ART hound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

Not just film, CAAMFest, has super-sized into an Asian American cultural extravaganza—it starts Wednesday, March 13, and runs for 10 days in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland

New York artist Tenzing Rigdol’s poignant installation is the focus of Tenzi Tsetan Choklay’s feature documentary, “Bringing Tibet Home,” screening at CAAMFest 2014, March 13-23, 2014.   Following the death of his father, a Tibetan refugee, Rigdol embarks on a journey to bring 20,000 kilos of native Tibetan soil from Nepal to India. The smuggled soil is laid out on a platform in Dharamsala, the Himalayan hill town where the Dali Lama and many Tibetan refugees are based.  For many, this is a reunion; for some, this the first time that they set foot on their native soil; and for a few, this is probably the last time that they ever see anything of their lost nation.  A powerful portrait of artistic determination that explores homeland, exile and the transgressive power of art.  Image: courtesy CAAM

New York artist Tenzing Rigdol’s poignant installation is the focus of Tenzi Tsetan Choklay’s feature documentary, “Bringing Tibet Home,” screening at CAAMFest 2014, March 13-23, 2014. Following the death of his father, a Tibetan refugee, Rigdol embarks on a journey to bring 20,000 kilos of native Tibetan soil from Nepal to India. The smuggled soil is laid out on a platform in Dharamsala, the Himalayan hill town where the Dali Lama and many Tibetan refugees are based. For many, this is a reunion; for some, this the first time that they set foot on their native soil; and for a few, this is probably the last time that they ever see anything of their lost nation. A powerful portrait of artistic determination that explores homeland, exile and the transgressive power of art. Filmmaker will attend. Image: courtesy CAAM

CAAMFest is 32 this year and no longer just about great film.  The 10 day festival, which takes place between March 13th and 23th , in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland, has long showcased the best and newest in Asian American film.  It got restless when it turned 30 though:  it changed its name from SFIAFF (San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival ) to the shorter CAAMFest , named after its sponsor, CAAM , San Francisco’s Center for Asian American Media.  Under the guidance of Festival Director Masashi Niwano, now in his fourth year at the helm, it also responded to changing times by tweaking its programming.  And growing.  And growing.  It now bills itself as the nation’s “largest showcase for new Asian and Asian American film.”

Music and Food:  In addition to its 121 films and videos, and stellar presentations and tributes, CAAMFest 2014 includes cutting edge musicians and the fusion of great food and film line-up.  Korean and Vietnamese hip hop and rock music, and leading female performers are the focus of the two “Directions in Sound” evenings. On March 22, 23-year-old rapper, singer and songwriter, Suboi (Hàng Lâm Trang Anh), tagged Vietnam’s Queen of Hiphop, will have her U.S. debut at 111 Minna Gallery.

Suboi, the first female rapper to make it big in Vietnam, makes her U.S. debut at CAAMFest.

Suboi, the first female rapper to make it big in Vietnam, makes her U.S. debut at CAAMFest.

Culinary artists like superstar Chef Martin Yan (of PBS and M.Y. China) and award-winning Chocolatier Windy Lieu of Sôcôla Chocolates are the focus of CAAMfeast,” a high-end tasting party/fundraiser, while three fabulous food films celebrate storytelling around Asian food.

Promising to engage all the senses is “Super Awesome Launch,” an evening at the Oakland Museum of California that includes a sneak preview of its upcoming spring exhibition SuperAwesome: Art and Giant Robot, all about the groundbreaking punk-oriented zine Giant Robot founded by Eric Nakamura).  The evening also includes high energy bands from Taiwan, a caravan of food trucks, and a screening of Patrick Epino and Stephen Dypiangco’s Awesome Asian Bad Guys (2013) starring Tamlyn Tomita and Dante Basco.  Easy to see why they call it “Super Awesome Launch.”

Big Nights of Film

Opening Night: The festival kicks off this Wednesday, March 13 with the US premiere of Vietnamese American director Ham Tran’s (Journey from the Fall, 2006) romantic comedy, How to Fight in Six Inch Heels, at the historic Castro Theater.  The film was Vietnam’s top box office draw for 2013 and features San Jose native Kathy Uyen as a New York fashion designer who infiltrates Saigon’s high-fashion world to test her fiancé’s fidelity. After the premiere, CAAMFest heads over to the Asian Art Museum for its Opening Night Gala, which features food from local chefs and restaurants, a special presentation by fashion stylists Retrofit Republic, dancing to beats spun by local DJ’s and the Asian’s amazing new exhibition, Yoga: The Art of Transformation.

How To Fight In Six Inch Heels (Âm Mưu Giày Gót Nhọn)  

Select Special Presentations:  Each year, CAAMFest highlights the works of significant media makers and their contributions to modern cinema.  In Conversation with Grace Lee: Award-winning documentary filmmaker Grace Lee will be in conversation at the Castro Theatre on Saturday, March 16, discussing her new documentary, American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs (2013), profiling the extraordinary life of activist and feminist Grace Lee Boggs which screens right after the conversation.  Lee’s narrative feature comedy, American Zombie (2006), screens on Friday, March 14.

American Revolutionary:  The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs

Tribute: Run Run Shaw:  CAAMFest offers a three film tribute to the legendary movie mogul Sir Run Run Shaw, who over the course of nine decades fostered some of the greatest filmmaking talent in Hong Kong, and produced some American classics such as Blade Runner (1982).  The films—The Kingdom and the Beauty; King Boxer (The Five Fingers of Death); and my personal favorite, Come Drink With Me, will all screen at the Chinatown’s Great Star Theater on March 15th..  The Great Star, refurbished in 2010, hosts both Chinese-language film and Chinese opera.

Set in imperial China, Chinese director Li Han-hsiang’s dazzling musical drama “The Kingdom and the Beauty” (1959) consolidated the Chinese operetta’s popularity in Hong Kong.  When  restless Chinese emperor (Chao Lei) disguises himself as a commoner and takes a stroll, he falls in love with a country peasant (movie queen Lin Dai) and promises to marry her after spending one night together—only for their budding romance to be abruptly curtailed. The film is part of a three film tribute at Chinatown’s Great Star Theater to Hong Kong entertainment and media mogul Run Run Shaw.

Set in imperial China, Chinese director Li Han-hsiang’s dazzling musical drama “The Kingdom and the Beauty” (1959) consolidated the Chinese operetta’s popularity in Hong Kong. When restless Chinese emperor (Chao Lei) disguises himself as a commoner and takes a stroll, he falls in love with a country peasant (movie queen Lin Dai) and promises to marry her after spending one night together—only for their budding romance to be abruptly curtailed. The film is part of a three film tribute at Chinatown’s Great Star Theater to Hong Kong entertainment and media mogul Run Run Shaw.

Closing Night: The Closing Night Gala, Sunday, March 23, marks the festival’s expansion to downtown Oakland’s arts district.  The evening starts off at the New Parkway Theater with a screening of Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Marissa Aroy’s documentary, Delano Manongs (2013).  A prescient chronicle of the life of Filipino activist Larry Itliong (1913-77), who organized the 1965 Delano Grape Strike and helped launch the United Farm Workers, the documentary explores the vital contribution of Filipinos to the American Farm labor movement.  Following this screening, the Gala moves one block to Vessel Gallery for a closing party that takes place amongst the art exhibition “Periphery: New Works by Cyrus Tilton and Paintings by Tim Rice.”

Stay-tuned to ARThound for detailed film picks, which will include:

Anthony Chen’s Ilo Ilo (2013) Winner of the Caméra d”Or at Cannes this May, a mesmerizing portrait of a middle class Indonesian family in crisis that sprang out of the director’s childhood in the Singapore and his nurturing relationship with his Filipina nanny who worked as a domestic helper for his family for 8 years from 1988 to 1997.  (Screens March 15 at 6:30 PM at Pacific Film Archive and March 17 at 6 PM at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas.)

Director Yuya Ishii’s The Great Passage (2013), Japan’s 2013 Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film about a shy, eccentric young man, who joins the Dictionary Editorial Department of a big Tokyo publishing house to help compile a new dictionary, “The Great Passage” and over the course of years is transformed.  (Screens: March 15 at 2:30 PM at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas and March 16 at 3:30 PM at Pacific Film Archive.)

Tenzi Tsetan Choklay’s feature documentary, Bringing Tibet Home (2013). Following the death of his father, a Tibetan refugee, Rigdol embarks on a remarkable journey to bring 20,000 kilos of native Tibetan soil from Nepal to India. The smuggled soil is laid out on a platform in Dharamsala, the Himalayan hill town where the Dali Lama and many Tibetan refugees are based.  For many, this is a reunion; for some, this the first time that they set foot on their native soil; and for a few, this is probably the last time that they ever see anything of their lost nation. (Screens: March 14 at 5 PM at New People Cinemas and March 19 at 7 PM at Pacific Film Archive.)

CAAMFEST Details:

When/Where: CAAMfest 2014 runs March 13-23, 2014 at 8 screening venues in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland and as well as select museums, galleries, bars and music halls.

Tickets: This popular festival sells outs, so advance ticket purchase is highly recommended for most films and events.  Regular screenings are $12 with $1 to $2 discounts for students, seniors, disabled and current CAAM members.  Special screenings, programs and social events are more.  Festival 6-pack passes are also available for $60 (6 screenings for price of 5). All access passes are $450 for CAAM members and $500 for general.  Click here for ticket purchases online.  Tickets may also be purchased in person and various venue box offices open one hour before the first festival screening of the day.

Unpacking the festival: Click here to see full schedule in day by day calendar format with hyperlinks for film and event descriptions and for ticket purchase.  The official website— CAAMFest 2014.

March 9, 2014 Posted by | Dance, Film, Food | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Tis the Season”—San Francisco Ballet’s “Nutcracker” opens Wednesday at War Memorial Opera House

Dancers perform in a snowstorm on stage in Tomasson's “Nutcracker,” at San Francisco Ballet December 11- 29, 2013. © Erik Tomasson

Dancers perform in a snowstorm on stage in Tomasson’s “Nutcracker,” at San Francisco Ballet December 11- 29, 2013. © Erik Tomasson

San Francisco Ballet’s magical production of Tchaikovsky’s beloved Nutcracker opens Wednesday, December 11, 2013, at War Memorial Opera House, and is always a special treat with its distinctive bow to San Francisco.   Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson’s production of the Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov classic, now in its 10th offering at SF Ballet, is set in San Francisco on Christmas Eve during the 1915 Pan Pacific International Exposition and features SF Ballet’s world class dancers in top form.  The 1915 world’s fair was an extraordinary event that transformed San Francisco into a dream-like city of magical domes and pastel-colored buildings, the romance of which is captured beautifully in the gorgeous period sets by Michael Yeargan and James K. Ingalls’ projections.  The ballet opens with a stunning collage of black and white photos from the actual world’s fair, with shots of the Palace of Fine Arts, the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, Chinatown, and the famous “Painted Lady” Victorians of Alamo Square.  It gradually narrows in on 100 painted Victorian windows until landing at the toymaker Drosselmeyer’s window and the mysterious world of magic and wonder contained therein.   The photos on the fireplace wall at the home in Act I are family photos of the founders of San Francisco Ballet, the visionary Christensen Brothers.  And, in the Act I battle scene (between the mice and the gingerbread soldiers), the giant fireplace stands 22 feet tall and 19 feet wide, about the size of two SF cable cars stacked on top of each other.  The gorgeous combination of dance, Tchaikovsky’s romantic music and the beautiful costumes are punctuated by real magic tricks, orchestrated by the production’s own magic consultant, Menlo Park illusionist Marshall Magoon.  He has made sure that Uncle Drosselmeyer, who makes toys change size and come to life, is unforgettable.  Of course, the very best trick up Drosselmeyer’s sleeve is when he commands the Christmas tree to grow and grow and GROW and it does!  And under SF Ballet music director and principal conductor Martin West, the gorgeous Tchaikovsky score, played by the SF Ballet Orchestra, should pop with color.  Mesmerizing in all respects, SF Ballet’s production is the granddaddy of all the Bay Area productions and an excellent opportunity to see professional ballet at its finest.  Plan on taking the family, or someone very special, to this delightful holiday classic.

Family Performances: free treats! and photo ops—  For five performances only, the first 500 children to arrive receive a special gift and everyone enjoys complimentary beverages and sweet treats by Miette, the official bakery of SF Ballet’s Nutcracker, at intermission. For 30 minutes only, starting one hour prior to curtain, Nutcracker characters are available for photos, so arrive early and bring your camera! Family Performance Dates: Thurs/Dec 12, 7pm, Buy Tickets; Fri/Dec 13, 2pm; Buy Tickets; Fri/Dec 13, 7pm, Buy Tickets; Sun/Dec 15, 7pm, Buy Tickets; Tues/Dec 17, 7pm, Buy Tickets

Stop off before the performance or at intermission for delectable sweet treats at Candyland, now located in the North Grand Tier Lobby. Only $5 per box!

Attending a matinee performance on Sunday, December 15, 22, or 29? Make it a full day of holiday celebration with Breakfast with Santa before the show!

The History of SF Ballet’s “Nutcracker”

Nutcracker Details: 

Nutcracker opens Wednesday, December 11, 2013 and runs through Sunday, December 29, 2013.

Tickets: $25 to $315, purchase online here  or through Box Office (415) 865-2000.  For more information, visit www.sfballet.org/nutcracker or phone (415) 865-2000

Parking:  Civic Center Garage (on McAllister Street between Larkin and Polk); Performing Arts Garage (on Grove between Franklin and Gough streets); Opera Plaza Garage (valet only, 601 Van Ness, enter on Turk). .  Traffic delays are common particularly on 101 Southbound and parking can be time-consuming, so plan adequately.

Arrival Time:  Plan to arrive early to enjoy the sumptuous atmosphere and to ensure that you are seated.  The theater enforces a no late seating policy and guests will not be seated after the lights have dimmed. Latecomers will be asked to stand until there is a break in the program, and will be seated at management’s discretion.

Run-time: Two hours—Act I (47 min); Intermission (20 min); Act II: (57 min)

Bringing Children:  San Francisco Ballet recommends that children attending Nutcracker be at least 5 years old.  Any child who can sit in his own seat and quietly observe a two-hour performance without questions is welcome.  Booster seats for children are provided free of charge for use on the Orchestra level.  No infants may be brought to a performance.  Parents should take children creating a disturbance during the ballet out of the performance hall.

SF Ballet’s 2014 Season

PROGRAM 1Full-length GISELLE

Adam/Tomasson after Petipa/Melbye/Pinkham

Performances: Jan 25 eve, 26 mat, 28 eve, 29 eve, 30 eve, 31 eve, Feb 1 mat & eve, 2 mat

 

PROGRAM 2—FROM FOREIGN LANDS

Moszkowski/Ratmansky/Atwood/Stanley

NEW CANIPAROLI*—BORDERLANDS

Cadbury, Stoney/McGregor/Carter

Performances: Feb 18 eve, 19 eve, 21 eve, 23 mat, 27 eve, Mar 1 mat & eve

PROGRAM 3—GHOSTS©

Winger/Wheeldon/Jellinek/Zappone/Geiger

“THE KINGDOM OF THE SHADES” from LA BAYADÈRE, Act II

Minkus/Makarova after Petipa

FIREBIRD

Stravinsky/Possokhov/Zhukov/Woodall/Finn

Performances: Feb 20 eve, 22 mat & eve, 25 eve, 26 eve, 28 eve, Mar 2 mat

PROGRAM 4—Full-length CINDERELLA

Prokofiev/Wheeldon/Lucas/Crouch/Katz/Twist/Brodie

Performances: Mar 11 eve, 12 eve, 13 eve, 14 eve, 15 mat & eve, 16 mat, 22 mat & eve, 23 mat

PROGRAM 5— NEW RATMANSKY#

Shostakovich/Ratmansky/Tsypin/Dekker/ Tipton

Performances: Apr 2 eve, 3 eve, 5 mat & eve, 8 eve, 11 eve, 13 mat

PROGRAM 6—MAELSTROM

Beethoven/Morris/Pakledinaz/Ingalls

NEW TOMASSON—THE RITE OF SPRING

Stravinsky/Possokhov/Pierce/Woodall/ Dennis

Performances: Apr 4 eve, 6 mat, 9 eve, 10 eve, 12 mat & eve, 15 eve

PROGRAM 7 THE FIFTH SEASON

Jenkins/Tomasson/Woodall/Mazzola

NEW LIAM SCARLETT SUITE EN BLANC

Lalo/Lifar

Performances: Apr 29 eve, 30 eve, May 2 eve, 4 mat, 8 eve, 10 mat & eve

 

PROGRAM 8—AGON

Stravinsky/Balanchine

BRAHMS-SCHOENBERG QUARTET

Brahms, Schoenberg/Balanchine/after Karinska

GLASS PIECES

Glass/Robbins/Benson/Bates

Performances: May 1 eve, 3 mat & eve, 6 eve, 7 eve, 9 eve, 11 mat

December 10, 2013 Posted by | Dance | , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Cirque du Soleil’s “Amaluna,” it’s the women who astound—through January 12, 2014, under the Grand Chapiteau, AT&T Park, through January 12, 2014

“Amaluna’s” most evocative performance comes from the Balance Goddess (Lara Jacobs) who  builds a 45 pound Calder-like mobile from thirteen huge palm leaf ribs that are held in balance by the weight of a feather.  Costume credit: Mérédith Caron; Photo: Laurence Labat, Cirque de Soleil

“Amaluna’s” most evocative performance comes from the Balance Goddess (Lara Jacobs) who builds a 45 pound Calder-like mobile from thirteen huge palm leaf ribs that are held in balance by the weight of a feather. Costume credit: Mérédith Caron; Photo: Laurence Labat, Cirque de Soleil

Dazzling, daring, elegant— Cirque du Soleil’s newest touring show, Amaluna, is a celebration of female power that invites the audience to a mysterious island governed by muscle-toned Goddesses and guided by the cycles of the moon.  Amaluna opened last Friday under the Grand Chapiteau at San Francisco’s AT&T Park where it runs through January 12 and then moves on to San Jose on January 22.  If you’re looking for some excitement to stave off the daylight savings/winter time blues, Amaluna is well worth crossing the bridge for.  It features an enthralling combination of art and agility-testing acrobatics that involve legs and arms and whole bodies being supported in unnatural positions by nothing more than a long rung of twisted rope, a thin bar or a fellow human as a pedestal—all beautifully lit and staged.

The poetic title expresses it all, a fusion of the words for “mother” and “moon.”  And while it’s heavy on the XX chromosome, Amaluna is at its core a love story about all forms of love— between family, lovers and friends.

Loosely based on “The Tempest,” Wagner’s “Ring Cycle,” and ancient Greek mythology, Amaluna is directed by Diane Paulus, the talk of the town.  She’s a leading Broadway producer and the artistic director of Harvard University’s American Repertory Theatre, who recently netted a Tony Award for her Broadway revival of “Pippin” and whose Porgy and Bess, which opened at SHN’s Golden Gate Theatre a few days ago, is getting rave reviews.

Amaluna transforms Shakespeare’s wizard Prospero into Shamanic Queen Prospera (Julie McInnes) whose daughter, Miranda, on the brink of womanhood, is her utmost priority.  For kicks though, satin-clad Prospera plays her midnight blue Cello like a rocker from Heart.  You’d never believe that energetic McInnes, a 14-year Cirque veteran, is 52 and played in the orchestra pit in O and Ka, as she owns this stage.

Having been brought up on a remote island where female Goddesses and Amazons use their powers freely, daughter Miranda (contortionist Iuliia Mykhailova) dreams big dreams.  Early in the show, she slowly twists and balances herself impossibly on one arm on a pole on a platform atop a hot tub sized glass water bowl, wearing a bikini that miraculously manages to stay put as she moves through a series of poses that will leave yoga practitioners transfixed.  The tub, alight in green and blue, is just one of Scott Peck’s visually hypnotic sets in this dream-like performance.

Contortionist Iuliia Mykhailova is Miranda is Cirque du Soleil’s “Amaluna.”  After taking a playful swim in a glorious onstage glass waterbowl, she emerges dripping wet in a bikini to balance along the edge of the bowl and bends herself like pretzel into all sorts of shapes.  Talk about abs!   Costume credit: Mérédith Caron; Photo: Laurence Labat, Cirque de Soleil

Contortionist Iuliia Mykhailova is Miranda is Cirque du Soleil’s “Amaluna.” After taking a playful swim in a glorious onstage glass water bowl, she emerges dripping wet in a bikini to balance along the edge of the bowl and bends herself like pretzel into all sorts of shapes. Talk about abs! Costume credit: Mérédith Caron; Photo: Laurence Labat, Cirque de Soleil

When Prospera conjures a fierce sea storm that summons men to their island so that her daughter can come of age, Miranda is smitten with buff Romeo (Evgeny Kurkin).  Romeo sports his strength in an astounding Chinese pole climbing act where he supports himself horizontally in mid-air, making it look effortless, and then releases his grip sliding head down towards the floor only to brake himself inches before impending crash by gripping his legs and stopping cold as if someone had flipped a huge off switch.

But Cali (Victor Kee), after Caliban in The Tempest—Miranda’s friend and confidant before Romeo appeared—is determined to prevent Romeo from winning her.  Half-lizard, half human, Cali sports a huge and creepy alligator tail, dreamed up by costume wizard Mérédith Caron who intentionally labored to give each of her elaborate costumes an emotional resonance as well.  As Cali slithers, preens and twists this phallic tail in every which direction, even juggling balls off of it; we are thoroughly repulsed.

Alas, the path to true love is not an easy one and the couple faces many obstacles along the way which characters, like a trio of dazzling aerial Valkyrie warriors, help subdue.  Cirque performances are known for being more about performance art and less about story.  This is also true of Amaluna, which is being billed as more story-oriented but the actual story arc is pretty hard to follow amidst the spectacle of bodies in motion, gorgeous sets and bold music.  No worries!  It’s all so engrossing that it encourages your mind to create its own internal stories while watching.

The show-stopper was a quiet and meditative moment when Prospera brings Romeo and Miranda to witness the Balance Goddess (Lara Jacobs) ritualistically create a world in equilibrium.  Accompanied by nothing but the sound of her own breath and the beating hearts of the audience, she builds a huge Calder-like mobile from thirteen palm leaf ribs that are all held in balance by the weight of a feather.  Jacobs’ movements are slow, deliberate and almost meditative as she concentrates all her attention on creating this breathtaking 45 pound sculpture before our eyes.  The audience was so enthralled, you could have heard a pin drop…but that’s what great art does, its touches our soul and takes our breath away.  As she removes the smallest piece, everything disintegrates and the young couple’s trials begin.

In “Amaluna’s” daring Teeterboard act, young men launch themselves high into the air, twisting and turning in a playful high-speed attempt to escape from their prison. They pull off several seemingly impossible feats, like landing in a handstand on another performer’s upturned palms.  Costume credit: Mérédith Caron; Photo: Laurence Labat, Cirque de Soleil

In “Amaluna’s” daring Teeterboard act, young men launch themselves high into the air, twisting and turning in a playful high-speed attempt to escape from their prison. They pull off several seemingly impossible feats, like landing in a handstand on another performer’s upturned palms. Costume credit: Mérédith Caron; Photo: Laurence Labat, Cirque de Soleil

Not all of the show is so enthralling.  I could have done without the clowns, especially a ridiculous scene where two clowns fall in love and deliver clown babies on stage which then roll all over the place, even off the stage. Ouch!  Overall though, Amaluna delivers two and a half hours of pure escapism.  Once inside the big top, one’s world changes immediately as the outside world and its worries fade.  The energetic and uplifting vibe starts in the bustling lobby where you are offered peacock feathers and all sorts of treats (which you pay for, except on opening night).  I was delighted with “Tempest,” a delicious special limited edition ice cream flavor developed by Humphry Slocombe and Cirque—crème fraîche-blueberry swirl—which will also be available in-store at Humphry Slocombe (2790 Harrison Street, San Francisco) beginning November 13, 2013 (while supplies last).  The huge main tent has comfortable seating that affords a great view from almost everywhere.  Of course, the sheer physicality of the performance is best enjoyed from as close as possible but no matter where you are, you’ll be dazzled.

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes, one intermission

Details: Through January 12, 2014 under the Cirque du Soleil Big Top, AT&T Park, San Francisco; January 22-March 2, 2014 under the Big Top at the Taylor Street Bridge, San Jose.  Tickets: $45-$270. Info: 800-450-1480, www.cirquedusoleil.com

November 22, 2013 Posted by | Dance, Theatre | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

review: “La Cage aux Folles”—lively, hilarious, heartfelt—at Cinnabar Theater through November 10, 2013

Cinnabar Theater has sold so many tickets for its risqué production of “La Cage aux Folles” that it has extended the musical through November 10, 2013.  The exotic Cagelles make their first appearance as mysterious silhouettes behind transparent screens.  Photo: Eric Chazankin)

Cinnabar Theater has sold so many tickets for its risqué production of “La Cage aux Folles” that it has extended the musical through November 10, 2013. The exotic Cagelles make their first appearance as mysterious silhouettes behind transparent screens. Photo: Eric Chazankin)

There’s a tender story of family at the heart of the Jerry Herman-Harvey Fierstein multi Tony-award-winning musical comedy La Cage aux Folles and Cinnabar Theater’s revival, which opened last weekend, plays it to perfection.  That makes two hits in a row for Cinnabar’s 41st season and, having recently fulfilled their subscription goal by a whopping 168 percent, the future’s looking bright for the small theatre company in Petaluma’s old school house.

This is the West Coast premiere of the revised score of La Cage aux Folles which was developed for the 2008 award-winning London revival.   In 2010, this version moved on to accolades on Broadway and the West End.  The original songs, with their emotionally grabbing lyrics, are all still there and the story, with some slight tweaks, is still intact.  Under the careful stage direction and choreography of Sheri Lee Miller and musical direction of Mary Chun, Cinnabar’s production literally soars.

For La Cage, Cinnabar’s stage has been transformed into the Saint-Tropez night club La Cage aux Folles replete with magical dancing Cagelles (chorus line) in glorious drag— J. Anthony Favalora, Jean-Paul Jones, Quinn Monroe, Cavatina Osingski, and Zack Turner.  By way of opening remarks, Cinnabar’s new Executive Director, Terence Keane, challenges the audience to guess who among the Cagelles is male and who is female.  In most cases, it’s a tough call as the make-up and acting are that good.  The production starts off artfully and doesn’t let up with the creativity or energetic rush—the Cagelles first appear as mysterious curvaceous silhouettes behind transparent screens which they then burst out of as they dance and sing “We Are What We Are,” with Georges joining in.

The story, which some audiences found shocking 33 years ago, is now a classic— Nightclub owner Georges (Stephen Walsh) and transvestite performer Albin/Zaza (Michael Van Why) have been married for more than 20 years.  Georges is also Albin’s manager.  Together they have raised Jean-Michel (Kyle Stoner), Georges’ son, the unexpected result of a one night stand with a gorgeous show girl named Sybil.  Jacob, the couple’s live-in transvestite butler, who dresses as a maid, played by the hysterically funny James Pelican, has also helped raise the boy.  When 24-year-old Jean-Michel arrives at their doorstep to announce he has fallen in love with Anne (Audrey Tatum), Georges can hardly believe that his boy is marrying a woman.  He has even more trouble accepting that Anne is the daughter of the bigoted Minister of Moral Standards, Edouard Dindon (Stephen Dietz) (who would eradicate homosexuals entirely if possible) and that the intended in-laws—Edouard and his wife Marie (Madeleine Ashe)—are coming to their house for dinner.  But it is Jean-Michel’s request that Albin not be present when the prospective in-laws visit and that their blaringly gay apartment be re-decorated that puts the household in a tizzy.

Anchoring the show is Michael Van Why’s pitch perfect performance as Albin / ZaZa, a role he reprises and seems born to.  In Act I, he comes off as a grand, self-involved diva but very soon it’s evident he’s quite maternal, compassionate and a more than a tad fragile navigating the pitfalls of middle age.  Half the fun in this production is watching Albin don various outfits and moods.  He actually dresses less flamboyantly than in some productions of La Cage but with a twist of his finger and sideways glance, he really works it.  That face, with those huge doe eyes, is hard to resist and Van Why, a classically trained singer, can really carry a tune.  From his opening solo “A Little More Mascara” to his numerous duets with Walsh, he is a joy to behold.

Stephen Walsh (left) is Georges and Michael Van Why is Albin/ZaZa in Cinnabar Theater’s poignant production of “La Cage aux Folles.” (Photo by Eric Chazankin)

Stephen Walsh (left) is Georges and Michael Van Why is Albin/ZaZa in Cinnabar Theater’s poignant production of “La Cage aux Folles.” (Photo by Eric Chazankin)

Stephen Walsh is also amazing as Georges.  His on stage chemistry with Van Why is palpable and his tenderly rendered “Song in the Sand” and “Look Over There” are aching love songs we can all relate to.  The performance serves as a kind of opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come in the past 30 years in our acceptance of gay and alternative lifestyles, so much so that many of the songs which may have once been provocative are now anthems of pride.

The couple is bolstered by a strong supportive cast, all of whom seem to be having the time of their life. One of the funniest moments happens when the supposedly uber-conservative Marie Dindon, played delightfully by petite Madeleine Ashe, discovers that the plates in the redecorated apartment (where they are supposed to be having a “normal” dinner in a “normal” home) are embossed in gold with homoerotic love scenes.  Out pops the tigress in her and she’s not getting back into the cage without a good romp.  Another standout is the vivacious Valentina Osinski as the celebrated restaurateur, Jacqueline.  And what a pleasure to see Cinnabar’s Artistic Director, Elly Lichenstein, who has opera in her veins, take to the stage as the delightful Madame Renaud and sing, beaming with pride at the magic that surrounds her.

Cinnabar’s Music Director Mary Chun is usually conducting Cinnabar’s small orchestra, but for La Cage, she plays the piano vibrantly and queues from the bench.   The clear stand-out, though, is trumpet player Daniel Gianola-Norris  whose numerous solos, some muted and some not, produced an evocative sound that left me wanting more. Gianola-Norris is a trumpet teacher at Santa Rosa Junior College and owns and operates “Music to My Ears,” a music education center located in Cotati.

David Clay’s inspiring costumes, which include an array of sensual form-fitting evening gowns and di rigueur glam accessories, make this modest budget production seem like a million bucks.

Cinnabar Theatre, with its warm feel and exceptional acting, is the best kept secret in the Bay Area.  The charming theatre seats just 99 people and there’s nothing more wonderful than attending a spectacular performance that unfolds just a few feet before your eyes. Added to that are special touches, like the delicious homemade cookies and brownies served at intermission, which are outrageously priced at just $1, and the good vibe community feeling that permeates the place. It’s almost impossible not to have a great time.

Run time: Two hours and twenty minutes.

Book by Harvey Fierstein / Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman / Based on the play by Jean Poiret.

Details: La Cage aux Folles has been extended through November 10, 2013.  Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM. Tickets: $35 for adults and $25 for ages 21 and under.  Purchase tickets online at www.cinnabartheater.org, or call 707.763-8920 from Monday through Friday between 10 AM and 3 PM.  Advance ticket purchase is essential as this show is selling out rapidly.   Sat Oct 26 and Sun 27 are sold out.  Seating is general admission and the theatre opens about 30 minutes prior to each performance.

Cinnabar Theater is located 3333 Petaluma Blvd. North, at the intersection with Skillman Lane, Petaluma, CA 94952.

Cinnabar’s Production Team:  Music Director—Mary Chun, Stage Director and Choreographer—Sheri Lee Miller, Scenic Designer—David Lear, Costumes—Clay David, Lighting Designer—Wayne Hovey

The Cast: Albin / ZaZa—Michael Van Why, Georges—Stephen Walsh; Jacob— James Pelican; Jean-Michel—Kyle Stoner; Anne—Audrey Tatum, Jacqueline—Valentina Osinski, Monsieur Dindon—Stephen Dietz; Mademoiselle Dindon—Madeleine Ashe; Monsieur Renaud—Clark Miller; Mademoiselle Renaud—Elly Lichenstein

Cagelles (Chorus Line)— J. Anthony Favalor—Sassy Sparkles, Jean-Paul Jones—Chantal, Quinn Monroe —Mercedes, Cavatina Osingski—Hannah from Hamburg), and Zack Turner—Anita Spotlight

October 24, 2013 Posted by | Dance, Theatre | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Nutcracker:” the treasured holiday classic opens Friday, December 8, 2012, at San Francisco Ballet

San Francisco Ballet in Helge Tomasson's "Nutcracker," December 7-28, 2012, at War Memorial Opera House.  @ Erik Tomasson

San Francisco Ballet in Helge Tomasson’s “Nutcracker,”December 7-28, 2012 at War Memorial Opera House. @ Erik Tomasson

San Francisco Ballet’s magical production of Tchaikovsky’s beloved Nutcracker opens Friday, December 7, 2012, at War Memorial Opera House, and is always a special treat with its distinctive bow to San Francisco.   Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson’s production is set in San Francisco on Christmas Eve during the 1915 Pan Pacific International Exposition, an extraordinary world’s fair that transformed San Francisco into a dream-like city of magical domes and pastel-colored buildings.  The ballet opens with a stunning collage of black and white photos from the actual world’s fair, with shots of the Palace of Fine Arts, the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, Chinatown, and the famous “Painted Lady” Victorians of Alamo Square.  It gradually narrows in on 100 painted Victorian windows until landing at the toymaker Drosselmeyer’s window and the mysterious world of magic and wonder contained therein.   The photos on the fireplace wall at the home in Act I are family photos of the founders of San Francisco Ballet, the visionary Christensen Brothers.  And, in the Act I battle scene (between the mice and the gingerbread soldiers), the giant fireplace stands 22 feet tall and 19 feet wide, about the size of two SF cable cars stacked on top of each other.  The gorgeous combination of dance, Tchaikovsky’s romantic music and the beautiful costumes are punctuated by real magic tricks, orchestrated by the production’s own magic consultant, Menlo Park illusionist Marshall Magoon.  He has made sure that Uncle Drosselmeyer, who makes toys change size and come to life, is unforgettable.  Of course, the very best trick up Drosselmeyer’s sleeve is when he commands the Christmas tree to grow and grow and GROW and it does!   Nutcracker is mesmerizing in all respects.  Plan on taking the family, or someone very special, to this delightful holiday classic.

SF Ballet’s very first Sugar Plum on life before spandex:  Gisella Caccialanza Christensen was the prima ballerina who danced the Sugar Plum Fairy role with the San Francisco Ballet when it staged the first complete U.S. performance of the ballet on Christmas Eve, 1944.  Her partner was her brother-in-law, William Christensen, then the company’s director and her husband, Lew Christensen, was serving in the army.  With a $1,000 budget,  Company members helped by standing in long lines to purchase fabric for costumes in 10-yard lengths, as dictated by wartime rationing.  “The production’s  “Onna White helped me make my costume, which was really awful. We made our own tights then too. They weren’t like tights worn today.  We had to sew our stockings onto little pants to make tights and, like old-style tights, they’d bag out and wouldn’t bounce back and cling to your legs. We sewed pennies or nickels to the waistbands so we’d have something to grab onto to yank up the tights. You couldn’t practice plies or anything before a performance or else you’d be standing there with baggy knees when the curtain came up.  The zipper on my costume split while I was dancing in the dress rehearsal of Nutcracker.  I remember William saying to me, ‘Good luck, sis, and don’t breathe!’”  (Quote courtesy of SF Ballet.)  Ms. Christensen, a long-time resident San Bruno, passed in 1998 at the age of 83.

San Francisco Ballet in Helgi Tomasson's “Nutcracker.” Photo: © Erik Tomasson)

San Francisco Ballet in Helgi Tomasson’s “Nutcracker.” Photo: © Erik Tomasson)

Six Family Performances with gifts & pre-performance Photo Op:  For six performances only, the first 500 children to arrive at War Memorial Opera House will receive a special gift and, at intermission, everyone will enjoy complimentary beverages and sweet treats by Miette, the official bakery of SF Ballet’s Nutcracker.  One hour prior to curtain, Nutcracker characters pose for photos for 30 minutes, so bring your camera.  Lines for entry to War Memorial Opera House and for photos form early, so arrive early.  Photo lines must be stopped 30 minutes prior to curtain so the dancers aren’t late for the performance.  The six family performances will be held on:  Fri, 12/ 7, 7pm; Sun, 12/ 9, 7pm; Tue, 12/11, 7pm; Wed, 12/12, 7pm; Thu, 12/13, 7pm; Fri, 12/14, 2pmHelp SF Ballet win “Battle of the Nutcrackers” on Ovation TV:  You can brush up on San Francisco Ballet’s splendid production by watching this year’s “Battle of the Nutcrackers” on Ovation TV featuring the Company’s 2008 production, with Elizabeth Powell as Clara, on Sunday, December 9 at 3 p.m.  SF Ballet’s production is the only American production to compete in this festive annual ballet extravaganza.  SF Ballet’s production will also broadcast on Mon, Dec 10, 2 pm PST; Mon, Dec 17, 12:30pm PST;  Thu, Dec 20, 10 am PST; Sun, Dec 23, 3pm PST; Tue, Dec 25, 1:30pm PST.

“Battle of the Nutcrackers” is an annual competition on Ovation TV (which plays on Direct TV Channel 274 and other Bay Area service providers as well) and features six Nutcracker productions from around the world:  SF Ballet, the Mariinsky Theatre Ballet, The Royal Ballet, the Bolshoi Ballet, Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, and the Australian Ballet.  Viewers are invited to watch the various productions and vote on their favorite on Ovation TV’s “Battle of the Nutcrackers” Facebook page.  The full broadcast schedule is here.

San Francisco Ballet’s Luke Ingham in Tomasson's “Nutcracker.”  Photo: © Erik Tomasson)

San Francisco Ballet’s Luke Ingham in Tomasson’s “Nutcracker.” Photo: © Erik Tomasson)

To vote for SF Ballet’s Nutcracker, click here, then scroll down to SF Ballet, and hit the yellow VOTE button.  You may vote as many times as you want and do not need to enter the sweepstakes contest at the bottom of the page in order to vote.  The Viewers’ Choice will be revealed on Christmas Eve, December 24th at 8:00pmET.  A marathon of all the productions will air all day on Christmas Day, December 25th.Ovation TV runs on Direct TV Channel 274 and other Bay Area service providers as well.  To find Ovation TV in your area, click here to be re-directed to their website where you will enter your zip code

Nutcracker Details:  Nutcracker opens Friday, December 7, 2012 and runs through December 28, 2012.  San Francisco Ballet performs at the historic War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco.  Parking:  Civic Center Garage on McAllister Street between Larkin and Polk or Performing Arts Garage on Grove between Franklin and Gough streets.  Traffic delays are common particularly on 101 Southbound around the Golden Gate Bridge and parking can be time-consuming, so plan adequately.  No late seating:  SF Ballet enforces a strict no late seating policy, meaning that guests will not be seated after the lights have dimmed. Latecomers will be asked to stand until there is a break in the program, and will be seated at the discretion of management.  Tickets: $20 – $305, purchase online here  or through Box Office (415) 865-2000, Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.  Information:  www.sfballet.org  or (415) 865-2000

Bringing Children:  San Francisco Ballet recommends that children attending Nutcracker be at least 5 years old.  Any child who can sit in his own seat and quietly observe a two-hour performance without questions is welcome.  Booster seats for children are provided free of charge for use on the Orchestra level.  No infants may be brought to a performance.  Parents should take children creating a disturbance during the ballet out of the performance hall. 

Love Ballet?  Don’t miss “Nureyev: A Life in Dance” and the fabulous Degas drawing in “The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism,” both at San Francisco’s de Young Museum now: 

Costume for Rudolf Nureyev in the role of Romeo, Act II, Romeo and Juliet, Opéra national de Paris. 1984. Velvet, silk, silver lamé, metallic lace, and sequins. Collection of CNCS/Opéra national de Paris.  Photograph by Pascal François/CNCS

Costume for Rudolf Nureyev in the role of Romeo, Act II, Romeo and Juliet, Opéra national de Paris. 1984. Velvet, silk, silver lamé, metallic lace, and sequins. Collection of CNCS/Opéra national de Paris. Photograph by Pascal François/CNCS

“You live as long as you dance” was Rudolf Nureyev’s mantra throughout his meteoric rise as an internationally acclaimed dancer, choreographer, ballet master, and company director.  In celebration of the 20th anniversary of Nureyev’s death, and his remarkable career and art, the de Young Museum is exhibiting more than 70 costumes from ballets danced by the master from every period of his long career— Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, and Manfred among them— as well as a selection of photographs, , life-size dance videos, and ephemera that chronicles his illustrious life.  Rudolf Nureyev: A Life in Dance  explores Nureyev’s life in dance and his lifelong obsession with the details of fabric, decoration, and stylistic line.  As a meticulous performer, the Russian ballet master demanded costumes that were not only beautiful, but precisely engineered to suit the physical demands of his dance.  He also loved embellishment and these costumes reflect his highly-refined aesthetic, standing as fantasias of embroidery, jewels, and braid.  Rudolf Nureyev: A Life in Danceoffers an intimate view of the man behind the grand gestures, a man, as Mikhail Baryshnikov said, who “… had the charisma and simplicity of a man of the earth, and the inaccessible arrogance of the gods.” 

Organized in collaboration with the Centre national du costume de scène in Moulins, France, and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the de Young Museum is the exhibition’s exclusive U.S. venue. 

Great Christmas Gift!   The accompanying catalogue, Rudolf Nureyev: A Life in Dance, presents Nureyev’s extraordinary ballet costumes and career, recalling key dates and performances with more than 200 photographs in color and black-and-white. Bilingual text in English and French. 160 pages. Hardcover $29.95.  Available exclusively in the Museum Stores, or online at shop.famsf.org.

Edgar Degas, “Two Dancers” (1905), Charcoal and pastel on tracing paper, 43 x 32 inches, The William S. Paley Collection, courtesy of MoMA.

Edgar Degas, “Two Dancers” (1905), Charcoal and pastel on tracing paper, 43 x 32 inches, The William S. Paley Collection, courtesy of MoMA.

Don’t Miss the Degas!  If you’re at the de Young Museum, don’t miss Edgar Degas’ spectacular charcoal drawing, “Two Dancers” (1905), in the second gallery of their other special exhibition,  The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism  (September 15-December 30, 2012.)  This is a huge graphic work imbued with the very essence of dance—graceful movement.  No one understood and could convey the anatomy of the dancer and movement like Degas who created this as part of a series of preparing dancers.  Nearly half of all Degas’ paintings and pastels are of dancers.  When asked why he drew so many, he replied, ” It is only there that I can discover the movement of the Greeks.” (catalogue p. 36)  The exhibition itself includes of over 60 artworks from William S. Paley’s remarkable collection of 19th and early 20th century art.  Paley bought this Degas drawing in 1935 from the important French dealer Ambroise Vollard and it was rarely exhibited both before and after his purchase.

De Young Details: Rudolf Nureyev: A Life in Dance runs (October 6, 2012 – February 17, 2013).  The de Young Museum is located at 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. Parking: By entering Golden Gate Park from 8th Avenue (at Fulton Street), you can park for free for 4 hours on the street on John F. Kennedy Drive and have easy access to the museum. Otherwise, enter on 10th Avenue (at Fulton) and park at the Music Concourse Garage (M-F $4.50/hour and $5/hour on weekends). Tickets: $20 Adults; $16 seniors, students with I.D.; $10 youth 6-17; members and children free. Fee includes access to all museum collections and exhibitions including The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism which closes Sunday, December 30, 2012.  More information: (415) 750-3600 or deyoung.famsf.org.

December 7, 2012 Posted by | Art, Dance, de Young Museum | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Constellation,” a world premiere collaboration between artist Jim Campbell and choreographer Alonzo King celebrates LINES Ballet’s 30th Season

Jim Campbell. “Exploded Views” 2011; 2880 LEDs, custom electronics. Choreography: Alonzo King LINES Ballet. Commissioned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Courtesy of the Artist and Hosfelt Gallery, San Francisco and New York. Photo: courtesy SFMOMA

If you saw one of San Francisco-based artist Jim Campbell’s “Exploded Views” installations in the atrium of SFMOMA this past year, chances are you couldn’t forget it.  SFMOMA’s Hass Auditorium came alive as thousands of flickering LED spheres hanging from the ceiling, created the illusion of fleeting shadowlike figures that dissolved and resolved as one moved around and beneath the suspended, chandelier-like matrix. Part sculpture, part cinematic screen, the low resolution pieces flirted with the line between representation and abstraction and sucked viewers right into
another world, one where imagination and memory fill in the gaps between what you see and what you think you see to create a complete story.  The first film in this series of 4 was a collaboration with Alonzo King’s celebrated LINES Ballet of San Francisco, and, if you positioned yourself on SFMOMA’s second floor landing, you could see magical low res images of King’s dancers moving across the expanse of air and light.  Cinematic, elegant, unforgettable.

Now, the two artists are collaborating again as the exciting kick-off of Alonzo King LINES Ballet’s 30th anniversary year.  Campbell’s new installation created for the world premiere of “Constellation” is a 20 x 36 foot low res moving image that incorporates a thousand little LED globes hanging in strings like pearls suspended from the light-grid of the LAM Research Theater at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.  The dancers constantly move through these strands and interact with the LED balls which serve as pixels for the large images on the screen in the background and a smaller screen in the foreground.  The smaller screen, 9 x 12 feet, moves up and down.  At times, it is at the level of the dancers and, at times, suspended 10 feet off the ground, above them.

Alonzo King LINES Ballet celebrates its 30th Season with “Constellation,” a collaboration between artist Jim Campbell and choreographer Alonzo King. Campbell and King appear in a pre-performance conversation about their collaboration on October 24, 2012. Image courtesy: LINES Ballet

“I was very interested in having the dancers play with and manipulate a physical image,” said Campbell. “It was more about them becoming a part of the images and playing with that boundary.  There are times when the nine dancers have part of the image in their hands because they are carrying the balls in their hands.”

Adding to the performance, San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow and mezzo-soprano Maya Lahyani will sing music of Handel, Richard Strauss, and Vivaldi.

Pre-Performance Balcony Talk:  Tomorrow evening (Wednesday, October 24, 2012) prior to the performance, an exclusive conversation in the balcony will take place between artist Jim Campbell and Alonzo King, followed by a Q & A, where audience members will have a chance to ask these two artists about their collaboration.

Stay-tuned to ARThound for an interview with Jim Campbell about this exciting new installation and his collaboration with Alonzo King LINES Ballet.

Details: Performances are Wed | Oct 24 | 7:30pm —Pre-Performance Balcony Talk with Alonzo King and Jim Campbell (6:30pm)

Thu | Oct 25 | 7:30 pm;   Fri | Oct 26 | 8 pm;   Sat | Oct 27 | 8 pm;   and Sun | Oct 28 | 5 pm.

LAM Research Theater at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is located at 700 Howard Street, at Third Street, San Francisco

General Admission tickets-$65, $55, $40, $30; Student Tickets – $20 – Limited number of student tickets for Oct 24 (ID required.)   To purchase tickets online, click here.

 

October 23, 2012 Posted by | Art, Dance | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ARThound is back from London

Dining on the Move: ARThound experiences the golden age of travel on the luxurious British Pullman, sister train to the legendary Venice Simplon Orient-Express. As the vintage train departs London’s Victoria’s rail station for a journey into Britain’s countryside, passengers are served chilled champagne and sumptuous cuisine. What hat to wear? One co-created with uber-trendy London milliner, Katherine Elizabeth, who designed the hat for the new Kate Middleton doll.

The Summer Olympics in London ended last Sunday and ARThound is back–with dozens of stories to tell.  Not only did I attend the games, but I also participated in the London 2012 Festival, part of Britain’s larger Cultural Olympiad, which continues through September 9, 2012, the final day of the Paralympic Games.  The London 2012 Festival is actually a countrywide event that features an estimated 12,000 performances including art exhibitions, theatrical performances and classical concerts.  What a marvelous time to visit England–when everyone was celebrating and freebies were falling from the skies!  Stay tuned to ARThound for interviews with London insiders, celebs, curators, foodies, including Ernst Vegelin, Head of The Courtauld Gallery and Lady Fiona Carnarvon, the down-to-earth duchess who actually lives at Downton Abbey (Highclere Castle).

August 20, 2012 Posted by | Art, Dance, Film, Food, Opera, Symphony | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

San Francisco Ballet closes its season with “Don Quixote”—all new costumes and scenery, this Friday through May 6, 2012

Vanessa Zahorian, a principal with SF Ballet since 2002, dances the lead role of Kitri on opening night of Tomasson/Possokhov’s “Don Quixote,” at SF Ballet through May 6, 2012. Photo: © Erik Tomasson

Driven by stories of ancient rivalries and his vision of female perfection—Dulcinea—the wildly romantic aging nobleman Don Quixote sets off on an epic journey with his trusty squire Sancho Panza in tow.  When he encounters the lovely Kitri in a gypsy camp, he is smitten believing that he has found his Dulcinea.  Helgi Tomasson and Yuri Possokhov’s staging of Russian master choreographers Marius Petipa and Alexander Gorsky’s 1869 Don Quixote returns to San Francisco Ballet this Friday, April 27, 2012, with spectacular all-new scenery and costumes by Tony Award-winning designer Martin Pakledinaz.   There are just 10 performances of SF Ballet’s highly anticipated season closer and if you are going to be impacted by this weekend’s Doyle Drive closure, you can skip the opening weekend and attend the following week, which offers 7 performances, starting Tuesday May 1, through Sunday, May 6, 2012, including convenient Saturday and Sunday matinees.

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson/Possokhov’s “Don Quixote,” which includes live animals on stage, at SF Ballet through May 6, 2012. Photo: © Erik Tomasson

Miguel de Cervantes’ romantic and witty story, placed in the colorful streets of Spain, comes to life with comes to life with a lively cast of characters and the bravado and excitement of some of classical ballet’s most technically demanding dances.  Under the expert conducting of Martin West and David Briskin, Austrian composer Léon Minkus’ lushly light and melodic music with its clear dance rhythms will be brought to life.

Traditionally, the scene stealer in this ballet is the live horse or donkey that makes a stage appearance, delighting the audience to no end.  Most of the dancing glory in this sweeping classic ballet is in the lead role of Kitri.  Vanessa Zahorian will dance the opening and Maria Kochetkova and Frances Chung will alternate thereafter.  All eyes will be upon Kitri as she executes dozens of fouteé turns and triple pirouettes in the grand pas de deux which will also see her Basilio put through his paces.  Joan Boada, will dance the role of the barber Basilio for the opening, with Taras Domitro, Vitor Luiz, Davit Karapetyan and Gennadi Nedvigin alternating in subsequent performances.

Helgi Tomasson, SF Ballet’s Artistic Director, discusses  Martin Pakledinaz’s costumes for Don Quixote:

 

SF Ballet’s 2013 Season:  San Francisco Ballet is the oldest professional ballet company in America and, in 2013, will celebrate 80 years of performances.  SF Ballet’s 2013 Repertory Season will begin with Nutcracker, which runs December 7 through 28, 2012 for a total of 31 performances.  Following the Opening Night Gala on Thursday, January 24, 2013, the season will consist of eight programs performed in alternating repertory, from January 29 to May 12. The season includes the U.S. premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s full-length Cinderella; the Northern California premiere of Nijinsky by Hamburg Ballet Artistic Director and Chief Choreographer John Neumeier, which will be performed on Program 2 by the renowned Hamburg Ballet; the SF Ballet premiere of Serge Lifar’s Suite en Blanc; plus world premieres by Wayne McGregor, SF Ballet Choreographer in Residence Yuri Possokhov, and Alexei Ratmansky. The season will also feature works by acclaimed choreographers such as George Balanchine, John Cranko, Edwaard Liang, Mark Morris, Rudolf Nureyev, Ashley Page, Jerome Robbins, and San Francisco Ballet Artistic Director & Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson. For detailed programming information and subscription and ticket information go to SF Ballet’s  2013 season announcement.

Details: Don Quixote opens Friday, April 27, 2012 and runs through May 6, 2012 at the War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Avenue, in San Francisco’s Civic Center.  (415) 865-2000 or http://www.sfballet.org.

April 27, 2012 Posted by | Dance | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Luis Bravo’s “Forever Tango” is back, with Anna Trebunskaya─ 6 performances, at San Francisco’s Marines’ Memorial Theatre, February 14-19, 2012

Anna Trebunskaya stars in Luis Bravo’s “Forever Tango,” at Marines’ Memorial Theatre in San Francisco for six shows, February 14-19, 2012. Photo: courtesy of Luis Bravo Productions

Looking for some sizzle around Valentine’s Day?  Luis Bravo’s Forever Tango is back for a limited run of just 6 shows at San Francisco’s Marines’ Memorial Theater, February 14-19, 2012.   I saw this show in 2010 when it did a holiday stint at the same venue and was mesmerized by its intoxicating music and dance.  This run features a world-renowned cast of Argentine dancers and musicians and stars Anna Trebunskaya, who appears frequently on Dancing with the Stars (DWTS), now in its 14th season.  Trebunskaya, a petite Russian fireball with incredible rhythm, elegance, and pizzazz, has helped create some of that show’s most memorable moments.  On Season Two, she was paired with football great Jerry Rice and the duo made it to the finals, and ultimately earned a second place finish.  Her other DWTS partners have included model Albert Reed, funnyman Steve Guttenberg, Chuck Liddell, Olympian Evan Lysacek, NFL Hall-of-Famer Kurt Warner, and Boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard. For the thirteenth season of DWTS, Anna was partnered with fashion expert and TV personality, Carson Kressley (“How to Look Good Naked” and “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”).  The two were an instant hit.  It’s reasonable to be particularly curious about how a Russian, albeit a fiery one like Trebunskaya, will interpret an art form synonymous with Argentina.  Luis Bravo has a habit of headlining DWTS stars with his Argentine cast and, in 2010, the Bay Area’s Cheryl Burke was featured.   Once the dazzling show starts, the headliner is usually outperformed by the Argentine cast who have tango in their DNA.  Nonetheless, watching this transpire is a good part of the fun.    

The Argentine cast of Forever Tango features 12 world-class tango dancers, one vocalist and an on-stage eight-piece orchestra, including several bandoneóns, the accordion-like instrument that is the mainstay of tango music.  If you’re intrigued with Argentine Tango, this is the show for you: it traces the tango’s colorful history from its beginnings in turn-of-the century Buenos Aires bordellos to its acceptance into high society.   The dances, all performed to original and traditional music, are the result of collaboration between each couple and director/creator Bravo. 

Jorge Torres and Marcela Duran, both from Argentina, dance the tango in Luis Bravo's "Forever Tango" at Marines' Memorial Theatre, February 14-19, 2012. Photo: courtesy of Luis Bravo Productions.

“The tango is a feeling that you dance,” says Bravo, “a story you tell in three minutes.  It’s passionate, it’s melancholic.  It’s tender, violent.  You dance it with somebody – but it is so internal, you dance it by yourself.  More than just a dance, the tango is music, a drama, a culture, a way of life.”

While Trebunskaya may be the headliner, it is the stunning Argentine, Marcela Durán, who frequently moves the audience to tears with her evocative dancing.  Durán, who has been with the show since 1994 and has won all the world’s top tango dancing awards many times over, embodies tango like no other.  When I saw her in 2010, with the sensational Gaspar Godoy, she literally melded into Godoy in a pure sensual embrace, her signature version of the “tango hold” which is one of the foundational characteristics of the dance.  In a flowing dress by Brazilian costume designer “Miro” (Argemira Affonso) with a sheer lace bodice that revealed her breast, Durán was mesmerizing to behold.  Connected by the upper part of their bodies, often looking into one another’s eyes, or dancing cheek to cheek to the rhythm of the music, Durán and Godoy became one.  The rhythm of the music which is often said to be based on the heartbeat, created a haunting and deeply melancholic tone that produced a surge of raw emotion I can still recall.

The performance schedule is as follows: February 15, 16, 17 at 8 p.m. February 18 at 2 & 8 p.m. and February 19 at 2 p.m.  A special Valentine’s Day (February 14, 2012) performance of Forever Tango will take place in the beautiful and elegant Commandants Room at the Marines’ Memorial Club and Hotel, just upstairs from the Marines’ Memorial Theatre.  Tickets for regular performances of Forever Tango range in price from $45 – $70.  Tickets for the special Valentine’s Day Gala are $80 and include Gala performance, post-performance dancing with the Forever Tango cast and orchestra and two beverages of your choice.  All tickets are on-sale now at the Marines’ Memorial Theatre Box Office, online at marinesmemorialtheatre.com or by phone at (415) 771-6900.

February 4, 2012 Posted by | Dance | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ahhhh love! SF Ballet’s breathtaking premiere of “Onegin” depicts the downside of pouring your heart out in a letter, through Friday, February 3, 2012

Maria Kochetkova as Tatiana and Vitor Luiz as Eugene Onegin in Cranko's Onegin, at San Francisco Ballet through February 3, 2012. Photo: Erik Tomasson

San Francisco Ballet’s 2012 season officially opened this weekend with the premiere of John Cranko’s exquisite Onegin, which is based on Alexander Pushkin’s classic 19th century novel-length poem, Eugene Onegin, and set to a lush Tchaikovsky score.  With Santo Loquasto’s scene and costume design and James Ingalls’ lighting, both echoing the romanticism of Pushkin’s old Russia, and the dancing, which builds steadily throughout the three acts, this production dazzles.  

As stories go, Onegin is timeless—a gripping drama that pulls you in quickly and keeps you referencing your own love life as well.  Eugene Onegin is a sophisticated and aloof young man of privilege from the big city (St. Petersburg) who visits his friend Lensky in the countryside.  Onegin immediately inflames the heart of young, naive and bookish Tatiana whose sister, Olga, is Lensky’s fiancé.  Caught in the spell of first love, Tatiana recklessly pours her heart out in a passionate letter to Onegin and has her maid deliver it (the olden day equivalent of hitting “send”).   Onegin comes in person to Tatiana’s birthday party and offers his answer—“NO”─rejecting the smitten young girl publicly and wounding her to her core.   Then, just to toy with his buddy Lensky and see how he will react, Onegin flirts openly with Olga.  Hotheaded Lensky become enraged and challenges Onegin to a duel whose consequences ruin a number of lives.  In the final scene, which transpires years later in St. Petersburg, Tatiana has settled into a comfortable marriage with the kind-hearted Prince Gremin and has transformed from a naive country girl into an elegant, stately, and very attractive woman.  Now, it’s Onegin’s cold heart that burns for her and it is he who desperately pens the love letter.   And it is she who now rejects him, telling him that while she still loves him, she is a woman now and will stay with her husband because she could never respect him or find true happiness with him.  They had a chance for real love, long ago, but he toyed with her.  Now, sadly, neither will know the joy of passionate romantic love.   Ahhhh love!

Onegin relies heavily on choreography and eschews classical pantomime—it has a series of pas de deux and robust ensemble dances that fill the stage with traditional Russian steps, polonaises, and courtly promenades.  Cranko has also infused it with very modernist elements.  Even something as complex as the passionate content of Tatiana’s letter is handled through dance─as she pens her late-night letter to Onegin, she dreams their deeply emotional pas de deux.  The cast changes frequently throughout the production.  Saturday’s matinee performance was superb with the dashing Armenian-born Davit Karapetyan as Onegin and the Kirov-ballet trained American Vanessa Zahorian as Tatiana.  Both danced their physically-challenging roles with grace and passion and delivered wonderfully complex lifts that required complete coordination between the partners.  Karapetyan and Zahorian are famous off-stage partners as well and made headlines the world over in May 2010 when, after their last performance of Romeo and Juliet, where they each played the title roles, he dropped down on one knee and pulled out a ring that had been hidden in his costume’s poison pouch and proposed to her in front of a packed house.  Their roles in this venerated classic also require a great deal of emotional presence, which both summoned masterfully on Saturday.  Onegin, in particular, struggles throughout the ballet, to find meaning in his life but never does because he is superficial and not able to connect to his feelings. Tatiana experiences her feelings fully and yet still rejects Onegin in the end, leaving the audience to ponder the deep meaning of love, honor, and commitment and to replay their own experiences with unrequited love.  From Zahorian’s first glimpse of Onegin, she conveys the dizzying passion of first love and literally opens to him and appears to be floating in air while he remains cool and unresponsive.

Maria Kochetkova as Tatiana in John Cranko's Onegin, at San Francisco Ballet through February 3, 2012. Photo: Erik Tomasson

Dana Genshaft delivered a charming Olga and a wonderful on stage chemistry with Zahorian’s Tatiana as well as with Domitro’s Lensky.

The music is a Tchaikovsky compilation arranged by Kurt Heinz Stolze in 1965 and is completely different from the music in Tchaikovsky’s beloved opera of the same name.  Instead, it is a less powerful orchestration of some of his little-known piano works such as The Seasons (1875-76), along with themes from the 1885 opera Cherevichki (The Slippers), and the latter part of the symphonic fantasia Francesca da Rimini (1876).  Martin West, SF Ballet’s Music Director and Principal Conductor and guest conductor David LaMarche alternate performances.  Saturday’s matinee was handled quite proficiently by LaMarch.     

Santo Loquasto’s scene and costume designs, traditional in all regards, echo the romanticism of Pushkin’s old Russia.  From Madame Larina’s countryside garden to Tatiana’s bedroom and her birthday party to Prince Gremin’s Palace, the sumptuous sets beckon the intensifying tragic drama. 

Run Time: 2 hours, 16 minutes with two intermissions

Details: War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco.  Tickets: $36- $285 For further information: (415) 865-2000 or www.sfballet.org.

Remaining performances:  

Sunday, January 29, 2012 2 p.m.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012 8 p.m.

Wednesday February 1, 2012 7:30 p.m.

Thursday February 2, 2012, 8 p.m.

Friday, February 3, 2012, 8 p.m.

January 29, 2012 Posted by | Dance | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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