Monthly Archives: November 2011

Tales from the BSJ Box Office: Holiday Windows, Pink Trees and Old Friends

The holidays have arrived at the Ballet San Jose Box Office!

The holidays have arrived at the Ballet San Jose Box Office! (Photo by Dennis Keefe)

LAUREN AND DENNIS HAVE BEEN way too busy to blog lately — which is a really good thing! — but they did want to take a moment to wish everyone a joyous holiday season!

From Dennis:

I recently put up some icicle lights, a wreath, and a Nutcracker in the Box Office window. Meanwhile, Lauren has been assigned the task of putting ornaments on her pink holiday tree, but she seems to think that answering the box office phone is more important, so the poor tree is still only half decorated!

We are watching seats for The Nutcracker disappear before our very eyes as the number of online purchasers has increased drastically this year. There are a couple of performances that will soon be completely sold out!

We’ve been listening to holiday music to keep our spirits up while the weather turns colder and our days grow busier. Speaking of music, did you know that Lauren is a songbird? She has her own jazz band that performs  several times a month throughout the city. We can’t wait to hear her sing. We also have the pleasure of listening to the busy workers as they get the beautiful costumes ready for the show. There are roadboxes upon roadboxes full of costumes right outside our door.

Here’s another interesting piece of news: starting this Thursday, not only are we staying open until 6:00 PM — we’ll also have the wonderful assistance of Jess Hutchins once again! He is returning to the Box Office for the Christmas season because Lauren and I can no longer do it alone. Yes, we are THAT busy!

Mostly, we cannot wait to see this year’s production. Every season brings a new reason to see this production of The Nutcracker because every year the dancers, the lighting, the costumes, the sets all are just a little bit different than they were the year before. We love to stand in the lobby after the curtain goes up and watch the show on the TV monitors. We have so much fun pointing out the little nuances we’ve missed in the past. Maybe this year we’ll catch Lauren doing her best Cabriole (I looked that one up on Wikipedia) through the empty lobby!

Happy holidays!
Dennis (and Lauren) 

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Principal Casting for Ballet San Jose’s ‘The Nutcracker’ 2011

Today is the day many Ballet San Jose fans have been waiting for: the Principal casting for BSJ’s 2011 run of The Nutcracker is finally up! (NOTE: Casting is subject to change.)

12/10 (Matinee) – OPEN
Maria/Prince: Karen Gabay/Rudy Candia
Tsarina/Tsar: Mirai Noda/Maykel Solas
Drosselmeyer: Maximo Califano
Mouse King: Damir Emric

12/10 (Evening)
Maria/Prince: Junna Ige/Ramon Moreno
Tsarina/Tsar: Alexsandra Meijer/Jeremy Kovitch
Drosselmeyer: Maximo Califano
Mouse King: Damir Emric

12/11 (Matinee)
Maria/Prince: Junna Ige/Ramon Moreno
Tsarina/Tsar: Alexsandra Meijer/Jeremy Kovitch
Drosselmeyer: Maximo Califano
Mouse King: Damir Emric

12/17 (Matinee)
Maria/Prince: Alexsandra Meijer/Jeremy Kovitch
Tsarina/Tsar: Beth Ann Namey/Maximo Califano
Drosselmeyer: Raymond Rodriguez
Mouse King: James Kopecky

12/17 (Evening)
Maria/Prince: Mirai Noda/Seth Parker
Tsarina/Tsar: Karen Gabay/Rudy Candia
Drosselmeyer: Hao Bo
Mouse King: Maximo Califano

12/18 (Matinee)
Maria/Prince: Karen Gabay/Rudy Candia
Tsarina/Tsar: Mirai Noda/Maykel Solas
Drosselmeyer: Raymond Rodriguez
Mouse King: James Kopecky

12/20
Maria/Prince: Alexsandra Meijer/Jeremy Kovitch
Tsarina/Tsar: Beth Ann Namey/Maximo Califano
Drosselmeyer: Raymond Rodriguez
Mouse King: James Kopecky

12/21 (Matinee)
Maria/Prince: Mirai Noda/Seth Parker
Tsarina/Tsar: Karen Gabay/Rudy Candia
Drosselmeyer: Hao Bo
Mouse King: Maximo Califano

12/22 (Matinee)
Maria/Prince: Junna Ige/Ramon Moreno
Tsarina/Tsar: Alexsandra Meijer/Jeremy Kovitch
Drosselmeyer: Hao Bo
Mouse King: Maximo Califano

12/23 (Matinee) – CLOSE
Maria/Prince: Karen Gabay/Rudy Candia
Tsarina/Tsar: Mirai Noda/Maykel Solas
Drosselmeyer: Maximo Califano
Mouse King: Damir Emric

Pick your shows, ballet fans, and buy your tickets while they’re still available! Call the Box Office at (408) 288-2800, or visit balletsj.org to buy tickets online.

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Happy Thanksgiving from Ballet San Jose

Our Marketing Director Lee Kopp poses with "Nutty" from Ballet San Jose's THE NUTCRACKER, which opens Dec. 10, 2011.

BSJ Marketing Director Lee Kopp poses with "Nutty" from Ballet San Jose's THE NUTCRACKER, which opens Dec. 10, 2011.

AS THURSDAY APPROACHES, our staff is anticipating a short respite from a busy schedule full of holiday events. Here is a quick recap of some events we’ve had lately:

  • The most important event is, of course, The Nutcracker, which will open Dec. 10th and run through the 23rd. Our dancers, who are on vacation this week, have been rehearsing tirelessly every day. Tickets have been selling like hotcakes! (Dennis and Lauren declined to write a blog post for this week because they have been so busy fielding calls and taking ticket orders.) Our costume staff has been busy as well — though they’ve still had just enough time to give an interview about ballet costuming to Access Magazine. Even our Marketing staff has ventured out of the office to mingle and socialize at local arts events around downtown San Jose.
  • Just last Tuesday, Nov. 15th, Wilkes Bashford, Ballet San Jose and Gentry Magazine threw a fashion fundraiser from which 10% of the proceeds went to the Ballet San Jose School. “An Evening of Cocktails and Couture” was a smashing success. We were delighted to see many of our friends and biggest supporters, and our dancers and staff modeled gorgeous couture fashions for a good cause.
  • We’ve also planned some appearances for our “Nutty” characters for the rest of this month and the beginning of December. This past Monday, Nov. 21st, characters from our Nutcracker dropped by the Downtown Ice opening to skate and take pictures with attendees. The event, which was hosted by Hawaiian Airlines and the San Jose Downtown Association, featured special guest Kristi Yamaguchi and kicked off a seasonal San Jose tradition that is near and dear to many of us. Make sure you check out the ice rink sometime this winter!
  • If you missed “Nutty’s” appearance at the Downtown Ice opening, come out for the Christmas tree lighting at Christmas in the Park this Friday, Nov. 25th. Our Nutcracker characters will be here again, and they will have plenty of time to take pictures with you and your family. All are welcome!

That’s the news from Ballet San Jose. We wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving, if you celebrate it, and a nice long weekend even if you don’t! Please be safe and happy this holiday season. You are all part of the BSJ family.

Cheers,
Ballet San Jose 

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“Super” Men to the Rescue: A Reflection on Supernumeraries by Les Reinhardt

Bob Sabo of San Carlos dresses as a Russian  Guard in preparation for a performance of Ballet San Jose's THE NUTCRACKER. Photo by Rob Goldring.

Bob Sabo dresses as a Russian Guard for a performance of Ballet San Jose's THE NUTCRACKER. Photo by Rob Goldring.

WHAT IS A SUPERNUMERARY? The term may be unfamiliar to many, but for dance companies and stage production staff everywhere a supernumerary is an integral part of any show. The internet’s font of communal knowledge, Wikipedia, defines a supernumerary as an “additional member of an organization.” An extra.

But if we simply leave it at that, what are we really missing? What is the real role of a supernumerary in a Ballet San Jose show like The Nutcracker?

We asked our Production Stage Manager Les Reinhardt to weigh in:

Supernumeraries, or as they are often called “Supers,” are an important component of any large-scale story ballet. Ballet San Jose has Supers in The Nutcracker, Romeo & Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Toreador, Swan Lake, and Giselle. Supers are generally male roles, since most ballets require guards of some sort to stand around (The Nutcracker, Giselle, Swan Lake) — and some Supers have even gone as far as to be animals…like our 2 horses in The Toreador — which is why I’ve grown to call them our Super Men. (Though yes, we do have a few female roles, and in those cases they are our Super Gals.)

The Super Men of Ballet San Jose are really like members of the Company. One of our Supers is coming up on his 20th year of being in The Nutcracker this December, and that really is something to celebrate. We hold auditions for all of our Super Roles, and only the best Super Men are selected to be part of our shows. The Supers rehearse with a member of Artistic Staff and Stage Management alone. Then, when they are ready, they join rehearsals with the professional dancers. They share the stage during Technical and Dress Rehearsals, and take time out of their work schedules to help make our performances as great as they can be! I really enjoy getting to work with these Super Men on Saturdays as we rehearse their specific Nutcracker roles, and it’s great to see them master these parts.

(L to R) Angelo Delegeane of Milpitas, Bob Sabo of San Carlos and Aaron Daly of Fremont rehearse "Spain" from Act II of Ballet San Jose's THE NUTCRACKER. Photo by Rob Goldring.

(L to R) Angelo Delegeane, Bob Sabo and Aaron Daly rehearse "Spain" from Act II of Ballet San Jose's THE NUTCRACKER. Photo by Rob Goldring.

Being a Super Man is no simple task. It has been said time and time again by Daniel Gwatkin, BSJ School Administrator and former Company Soloist who runs our Saturday rehearsals, that “walking and running can be the most difficult things to do correctly onstage.” If you have to think about walking: take 9 steps, starting with the right leg, then stop in sync with your partner, then military turn to your left, then step downstage (towards the audience) with your inside leg closest to your partner for 2 steps, then military turn away from him… It can get overly complicated. Couple those steps with remembering to swing one arm naturally while the other is holding a spear that must constantly rotate so that the blade is always flat to the audience — and you’ve got one of the more difficult Super Roles in The Nutcracker.

While some roles are highly coveted, like our Priest, Chestnut Vendor and Major Domo (the man who calls the shots in our Grand Ballroom), they entail an even higher level of difficulty. These roles require the understanding, counting and memorization of music — a real sense of musicality. While the Priest must conduct the carolers and he and the Vendor must interact in time with the Company Dancers, Major Domo tells me when to take the curtain out on the Waltz, signals the Conductor when to begin to lead the symphony for the Grand Pas de Deux, and more.

These wonderful volunteers who make up our ranks of Super Men are a vital part of our story ballets. They fill our crowd scenes, make our castles look official, and carry Juliet’s body into the crypt. The show will  always go on with the help of our wonderful Super Men.

See you this December!
Les 

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Ballet San Jose to Offer Deep Discounts to Military Personnel for 2011 ‘Nutcracker’ Tickets

Act I, Scene 3: "A Curious Combat" between the Mouse King and the Nutcracker Army, as performed by Ballet San Jose.

Act I, Scene 3: "A Curious Combat" between the Mouse King and the Nutcracker Army, as performed by Ballet San Jose.

A VETERANS DAY ANNOUNCEMENT FROM BALLET SAN JOSE: Box Office Manager Dennis Keefe is excited to announce DEEP DISCOUNTS for all Military Personnel for NUTCRACKER tickets.

For all full-priced programs (those performed with Symphony Silicon Valley), military can buy tickets for themselves and their families at half price in sections 2, 3, & 4 of the theater. And for Family Matinee programs (which are performed to a recorded score and already discounted by 30%), military can use the senior/child discount of $5 off per ticket. This is the first time Ballet San Jose has given such a deep discount to the military!

Advanced tickets MUST be purchased IN PERSON at the BSJ Box Office at 40 North First Street in downtown San Jose. Military I.D. must be presented. Tickets can be purchased on the day of a performance at the San Jose Center For The Performing Arts, located at 255 Almaden Boulevard at the corner of Park Avenue.

PLEASE PASS THIS ON and let’s make it a great holiday season for our men and women in arms.

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Danseur Noble Roles for the Ages: Words from Ballet San Jose’s Dennis Nahat and Raymond Rodriguez

Karen Gabay and Raymond Rodriguez in Ballet San Jose's 'Giselle' (2004). Photo by Robert Shomler

Karen Gabay and Raymond Rodriguez in Ballet San Jose's 'Giselle' (2004). Photo by Robert Shomler.

Last Thursday, Dave Wilson (better known as the guy behind the blog “Dave Tries Ballet“) asked the twitterverse at large a ballet question we found most interesting: What are the four big danseur noble roles? Fascinating, we thought. A brilliant question, we said.

But since we are simply BSJ staff, we thought it best to go to the real experts. We asked Ballet San Jose’s Artistic Director Dennis Nahat and Régisseur Raymond Rodriguez for their input.

DENNIS NAHAT is an acclaimed artist and choreographer of international stature. He has dedicated himself to creating ballets that distinguish Ballet San Jose as a company of international renown since its inception. He really knows his stuff! From Dennis:

The roles I think are most desirable by the male danseur nobles!

Basil in Don Quixote (All guys love this role!)
Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake
Albrecht in Giselle
Romeo in Romeo and Juliet
Franz in Coppélia
Ali, the Slave in Le Corsaire
Solor in La Bayadère
Prince Désiré in The Sleeping Beauty
Prince Charming in Cinderella
Nutcracker/Prince in The Nutcracker
Lucien d’Hervilly in Paquita
The Poet in Les Sylphides
Colas in La Fille Mal Gardée

RAYMOND RODRIGUEZ joined the Cleveland Ballet (now Ballet San Jose) in 1981 as a principal dancer and has become a treasured member of the organization since that time. He currently serves as Régisseur for Ballet San Jose and has danced all of the roles included in the list below. From Raymond:

My favorites are:

Prince Siegfried – Swan Lake
Albrecht – Giselle
Romeo – Romeo and Juliet
Basil – Don Quixote

There you have it, ballet fans, from the keyboards of the experts behind Ballet San Jose in California. We hope these lists have given you further insight into our world, and we think you may find some surprises there as well. What do you think? Do you agree with Raymond and Dennis? How would you change the lists above?

Feel free to throw fun questions our way and we’ll try to get some interesting answers for you in the future!

Best wishes,
Ballet San Jose

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Ballet San Jose School Gets Funky at ZERO1 with Electronic Tutus

Students of the Ballet San Jose School dance in electronic tutus created by Benoit Maubrey. Click this still to watch video footage of the performance!

Students of the Ballet San Jose School dance in electronic tutus created by Benoit Maubrey. Click this still to watch raw video footage of the performance!

IN 1960, Manfred E. Clynes and Nathan S. Kline coined the term “cyborg,” defining the idea as a system that “deliberately incorporates exogenous components extending the self-regulatory control function of the organism in order to adapt it to new environments.” Since 1960, the idea of the “cyborg” has gone from a scientific hypothesis to a metaphor for social-feminist theory, to a half-man-half-machine pop culture icon. But if we trace the “cyborg” back to Clynes and Kline, you’ll realize that the essentials haven’t changed much at all. A “cyborg” is still more or less a system or machine that helps an organism to adapt to new challenges or environments.

This evolution of the “cyborg” popped into my head as I was sitting down to write this blog post about last year’s ZERO1 Festival, which featured students from the Ballet San Jose School wearing some unique hardware of their own. In 2010, our students performed a series of dances at the ZERO1 Festival in conjunction with artist-choreographer Benoit Maubrey. Rather than traditional leotards and tights, our girls wore solar-powered sound-generating electronic tutus. Instead of dancing to recorded music, they moved to the sound of their own movement — each student wore a device on her hand that emmitted otherworldly frequencies based on the way she moved her arms.

Electronic tutus? Futuristic sound devices? What kind of weirdness was this?

It seems like ballet is generally thought of as a “classical” discipline, the kind of laced-up, traditional sport that appeals only to a rich, white upper class that has no sense of humor. One of the problems that ballet companies struggle with in promoting their craft is the preconceived idea of ballet as an old art form, as high-brow culture, as the kind of cerebral pastime that can only be enjoyed by the literati. (This is, of course, untrue. Anyone can enjoy ballet!)

Ballet does place enormous emphasis on discipline. Every line, every turn is tightly controlled. Even now, when contemporary ballet, jazz, lyrical and hip-hop dance have become popular dance forms in their own rights, classical ballet is still considered to be the foundation of choreographed movement. The very beauty of ballet is its emphasis on control, the incredible harnessed power of its dancers, and the sheer gutsiness of its choreography.

Like all forms of art, ballet isn’t for everyone. Some people think it’s a relic of times past. That may be true in some places, but in the diverse landscape of the Silicon Valley, we do ballet differently. The spirit of entrepreneurship and technology that thrives in San Jose also shapes the way we approach visual and performing arts. There is no better example of this diversity, this progressive thinking, than the students from the Ballet SJ School tapping metal rakes against a concrete sidewalk and dancing in electronic tutus.

In a festival geared toward transforming downtown San Jose’s South of First Street Arts District (SoFA), electronic tutus may seem weird and out of place. But artists are using technology more than ever to give traditional art forms a 21st century makeover. In the unending barrage of technology, some performing arts may need that extra push in order to adapt.

So the “cyborgs” on my mind when I started this post were the students of the BSJ School, who strapped on funky electronic tutus and learned some unconventional choreography. To what end?

Classical ballet is alive and well in San Jose and in many other parts of the world. But there is definite value to stepping outside the confines of tradition once in a while and using technology to explore a new environment: this shifting arts culture set against a technological backdrop that is constantly evolving.

With that in mind, do yourselves a favor and check out the video posted above. You can also see still photos of the performance here. Then, tell us what you think. Do you agree with the sentiments of this post? Do you think ballet needs to adapt? Or is it a timeless discipline that will survive any cultural shift?

Thanks for reading!
Erica

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Reflections on Ballet San Jose’s ‘The Nutcracker’: Marketing Director Lee Kopp

The company performs the Grand Ball in Ballet San Jose's 'The Nutcracker.'

The company performs the Grand Ball in Ballet San Jose's 'The Nutcracker.' Photo by Robert Shomler.

I love our Nutcracker ballet because of its wonderful scenario. It has such a strong second act. In most traditional versions of this story, Maria (or Clara as she is often called) spends all of Act II sitting on a pile of pillows and watching the dances from the Land of the Sweets.

Not so in Dennis Nahat’s version of The Nutcracker. Once Maria has rescued the enchanted Nutcracker Prince from the evil Mouse King, she climbs upon a giant white Snowbird and flies off with Prince Alexis on a world tour. They visit Spain, and Arabia and China…and at each stop they sample the food and drink of the country and learn the local dances. The are not “watchers”…they are “doers”! Once they reach the Prince’s home in Muscovy, Maria meets his parents, the Tsar and Tsarina, and she attends a marvelous Grand Ball held in her honor.

By this time, the character of Maria is completely transformed. At each stop, Maria’s experiences have changed her. She starts the ballet as a little girl playing with dolls, but by the end of her journey, she is a young woman. She will never be the same.

It really is a show to see. Dennis Nahat is a great storyteller!

Best wishes,
Lee

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Tales from the BSJ Box Office: Smells like Christmas Spirit

Ballet San Jose Box Office Staff

Dennis and Lauren hold down the fort in the Ballet San Jose box office

HEY, BALLET SJ FANS. Now that Halloween is over, it is officially Christmas season in the retail world. A great way to avoid the lines and parking lots of department stores and shopping malls is to buy your friends and loved ones tickets to a live theatrical event. How about sending them to see Ballet San Jose’s The Nutcracker? A lot of people in the Bay Area seem to purchase their tickets at the “last minute.” They wait until a week before the show opens. And what happens to these people? They find that we don’t have any of those amazing front-and-center seats left, or they find that our lowest priced tickets are already sold out.

We have amazing front-and-center seats available RIGHT NOW for $100 each, but they won’t last long. These are the seats everyone wants! Get them before they’re gone by calling (408) 288-2800 or visiting the Ballet San Jose web site.

Or, if the economy has hit you like it has hit some of us, we have several different lower priced options, including seats as low as $20.00. We have some performances which we like to call “Family Matinees.” These performances are sold at reduced prices, but you get the same show — the only difference being that at these particular performances, there is no live orchestra. Instead, the whole show is performed to a recorded musical score.

FUN FACT: These reduced-price shows used to be called the “Children’s Series” and included only Act 1 of The Nutcracker. This year, however, we have decided to give you both Act 1 and Act 2 at the same discounted rates. How amazing is that?

Signing off,
Dennis

And a note from Lauren about Group Sales for Ballet San Jose’s THE NUTCRACKER:

Hey all! Interested in getting a group together to come see The Nutcracker this year? You’re in luck. Because we do offer great group rates for parties of ten or more. For every ten tickets you buy, you receive one FREE ticket. Our lowest prices are for our “Family Matinees,” which range from $20-65.00. These are GREAT prices, and this is going to be a wonderful show you don’t want to miss! Book your tickets now for the best seating available by calling (408) 288-2820 Ext. 219!

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