“Fall Free for All” Ushers in Cal Performances Season

Stephanie Jones on August 17, 2010
Kronos Quartet

Have you ever wanted to attend a dance performance but found that it was not within your budget? Ever sit on a sidewalk, listening for a hint of the San Francisco Opera or the Kronos Quartet wafting out on the breeze? Or gazed wistfully through a frosted window of a theater, wishing you were inside?

Tickets for the performing arts can be expensive, though Cal Performances’ “Fall Free for All” is a day of gratis performances open to the public. Talent such as Melody of China, Diamano Couras West African Dance Company, and Turkish artists Teslim with Kaila Flexer and Gari Hegedus, as well as other world-renowned performers, will all be on the UC Berkeley campus on Sunday, Sept. 26. A total of 14 companies will perform from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and join Cal Performances in welcoming the surrounding community to the presenter’s 2010-2011 season. Artists of this caliber and acts of this magnitude and variety are rarely seen in a free event.

Diamano Coura West African Dance Company

“There’s been no [free] concert of this breadth and depth in the Bay Area that we are aware of,” said Christina Kellogg, Cal Performances’ director of public relations and new media. “But because we present so many different kinds of artists, we really wanted a free day to reflect that. It’s got world music, jazz, dance, theater, classical music — it’s got just a great variety, which we’re really excited about.” The artists will perform all day on stages in Zellerbach Hall, Hertz Hall, Wheeler Auditorium, and Lower Sproul Plaza.

“Fall Free for All” is the epitome of the noted arts presenter’s mission to promote accessibility to the performing arts and of its hallmark diversity in the arts. Planning for the event began shortly after the arrival of its new director, Matías Tarnopolsky, last fall, when he asked Laura Abrams, the director of education and community programs, to reach out both to artists that have performed at UC Berkeley in the past and to other well-known artists located in or near the Bay Area. The goal was to get as many top-notch performers on one stage and invite as many people to be in the audience as possible.

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Diamano Coura West African
Dance Company

Melody of China

“It’s more than a concert. It’s a whole day of concerts,” said Tarnopolsky. “We really believe in the importance and the transformative power of the performing arts, and we want as many people to come to our performances as possible and to enjoy the performing arts that we bring to our stages. This was a way of giving a real curtain raiser to the season.”

While this grouping of artists is rare, this type of event has been done before. Tarnopolsky organized a similar event as director of programming at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. After great success in Chicago, he brought his experience and passion for the arts to Berkeley.

“It was a wonderful event and a great success, and we wanted to do something similar here,” he said.

As if the roster of attending artists weren’t enough of an inducement, the event is only a taste of what’s to come. The upcoming Cal Performances season includes the Vienna Philharmonic, the Royal Danish Ballet, Nederlands Dance Theatre, and Beowulf, performed by Benjamin Bagby in Old English. What better way to kick off the new season than with an entire day of free performances?

The “Fall Free for All” program is designed to include the surrounding community in the upcoming season. “What this day is going to do that is different than what has been happening in the past is that it’ll create a really special free day of performances for the public if they haven’t already come to discover us,” said Tarnopolsky. “If they do know us, they’ll introduce their friends and neighbors. It's really about bringing great art to as many people as possible. That’s the key to our mission.”

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