Tag Archives: Jessica Lang

Ballet San Jose and Technology

1 Apr

Ballet San Jose presented Bodies of Technology March 27-29 at San Jose’s California Theatre, an 1100 seat theater which looked almost full at the Sunday matinee. It made me wonder whether the company might seriously consider changing its venue. The sound and look of a full house is better than a half-filled larger location.

Bodies of Technology also served to make an additional contribution to the reputations of Bay Area choreographer Amy Seiwert, This Might Be True, and former San Francisco Ballet principal and City Ballet teacher, Yuri Zhukov, User’s Manual. The third choreographer, Jessica Lang, Eighty One, has had at least one other work presented by Ballet San Jose, originally produced by American Ballet Theatre.

Before the curtain rose on Seiwart’s work with its beautiful, mostly blue, visual design by Freder Weiss, Artistic Director Jose Manuel Carreno, Board Chairman
Millicent Powers and Chief Executive Officer Alain Hineline came out to thank the audience for the support given to raise over $550,000 by March 15 as part of the company’s stabilization efforts.

While the immediate following statements are hors de categorie of performance, the website Charity Navigator gave the company a rating of 68% for the year ending June 2012, lacking availability of information on loans and Form 990, as well as posting a fiscal deficit of $1,130,870 within a year following the forced departure of artistic director Dennis Nahat. Nahat stated the company was in the black when he departed. Available on the Web, such information leads one to wonder why the deadline and why the funding was needed.

Additionally, Hineline announced the projected company’s name change to Silicon Valley Ballet, with the logo displayed on the curtain; small copies were handed out to audience members when they departed the theater.

Throughout the program with its heavy emphasis on ensemble, music was of the minimal variety; melody is out, folks. Seiwart’s musical choices by Nits Frahm and Anne Muller provided ten silver unitard-dressed dancers and the choreographer with a background for geometric patterns of entry, exits and formations on stage, enhanced by Freder Weiss’s visual echoes of the dancers movements. One of the most lovely was like folded ribbon cascading as dancers lifted their partners on entering, the lifting with the supported partner’s leg in a la seconde into arabesque. At the end, however, the visual patterns departed from movement echoes, becoming snowflakes, perhaps spring blossoms. This Might Be True is well worth seeing a second time.

Jessica Lang’s Eighty One, premiered by the company in an earlier season, again had the composer Jakub Ciupinski performing his commissioned score on an elevated platform upstage left, stage light emphasizing his presence like an
all-seeing shaman, the other lighting slanting diagonally as if from dusty skylights from which pointed shoes or an arm were revealed at the beginning.

In the murky light, dancers pirouetted, partnered, lent their backs to the floor if I remember correctly, and in their grey to black toned costumes cohered admirably to semi-robotic commands, light replacing the smoke of the Tharp work seen in the previous trio of ballets.

Yuri Zhukov is the most esoteric and traditional of the three choreographers. When he was producing Zhukov Dance Theatre in San Francisco [with support from Millicent Powers and Cindy Adams], his work was imaginative and spare, focused on contemporary life from an unusual angle. User’s Manual continues in that vein, but with marked differences for the dancers: their faces were whitened and all sported red wigs, the women’s possessing bangs. Usually employed for translations or plot summaries, an overhead prompter first displayed multiple images of stones wrapped with strands of perhaps rope, then later multiple images of a carrot-haired young woman grimacing, several non-human images with vocal English sounds and a few phrases of Japanese.

The commissioned score was performed by The Living Earth Show, electric guitarist Travis Andrews and percussionist Andy Meyerson, a duo with a xylophone producing two notes through most of the ballet, the guitarist whose contribution sounded repetitive. The printed credits stated that the collaboration “thrives on pushing the boundaries of technical and artistic possibility in its presentation of commissioned electro-acoustic chamber music.” From what I heard, I did not hear what could be called acoustic.

User’s Manuel provided the audience with a pas de deux featuring Kendall Teague and Ommi Pipit-Suksun, an intricate passage displaying Pipit-Suksun’s finesse and finished line to advantage and affirming Teague’s capacities as a partner.

The company coheres wonderfully as an ensemble, each dancer attacking the individual assignment vigorously, dancing at full tilt.

I guess I display my age when I am not particularly moved by one note electronic music with hints of outer space. One hopes a) that the company’s performance zeal is rewarded with continued opportunities and b) there will be more melody, not just by Prokofiev May 8-10, but with a live orchestra.


Ballet San Jose’s Spring Revolutionary Program

30 May

For the 2013 Season finale, April 19-21,  Ballet San Jose featured contemporary choreography, including a pas de deux choreographed by Karen Gabay as part of her final appearances with the company she has served for three decades.  Part of the draw was Merce Cunningham and a premiere by Jessica Lang, plus Jorma Elo.

I have written about Gabay’s Amour Gitan in her Gala finale; by what must have been her fourth performance April 21, she had hit her stride.  Coming after Merce Cunningham’s Duets to John Cage’s esoteric sounds it was quite a jump.

Duets comprised a dozen dancers or six pairs. One pair danced and another arrived towards the end, then there were two pairs, three and briefly the entire dozen dancers, arriving and departing unexpectedly.  The original choreography must have required the dancers to move barefooted; here they moved in soft shoes which displayed the upward thrust of ballet technique.  Merce
Cunningham’s dancers not only emphasized the level nature of their bodies, but also the weight and texture derived from the contact with the floor.

It’s hard for classically-trained dancers in a ballet company to alter their stage presentation.  They smile;  and except for dramatic situations, are required to exude good cheer, health and all’s right with the world.  Cunningham asks nothing of that; he wants neutrality,certainly not the front and center most classical abstractions somehow built in to the phrasing.  One could quickly see why this work would be attractive to a ballet company wanting to stretch dancers and repertoire.  What was needed is a massive re-education of performing premise, doubtless something the artistic direction of Ballet San Jose did not have time or resources to supply this season.

Jorma Elo’s Glow Stop was another the works from American Ballet Theatre brought in to fit the overall program title, aided by  juxtaposing Mozart’s Symphony 28 in C major and Philip Glass’ 2nd movement from the Tirol Concerto for Piano and Music.  While stager Christophe Dozzi commented on Elo’s desire for speed and the need for precision in the intricate motions, only classically trained dancers are capable of hitting the arabesque on pointe and then wiggling the line trying to  resemble a pretzel;  undertake an turn of the torso bent at the waist under an outstretched arm,grasping the turner’s arms while on pointe, then coming out to stretch the torso elegantly before buckling it from an  efface.  My degree of interest, having seen two or three other Elo works, and with Boston Ballet where he is its resident choreographer, was what kinds of distortion Elo utilized to what kind of phrases.

Jessica Lang’s premiere of Eighty-one, with its lighting and raised level where composer Jakub Clupinski directed the music, couldn’t have been further in theme than her extended pas de deux Splendid Isolation III danced in 2012 to Gustav Mahler’s extended adagietto, where the woman was swathed in white and the man had to reach over the expanse of train to reach her.
Where that was ghostly  lit,  Eighty-one was sci fi, with music to match, the composer changing the action with gesture and the start and stop of movement, classical in quality.

The dancers were required to move in geometric patterns with frequent lighting adjustments; at several points in the procedure, I half expected to see the hull of a space ship move behind the composer.  Whether Eighty-one will invite the enthusiasm given it at this premiere performance in a second season only repetition will tell.

Ballet San Jose’s 2012-2013 Season

5 Sep

Ballet San Jose will start its 2012-2013 season with a new Nutcracker, choreographed by veteran company principal Karen Gabay, running December 8-22, 2012.  Sets will be designed by Paul Kelly and costumes by Theoni Aldredge.  Gabay has run a summer company, Pointe of Departure, for several seasons, and seen locally at the Mountain View Center for the Arts.

February 15-17, 2013 the company will premiere the Ludwig Minkus  musical romp, Don Quixote , staged by Wes Chapman, Ballet San Jose’s Artistic Advisor, based on the Marius Petipa-Alexander Gorsky choreography.

March 22-24, 2013 Sir Frederick Ashton’s Les Rendezvous, set to Francois Esprit Auber’s ,music, will receive its company premiere as well as the Jules Massenet’s Meditation from Thais,  created on Sir Anthony Dowell and Dame Antoinette Sibley when they were young principals with The Royal Ballet. Stanton Welch’s Clear to J.S. Bach music, will receive an
encore performance and there will be a revival of Kurt Jooss’ iconic anti-war ballet The Green Table, created in 1932, and instrumental in Jooss’ departure from Germany for England for the remainder of the ’30’s and through the World War II years.

The season will complete itself April 19-21, 2013 with some surprising inclusions of modernity.  These are Jorma Elo’s Glow-Stop set to the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Philip Glass and Merce Cunningham’s Duets, a six couple series of pas de deux performed to the music of John Cage. An additional pas de deux will be announced. Jessica Lang will be represented in a world premiere for the company, represented in the 2012 season with Splendid Isolation III.

Ballet San Jose also has announced a new music director and conductor.  George Daughterty comes with a 30-year record of conducting for the likes of Mikhail Baryshnikov, Rudolf Nureyev, Gelsey Kirkland, Suzanne Farrell and Natalia Makarova in addition to American Ballet Theatre, Munich’s State and La Scala Opera Ballets and The Royal Ballet.  He has been musical director for The Louisville Ballet, Chicago City Ballet and Ballet Chicago.  Guest conducting credits include San Francisco Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, and abroad with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, the Danish National and the Sydney Symphonies.  Nominated for five Emmy Awards, he was awarded a Primetime Emmy for the ABC Network production of Peter and the Wolf.

Company promotions and new members have previously been noted.