: Seiwert, Martinez and Needham-Wood. The trio engaged eight dancers, four with Sacramento Ballet affiliation, with four weeks to realize the choreographic take on the challenge.

The video artists were Olivia Ting [Seiwert]; Ben Estabrook [Martinez] and Chris Correa [Needham-Wood]. Brian Jones lit all three works while Siewart drew from Olafur Arnalds-Alic Sara’s Music Excerpts from The Chopin Projects; Martinez from a range of Spanish composers and Needham-Wood from the” 151a” album of Kishi Bashi. Christine Darch was responsible for the monochrome costumes for all three works, simple coverings in yellow, cream and off white; conventional ballet shoes were limited to Siewart’s Verses.

Verses’ images were projected lines and windows on the back wall of the stage space, cleared of curtains, exhibiting brick and the supporting beams of wood or metal. While blocks of lines appeared on the back wall, sporadically on the dance floor, the dancers, in simple yellow, moved in twos or ensembles like solitary lines of verse or a sudden grouping, one dancer – usually a woman – was lifted, like a solitary flower above an aggregate of leaves. The groups would suddenly emerge from back stage left, or coalesce from parts of the stage joining in the center, incorporating the lifts like a sudden waterfall, the lighting enhancing the evocative quality of remembrance. An impressive work, one any company worthy of the name would find it enhancing to its repertoire. I want to see it again.

Martinez’ work made the most of enlarged eyes projected periodically at the back, sometimes fixed, later lowered provocatively,  also inquiring, depending on the quality of the music, which at the end utilized at least two songs rendered with raw flamenco spirit, I think by Chavela Vargas and Angel Canales. Joseph A. Hernandez, returning to Imagery from Chicago, helped to convey the Iberian flavor. The work  seemed uneven but there moments of intensity and excitement. Katy Warner, one-time member of Dance Spectrum and long involved with Lines Ballet, remarked it could have used more rehearsal. Still, there were moments when Isaac Bates-Vinueza, Hernandez and Austin Meiteen confronted one another in that measuring stance making one wonder whether the confrontation would escalate.

Ben Needham-Wood’s essay used the most pop-sounding score with a collection of boxes reflecting squares of light, beginning with a small pile upstage left and a larger one upstage right. Little squares of light appeared in varying frequency on
both sides, some times one, then the other, alternately, simultaneously with another installation on the back wall. From the bigger pile two couples emerged, while another couple led the work in front, the girl witness to and terrified by the  willful destruction of both the large and small piles before a manic effort at replacement, fascinating at concentrated adjustment of just one block, which had been placed, dislodged, replaced, provoking the emergence of a couple.

Heavily featured was Austin Meiteen, who danced with Sacramento Ballet this past season after a time with Houston Ballet II. In August he joins Nederlans Dans Teater II.

Amy Seiwert’s Sketch is gratifying for its challenge to choreographers, enabling those participating to be unafraid to fail; it is a premise which had been heavily endorsed by the late Ben Sommers, responsible for starting The Capezio Foundation and its Capezio Award, 19 years before the enabling act of the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities.

George Zoritch, 1917-2009

21 Jul

November 1, 2019 will mark a decade since George Zoritch’s death in Tucson, Arizona provoked by a fall in his home in Tucson, Arizona where he had retired, having spent  fourteen years teaching ballet at the University of Arizona in Tucson.  He had been hired by Sandra Noll Hammond during her tenure as chair of the Dance Department.

In 1999 George contacted Olga Guardia de Smoak in search of an editor for a memoir he was calling Ballet Mystique.  Olga graciously recommended me and for the next year George and I met, e-mailed, posted and collaborated on the memoir he self-published through Cynara Press in Mountain View, California, Jonathan Clark’s enterprise better known as Artichoke Press.  A very absorbing period, I was quite impressed by George’s enterprise, practicality and his realistic view of marketing the book.

Thanks to his association with the Arabesque Competition in Perm, George later acquired a Russian editor, expanding our somewhat crunched production. A Russian version was the result, more pictures, more text, the latter quite important to Russian ballet lovers.

It may have been about 2005 that Jory Hancock, now heading the Dance Department at Tucson, compiled a brief video in honor of Zoritch, and arranged an evening to honor him.  I was invited to Tucson to make the remarks which I print below.

Concerning George Zoritch

It is a loss for those of us who never saw George Zoritch dancing in Europe of Latin America.  Based on his memoirs, it seems that his imagination, skill and the culture conspired to inspire him.  I have enjoyed a rare and wonderful second best: to become acquainted as his editor, to enjoy the cumulative results of his varied life, and to assist in conveying his memories in printed form.

I was quite touched when George asked me to come with him when he received his  CORPS Award [the second award, the first being Violette Verdy], and I am mindful of the aggregate of skill and experience represented by the organization and the individuals who comprise it and are in attendance tonight.  It is quite fitting that George Zoritch should be recognized for his years of teaching at the University of Arizona, part of a movement which brings physical art to an environment designed to foster the higher grey matter of the corpus callosum. A half century ago I felt odd person out for my love and pursuit of dancing in an environment which cultivated rigorous intellectual activity.

The tradition of ballet is such an amazing combination of forces and trends, following the wider stream of Western history.  Fostered by the Renaissance, the era of The Enlightenment and the baroque in music and art, it incorporated in its vocabulary, the rarified atmosphere of the French court and the exuberant skill of traditional folk dances. It moved north and east to Denmark and Russia, finding  a sweet response to people whose long arduous winters created a focus and enthusiasm for this increasingly technical skill.

Then ballet came West with Diaghilev to astonish Western tastes in those extraordinary days before the fateful shots at Serajevo, and that lengthy conflict which scattered Western culture’s assumptions built on the material accomplishments of industrialization.  With Pavlova and the remarkable artists who struck out on their own, the Western Hemisphere began to enjoy a happy form of the trickle down theory.  The trickle became a steady stream under Colonel W. de Basil, and Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, joined by Ballet Theatre and the Kirstein-Balanchine collaboration.  It was with de Basil that George Zoritch became a part of that broader rhythm of water moving along the seasonal riverbed of the American psyche, parched in its desire to enjoy expression in the body.

One can easily shoot holes in my imagery, suggested cultural progression and the broad swath of words.  But it seems to me the wonderful professionals, whose lives made a home out of an itinerant ensemble, have given the American college student not only a greater appreciation for ballet as an art form.  These professionals convey a special form of pioneering, reflecting with zest and joy, their ability to share their skill as graciously as their movements across the proscenium stage.

In these days of MTV, of frequently monotonous or vulgar lyrics on noisy ghetto blasters, of lengthy security lines at airports, or corporate downsizes, it touches me very much that there are still individuals who are walking evocations of  life lived with a certain flair and flavor.  They bring to dailiness a certain fragrance of the spirit, bringing a smile to the lips and a gentle change in one’s facial expression.  I think the best word is affection.  I do know about affection, for this is what George Zoritch evokes in me, and I dare say for many of his students.  What a civilized emotion, and how lucky we are to have you, George, to evoke the sentiment in us, civilizing us in the process.













Weekend Two 41st Ethnic Dance Festival July 14

18 Jul

It was the Fete Nationale;  nothing of the French Folk Tradition was visible, but
that  lament aside, the 41st provided wonderful energy, vignettes and testimony to traditions from Africa, Asia, Latin America and African-Americans.

This year the details of each group required access to the Web where credits, explanations and ensemble history could be found. The audience had to make do with regular size white paper with the program line up on both sides. Arlene Kato informed me was decided to exercise ecological restraint along with fiscal prudence.

Weekend Two featured Kanyon “Coyote Woman” Sayers-Roods again, opening the program. She was accompanied by Deja Gould with her infant, from the Lisjan villages and Elder Ruth Ora claiming Ohlone, Bay and Plains Miwok ancestry.  As Kanyon sang, the baby’s legs wiggled rhythmically. Kanyon should be featured opening each festival.

From the Durango tradition of northern Mexico , Ballet Folklorico Nube de Oro romped onto the stage, women in two piece dresses, small floral printed, one might have seen in a regional production of Oklahoma, and wearing small boots. The men’s somberos were tidy, the pace was consistently fast and exuberant with one movement called bailes de jalon, where partners pull each other’s arm while turning..

Jackeline Rago, provided fascinating rhythms and melodies from two traditional Venezuelan instruments, the cutro and the quitiplas.

Tara Catherine Pandeya and Ali Paris gave the audience a glimpse and brief sounds of central Asian dance and music, representing East Turkestan, Uyghr Autonomous Xinjiang, Pandeya alluring in a modestly designed scarlet robe and Paris playing the 76 string zither called qanam.

Three dance studios collaborated on the Odissi, Bharata Natyam and Kathak traditions: Guru Shradha, Antara Asthaayi Dance, Navia Dance Academy. Visually striking, the trios’ exposition of the three Indian styles was rudimentary.

A bridge to Cunamacue allowed the male Odissi dancer to exchange footwork, a periodic charm in EDF seasons.  Afro-Peruvian footwork highlighted Cunamacue, given  music by the cajon and guitar.

Completing the first half of the program was the Tahitian ensemble Te Mana O Te Ra, a group active over two decades, and presenting this season 34 dancers in two-tiered skirts  of orange to undulate to the drums, shedding them part-way and introducing grey underskirts, signifying hardship and resilience. The energy and enjoyment was staggering.

Parangel Dance Company presented a tradition from the Sulu Archipelago, going lightly on the omnipresent tinkling with some of the women in malongs, the multi-purpose long tube common in the southern Philippines. But also there were short skirts, legs wrapped in black and a striped fabric echoed in the jackets. Many of the men wore similar fabric, barefooted and barelegged to the thigh. Folk habits of planting, harvesting and winnowing were included.  Of course, there was a bride/groom section, the former borne on in a small enclosure. The general aura was cheerful, but the faces of the women continue to be sober, almost haughty.

Awon Ohun Omnira, Voices of Freedom, was an ensemble of mature African-Americans, men and women, dressed in white with red borders, singing and shuffling their protest of slavery and faith in redemption and justice. It was a  quiet, impressive selection for the Festival.

Next followed Feng Ye Dance Studio with an imaginative reconstruction of high-borne Han Dynasty women in fluid, elegant costumes moving in various formations. Choreographed by Feng Ye, one-time featured dancer in the ROC’s national folk lore troupe, Web information described the choreographic construction from images available  of the Han Dynasty.

From imagination to Diamano Coura West African Dance Company, the audience enjoyed mature women and the young leaping, turning, a declaration with wonderful drumming of West African tradition alive and well in the East San Francisco Bay.

With the groups on stage with the traditional drumming, Artistic Directors Patrick Makuakane, with Mahaelani Uchiyama and Latanya d. Tigner presented Julie Mushet with flowers, a plaque and vase to celebrate her 17 years as Executive Director of World Arts West, Makuakane reciting in Hawaiian, Uchiyama beating on a small drum.

After the ensembles made their rhythmic bows and proceeded out of the theatre,  Sproul Plaza was alive with the appreciative audience moving to the drums and with the dancers.

Forty-one for the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival

11 Jul

The Sunday July 7 Matinee of the 41st San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival’s first program couldn’t have had a more bucolic beginning in U.C. Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza, warm sun, the gamut of sartorial wear on an equal array of ethnicities out to digest what the trio of artistic directors had selected.

Thanks to the make over of the Golden Gate Bridge approach, the Palace of Fine
Arts, EDF’s long-time venue, seems a thing of the past: no parking space;  EDF
draws its groups and audiences from around the Bay and beyond. The second choice, San Francisco’s Opera House, was unavailable. So Zellerbach Hall seemed the logical alternative; and, truth be known, one season it had been the location for auditions.

The Festival hasn’t changed all that much over its decades in that there are just so many ethnic groups practicing their traditions, performing for festivals; new versions do crop up and seek to be shown. This first of two weekends displayed a dozen plus Ron Wallace,  Malonga Casquelord Lifetime Achievement Awardee
eight before intermission, five following.

Terra Firma was celebrated and dedicated by Kanyon “Coyote Woman” Sayers-Roads, a Chumash member, whose tradition not only honors the earth and her forebears, whose tradition is matrilineal.  She coached us in a couple of phrases, and then drum and dance the opening of the event, her face marked with narrow lines from forehead to chin, her head topped by a floppy, filmy flower, meant to be live.

From solo to ensemble the San Francisco Taiko Dojo, led by Senichi Tanaka, had now a nearly 50-50 gender balance with lithe, fiercely energetic young women as
well as young men and wonderfully fit looking elders. The physical agility of these young advocates was impressive.

We had percussion galore with the wonderful torso, arm and hip manipulations from two groups, ODK and Gata Bantu, to be repeated in the program’s finale.
But we also had some insinuating sounds and movements from the Georges Lammam Ensemble. This included the melismas beauitfully accented by the violin, before Nicole Maria’s undulations with and without scarf. I assume it was L’Emir Hassan Harfouche who provided us with Middle Eastern versions of the attitude en avant, moving easily, gleefully for the audience.

Chitresh Das Institute closed the first half of the program with a wonderful array
of green costumes, the dancers in them clustered back stage center, their arms creating a beautiful filigree before moving out and in formation with the flash of their turns, bells sounding and a singularly pretty lot. In the number younger
students portrayed a group of soldiers and their leader, a  young girl with moustache and beard  painted on her cheeks, wanting to destroy the trees., while older women in saris  advocated the cause of trees. Live music supported what must have been all the Das students before the twenty minute intermission.

Variety was highlighted after the intermission with five expressions of dance, energy and assertion, each divergent, each dynamic, each enjoyable. Los Lupenos de San Jose, one of the veteran Mexican folkloric groups, provided us with primary-colored full skirts on the women, hats, boots and fringed jackets for the men circling together, forming ranks by gender, yelping and supported by guitars.

From the boisterous, the program moved to a trio celebrating the Bon tradition of Japan, two women, veiled, providing the rhythms for a dancer in black, face hidden by a hat looking like fruit sliced in two obscuring the face, embellished by deft hand formations and pivots characteristic of a body confined by the folds of kimono and obi.

This year’s recipient of the Malonga Casquelourd Lifetime Achievement Award
brought Ron Wallace,  a solemn-faced, white-haired man, out from stage right in  Scots regalia of the highland bag piper, setting the stage for a trio of younger men in kilts, bearing sabers, to emerge from stage left in salutation and then to perform the demanding allegro maneuvers, the beats and jumps such close cousins to balletic allegro performance. It was a wonderfully stirring rendition before the quarted

Jubilee American Dance Theatre may have been in existence for a long time, but I was unaware of just how diverse, coherent and folksy the members were. They demonstrated their coherence in a Depression-era gathering at a would-be Cajun
watering hole featuring three dances rooted in Southern country culture; a one-step Cajun Jig; a variation of the Carolina Shag and Appalachian style clogging.

It was fitting that U.C.’s students should complete the program is a boisterous assertion of youth and drumming. The Bearettes and Afro Urban Society strode
down the aisles, five women in golden sequin short skirts, arms and torsos swaying energetically, rhythmically while drummers of all sizes and hues supported the women and themselves, a declaration of equality without question.

Finishing, they moved to the back of the stage, while each group was announced in reverse order, all acknowledging the audience and continuing to move to the drumbeats. A little more unison as the three artistic directors joined them before the ensembles moved out through the audience into Sproul Plaza to continue their jamming. It was a finis to make one believe in the power of the people.