Janice Berman was an editor and senior writer at New York Newsday. She is a former editor in chief of Dance Magazine.
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Mark Morris has said that one of the things he finds puzzling about Romeo and Juliet ballets is that when the couple awakens after their night of nuptial passion, Juliet's still wearing toe shoes. When modern choreographers snipe at toe shoes, they're drawing distinctions between ballet's contrivances and modern dance's lack thereof. With Romeo and Juliet, On Motifs of Shakespeare — copresented last weekend by Cal Performances at Zellerbach Hall — Morris clearly wanted to bring R&J down to earth.
Were it not the brainchild of Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson, a festival marking the San Francisco Ballet's 75th anniversary by presenting 10 new ballets in one week (three programs in all) would be regarded as a fool's errand. Some fool. Some errand.
At opposite sides of the Bay over the weekend, two productions of Giselle highlighted two ballerinas who are, in effect, at opposite ends of their careers. Nina Ananiashvili, artistic director of the State Ballet of Georgia and in her 40s, danced the title role Saturday night during the troupe's Cal Performances engagement at UC Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall.
Predictably, the two versions of Merce Cunningham's eyeSpace seen on consecutive nights of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company's engagement at Stanford University last weekend, presented by Stanford Lively Arts, looked so different from each other as to be separate creations. What was less predictable was the difference in their affect, their effect. One of the things, it seems, about Cunningham dance is that for all its still-fresh unorthodoxy — this, after 54 years of the company's existence — it has things to teach us about how we see all dance, all art.
American Ballet Theatre, fresh from its fall season in New York City, brought two programs of mixed repertory to Zellerbach Hall last week, presented by Cal Performances. This was in itself reason for celebration. That the ballets were set to richly varied music proved to be the icing on the cake. The Berkeley Symphony Orchestra played for both programs.