Diablo Ballet Review – A Hillbarn Theatre First

My cousin suggested to me that I might want to see the Diablo Ballet.  Not being from this area, I was not familiar with them.  However, my interest in dance, in hearing her husband (Jim Nichols), who was part of the musical group accompanying the ballet and the proximity of the performance to where I am staying was an irresistable combination.  It was a wonderful evening of ballet, different from any I had previously experienced.  This evening was a first at Hillbarn Theatre in Foster City, the first time in the theater’s long history that an event other than a play or musical has been presented there. Hillbarn Theatre has a long, endearing history and is the 6th oldest theatre of its kind in the United States and is currently in its 68th continuous season of programming.

 

I learned that Diablo Ballet has been one of the top professional dance companies of Northern California, presenting classical works along side of innovative new pieces.  In this performance it was clear that the Diablo Ballet’s priority of making dance accessible to audiences was realized.  It was my first experience with the Inside the Dancer’s Studio series and I thought it was great.

 



This Diablo Ballet performance took place in an intimate setting with dance performance featuring Mercurial Manoeuvres by Christopher Wheeldon, duet by ODC/San Francisco's KT Nelson set to live music under the musical direction of Greg Sudmeier. I liked the onstage interviews moderated by Hillbarn Theatre's Executive Producing Director Lee Foster, the chance to know about the dancers as they introduced themselves, and the audience participation in” dance improv”, as well as the complimentary food and wine reception, which provided a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with Diablo Ballet's world-class artists.

It was fascinating to me to see the stage change from the first to the last number, from “cool” to “hot” when there was only a bare stage through out. The evening began with First Movement from A Path of Delight or… which, was choreographed by Tina Kay Bohnstedt to music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Concerto No.23 in A major (from recorded music), Lighting design by Jack Carpenter, Costume design by Tina Kay Bohnstedt.  It premiered March 20, 2009, Lesher Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek, CA. This piece was classical and calm and the feeling was rather cool and distanced, and very beautiful.

 



After a brief pause Back in the Day began with accompaniment by Drums/Music Director: Greg Sudmeier, Guitarist: Jim Nichols and Bass: Rich Girard, all very accomplished musicians.  Music included: Harold Arlen/Henry Mayer/James Van Heusen, arranged by Greg Sudmeier.  Costume Design: Cynthia Sarmiento and Lighting Design:Jack Carpenter.  The World Premiere was March 2, 2012 at Shadelands Arts Center Auditorium, Walnut Creek, CA.  This was a charming, light number that brought to my mind Paul Taylor’s Company B and American in Paris, and the live music offered the perfect touch, enriching the experience. Dancers Edward Stegge, Rosselyn Ramirez and David Fonnegra had just the right touch and perfect technique.

Pas de Deux from Mercurial Manoeuvres followed with choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, staged by Joanna Berman.  Music: Dimitry Shostakovich-Piano Concerto No.1 in C minor, op 35 played by pianist Michael Schmitz.  Costume Design: Carole Divet and construction: Cynthia Sarmiento with Lighting Design: Mark Stanley.  This was a beautiful, classical work beautifully executed by Hiromi Yamazaki and Derek Sakakura. World Premiere: April 28, 2000, New York State Theater, Lincoln Center, New York and by Diablo Ballet: March 2, 2012, Shadelands Arts Center Auditorium, Walnut Creek, CA.

The program concluded with The Escaping Game choreographed by KT Nelson with recorded music by Zap Mama.  Songs: Mamadit, Delavie A la Mort, Abadou, and Son Cubano.  The costumes Design by Amanda Williams were bright and alive and were just right for the strong beat in the singing and dancing. Light Design by Jack Carpenter was perfect.  When the dancers: Mayo Sugano, Hiromi Yamzaki, who stood out to me, Robert Dekkers, David Fonnegra and Edward Stegge finished, I told my companion, I was exhausted, from watching them-what energy and perfect technique maintained through out.

I thought this program offered a taste of the many ways in which ballet presents itself.  It was interesting to me to hear from Lauren Jonas why she started this company and the names and backgrounds of the dancers. But for me, hailing from the home of Second City and acting improv, and Abraham Stockman who presents music improv, participating with the audience in “dance improv “was a first.  I thought this was a wonderful way to engage the audience in dance.  I strongly recommend the next Inside the Dancer’s Studio.

 

Next Dancer’s Studio will take place on May 4th and 5th at the Shedelands Arts Center Auditorium, 111 N. Wiget Lane, Walnut Creek.  This performance features Tarantella Pas de deux by George Balanchine, Shall We Dance, a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald by Erin Leedom and World Premiere’s by KT Nelson, Co-Artistic Director of ODC/SF and Diablo Ballet’s Robert Dekkers.  Guest Hosts include DanAshley, KGO, Susan Safipour, Diablo Magazine and Elvis Medina, KKDV.


Tickets: 925.943.1775 or www.diabloballet.org

 

 

 

 

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