Ballet Hispanico 11/6/2021

Cal Performances, “Ballet Hispanico
Saturday, November 6, 2021 8 PM
Zellerbach Auditorium Berkeley, CA

Style and Performances

Ballet Hispanico” made its first performance at Zellerbach Auditorium on Saturday eve, November 6, 2021. Although the company is fifty years old (so reports the director, Eduardo Vilaro), we have not seen them here before. The dancers are beautifully accomplished and are masters of a variety of dance styles.

First on the program was “Arabesque” a work in ‘balletic’ style from 1984, music by Enrique Granados, choreography by Vinc18+1ente Nebrada. Program notes report that the company in its early years was experimenting in style, fusing ballet technique with “flamenco’ dimensions”. Vilaro notes that this work is an opportunity to “honor Nebrada’s legacy and the impact of Ballet Hispanico’s mission to create a platform for Hispanic choreographers”

Arabesque’ was beautifully performed by ten dancers, six women and four men. The movement for the women is lyrical; their long dress costumes echo the sweeping movement. The men’s steps are more percussive and intense, displaying great skill in jumps, turns and foot work. “Arabesque” is a highly successful fusion of styles.

Next on the program was “Tiburones” (2019); music by Perez Prado, Dizzy Gillespie and the Funky Lowlives. It is appar18+1ently a comment on the filming of the “dance at the gym” in West Side Story, although the program notes choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ocha “addresses the stereotypes placed on Latino culture.” A film director snaps his board seemingly attacking the performers who carry on nevertheless. Since the dancers are excellent (as they were in the original film), his action seems to denigrate the dancers. They prevail and perform.

18+1” the final work on this program returns to18+1 the “mambo”; the familiar music is by Perez Prado. Gustavo Ramirez Sansano, choreographer is noted for his 19 years’ contributions to the company. The dancers, dressed in all black, flirt with each other and with the audience, at one time seating themselves at the stage’s edge. The dance is a well executed medley of rhythmic steps, performed with several variations by individuals, duets and small groups. It is delightful!

The company dancers are:

Christopher Bloom, Jared Bogart, Simone Cameresi, Antonio Cangiano, Shelby Colona, Amanda del Valle, Paulo Hernandez-Farella, Laura Lopez, Omar Rivéra, Gabrielle Sprauve, Dandara Veiga, Lenai Wilkerson, and Mariano Zamora.

Bravo all! Return to Zellerbach again soon!

Joanna G. Harris

ARTS MEDALLION: Helgi Tomasson, Honoree

2021 San Francisco ARTS MEDALLION: Helgi Tomasson, Honoree

Bravo! Helgi!

Bravo! Jim and Cecilia Herbert, Honorary Co-Chairs! Bravo! Pattie Lawton and Ken Fulk, Event Co-Chairs and the Honorary Committee and Event Committee.
Bravo! to the Museum of Performance & Design and to the San Francisco Ballet.

Thursday, October 21, 2021 celebrated a very special event to honor Helgi Tomasson.

Held at the Saint Joseph’s Art Society, 1401 Howard Street, San Francisco, formerly a church, the building is now an amazing center for many presentations of art; books, sculpture, window painting, sources of design and art production that invoked curiosity for exploration and support. Many wondered how they could accomplish that.

A menu of drinks and food was served, all sponsored by Saint Joseph’s Arts Society. The mixed drinks, made to order, were called by ballet names: “Ballet Russe”, “Milano Torino”, “Miss Paloma”. Each used ingredients unique to its region. Servers passed wonderful “ hors d’oeuvres” from caviar to pizza. The guests, from the dance community and the patron community, were all delighted, impressed and lively.

My guest commented that part of the evening’s success was its intimacy. We sat on sofas, moved freely around the room and listened to the SF orchestra play chamber music.It was easy and pleasant to meet one another. I was able to speak with two young people who will join the Ballet next year; one who studied in Russia, the other from Sweden.

The three performances by members of the San Francisco were delightful, impressive and skillful.

First on the program was a ‘pas de deux’ danced by Yuan Yuan Tan and Tiit Helmuts from “7 for Eight” (2004), to music by Bach. Audiences of the SF Ballet have seen these two brilliant performers in many events, but close up and on a small stage they were even more remarkable for their technique and responsiveness.

Next, another ‘pas de deux’ with Sarah Van Patten and Luke Ingham, from “THE FIFTH SEASON” (2006), music by Karl Jenkins. Two people dance, yet each event is different in energy, interpretation and interaction.

Third on the program, “CONCERTO ‘GROSSO” (2003), score by Geminiani after Corelli, featuring an outstanding group of men dancers: Esteban Hernandez, Cavan Conley, Diego Cruz, Benjamin Freemantle, and Wei Wang. How they managed all the superb leaps, jumps and turns on that small stage (about one-quarter of that at the Opera House) is amazing. Their skill and energy were unbelievable; we were all moved and impressed by their achievements. Bravo! to all the dancers … and to …

The SF Ballet Orchestra who played during the social hour and accompanied the performances. Maestro Martin West, Music Director and Principal Conductor led the twelve members of the orchestra accompanying each of the dance events. Again, superb performances.

All three dance works were choreographed by Helgi Tomasson.

Jim Herbert, Co-chair of the event, then paid tribute to Tomasson’s many years of leadership (1985-2022). He noted the more than 50 works Tomasson has choreographed and his sponsorship of the 2008 New Works Festival and the 2018 Unbound: A Festival of New Works. Also noted: his “Nutcracker” adaptation was taped for PBS’s Great Performances. Herbert also noted Tomasson’s works commissioned by other companies, SF Ballet’s world tours … and more. Tomasson then spoke quietly, stating that “dancers are such nice people” and he “loved them all.” He graciously accepted the tributes and acknowledged his pleasure with the SF Ballet company and its many sponsors.

The program noted that Tomasson joins a distinguished group of past Gold Medallion Honorees among whom most recently was Michael Tilson Thomas (2019). Tomasson apparently is the first honoree from the SF Ballet.

The evening continued with delightful socialization, drinking and snacking. The gossip was, of course, who would succeed Tomasson as director. Names were whispered and projected. So far though, there has been no new appointment announcement.

Congratulations to all artists, participants, helpers and sponsors.

It was an evening to remember! We look forward to the SF Ballet’s 2022 season.

Joanna G. Harris




Cal Performances. October 22, 2021
Zellerbach Auditorium

Big Five-Off” (West Coast Premiere)

Jeffry Geffen, Director of Cal Performances, welcomed the large audience on the evening of Pilobulus’ second show at Zellerbach Auditorium. The ‘house’ had been closed, he remarked, for over 500 days. This was the first show back. All audience members had shown proof of vaccination and their ID’s at posts outside the hall.

The audience wore masks throughout the show.

Pilobolus web site tells us about its history.

Over the past 50 years, we’ve performed around the globe in events ranging from the Oscars to the Olympics and collaborated with some of the world’s greatest influencers and creators. We’re inviting fans from all decades to join us in celebrating a half century of radical creativity and boundary-pushing with a remixed retrospective: a hand-picked election of pieces from vintage & visionary, reimagined as we question our own givens and turn traditions sideways.

The performance consisted of four works preceded by a general warm-up viewed by the audience and an announcement of the program order. With no printed programs, the information was available through scanning the QR code.

The ‘art’ of the Pilobolus group is its marvelous skill in what was one referred to as “stunts and tumbling” but Is now a highly refined level of acrobatics. The works are often funny, as in “The Empty Suitor” performed by Paul Liu who was able to balance, fall and roll on paper, on a bench, upside down and always chasing his top hat. It was the most amusing piece of the evening, short, funny and skilled.

This group of six performers has developed physical skill to amazing high levels, beyond that ordinarily achieved by trained dancers. What is absent, to this viewer, is the projection of any dimension beyond the execution of skill … although that might be supposed as the audience’s ability to project such values.

Shizen”(1978), a duet, performed by Qincy Ellis and Hannah Klinkman (choreographed by Moses Pendleton and Allison Chase) came closest to an aesthetic dimension. The couple began at separate ends of the stage, rolled tightly into themselves. As the work progressed, each found up-standing posture and ways to lift and support one another. ”Shizen” (we were told) means growth: the piece seemed to depict evolution.

The evening concluded with a major work “Day Two” (1981) for all six performers; Nathaniel Buchsbaum, Quincy Ellis, Marion Feliz, Hanna Klinkman, Paul Liu and Zack Weiss. This long work displays countless ways the ‘dancers’ were able to balance, lift, hold, fall and recover each other’s bodies, designing amazing geometric shapes and group patterns. It was an unbelievable display of skill and ensemble. However it went on for a very long time, accompanied by electronic sound that was less than pleasing.

The group performed “Day Two” in the nude with only genital coverings. This reviewer did not find that costume interesting nor pleasing.

Congratulations to Cal Performances for a bold start to the 2021-2022 season. We look forward to music, theater and DANCE performances that Cal Performances presents so generously and so well.

Joanna Harris