Author Archives: balletsj

Ballet San Jose at the Napa Valley Festival del Sole Dance Gala, July 19

From Ballet San Jose Music director George Daugherty:

The Dede Wilsey Dance Gala at the Napa Valley Festival del Sole is going to be an INCREDIBLE evening on July 19. Here is the official program and casting. Extraordinary dancers will wow you, the fabulous musicians of the Russian National Orchestra will fill the air with music from the orchestra pit, a long-lost Fokine ballet will come back to the stage, a collection of breathtaking pas de deux and ballets will thrill and move you, and the rolling hills of Napa at sunset in the summertime will enchant you as you hold a perfect glass of locally-produced Napa wine. What more could you want? Please join us!

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Merce Cunningham’s “Duets”: Rehearsal Process with Patricia Lent, Merce Cunningham Trust

Master Choreographer Merce Cunningham. Photo by Annie Leibovitz.

Seminal choreographer Merce Cunningham. Photo by Annie Leibovitz.

Contributed by Harriet McMeekin, Ballet San Jose corps de ballet

 

The rehearsal process we’ve experienced so far is vastly different from our normal rehearsals at Ballet San Jose: no music. Silence. Sing-song rhythms echoing in the studio. We eventually graduate to the soft beep of a stopwatch. “And begin,” then gradually “stop,” and “cue.”

“Not bad, only 15 seconds slow,” she says.

It’s a process that’s taken getting used to but has bolstered my confidence in my inner rhythm. I am better able to connect and communicate with my partner and fellow dancers without words. This is critical, as we don’t know what music we’re performing to until we get onstage.

Ms. Lent gave us a little history about the Cunningham ideology, but Wikipedia sums it up neatly:

The most famous and controversial of these [radical innovations] concerned the relationship between dance and music, which [Merce Cunningham and John Cage] concluded may occur in the same time and space, but should be created independently of one another.

Initially the Cunningham/Cage concept of separation between choreography and music seemed sacrilegious. How do you choreograph if you’re not inspired by the music? How do you dance the steps if the music doesn’t tell you what to do? Typically, the music is the primary focus of classical ballet. You might learn the steps to start, and there might not be music at first, but the ultimate goal is to dance “with” the music. The Cunningham ideology requires getting used to a different style and method of working. Holding the music in different regard. Not relegating it but respecting it as its own separate entity.

The dance happens onstage. The music happens while the dance is happening. It’s their occurrence in time that binds them together.

 

See Ballet San Jose perform “Duets,” along with works by innovative choreographers Jorma Elo and Jessica Lang, beginning this Friday, April 19, at the San Jose Center for Performing Arts downtown. Buy tickets online at www.balletsj.org, or call our Box Office at (408) 288-2800. See you at the theater!

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Neoclassical Master: Works by Sir Frederick Ashton in Ballet San Jose’s 2013 Season

Rudy Candia and Alexsandra Meijer in Sir Frederick Ashton's "Méditation from Thaïs." Photo by Robert Shomler.

Rudy Candia and Alexsandra Meijer in Sir Frederick Ashton’s “Méditation from Thaïs.” Photo by Robert Shomler.

One week from today, Ballet San Jose’s 2013 Season will continue with our mixed repertory program, Neoclassical Masters. We’re especially thrilled to be performing two incredible ballets by legendary ballet choreographer Sir Frederick AshtonLes Rendezvous, a suite of witty, light-hearted dances set in a park; and Méditation from Thaïs, a rich and poetic pas de deux set to the beautiful violin solo “Méditation” from Massenet’s opera Thaïs.

The stagers of these incredible works–former Royal Ballet soloist Hilary Cartwright (Les Rendezvous) and former RB principal Bruce Sansom (Méditation from Thaïs)–shared their thoughts about Ashton’s choreography for our Playbill, and we want to give you a sneak peek! Read on for some interesting insights to the pieces, and don’t miss seeing them performed for the first time on the CPA stage next weekend.

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Artist Spotlight: Ballet San Jose Dancer Annali Rose

Ballet San Jose dancer Annali Rose

Ballet San Jose corps member Annali Rose

After the dazzling company premiere of Don Quixote, Ballet San Jose is gearing up for an awesome mixed repertory program in March. In preparation for Program Two, we caught up with Annali Rose (one of our new corps de ballet dancers this season) to discuss her dance history with Sacramento Ballet and Trey McIntyre Project, the academic interests she pursues in her free time, and the three words that best describe her (which she answered with a little help from her friends)!

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Review Roundup: Ballet San Jose’s “Don Quixote”

Ballet San Jose Soloist Junna Ige as Kitri. Photo by Robert Shomler.

Ballet San Jose Soloist Junna Ige as Kitri. Photo by Robert Shomler.

Ballet San Jose’s company premiere of Don Quixote may be over, but the reviews are rolling in! We had such a wonderful run last weekend of ballet’s original romantic comedy that even now we can still hardly believe it’s over! Take a look at what some of the critics around the Bay Area have said about this production of Don Quixote (staged by Ballet SJ Artistic Advisor Wes Chapman), our special guest artist José Manuel Carreño, and our fantastic company.

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Ballet SJ apprentice Thomas Baker. Photo credit: Olivier Wecxsteen.

Ballet SJ apprentice Thomas Baker. Photo credit: Olivier Wecxsteen.

After a successful run of The Nutcracker in December, Ballet San Jose is all caught up in the magic of love! The company has spent the past month preparing in earnest for the company premiere  of Don Quixote — or, as we like to call it, ballet’s original romantic comedy. While Kitri polishes her fouettés and Mercedes perfects her sultry smolder, we’re continuing our Artist Spotlight blog series, in which we have been focusing on the new dancers in the company this season.

For all the male dancers out there, here’s another interview just for you! Thomas Baker is a new apprentice with the company, and he has some pretty interesting stories to tell. Find out how Thomas got his start in ballet, his favorite memories from 2012, and the inspiration that made him such a fabulous “Fritz” in the world premiere of Karen Gabay’s The Nutcracker.

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Artist Spotlight: Ballet San Jose Apprentice Thomas Baker

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Artist Spotlight: Ballet San Jose Dancer Kendall Teague

Ballet San Jose Dancer Kendall Teague

Ballet San Jose Dancer Kendall Teague

Welcome back to Ballet San Jose’s Artist Spotlight blog series, in which we will continue to introduce this season’s newest dancers to our online community! In our last installment, we talked to new corps member Alex Kramer. Today, we catch up with corps member and North Carolina native Kendall Teague. Read on to learn more about Kendall’s favorite dancing icon, his summer movie pick of 2012, and his history with Ballet San Jose.

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A Good First Look: Ballet San Jose’s New “Nutcracker”

From Karen Gabay's "The Nutcracker," performed by Ballet San Jose. Photo by Robert Shomler.

From Karen Gabay’s “The Nutcracker,” performed by Ballet San Jose. Photo by Robert Shomler (2012).

Ballet San Jose’s brand new Nutcracker opened this past Saturday in a gorgeous swirl of snow and infectious energy. Longtime Ballet SJ principal dancer Karen Gabay has choreographed a new production from a unique perspective: that of one of the only female choreographers in the world to choreograph a Nutcracker for a major ballet company. Performed to full orchestral accompaniment by Symphony Silicon Valley, her Nutcracker has given South Bay audiences a new look at the a classic holiday tale.

In her review for the San Jose Mercury News, Rita Felciano wrote:

This year Gabay…joined that still rare breed of women who choreograph major pieces for professional ballet companies. Gabay is no beginner at making dances. Still, tackling “Nutcracker” was a huge challenge — and opportunity. Supported by the Symphony Silicon Valley, under the baton of the ballet’s new musical director George Daugherty, she gave her home team and the legion of “Nutcracker” lovers, a family-friendly, fresh interpretation of the old tale — including a new twist.

Ms. Felciano went on to call parts of this new production of Nutcracker “ingenious,” praising Ballet SJ dancers for worthy performances, and later wrote that the “national dances are every ‘Nutcracker’s’ balletic highlights. Gabay gave us convincing versions with a feminist touch to some of them.”

In her review for triviana.com Arts & Entertainment, Virginia Bock wrote:

With festive sets, elegant costumes, a familiar story and Tchaikovsky’s well-known score, “The Nutcracker” ballet has been an audience favorite and a holiday tradition for decades. Ballet San Jose’s new production adds humor, complexity and some stunning new choreography that should keep audiences coming back for years to come.

Writing for CriticalDance.com, Heather Desaulniers noted:

With its brand new “Nutcracker”, Ballet San Jose continues to inject life, vision and vitality into the South Bay’s performing arts scene. Choreographed by BSJ’s own Karen Gabay, this full-length holiday extravaganza is a thoughtful and fresh interpretation of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s story, complete with elegant dancing and striking originality…Accompaniment by Symphony Silicon Valley was the icing on the cake.  Under the direction of conductor George Daugherty, the music was dynamic, articulate and interactive, exactly what is required of and demanded by a Tchaikovsky score.

Dr. Gary R. Lemco, in his review for “The Classical Music Guide” forums at http://www.classicalmusicguide.com, added:

Peter Tchaikovsky’s perennial Christmas favorite, The Nutcracker, hardly needs promotion, but the Ballet San Jose production, with new choreography by former prima ballerina Karen Gabay, struck a chord, both resonant to the ear and panoramic to the eye, that warrants special mention. With the Symphony Silicon Valley under the masterful leadership of conductor George Daugherty, the audience at the Friday, December 14, 2012 performance at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts recovered much of the original wonder and enchantment of both the composer and “librettist,” E.T.A. Hoffmann’s, often nightmarish parable of humanity’s liberation from its primal fears to embrace its own childhood innocence.

And Dr. Lemco also gave Ballet SJ School students a very positive mention:

Ms. Gabay’s singular effort was to engage as many young dancers as possible in the ensemble pieces, so the production glowed with Ballet SJ School Students.

Bravi! Congratulations to Karen, George, the company, Ballet SJ School students, and Symphony Silicon Valley. Every good review is well deserved!

It’s been an amazing run so far, but the show not over yet! Ballet SJ’s new Nutcracker runs through this Sunday, December 23, and there are still tickets available. Buy online or call our Box Office at (408) 288-2800 during regular business hours. Tickets can also be purchased one hour before show time at the San Jose Center for Performing Arts.

Happy holidays!

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Artist Spotlight: Ballet San Jose Dancer Alex Kramer

Alex Kramer photographed by Jade Young

Alex Kramer photographed by Jade Young

Nine days ago, Ballet San Jose gave the South Bay a one-night-only preview of our 2013 Repertory Season with an amazing Inaugural Gala performance at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts. The rep earned some very complimentary reviews from publications around the Bay Area and we couldn’t be more thrilled! Every person who took the CPA stage on November 3 — from critically acclaimed concert violinist Rachel Lee to the company dancers of Ballet San Jose, both familiar and new — gave an awe-inspiring performance. We think the gala gave Bay Area audiences a really inspiring look at the new pieces in the coming season!

Now, we’ve begun to look ahead to Ballet SJ’s new production of The Nutcracker, which will make its world premiere on December 8. As we gear up for this run of Nutcracker, we pick up where we left off with our Artist Spotlight blog series. Meet another new face in the corps de ballet: Alex Kramer, an alumnus of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre (ABT) and former member of ABT Studio Company. Before the gala, we talked to Alex about what inspired him to become a dancer in Grand Junction, CO, his mentor at ABT, and his thoughts about leaving New York City.

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Artist Spotlight: Ballet San Jose Dancer Cindy Huang

Ballet San Jose corps member Cindy Huang

Ballet San Jose corps member Cindy Huang

Ballet San Jose has always been a diverse company. As of this season, Ballet SJ is now home to forty-one dancers from countries all around the world, each one with a different story to tell. As we prepare for an exciting preview of our 2013 season at the Inaugural Gala on November 3, we continue to get to know the newest members of our company and learn just what makes them tick in our Artist Spotlight blog series.

A few weeks ago, I sat down with dancer Cindy Huang to discuss her dance background, her friendship with So You Think You Can Dance‘s Daniel Baker, and her special words for Ballet San Jose supporters.

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