Tag Archives: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

2016 Smuin Spring Season

20 May

The May 6-15 Smuin Ballet Spring Season at Yerba Buena Center’s Lam Research Theater presented two revivals and one premiere, Val Caniparoli, Jiri Kylian and Helen Pickett the choreographers. Each work possessed charms, ingenuity or a high degree of emotional response, almost invariably the case when the program includes a gem like Return to a Strange Land, Kylian’s 1975 ballet for six dancers to the music of his fellow countryman Leos Janacek, a tribute to John Cranko’s sudden death.

Tutto Cetto Il Lavandino, Val Caniparoli’s commentary on sleek abstract works, danced to the wonderful sonata allegro form music of Antonio Vivaldi, provided elbows, body lunges, pirouettes, lifts and ensemble groupings in every possible form and stage location for fourteen dancers, with sleek black costumes by Sandra Woodall. The ensembles’ stage location with entry and exit combined with the erect or leaning bodies and gestures kept coming, coming, coming until they vanished as a green laundry sink was pushed sideways on stage at the curtain, as stated, “Everything But The Kitchen Sink.”

Kylian’s tribute employs four men and two women, danced in four parts to a piano rendition of Janecek’s music. Smuin Ballet previously mounted the work in 2013, utilizing the set and costume design by Jiri Kylian, with lighting redesigned by Kees Tjebbes. The quartet of pieces go: a trio of two men and a woman; two pas de deux and a final trio. Against a near monochrome drop suggesting a limitless and somber horizon, the woman seems frequently to be a bird, tossed or buffeted by wind. In each of the four deceptively simple parts, she somehow winds up on the shoulders or the back of one of the men, the dancers facing front, resulting in images elegiac and haunting .

Helen Picket’s Oasis, receiving its premiere during the Smuin Spring season, utilized the entire ensemble of sixteen dancers, with an original score by Jeff Beal, augmented by Emma Kingsbury’s video, also responsible for the costumes and the scenic design. The latter provided wave-like drops which looked white, almost transparent at the beginning and at the end resembled matchstick-like bamboo.

I really would need to see it again to form a definite opinion; Pickett’s capacity for groupings, entrances and exits indicate a keen eye for effective movement, no mean achievement when moving from a rehearsal room to the proscenium arch.


Akram Khan’s Kaash at YBC November 20

13 Dec

S.F. Performance presented the revival of Akram Khan’s Kaash February 20-21 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; February 20 the lobby simmered with the liveliest anticipatory ambiance I’ve heard in a long time. It turns out Khan’s piece had been seen here before, in 2002. I must have missed it because my memory of him was first under the auspices of Andrew Woods’ San Francisco International Arts Festival and then under S.F. Performances when it brought a Khan work about individuals waiting in an airport lounge.

In the current fashion the work, fifty-five minutes long, was danced without intermission with five superb dancers, better I was told than the ones seen in 2002. However, this quintet rated only one line on the bottom of the left-hand page, no pictures, no bios, Nada. The two men, Sung Hoon Kim and Nicola Monaco, provided stark contrasts in height, muscle and movement qualities, if both were dressed in ankle length skirts which displayed their chests and after swirls to their lunges and turns. Twin sisters Kristine and Sade Alleyne, petite in size and Sarah Cerneaux were the women, their shorter skirts topped by shirts of the same color leaving their arms free.

The stage was open to the audience, dark; at the appointed hour a figure appeared, stationing himself up stage right, back to the audience. The audience became quiet, awaiting movement which did not arrive quickly. Instead it was asked to settle in, to attempt to be meditative before the action exploded with the marvelous,insistent rhythms of the tabla and the dancers began to exhibit the port de bras and body lunges or turns plus placement on the stage which made the work both fascinating and quite prolonged.

One of the arm positions reminded me of the gesture of a cobra, arm raised above the head, hand curved, the fingers gathered with a space between forefinger and thumb like an Egyptian hieroglifhic eye. Sometimes it was one dancer displaying it, other times the entire quintet

Khan provided a dazzling mid-section with a frenetic recitation of traditional Kathak bols, the mimetic sounds traded between tabla exponent and dancer with friendly antagonism in a traditional Kathak solo performance. The music in mid-passage became unnecessarily loud – perhaps conveying the destructive side of Shiva.

The stage patterns presented diagonal of the five from upstage right to down stage left, crossings singly, twos or threes, occasionally all five, the quintet lined up cross stage front, and pauses while one dancer carried the thrust of the movement.

At no time did the dancers touch another; yet the group’s coherence was a constant. There were some very exciting collective movements when the dancers seemed to be laboring, cross the body arm movements as if threshing, separating rice grains from stems. Paddy fields in Asia crossed my memory bank with an unbidden awe how deeply Khan was affected by travel to his ancestral country.

After a time the piece seemed repetitive. wondering how the final pattern would emerge; when it came, the figures swirled away, leaving Kim, back to the audience, almost where he began, the light lowering at a deliberate pace. Audience supplied an ecstatic ovation.

What I realized, listening later to comments about the piece’s longevity, was that Indian traditional performances quite often prolong a final piece, almost as if the artist is working himself into an ecstatic trance. It is not a Western habit, but under his amazing career in the UK, Akram Khan still works with his one-time East Bengali roots. Kaash is a wonderful reflection of these roots and his equally keen capacity to blend western styles into the lengthy, honorable sub-continent tradition.

Dance with S.F. Performances 2015-2016

14 May

S.F. Performances was started in 1979 by Ruth Felt who continues with what is arguably the only non-profit presenting performance arts organization in San Francisco. One can only applaud the seriousness with how major modern groups are presented, from the Israeli Batsheva to England’s Wayne McGregor. I don’t always agree with the choices, but applaud the patent calibre of selections.

Sankai Juku returns October 9-11 to the Lam Research Theatre at YBC. Then November 20-21 this collaboration will present Akram Khan Company, and January 14-16 the Company Wayne McGregor will complete the three 2015-2016 selections for its 36th season of sponsoring dance performances. All performances are jointly sponsored with the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Majesty as viewed by Garrett Moulton Productions

28 Oct

Luminous Edge is the latest collaboration of Janice Garrett and Charles Moulton; it was premiered September 18-21, 2014 at Lam Research Theater in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Complex on Mission Street at Third Street, San Francisco. It should be repeated for serious souls everywhere.

It’s not very often I find myself thinking or uttering the word “Majestic,” but that was my take on the performance shared with Rita Felciano as we left the seventy some minute work. It included songs by Gustav Mahler sung in lushly loving tones by contralto Karen Clark standing upstage left beside seven other musicians.

Why majestic? That implies something special, transcendent. What was it about this clearly contemporary work penetrating that difficult hierarchy of values? Part of the impression rose from the formations – Two lines comprising twenty dancers faced each other from back to front stage center at the beginning; even from orchestra left, the formality registered, reinforced when the three principal couples moved from stage back forward and later danced together with collective movements interspersed.

Moulton, noted for his choir of dancers, stair-stepped, and manipulating objects in fascinating and progressively complicated patterns, here assigned more interaction with the principal dancers. The choir had their moments, then a black out, and a pas de deux, but there were places, as the work intensified, where the principals reached out to them, or a member of dancing choir stepped out of the formation and inter-acted. The feeling of the individual and the collective relating became strong, as well as tender and evocative. The interspered Mahler songs in the haunting tones of Karen Clark’s contralto, not always clear in the sound system, intensified the impression of witnessing something almost baroque in contemporary life.

My impression, a plain if awesome reaction, was like seeing the Golden Eye of God in the Protestant Church in East Berlin just before the 1990 German reunification. This symbol was carefully protected from the pulverizing Allied bombings during the final days of the European conflict in World War II, an emblem of faith, a surviving icon in the face of horrendous outer chastisement.

With the couples vanishing between the lines of the movement choir at the end, the work visually summarized the lines “The captains and the kings depart; still stands thy ancient sacrifice, a humble and a contrite heart.” You have to admit that’s strong stuff.

The principal dancers were Vivian Aragon, Carolina Czechowska, Dudley Flores, Michael Galloway, Tegan Schwabe, Nol Simonse.

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.