Tag Archives: Christian Squires

Diablo Ballet’s 22nd Season November 14

23 Nov

Plucky Diablo Ballet acquired a new venue last year with the 400-seat Del Valle Theater, which I understand is a former school site. A walker dependent on public transportation like myself, Contra Costa County has a bus system but the hours are not solicitous to theatre goers. I am lucky to have friends like Richard and Elizabeth Sah to pick me up at BART. Richard, a balletomane of three decades plus, has served on the  Diablo Board for several years.

A good portion of Diablo Ballet’s pluck emanates form Lauren Jonas, the artistic director, backed by Erika Johnson, a former dancer like Lauren and now in charge of development. Both are alumna of Marin Ballet in one of its most productive periods, a time they shared with Joanna Berman who serves as Diablo Ballet’s regisseur.

While the company’s season is short, three or four weekends a year at most, the community outreach has been steady; the company members are accessible after performances to chat with audience members who linger over coffee, tea and batches of cookies baked by steady supporters. This year has seen the start of a Teen Board, meeting monthly to plan its own brand of community involvement. Clearly, Diablo Ballet, now in its 22nd season, is a genuine, small scale community ballet ensemble and promises to continue flourishing.

Three works comprised the program, starting with Norbert Vesak’s Tchaikovsky Dances Pas de Deux, premiered in 1982 by Cynthia Gregory and Fernando Bujones in Miami June 2, 1982. Staged here by Joanna Berman the Robert Clay de la Rose, the Diablo dancers were Amanda Aeris and Raymond Tilton.

The wide Del Valle Theatre is a definite improvement over the previous Shadelands construction, and one can see how well suited it was for school assemblies. The Vesak stage patterns suggested a deeper stage and more atmospheric lighting . The assignments evoked the long lines of Bujones and Gregoru’s particular stage savvy.  I would rather have seen Diablo’s dancers in tights than in the adapted Empire and bonhommie costume worn by the dancers; I think they would have been more comfortable. The pair danced nicely, but could improve on the transitions of a piece which emphasized line and pauses.

The second piece, AnOther, to Yann Tiersen music was choreographed by Robert Dekkers, Diablo Ballet’s choreographer-in- residence and a company dancer currently sidelined for medical reasons. Premiered in 2008 in Tempe, Arizona, it entered the Diablo Ballet repertoire in January 2014 when Diablo Ballet performed at Shadelands’ Art Center in Walnut Creek.

To semi-lyrical, repetitive music, eight dancers commence in silhouette, lighting amber to café au lait tones, accenting bodies and position changes. Eight dancvers were involved: Tatyana Martyanova, Jackie McConnell, Roselyn Ramirez, Mayo Sugano, Aidan de Young, Jamar Goodman, Raymond Tilton, Christian Squires.

I need to see the work again to comment further.

One of the constant features in a Diablo program is at least one number is danced to live music. After intermission, Sean Kelly’s A Swingin’ Holiday, was danced as its 2015 Edition. The swing sounds were provided by the Diablo Ballet Swing Orchestra, directed by Greg Sudmeier, a sixteen piece orchestra comprising saxaphone, trumpets, trombones, piano, bass and of course drums. Three dancers cavorted down the left aisle, a girl with a pink pom-pom bobbing on a stem attached to a blue Jackie-type hat,  her short blue dress an attitude to match, flanked by Jamar Goodman in a generous yellow zoot suit to her right and a similar suit in red on her left worn by Aidan de Young, who later danced up a storm in a solo combining technical virtuosity and jazzy acuity. The stage was set with table, chairs and the ensemble played out their entrances, encounters and flirtations with ease and energy.

A Swingin Holiday cannot be classified as a deathless perennial by any stretch of the imagination, but the dancers did well by it and it served as a cheery ending


Diablo Ballet’s Twenty-First Gala, March 26

6 Apr

At the Lesher Center for the Arts March 26 Diablo Ballet danced its 21st anniversary performance before supporters and dancers retired to Scott’s Garden for a gathering which garnered Contra Costa County’s oldest ballet ensemble with more than $50,000.

I don’t normally participate in such fiscal enterprises, but thanks to transportation arrangements with Richard and Elizabeth Green Sah, I enjoyed a Miller of Dee exposure. In the process I reconnected with poet Gary Soto and his wife Carolyn, with whom I shared a publishing series of classes at U.C. Extension with the late Jean Louis Brindamour, Ph.D. Missing them from the company’s roster I learned that Hiromi Yamasaki and Maya Sugano have each recently given birth to daughters.

Starting at 6:30, the 21st program featured three revivals or reconstructions, two pieces created by current company dancers and one series of images titled Aeterna XXI, following each other with just a short pause.

David Fonnegra’s piece, a pas de deux to Felix Mendelssohn’s “Song Without Words” was danced by Tetyana Martyanova and Fonnegra. Martyanova’s credits were listed as companies in Odessa, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and Tania Perez-Salas Compania de Danza. I found her costume, a long black tunic with slits disconcerting; despite several slits, the length interfered; – just when a phrase reached its completion, there was this distracting black strip, making Fonnegra’s partnering seem labored, distorting line.

A second choice of Mendelssohn was made by Robert Dekkers, performed by Janet Witharm, Cello; Philip Santos, Violin and Aaron Pike, piano. Under the titleSee Saw seven dancers participated in a semi-abstract classical one act. Dekkers is skillful, adept in movement choices, save one noticeable blooper; to fill musical phrases when the strings engaged in extended arabesques. Dekker required the dancers to wave their fingers with a slight flop to the palm, appearing tacked on and extraneous.

Opening the program was the Balanchine pas de deux from Apollo where he and Terpsichore connect, danced by Christian Squires and Sandrine Cassini, a French contribution. Both small, compact, they were well suited to each other, but the snippet was all too short.

Joanna Berman restaged Hamlet and Ophelia, the pas de deux Val Caniparoli created for Berman in 1985 early in her San Francisco Ballet career to Bohuslav Martinu’s music. Dedicated to Lew Christensen’s memory, the work makes much of a lengthy cloak which Hamlet (Squires) wears as he makes his way from upstage left to downstage right. Ophelia flutters around and is strong armed once by Hamlet in a menacing pas de deux. Clearly a teen-ager who hasn’t much of a clue, the bourrees and port de bras, like chicken wings. clue the audience to the inevitable. Christian Squires did double duty as Hamlet with Amanda Harris as Ophelia. After left alone in desperate state, Ophelia witnesses Hamlet retrace his steps with the black cape, leaving it a black river upon which she fatally steps; as she bourrees on it towards stage center, the cloak begins to ripple and turn blue; curtain.

Kelly Teo departed Diablo Ballet nearly a decade ago; Lauren Jonas and Erika Johnson restaged Incitations, the tight little ballet he created to the music of Astor Piazolla in 1997 for two couples, here Martyanova with Derek Sakakura, Rosselyn Ramirez and Justin VanWeest. The quartet performed it with a verve befitting the well-remembered zest of its creator, now a hotelier in Shanghai.

Smuin Ballet, Palace of Fine Arts, Celebrating Twenty Years

20 Oct

Choreographers Amy Seiwart, Jiri Kylian and Michael Smuin provided three works for this twentieth year inaugural program of Smuin Ballet. Translated emotionally it was adroit folksy, spare elegy and adroit sensuality.

But first, it was evident that Robin Cornwell had left the troupe as well as Jonathan Magonsing, both intrinsic movers, at home in their bodies, the classical technique having honed a natural pleasing sensuality. I remember Lew Christensen once remarking “ Michel Fokine taught me that it is the transitions that make the dancing,” and both dancers were gifted with that quality. Fortunately, two experienced newcomers, Pauli Magierek and Eduardo Permuy, have joined the ranks of Smuin Ballet’s eighteen dancers.

Amy Seiwert’s Dear Miss Cline traces the mood and words of nine songs sung by Patsy Cline,a work premiered on a spring program at Yerba Buena Center’s Theater. Seiwert and Jo Ellen Arntz collaborated on the costumes, set off before a visual and lighting design by Brian Jones, outlines of doors and windows against a butterscotch pudding-hued scrim. Erin Yarborough was featured prominently in “Tra le la le la Triangle” with Weston Krukow and Christian Squires and again with Krukow in “Pick Me Up On Your Way Down.” Nicole Haskins made a nice impression in “She’s Got You,” originally danced by Susan Roemer, losing Joshua Reynolds, Jonathan Dummar and Aidan de Young. As with these numbers the overall tone was light, perky, occasionally a tad ironic, well handled by the dancers.

Jiri Kylian’s Return to a Strange Land was premiered by Stuttgart Ballet May 17, 1975 in tribute to John Cranko, Stuttgart’s artistic director who died en route from New York to Germany. Kylian was responsible for the lighting concept, costumes, the set in addition to the choreography for just six dancers, appearing as trio, pas de deux, pas de deux and trio format to Leon Janacek’s Sonata October 1, 1905.

Kylian’s patterns move smoothly, seemingly seamless, ending almost abruptly, a conversation swifly terminated, important content conveyed succinctly, adornment absent. Eduardo Permuy, Ben Needham-Wood and Joshua Reynolds, stripped to the waist, wearing lightly dyed leotards, conveyed this in understated though clearly classical ballet vocabulary. Jane Rehm and Terez Dean danced with sincerity but seemed shy of a necessary edge or pause to the finish of their arabesques. Somehow I expected more subject crystal, melancholy tones in execution. Conveyed seamlessly and fast, so rapidly I wanted to call out, “Please do it again so that I can check what I saw.”

Carmina Burana
has invited several choreographic versions; some I have seen, others I have only heard about; Michael Smuin’s boasts a spectacular commencement and a repeat finale finale. I had the good fortune to see Pauli Magierek in the central female role, joining the company after attaining soloist status with San Francisco Ballet. Magierek’s maturity, dramatic qualities and ability to sustain motion and sculpt a movement reminded me how interesting she is to watch. She would be spectacular in Smuin’s Medea.

Smuin’s Burana opener and closer has the woman, here Magierek, supported by the feet of the men, raising and lowering her to the explosive chorus and the beat of the music, the women circling the men, making one wonder whether the elevated figure is worshiped or being prepared for sacrifice. This central role provided two solos and a pas de deux with Eduardo Permuy, who proved to be an effective partner, both complementing each other.

Smuin Ballet programs a decent balance, which keeps the entertainment aspect of some dance lovers happy and coaxing the serious with at least one absorbing offer in their mixed bills. The adrooitness keeps audiences coming.

Post Ballet’s Fourth Season, Lam Research Theater

24 Jul

Artistic Director Robbert Dekkers chose three prior works to precede his 2013 premiere “field the present shifts” [the title was printed in lower case] with music commissioned from Matthew Pierce, costumes by Christine Darsch, projections by  Robert Gilson and Catherine Caldwell, and lighting by David Robertson. Dekkers used seven dancers, four men and three women, largely as a group, movements in common, in four different styles of attack, culminating in a return to the original exposition.  The dancers were Aidan De Young, Ashley Flaner, Domenico Luciano, Jane Hope Rehm, Christian Squires, Raychel Weiner, Ricardo Zayas. The four violinists were Alan Lin, Debbie Spangler, Noah Strick, Ondine Young.

I saw this program Thursday, July 18, 2o13.

Christine Darsh’s costumes were dyed an interesting shade of orange fading into the original off-white color of the tights, the men stripped to the waist, the girls in unitard form embellished by the orange material waving slightly above the breasts, while the men’s tights flared at the waist line.

Suspended from the ceiling were six clumps of spaghetti-looking white strands, meeting and clasped at the top in  Japanese gift embellishment style.  Behind, the projections commenced with a starry night, gradually forming several vertical lines.  Into these lines lineal forms were introduced – stringy  at first, gradually forming more doodle-like arrangements, cross-hatching, reaching beyond a single column, assuming bigger and more complex if geometric shapes.  At mid point, the projection became a massive, angular shaped piece of closely intersecting lines, as if projecting the tangled lines of bureaucratic procedure and protocol with some poor human efforts in facing the complexity..

In the four sections, a woman moved outside the collection of dancers, followed by another, then another, the group then coalescing in a new location.  Luciano made a similar thrust, establishing himself as the ensemble’s leader, more or less, though one remembers it was a woman. the initial venturesome one.

The lineal forms, resembling decorations on a gift box wrapped Japanese style , slowly descended to brush the floor.  Just before the movement summary, Luciano briefly moved through it with an inquiring walk; in the background a woman did her own exploration of another clump of the voluptuous, if see through, white threads.  Gradually, however, the ensemble, though milling around separately, again began to coalesce while the the gift box strings slowly ascended.  The music repeated its original theme and the dancers, like the Sonata Allegro form, gathered together;  there was an abrupt blackout.

Many in the audience displayed an ecstatic reaction, rising to their feet.  I found the choreographic sections did not transition smoothly or with meaning, despite the effort to portray the beginning of collective action, supported by the evocative music, lighting and stage decor.

For the other three pieces, “Colouring,” “Sixes and Seven” and “When in Doubt” Jessica Collado in Dekkers’ solo “Sixes and Seven” to Philip Glass music, was quite affecting.  Often, she would turn her torso and arm to the side, perhaps turning it from the shoulder, bending it at the elbow, gazing down at the limb and her action in slight surprise.

“Colouring” [Dekkers chose the English-style spelling]  involved a stiff white, blank piece of material suspended behind Ashley Flaner and Domenico Luciano, standing opposite each other. They responded to the black squares, curved and geometrical lines Enrique Quintero drew on the sheet.  Downstage right, choreographer Dekkers stood, signalling to the dancers with his fingers what movement pattern should be executed after Quintero had completed his strokes on the board,which sometimes appearing black or in some form the Asian calligraphers call flying white.

The exercise revealed a slow motion grasp of partnering, some beautiful passing forms when Luciano lifted Flaner or they circled each other like expansive sumo  belts. It remained essentially an exercise, albeit interesting.

Mr. Dekkers clearly is extremely conscious of shapes and forms.  The cover of his program depicted Dekkers and another male locked in an embrace with a woman semi-profile arms extended behind them, all apparently nude except for the woman’s tattoo ;that was more clearly revealed on the back cover where on pointe she semi-crouched.  The individual dancers’ pictures, largely head shots, seemed to reinforce the skin display.

The program also contains Dekkers’ belief regarding what is conveyed in each of the four pieces his program called “Four Plays.”  Somehow, I prefer to reach my own conclusions regarding this well-conceived, carefully presented program.

Robert Dekkers’ Triads, Herbst Theatre, July 21

23 Jul

Triads must refer to Robert Dekkers’ third season as artistic director for Post:Ballet, because the program itself only sporadically demonstrated relationships of three in the four dances performed at San Francisco’s Herbst Theatre, July 21.

A scheduled fifth was eliminated due to the destruction of a sculpture in the final work, a pas de deux.  Actually, that was good providing you hold the opinion that final  program numbers should be ensemble ones.

Dekkers comes across the footlights as articulate, very earnest. given to using  “and” frequently.  The program itself displayed a consistent “look” in its  photographs, high black and white contrast;  a ‘Twenties look – Clara Bow lips for the women, marcelled hair, single line eyebrows.  For the men there were Valentino-like side burns, brooding postures, careful hairlines; for both genders clear suggestions of nudity. The dancers themselves were ten; during the rest of the year they are claimed by Smuin Ballet (Jonathan Mangosing, Susan Roemer, Christian Squires); Ballet Arizona (Beau Campbell; Myles Lavallee) Diablo Ballet (Hiromi Yamazaki); Dominic Walsh Dance Theatre (Domenico Luciano) plus three with no obvious company affiliation.  Dekkers himself is currently a dancer with Diablo Ballet; Happy Ending, the evening’s  second work, was premiered  by Diablo  May 4.

Dekkers clearly knows how to package his work; the financial credits and  program testifies to skills so necessary for an artistic director.  Based on the program notes, he also  provides explanations/inspirations for his works, expressing them in contemporary style, which is to say lyricism and conventional romance [read chivalry] between the genders is somewhere waiting in the wings,  scarcely welcomed by musical choices, movement or  spoken opinions uttered as part of the accompanying sound.

Mine is Yours, premiered May 19 during the San Francisco International Arts Festival, here was interpreted by Domenico Luciano with Ashley Flaner, Raychel Weiner and Hiromi Yamazaki as the three women.  Described as “exploring the individual’s physical mental and spiritual relationship with the external world it was initially inspired by the book Sex at Dawn,” it touched on sexual sharing.  The three women walked on demi-pointe throughout, mostly with flexed knees, arms held  upwards in the stick ‘em up position, minus fright.  Torsos rotated from side to side, the head moved as if manipulated by a puppeteer.  In a diaphanous skirt and bare torso Luciano was prone downstage right. The trio moved downstage left before splintering.  Progressively, the trio made contact with Luciano in various ways individually and collectively, contacting him with their heads in his chest, being lifted on his shoulders, slithering through his legs, dragging him upstage.

Three is common in many cultures; I found myself thinking of the mythic Grecian Three Fates; spinning, measuring and cutting of human life; man moving from inertness to active involvement though remaining almost as uncomprehending as the trio’s  detachment.

Happy Ending, initially premiered by Diablo Ballet, is a pas de six with three girls in short skirts and tees, the fellows with suspender-held trousers, the use of the back wall to frame the six starting against it, almost climbing it. Dekkers had his dancers execute melt-down ronde de jambes, wiggling  calves and feet.  Girls were carried, or supported from the knees, heads
near the floor; the men gathered in a trio with spiral body movements, faces expressionless; the girls congregated, comparing notes body style; one moved back to the whitened back wall to execute a six o’clock developpe a la seconde.  “The piece suggests that we can find happiness and fulfillment in all of life’s “little” moments.”  The definition of “little” moments seems to have experienced a generational shift.

Following intermission Jonathan Mangosing and Christian Squires danced an excerpt from “Interference Pattern,’ abetted  by Amir Jaffer’s minimalist film and David Robertson’s lighting recreated by Jack Carpenter.  Both men danced in trunks, bare chested, Squires starting upstage and Mangosing downstage right.  In front of a brick wall, Squires’ head very gradually emerged on film while the two excellent dancers meandered their way towards each other and began to engage, a movement-dominated replica of fully dressed men, off-handed, studiously casual,  cruising for a male sexual partner. Ultimately, after many body rolls, contact was accomplished; as Squires’ face became more prominent, there was a sudden blackout.  Program notes read  “ The work is an intimate exploration of observation and its influence on our  subconscious behavior.”

When in Doubt with seven dancers  got its premiere this season, again with Dekkers’ lengthy explanation, and a fair amount of scattered speech by various voices “when we need to speak out and express our beliefs outweighs any reasons we may otherwise find to keep our thoughts to ourselves.”

At the ballet’s beginning this entailed an accented voice of someone obviously older making a generalized statement about being civilized.  For some time after that, youthful voices gave us monosyllables, and a few double directives, enough to make me cringe at current linguistic skills, gradually becoming phrases, comments, thoughtful reflections.

Dekkers used his seven dancers in a line on stage right, entering, progressing, retreating from the same.  In her single appearance Susan Roemer appeared to be carrying something small, important; later it was imitated by Beau Campbell, if my visual memory is accurate. Throughout  the ballet, this advance, retreat was emphasized against an original score by Jacob Wolkenhauser.

On this second evening Herbst Theater was almost filled.  Dekkers  must be touching a current cord, engaging a different generation of audience goers.

Smuin Ballet at San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts, September 15, 2011

29 Sep

Smuin Ballet danced two weekends at the Palace of Fine Arts, in San Francisco, September 15-October 1, 2011with three Smuin works and “Dear Miss Cline,” a premiere by Amy Seiwert, the company’s resident choreographer.  The Smuin Ballets included “Eternal Idol,” which Michael Smuin created in 1969 and interpreted by Cynthia Gregory and Ivan Nagy for American Ballet Theater.  The works for Smuin Ballet were “”Tango Palace” and “Stabat Mater,” the latter Smuin’s response to 9/11,  all danced to taped music.


” Tango Palace,” created for the fall 2003 season, was new to me.  Employing six dancers, Smuin gave great attention to the three-quarters view, or efface, as the women sat in three separated chairs up stage, waiting for the men to appear as they did from mid stage right, in somber tones with hats to be discarded at suitable moments. Shannon Hurlburt and Christian Squires danced an interesting pas de deux following Hurlburt’s rejection by Robin Cornwell, only to receive a second rebuff following their beautifully accented execution.  Cornwall and Jonathan Dummar completed this first section with one of Smuin’s sensual and suggestive pas de deux.


After a black out, Smuin followed this absorbing dance with a bland exposition of the women on pointe, their skirts discarded, partnered by the men.  It was an addition one suspects designed to make the ballet  suitably  covering until intermission. What a pity;  it watered down the initial punch and excitement,. another example where Smuin failed to recognize to quit when ahead.


“Stabat Mater,” set to Anton Dvorak’s music, presented a somber theme in a range of brilliant satin hues, striped with black, as if trying to straddle theatrics with the emotion of loss, remembering and disappearance.  Erin Yarbrough-Stewart and John Speed Orr danced the principal roles, Yarbrough-Stewart  conveying the stark theme with her small body as earnestly as she invariably does. Having seen Smuin’s “Mozart Requiem” in his San Francisco Ballet days,  I recognized a number of movement phrases lifted from parts of that earlier work, copied from Jerry Arpino’s “Trinity.”


“The Eternal Idol” provided Robin Cornwell with an excellent vehicle to display her length and sensual fullness, well supported by Jonathan Dummar; his height and partnering skills allowed Cornwell full expression to Chopin. “Dear Miss Cline,” Seiwert’s contribution, relied on the lyrics of the late Patsy Cline’s hit tunes, country music style. The ballet exhibited an innocence and honesty in its approach to corn-pone fare relying on the body and the movement patterns to convey the emotions.


It is the closest Seiwert has come to emulating her mentor , but with  a crispness where Smuin would have leaned on theatrics. The lyrics were adroitly interpreted by the company, particularly Susan Roemer in “She’s Got You,” where Roemer progressively lost her partner while retaining the vocal souvenirs.  Erin Yarbrough-Stewart swung her attention left and right to Christian Squires and John Speed Orr in “Tra le la le la Triangle” just like Oklahoma’s “Cain’t Say No.”  She again was winsome with Orr in “Pick Me Up On Your Way Down.”  In sum, it was a pleasant closer.