Tag Archives: Paul Chihara

Dannis Nahat’s Yulan Brings Dalian Acrobats to West Coast

18 Oct

Following Dennis Nahat’s departure from Ballet San Jose, he organized Theatre Ventures International, as a 501 © 3, non-profit organization. During the 2008 summer successful eight Chinese city tour, Ballet San Jose had included Shenyang, the capital of Leoaning, the province which once was Manchuria where Dalian is also located. Dalian is noted for its acrobats. Dennis had a ballet being mounted in Dalian and was approached by the artistic administration and asked to create a work for Dalian’s dancers and acrobats. The Dalian-Nahat collaboration was already active when Nahat was abruptly dismissed from the company whose roots dated to the Nahat-Hovarth collaboration in Cleveland in 1972 and Cleveland Ballet’s first performances in 1976. Nahat spent some eighteen months shuttling between San Jose and Dalian creating Yulan.

enjoyed its North American premiere October 13 at San Jose’s California Theatre with a troupe of skilled, energetic, eager performers in a twelve-part pageant which caused Stephen Goldstine to exclaim “makes Cirque du Soleil look like middle school.” The production was scheduled to give four performances in Pasadena, one in East Los Angeles and another in Monterey Park before returning to Dalian.

Though missing the initial scene, Filaments of Galaxies Before Time, the visual magic of Jin Xin, Zhao Yu and Lou Yonfu for Winds of Fire wafted at the back of the stage with circling rings of divergent flame hues with Paul Chihara’s score reinforcing the spreading, fragmenting imagery. Twenty-two small, lithe acrobats were clothed in flame and brown, parts of their costumes pointed to reinforce the fire theme. Entrances on the run, double flips forward, trampolines and sinuous movements abounded. The costumes for this and subsequent episodes were designed by Xu Zeng.

Scenes 3 and 4 were devoted to Flood and Freeze, the projections and use of billowing lengths of white with the projections were among the most imaginative and aesthetic. Theatric manipulation of yardage is pretty standard for water, but the creatures, cavorting over, under and around the billows in unitards displaying slender physiques, were fetching and provided the scene with a playfulness provoking periodic spurts of applause. Of all the scenes, The Freeze that followed, where the same yardage formed glaciers and ice bergs and changing shape, was one of the most magical. Here the participating acrobats sallied forth from behind the shifting shaped ice bergs for a pas de deux [Li Huitong, Zhang Lei], a solo [Li Siyu]some acrobatics and a spectacular aerial feat [Guo Huixan]closing the scene.

What I particularly liked was seeing the cobwebbed projections first used in The Flood continue through four scenes, with the lengthy undulating yards of cloth balancing overt changes in other aspects of the background. Acrobatic feats were so numerous, daring, sometimes comical that the panorama swam in one’s eyes as one highly skilled, gigantic display. It was clear that the performers had spent a healthy number of hours at a ballet barre, but more in the fearless pursuit of specialties like Guo Huixian and He Wen, a couple operating on aerial silks.

Guo Huixan and He Wen were featured once more in Scene Six, Mating; they exchanged who held whom, inter-twining deftly. One or the other was supported by feet in cocked position, with what must be twenty-one bones of iron and muscles of steel, hours of practice and spirits of complete trust.

Also with six scenes, Act II continued the galactic themes: Metamorphosis, Wild Destruction, New Green, Natural Springs, Flowering and Yulan as the finale. The progression included jugglers; a man manipulating a ball with the aid of a net stretched between two long poles; the aforementioned Li Siyi, with Sun Lili and later Zhou Tanting. Li Siyi stretched her slender body in positions portending problems with such utter flexibility, though dazzling in youthful accomplishment.

Li Siyi later appeared as New Green, then within the Big Bobble in Natural Springs, her enclosure manipulated by Wang Chengyu and Zhou Yan Ting. An Apache pas de deux by Sun Lili and Zhang Chao and six other bobbles made refreshing visual gurgles.

Scenes five, Flowering, and six, Yulan possessed most of ballet’s typical accouterments, tutus and toe shoes, to be followed with delicate projections of a growing blossom, ultimately flowering flowers into Yulan, a Magnolia you’ve never see the likes of in the Southern United States. Lu Mingyue, back resting on a platform, manipulated roseate hued umbrellas, starting with one, adding a second on which a third was balanced, then a fourth, onward, upward until she reached seven. Quite mind boggling. Wang Chengyu and Zhou Yanting danced a pas de deux before the final ensemble created multiple tendrils with their arms and legs in front of the scarlet-hued projection of Yulan.

Dennis Nahat was the overall director and responsible for the concept; the choreography was shared with Song Xiaoxue and Zhang Hongfei. Paul Chihara’s music, recorded by the International Philharmonic Orchestra of Beijing, filled the interludes, ably supporting the scenes, with phrases familiar to his work with Michael Smuin’s Tempest and some lyricism that sounded like first cousin to some of Sergei Prokofiev’s Cinderella. The list is simply too full to list everyone.

Much of Yulan’s charm rested with Nahat’s ability to incorporate the skills of the Dalian Acrobatic Troupe in a production apparently a smash in Dalian and elsewhere in the PRC. His willingness to undertake such a production incorporating an excited group of young performers who must enjoy artistic privileges which many American artists could envy, is stellar. It’s an amazing cross-cultural collaboration.

The Terra Cotta Prince is scheduled for the California Theatre December 19-29 when members of the troupe will dazzle us again with a winsome skill that billows over the footlights.

Dennis Nahat Moves Onward

24 Jul

Following the lamentable events with Ballet San Jose’s organization, Dennis Nahat has been quite engrossed with bringing two productions from the People’s Republic of China to the United States.  In between the many trips he has made over the past eighteen months to Dalian, Dennis has also served on the Isadora Duncan Dance Award Committee and restaged his ballet Ontogony for Company C Contemporary Ballet.  A tall order, but Nahat moves steadily ahead, apparently a juggernaut of calm.

July 22 at a spacious hacienda-like establishment in Saratoga, Nahat provided press and supporters with a glimpse of what will be seen in San Jose October 3-13 under the title of Yulan  with music composed by by Paul Chihara, whose first ballet music was for Michael Smuin’s Shinju.

Apparently Nahat has enjoyed the vaunted position of having a  potential cast of thousands at his disposal, for Yulan will be followed by the The Terracotta Prince, due to open in Pasadena and travel north to San Jose for its engagement December 18-29.  Both the Prince and Yulan are slated for San Jose’s California Theatre, 345 South First Street, San Jose CA 95113.

Before further comments the Box Office telephone is 408-792-4111.

The productions are appearing through Theatre Ventures International, Nahat’s 501 (c) 3, non-profit organization, and United Star Performing Arts Corporation.  There is an interesting tie with San Jose’s sister city relationship with Dublin for the productions aim to raise funds for scholarship exchanges with Ireland’s capital city.

The video teasers for both productions signal that Cirque de Soleil might want to take notes. Acrobats abound,  magicians make their appearance, particularly in the Terracotta Prince production, with feats of balance there for the asking.  The dancers are small, beautifully proportioned and appear to be fearless.

Where Yulan starts with the cosmic egg or equivalent and works its way through geologic and recorded history, The Terracotta Prince relies on the lilting score of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. Anyone familiar with that holiday perennial will enjoy the double treat of the music and seeing what acrobatic wonder from the noted Dalian Acrobatic Troupe fits into which variation  that Russian romantic composed.

Nahat, undeterred, has moved onward promising the Bay Area is going to enjoy some extraordinary razzle-dazzle. Lights, action and camera trot obediently behind one amazing theatrical conjurer in the person of Dennis Nahat.

Dennis Nahat in China

27 Nov

While Dennis Nahat is busy in northern China [Dalian] preparing for the premiere of his extravagant production November 27-30, Company C  Contemporary Ballet with its headquarters in Walnut Creek have announced that his  Ontogeny, originally created for The Royal Swedish Ballet and danced later by American Ballet Theatre, will be danced in the company’s spring season, San Francisco May 2-4  at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts,  and May 9-12 at the Dean Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek.

Yulan is the title of the Nahat extravaganza;  from the photos of costumes, some rehearsal shots and conferences the production looks like full stop out!  If any one has seen the Nahat Blue Suede Shoes, Yulan apparently will enjoy even more theatrics.  Nahat writes ” We are in the last leg of rehearsal now..All is going well with the normal technical and staging problems that get solved each day …better and better each time.  The show looks wonderful and everyone who has been invited to see rehearsal is astounded at the versatility and beauty of the show.  I’m very proud of everyone.

“..Everyone is now very excited because they see what power they have in doing it right and that what I’ve asked for with each change and correction is meaningful…During the past three days it has been a revelation to all after I moved things around and corrected the entire stage set up and sound…. I said ‘The drawing is a drawing, not the stage.’  The show is terrific and is a knock out production. Everyone in the management of the Ministry of Culture from throughout the country is coming…shows are sold out. ”  Earlier Dennis had written ” Some guests are flying in from as far away as Chicago, Hong Kong and Japan, including some very prominent, high profile people from the Bay Area Asian Community.”

“Press conference went well– I was told it has been on the news all around China.. Beijing has reported hearing on radio stations as has Shanghai…What they are saying the news already is ‘We have never seen such a diverse production using so many of the talents of China and the US in one show.  It is stunning from beginning to end.

“…Program took me three weeks to compile – learning Chinese characters isn’t easy!  But I have great assistant…”

Earlier Dennis had written that Paul Chihara was having his welcome in the POC.  “Paul will be in Bejing for four days before coming here,  Since our recording he has become a big hit with the Beijing University Music Department and is setting up classes and collaborations now with the University in Los Angeles.  We sent him on a lecture on “Music Composition in Hollywood” — he was sensational.

The Latest on Dennis Nahat

11 Jun

Before his controversial departure from Ballet San Jose, the company he brought to San Jose from Cleveland and then transferred totally to the South Bay, Dennis Nahat was extending his involvement in East Asia, specifically Japan and China. He has continued to do so with a production in China which is announced as coming to the United States.

Nahat will teach briefly at the studios established at the Chinese Performing Arts of America in San Jose before returning to China for more work on a production which he conceived and is directing.  Yulan: World of Peace, Harmony and Love is scheduled for a mid-September opening in China, choreographed by Jin Yunjiang, Yuan Donglie, Zhang Hongfei, Song Xiaoxne with music by Paul Chihara.

Michael Smuin choreography enthusiasts will remember  Chihara was Smuin’s composer of choice for Shinju and The Tempest.  Additional music will be supplied by Jeff Kryka.  Nahat remarked “He [Chihara] is wonderful to work with and we will have a fine new score of extraordinary music played by the National Symphony of Beijing along with special artists to play the Erhu and Qu Zheng stringed instruments and some percussion.”

Nahat, also involved with the Emerald Isle, mentioned “I will also travel to Dublin, Ireland to teach and continue a collaboration with the new ballet company and city of Dublin as Dublin is the sister city of San Jose.  I’ve been working on projects for sometime….I will continue to do the work I’ve started.”

Remembering Nahat’s Blue Suede Shoes and his collaboration for The Middle Kingdom, the proclamation “A New Multi-Cultural International Theatrical Extravaganza in the High Arts”  is probably right on target.