Tag Archives: Maria Basile

Diablo Ballet’s Three Premieres November 17

22 Nov

Artistic Director Lauren Jonas possesses a healthy amount of taste; it certainly was on display for Diablo Ballet’s fall performances at Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek.  You can also include in that estimate a capacity for wide variety for the dances seen November 16-17 ranged from an extended erotic pas de deux to Jose Limon’s inconic The Moor’s Pavane, ending with Sean Kelly’s commissioned work, A Swingin’ Holiday for four couples and a sizeable swing orchestra.

David Fonnegra was responsible for mounting Vicente Nebrada’s three part Scriabin offering Lento a Tempo e Appassionata played by Roy Bogas with his usual reliable panache.  Fonnegra partnered Hiromi Yamazaki, one of the Bay Area natives who danced elsewhere before returning to the Bay Area.  In the first third, as well as the other two, the pair kept pivoting around each other, the spiral modulating into a supported plunging arabesque, some variation of fish dive, or a left to the shoulder or grand jete aloft which rapidly assumed a different posture, invariably with beautiful finishes in the port de bras.

The middle section saw Yamazaki and Fonnegra separate physically only to rush towards each other to accomplish a spectacular climax to the musical phrase.  When it came to Appassionnato, you got it, rushes together separately, turns and spins of great urgency, concluding on the stage floor intertwined. It was a  major partnering job for Fonnegra and plenty of spacial daring required of Yamazaki, both expertly realized their demands.

After a pause the curtains parted on a reprise of Jose Limon’s The Moor’s Pavane to the music of Henry Purcell, music more popularly recognized as used by Jerome Robbins.  Just four dancers, a swirling red robe for Derek Sakakura as The Moor,  striking sinister hues of mustard for His Friend, interpreted by Robert Dekkers.  Mounted by Gary Masters, the Moor’s Wife was
danced by Heather Cooper and His Friend’s Wife by Maria Basile, both guesting from SjDance Co, headed by Masters.  Mounting this iconic modern dance work is a major event anywhere.

In the Lucas Hoving role, Dekkers came close to the wily deadpan which creates such a sinister aura within the formal structure, where the four dance together, then the men, then the couples, the quartet and all too soon the Moor is tormented into his fatal action.  As noted elsewhere, the quartet dances towards one another,  rather than to the audience.

Sakakura, his chest too large for the costume, conveyed a cooler Moor than one might expect, although his anguish toward the end was plain, having danced it twice before and thus the  opportunity to grow in the portrayal.  Technically quite adequate, I felt I was seeing a Moor with samurai training.

Cooper and Basile both brought maturity to their roles, Basile’s use of her persimmon velvet skirts taunting, flirtatious, a smirk on her face more open to persuasion than the oblique smile of Pauline Koner, while Cooper’s Wife was even more neutral than remembered with Betty Jones.  If Moor’s Pavane goes to Diablo Ballet’s  San Jose and Hillbarn engagements in the spring, it will be interesting to see how the interpretations evolve in this engrossing, classic work.

Following intermission the program closed with Sean Kelly’s A Swingin’ Holiday, utilizing four couples, highly colored zoot suits for the men, ‘Thirties glamour for the women and a fifteen piece orchestra to blare the music hyped up swing era style. The dancers rose to the stylistic challenge ably; it was very nice to see Aaron Orza back on stage since departing San Francisco Ballet.

Kelly created dances appropriate to the music, but a unifying thread was missing, leaving the pas de huit with a series of dances, entrances, greetings and then minor vignettes leaving the impression that strangers had gathered in a night club or dive, but essentially were unconnected.

SJ Dance Co at San Jose’s California Theatre October 14-15,2011

29 Oct

San Jose State University (SJSU) enjoys an active dance department, headed by Fred Mathews, a member of Jose Limon’s Dance Company with its principal teacher, Gary Masters, another Limon alumni. What could be more logical for them not only to teach Limon’s technique, but to revive signature pieces created by Limon for his company?

SJ Dance Co., formed nine years ago, has danced at the restored California Theatre in downtown San Jose for the past three, a handsome edifice with thick carpets; it is also home to the San Jose Opera and Ballet San Jose’s annual school program headed by Lise La Cour.

This year Limon was represented with his 1958 masterpiece “Missa Brevis” choreographed to Zoltan Kodaly”s Missa Brevis in Temore Belli [A Short Mass in Time of War]; “Dance in the Sun” by Daniel Nagrin solo was included to showcase guest artists Raphael Boumaila, appearing in “Missa Brevis.”

Premieres by Gary Masters, Heather Cooper and Maria Basile formed the remainder of the program, “Velocities,” “Close” and “Ancestral Threads”; all enjoyed the benefit of the San Jose Chamber Orchestra. All three choreographers teach on the SJSU dance faculty.

Michael Touchi’s Tango Barroco gave the music for “Velocities”, a three-part work utilizing improvisation and involving the nine dancer company. Heather Cooper’s “Close” employed two dancers and Maria Basile’s “Ancestral Threads” utilized parts of Ludwig Van Beethoven’s second movement from his Seventh Symphony performed by five dancers. Cooper and Basile are accomplished dancers with substantial credits.

“Dance in the Sun,” a refreshingly brief solo, saw Boumaila arriving on stage
with jacket slung over one shoulder, striding with lungs expanding in sunlit open air. The piece is a brief, explicit solo of relish and jaunty celebration of out-of-doors, punctuated by low, distinct grand jetes, and torso movement as the body responds to the warm environment. At the end Boumaila picks up the jacket and strides off stage, a feel good piece for dancer and audience alike.

“Missa Brevis”, Jose Limon’s urgent interpretation of Zoltan Kodaly’s work of the same name, was choreographed the spring of 1958; Limon’s colleague Doris Humphrey died the following December. How much her approaching death influenced Limon is sheer speculation, but the circles, bow-and-arrow like leaping diagonals, the forward bends, the prevalence of urgently moving circles all speak of an inner majesty and acceptance of life’s great mysteries and rites of passage. This was particularly apparent when first one and then two other figures were hoisted upstage center, suggesting the Jesus’ crucifixion between two thieves. Limon’s affinity for Roman Catholic rites elevated them as much as they may have cleansed his spirit. The thrust of the arms and hands in those leaping diagonals, and forward bends as the women circled, moving all the while, emanated an extraordinary satisfaction in their utter simplicity; at moments the feet collectively fluttered in place.

“Missa Brevis” started and ended with Boumaila [Limon figure] standing alone downstage right, looking at the dancers in a circle, upstage left, the company’s nine dancers augmented by thirteen others. One cannot help but feel honored to
have been witness to the work as well as thanking SJ Dance Company for presenting it.


West Wave’s Solo Night, August 15, ODC Theatre

23 Aug

Thank Joan Lazarus for selecting the solos – eight of them, not all danced by their creators. Thank Joan Lazarus also for selecting recognizable modern dance technique with many of the strengths of classical ballet.

ODC’s Theatre attracted quite a crowd for a Monday night – friends, colleagues, students to see eight essentially solo pieces, starting with Suzanne Beahrs “Dear Unica” with Molly Stinchfield’s drawings projected as she outlined the body of Julianna Monin and added embellishments to the she either spoke or had previously recorded.  Beahrs had previously attended U.C. Berkeley, which must account for her inclusion while Angela Don’s music was created along with her sound engineering responsibilities with Berkeley Repertory Theater.

Whoever Unica is , she enjoyed a detailed portrait of her strengths and abilities to be greater than the lines projected, the movements made and the sound and words employed. Overall, dancer Juliana Monin lacked the opportunity to dance with any freedom from the enveloping of crossing linear commentary.  An admirable collaboration, it left me questioning the point.

Maria Basile’s “Birthing The Ascension” with music by Thoth followed.  A nude hued costume displayed Basile’s  strong womanly  body and an unwavering technique where arm ended with a poised hand with fingers completing, extending the line or curve of her movement. A sense of the inevitable within the evanescence of dance was rarely more clearly stated.  Basile’s small body reminded one many great dancers have been far from Balanchine’s ideal,  endowed with elegant  curves and a sensuality alive and well in its disciplined expressive vehicle.

Sue Li-Jue continues to plumb aspects of her Asian heritage.  I remember seeing her explore the foot fetish of Chinese bound feet in a performance at The Asian Art Museum.  In “Not What She Seems”, Li Jue chose company member Frances Sedayao to explore alternating nonchalence, frustration and rebellion in an Asian woman’s working life, the score punctuated by the sounds of whirring sewing machines. Sedayao with her tiny physique embodied the contradictions ably.

Stacey Printz collaborated with tall  musician/performer Tommy Shepherd and a raised oblong platform for “If You Knew.” Her body sculpted in a black unitard, Printz explored the corners and edges of the board, at times raising and stretching her arms, the torso reaching across the rim of the board.  This went on a long time when it was obvious Printz would heist herself on to the black plank to continue her strong, impressive movement.  When she finally obliged us, completion seemed relatively fast.  Sans question, Printz’ work  was impressive, though what was conveyed besides prodigious control is a question.

After the intermission Erin Derstine danced “With” to a Yo-yo Ma recording of Bach’s Cello Suite #2, her back to the audience.  Whether on the floor or standing, Derstine’s  technique was laced with a sweet tenderness, which became obvious when Ben Estabrook’s film displayed the abdomen of a woman close to delivery.  After a section displaying the gentle pulse of the foetus, Derstine faced the audience, clearly in post-partum trim condition.  A few gestures of cradling appeared before she finished, making clear the linkage between Bach’s sonorous complexity and the gestation of new life.

Maurya Kerr came to Alonso King’s Lines’ Ballet following sojourns with Fort Worth and Pacific Northwest Ballets, a formed artist giving a dozen years to King’s choreography.  Now teaching in the Lines/Dominican BFA program and in Lines Ballet Training Program, she has guested locally and with Hollins University.  As a free lance choreographer, she set “Billy Tate” on Adam Peterson who responded admirably to her creation of a young man who begins
and ends like a medically identified spastic, in between demonstrating abundant control and technical vocabulary

Angela Mazziotta’s “The Last Ten” and Jazon Escultura’s “Chalk on the Sitewalk” completed the program.  Youthfulness was reflected choreographically in their somewhat diffident invention, though each possesses the requisite technique to  create appealing figures in performance.  Both are beginning seekers, earnest,  honest; a senior, I found it hard to respond to the messages they attempted.  However, they are on the path.

David H. K. Elliott gave each choreographer complementing  lighting.