Tag Archives: graduation ball

Opening Weekend Tips from Ballet San Jose’s Lee Kopp

Regular visitors to downtown San Jose know all the secrets–the best parking spots, the best coffee shops, and the best places to catch a show on a Friday night.

But there are few locals who know their way around downtown San Jose better than Lee Kopp, Ballet San Jose’s Director of Marketing and Publicity. Lee has been with our organization for over 12 years! To those of you planning to attend Program One this weekend, Lee offers some tips to save you time and enhance your experience. Whether you are a first timer or a season(ed) subscriber, get ready to lose yourself in the magic of ballet. It’s going to be a spectacular show!

The Program

We’ve posted at length about all three of the pieces that make up Program One of Ballet San Jose’s 2012 Season: Marius Petipa’s Paquita, Jerome Robbins’ Interplay, and David Lichine’s Graduation Ball. Read back through our most recent blog posts for fun information about the choreographers and stagers of the pieces.

Lee’s Tip: You can also look at the recent posts on the Ballet San Jose Facebook page. We’ve shared some great articles about Jerome Robbins and Interplay that are simply fascinating!

The Theater

All performances of Program One will be held at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, which is located at 255 Almaden Boulevard (at the corner of Park Avenue) in downtown San Jose. If you are coming to see Ballet San Jose for the first time, here are some helpful tips about attending our performances.

Lee’s Tip: Did you you know that you can arrive a little bit early to your show and pre-order your refreshments for intermission? It’s true! Instead of standing in long lines, pre-order your drinks and find them waiting for you on the table next to the concession stand at the beginning of each break.

The Best Parking

Parking for the theater can be found at the Adobe office building directly across the street from the theater at 345 Park Avenue. This Adobe parking facility has a live attendant on duty and costs only $5.00 (cash only). Additional parking can be found just a block away in the open air lot at the corner of Almaden Boulevard and Woz Way, directly across the street from the San Jose Convention Center side entrance. This open air ground lot costs $7.00 and accepts credit cards in machines located throughout the area. There is no live attendant.

Lee’s Tip: Adobe’s garage is a great parking deal with a little extra security. I recommend parking in this underground covered garage and entering/exiting the garage through the West Lobby. It’s a short walk from the theater, and you can’t beat the price!

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Staging ‘Paquita’ with American Ballet Theatre’s Susan Jones

Ballet San Jose is honored to have ABT Ballet Mistress Susan Jones setting Paquita for our 2012 Season. Photo by Sarah Sterner.

Ballet San Jose is honored to have ABT Ballet Mistress Susan Jones setting Paquita for our 2012 Season. Photo by Sarah Sterner.

We’ve seen more than a few new faces around the Ballet San Jose studios in recent weeks. During the staging of Paquita, we’ve been especially lucky to have Susan Jones of American Ballet Theatre with us. An alum and current Ballet Mistress of American Ballet Theatre, Susan has shared her incredible experience and vision with our dancers over the past couple of weeks.

Born in York, Pennsylvania and trained in dance from an early age, Susan studied with Lucille Hood and Mary Day from the Rockville School of Ballet and Washington School of Ballet, respectively. After an apprenticeship with the Joffrey Ballet, Susan danced with American Ballet Theatre for eight successive seasons, after which she retired in 1980. Since then, Susan has staged a number of ballets for ABT as Ballet Mistress of the company.

Ballet San Jose Artistic Consultant Wes Chapman knows Susan very well and says he is extremely excited to have her on board.

“I met Susan in 1984 when I started dancing for American Ballet Theatre,” he told me during a conversation last month. “She was the Principal Ballet Mistress of the company at the time, and I got to know her well. Susan is extraordinarily smart with an incredible brain for this kind of ballet work.”

Wes returned to American Ballet Theatre in 2006, this time as Principal Ballet Master. From there, his relationship with Susan developed an entirely new dimension.

“After I went back to ABT in a management capacity, I got to know Susan from a very different point of view,” Wes said. “I was always fond of her as a coach, but I became even more fond of her as we worked together to stage several ballets and run ABT summer programs.”

He added: “This will be the first time I’ve had the pleasure of hiring Susan to stage a ballet for a company that I’ve been a part of. She brings an amazing amount of experience to the table.”

Susan has come to Ballet San Jose to stage the classical ballet Paquita after Marius Petipa’s 1881 revival. Wes hinted that this Paquita will definitely be the ballet we know and love but from a slightly different perspective: “Susan will be staging her own vision of Paquita after Marius Petipa’s choreography. It will be Petipa’s Paquita the way she sees it. It’s really going to be something to see.”

Thanks to Susan’s dedication and the hard work of Ballet San Jose’s dancers, Paquita will open this Friday, March 2, along with Jerome Robbins’s Interplay and David Lichine’s Graduation Ball. We are so excited to see the finished product, and we sincerely hope you’ll join us for the event.

See you there!


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Unraveling Jerome Robbins’s ‘Interplay’

With Interplay/Jerome Robbins Week winding down over at the Ballet San Jose Facebook page, I sat down to write this blog post with only a vague idea in mind. I had spoken to Ballet San Jose Artistic Consultant Wes Chapman a couple of weeks ago about Interplay. Armed with a few insightful quotes from Wes and a vague, surface-level idea of the life and times of Jerome Robbins, I put my fingers to the keyboard and wondered if this blog post would be at all interesting to fans of Ballet San Jose.

After all, Interplay holds a different weight and importance for our company than Graduation Ball does (see: recent blog posts by BSJS Ballet Mistress Dalia Rawson and Ballet San Jose Principal Ballet Master Raymond Rodriguez). Interplay is a company premiere, not a revival. Whereas a few of our dancers and staff have experienced Graduation Ball once before, everyone has had to approach Interplay with totally fresh eyes. I write from the point of view of the Marketing staff — a couple of floors away from the dancers — but I can at least imagine how simultaneously paralyzing and exciting that might be for any artist.

Sometimes it is helpful to take a look at the history of a new piece. I can think of no better candidate for this blog post than Interplay, especially given Jerome Robbins’s fame and the overwhelming popularity of West Side Story even now, over 50 years after its initial film release to a mainstream audience in 1961.

Robbins initially choreographed Interplay for Billy Rose’s Concert Varieties, and the piece premiered June 1, 1945, at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York. The American Ballet Theatre premiere took place at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York on October 17, 1945, while the New York City Ballet premiere came 7 years later on December 23, 1952. Like all of Jerome Robbins’s works, Interplay is very distinctly New York…and also distinctly American. (The piece is set to composer Morton Gould’s “American Concertette.”)

For the reasons mentioned above, it’s little wonder that Interplay is considered by many in the ballet world to be an American masterpiece. Without Interplay, it is doubtful that Robbins would have brought us the 1957 Broadway production of West Side Story we know and love. And West Side Story itself is at once a celebration of America’s virtues and its problems.

When I asked Wes Chapman to contribute some introductory information, he told me that “Robbins’s most famous choreography, West Side Story, displays elements and common themes from Interplay. You might think of Interplay as a precursor to West Side Story.” Wes explained that if you looked at the pieces side by side, you’d see pretty clearly the development of Robbins’s choreography over time. The elements that are now familiar to most of us as the Sharks-vs.-Jets rivalry from West Side Story, which first premiered on Broadway in 1957, can be easily traced back to Fancy Free (1944) and Interplay (1945), ballets that Robbins had choreographed over a decade earlier.

Wes is certainly excited to have the opportunity to stage Interplay for Program 1 of Ballet San Jose’s 2012 Season (March 2-4, 2012). Since he first saw the piece performed by the Boston Ballet years ago, Wes said he has had an ongoing relationship with Interplay. As Artistic Director of ABT II, now American Ballet Theatre’s Studio Company, he brought Interplay into the ABT II repertory.

Wes emphasized that Interplay is a “good representation of Robbins’s work. It’s a show that the audience always seems to enjoy very much. It’s set on a playground, so the costumes are fun as well — the girls wear ponytails and lots of bright colors. It’s a very youthful piece.”

As contemporary ballets go, Interplay is said to be one of the best. As a representation of American youth in 1940s New York, Interplay is more than a ballet — it’s a slice of history. Today, the work remains in the American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet repertories. And now, because of our recent partnership with ABT, Ballet San Jose has the chance to put its own spin on a Jerome Robbins classic.

Erica, Social Media Coordinator


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BSJ Principal Ballet Master Raymond Rodriguez Talks ‘Graduation Ball’

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LAST FRIDAY we caught up with Ballet San Jose‘s Principal Ballet Master Raymond Rodriguez and talked to him briefly about his experience staging — and performing in — Graduation Ball.

Born in New York City and trained at the American Ballet Theatre School, Raymond joined Cleveland Ballet (now Ballet San Jose) in 1981, where he danced principal roles for many years. Most recently, Raymond served as Régisseur with Ballet San Jose until this year, when he was appointed Principal Ballet Master of the Company. When Ballet San Jose last performed David Lichine’s Graduation Ball in February 2002, Raymond appeared as The General — a role he will reprise this season! But this time, Raymond will also stage the ballet himself.

When we asked him about the difference between performing Graduation Ball and staging it, Raymond said: “When staging a ballet, I have to know every single role. At this point, I could put on a one-man show. [When I’m just] dancing, I worry about my own role, as opposed to when I’m staging a ballet, which means I have to worry about everyone!”

Sounds stressful! But Raymond said he is also extremely excited to be playing the role of The General again this year.

“As soon as I put on the wig and the fat suit, my whole personality is transformed,” he said. “When I tried on the wig for the first time the other day, my body suddenly hunched over. I started making faces. I felt like I was becoming The General.”

He added: “I think that’s the case for a lot of the dancers — once they are in costume and makeup, they really immerse themselves in their roles.”

In fact, that magical transformation is one of the things Raymond said he loves most about Graduation Ball as a ballet and as a story.

Graduation Ball is a great company piece for storytelling,” he explained. “It’s great for both children and adults because it tells a story of being a young college student at a ball. Adults can relate because it brings them back to a time when they were first dating and falling in love. It’s an amazing acting opportunity for all the dancers in the company.”

With its lighthearted storytelling, cast of quirky characters and evocation of first loves, Graduation Ball is the perfect complement to the rest of Program 1 of the 2012 Season: the iconic classical ballet Paquita and Jerome Robbins’ contemporary American masterpiece Interplay. Given that Graduation Ball is the only company revival in the 2012 Season, you can see why we were so eager to bring it back. The piece has found its niche in Ballet San Jose’s repertoire as a much beloved story ballet and comedy extravaganza.

We can’t wait to see what Raymond and the dancers make of it this year!

Ballet San Jose 

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An Unforgettable ‘Graduation Ball’: Guest Blog by Dalia Rawson

Dalia Rawson dances the part of the Pigtail Girl in Ballet San Jose's 'Graduation Ball' (2002). Photo by Marty Sohl.

Dalia Rawson dances the part of the Pigtail Girl in Ballet San Jose's 'Graduation Ball' (2002). Photo by Marty Sohl.

I REMEMBER reading about Graduation Ball as a child in a beautifully illustrated book of stories from the great ballets, a book that was given to me by my mother. I never had the opportunity to see the ballet performed, but I often studied the graceful illustrations and was enchanted by the sweet story: young girls in a boarding school experiencing their graduation ball with gallant cadets from a nearby military academy. Years later as a professional dancer, I was delighted to learn that the ballet would be part of San Jose Cleveland Ballet’s 1996/1997 season. I couldn’t wait to perform the ballet that I had imagined for so long.

Casting went up, and I was thrilled to find myself listed to learn the role of the Mistress of Ceremonies, second cast for one of my idols, ballerina Nancy Latoszewski! I enjoyed working on the role’s challenging variation, complete with a series of hops on pointe, as well as getting to lead a group of dancers in a whimsical polka that we called the “Monkey Dance,” as its choreography mimicked the “see-no-evil,” “hear-no-evil,” “speak-no-evil” monkeys of legend.

But the role I quietly coveted was the Pigtail Girl. She got to have all the fun! Dancing the role that year was Cleveland’s star Karen Gabay in the first cast. Ballerina Grethel Domingo danced the Pigtail Girl opposite me in the second cast. I tried very hard not to be jealous, watching the two of them cause mischief, perform flashy jumps, grab all the laughs and steal the scenes, with their signature pigtails sticking out of their heads like Pippi Longstocking’s. Please don’t misunderstand — I was happy for Karen and Grethel, and I was extremely proud to be dancing the soloist role in which I had been cast. My parents even flew to Cleveland from San Jose to see me dance, as the ballet wasn’t included in the San Jose portion of our season. But secretly I hoped that some day the ballet would return and I would get to be the Pigtail Girl.

As luck would have it, I got my chance. When the ballet appeared in Ballet San Jose’s 2001/2002 season, I was fortunate enough to be cast as the Pigtail Girl, the role I had secretly dreamed of dancing for years.

Dancing the role of the Pigtail Girl was an utter joy. I loved my crazy pigtails, created for me by Ballet San Jose’s hair and makeup designer Robin Church. The cast included many of my best friends: Patricia Perez whirling off fouettés as a Competition Girl, Beth Ann Namey and Catharine Grow looking glamorous as Senior Girls, and Le Mai Linh nobly asking me to waltz after the most handsome cadet turned me down for Tiffany Glenn, who danced the role of the Mistress of Ceremonies.

Other moments from those performances remain etched in my memory: Stephane Dalle performing a technically impeccable rendition of the famous Drummer Boy solo, Raymond Rodriguez creating a hilariously grumpy General, and the glorious Maria Jacobs-Yu, along with Ramon Moreno, glittering in the ballet’s central classical pas de deux. I will never forget hearing the audience laugh out loud as I tried to get away with mischief under the watchful eye of Dennis Nahat, unforgettable en travesti as the Headmistress.

Graduation Ball, with its joyful plot, lovely costumes, and infectious humor, is truly a delight to dance. However, I still have never seen the ballet from the audience; I danced in every performance of the ballet during my tenure with the company! For these reasons, I can’t wait for March 2nd, when I will finally have the chance to sit in the audience and watch the wonderful artists of Ballet San Jose bring to life the ballet I imagined so often as a child.

Dalia Rawson
Ballet Mistress, Ballet San Jose School
Former Principal Dancer, Ballet San Jose

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Ballet San Jose Officially Announces 2012 Season

Ballet San Jose officially announced its 2012 season today. The season begins March 2 and will include a number of exciting new pieces:

PROGRAM ONE (March 2-4, 2012)
Paquita (Company Premiere)
Choreography: After Marius Petipa
Composers: Ludwig Minkus (original music by Edouard Deldevez)

Interplay (Company Premiere)
Choreography: Jerome Robbins
Composer: Morton Gould

Graduation Ball (Company Revival)
Choreography: David Lichine
Composer: Johann Strauss

PROGRAM TWO (April 13-15, 2012)

Allegro Brillante (Company Premiere)
Choreography: George Balanchine
Composer: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Splendid Isolation III (Company Premiere)
Choreography: Jessica Lang
Composer: Gustav Mahler

TBA (An additional work To Be Announced)

Bruch Violin Concerto (Company Premiere)
Choreography: Clark Tippet
Composer: Max Bruch

PROGRAM THREE (May 4-6, 2012)

Cinderella (Company Premiere)
Choreography: Ben Stevenson
Composer: Sergei Prokofiev

Subscriptions to the 2012 season will go on sale TUESDAY, JANUARY 17, and single ticket sales for the first program will open MONDAY, FEBRUARY 6. Visit the balletsj.org press page to read the FULL news release, which contains detailed information about our 2012 pieces. Or, you can download the PDF directly.

Once again, thank you for your continued support of Ballet San Jose and its wonderful dancers. The company is ready to move forward with the new season, and we can’t wait to bring these exciting shows to the Silicon Valley arts community!

We hope you’ll join us.

Best wishes,
Ballet San Jose

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