Janice Berman, SFCV’s senior dance critic, has been a dance writer and reviewer since 1978, beginning at Newsday and New York Newsday. She has written on dance for The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Ballet Review, and Dance Magazine, where she was editor-in-chief.
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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.
Edward Villella was new to the New York City Ballet when Igor Stravinsky and George Balanchine were in the studio with the dancers, making Agon. It was 1957. "Neither of them talked much to us — it wasn't what they did,” Villella said Sunday, after Miami City Ballet, where he's artistic director, ended its visit to Cal Performances at Zellerbach Hall. “They just rolled up their sleeves, and the energy permeated the room. They had such a deep regard and respect for each other."
Mozart Dances, which finally arrived here via Cal Performances last Thursday, achieved the impossible by exceeding its rapturous reviews. Jane Glover, conducting the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra and joined by Garrick Ohlsson and Yoko Nazaki on piano, gave a performance of warm dynamics and perfect unity. Ohlsson played each of the three Mozart works as if he and the dancers had spent their entire lives together, instead of rehearsing days before.