Monthly Archives: September 2007

Where is all the blogging about dance?

Tonya‘s blog pointed to an interesting article noticing the lack of blogging/internet buzz about the art form of dance. The author of this article definitely brings up an interesting observation with probable reasons for this observation. My responses to the article’s reasonings are in italics:

  1. Dance bloggers tend to be extremely technical, making it difficult for non dancers/specialists to be able to read or understand.
    • Okay perhaps this is true to a certain extent. But I think the bigger issue is that there isn’t such a large audience for dance, as much as other “art” forms, such TV shows, such as my favorite Project Runway (and its devoted blog, Project Rungay) or movies. And dance isn’t so ubiquitous as TV or movies in popular culture, where everything such as Austin Powers’ quips permeate through every day conversation. And, to be very general, dance audiences tend to be older audiences, many of whom will not be able to define “blog” and aren’t so comfortable on the internet. This can’t help either.
    • There are dance blogs that are written to many different levels of expertise, from the insider point of view, to the adult ballet student, to a ballet enthusiast, to the choreographer keeping his own blog. In fact, they can exist on one website, such as thewinger. In this way, not every dance blogger is a technical specialist, but really come from diverse backgrounds with a common love of dance.
  2. Issues in dance tend to be serious issues that can’t be discussed in a brief blog format, and issues that will never go away.
    • Issues won’t go away if you don’t talk about them and address them, for sure! The issues that the dance world face are also issues that other art forms face as well, such as the idea of balancing contemporary versus classical works in a company’s repertory. This exists in the classical music world as well – in creating a program, which I’ve addressed to some degree even here on this blog. I don’t believe that weighty issues can only be addressed in 100+ page PhD theses or even a newspaper article.

Who knows, I could be completely off base here. The important thing is to talk (and blog) about it, and this article gives a good jumping off point for thought.

I’m also a big believer in blogging about dance (and theater, for that matter) and forming and expressing opinions and creating buzz is a good way for people to get excited about what they’re seeing in theaters, and to encourage audiences to think about what is going on onstage as well as in the art form.

Some of my favorite dance blogs:

  • thewinger : a behemoth of a dance blog site, where authors include NYCB and ABT dancers, Christopher Wheeldon (current resident choreographer for the NYCB), to adult ballet students, to Broadway dancers, to people interested in the fusion of dance and technology.
  • Ranting Details : an insider’s look at being in one of the best ballet companies in the world!
  • Swan Lake Samba Girl: a (ballroom) dancer’s view of dance in Manhattan

Former SF Ballet Dancer Named Artistic Director of the Joffrey

How cool is this? Ashley Wheater has been named the artistic director of the Joffrey Ballet. It’s great to see dancers from the SFB go on to do really cool things in the ballet world. He’s going to be the new Malcolm McDowell character in Robert Altman’s movie, The Company. (I hope he’s nicer than Malcolm McDowell, but who knows, maybe all artistic directors are like him??)

More entries coming soon. Sorry things have been a bit slow on this site, things have been swamped for me – both at work and at play! As I’m sure many of you know, the Jersey Boys are leaving northern California for a good while now. (I think the Jersey Boys singularly count for a good chunk of hits on this site.) The SF Cast’s last performance is on Sunday, with the Sherry cast having left Sacramento last weekend. The past few weeks with the Jersey Boys have included, for me, two backstage tours, two dinners, two late nights at a bar chatting over beers, a few interviews, and lots of fun memories! Whew, it’s just exhausting thinking about it.

Another random fact: Sweeney Todd was on Goldstar Events yesterday. It lasted for about 2 hours before all the available tickets sold out. Keep an eye on it if you want to go. And go see this show!! It is absolutely amazing. Oh wait! I just checked, and possibly more tickets were released? Go now, tickets will disappear soon. Goldstar is actually about a dollar cheaper than the Union Square half price ticket booth, in case people were wondering.

I’m also going to see what this weekend brings. In addition to doing a Western blot (which are ruling my

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life these days), I’m going to try to nip out for a trip to SF to check out Expedition 6, in addition for a bout of ice skating, which I haven’t done in forever. I’m busy, but I’d rather be busy than bored. Life is good.

EDITED TO ADD: Joffrey Ballet is coming to northern California through Cal Performances on Oct 4-6. Perhaps we’ll see more of the Joffrey Ballet now that Ashley Wheater is the artistic director? I hope so! Click here for more info.

Bill Pullman’s Expedition 6 and ACT’s Tosca Project

San Francisco Chronicle photo by Lea Suzuki

Left: Karl Hanover, Right: John Behlmann in Expedition 6


At first glance, the fact that this theater piece is directed by Bill Pullman nor the fact that this piece is about the Columbia shuttle disaster did not catch my attention. But reading more into it, it’s caught my curiosity. I’m always a sucker for theater that incorporates dance and music in a play (such as Coram Boy). Expedition 6 uses low trapezes to simulate a sense of anti-gravity through space. Add live music? And then add John Behlmann, who was the sergeant who brings in the pepper in Journey’s End? I’m there.


John Behlmann


The mixed reviews are a little disconcerting however. I’m afraid it’s going to be another Across the Universe, Julie Taymor’s latest project/movie. Great artistically and visually in theory, not so great when put into practice. I suppose I’ll have to see for myself.

The world premiere of Expedition 6 is playing at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco in association with the Chabot Space & Science Center until October 7. Click here for details.

This imaginative docudrama explores the personal and political life-and-death crisis of two American astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut stranded in space after the Columbia Shuttle disaster. Pullman uses a company of eight actors, movement, live music, and low-flying trapezes in this stylized new work based on writings by astronauts, NASA reports, and other primary source materials.

I was also reminded of this show when a very nice caller from the American Conservatory Theater called to ask me to be a subscriber. Aside from the discomfort of saying that my schedule and my budget doesn’t allow me to subscribe except to a select few theaters, he mentioned the Tosca Project, a collaboration between ACT and my favorite, the San Francisco Ballet. All I can find about this show is, however, the fact that it already passed. The caller was saying it’s playing again at the Zeum Theatre at the Yerba Buena, but I couldn’t find any more information about it. This show also gets points in my book for having the most attractive picture of Muriel Maffre that I have ever seen.


Yes, Maffre’s the one that’s upside down, with actors Jody Flader and Gregory Wallace

This show also includes my favorite ex-SF Ballet dancer Joanna Berman (I can almost forgive her for leaving as soon as I moved closer to SF), Pascal Molat (as a “paranoid druggie”), and Maffre, whose character is described as a “a weird, sexy French lesbian who wants to get near the poet.” Absolutely irresistible!

When you combine two different art forms into one, is the effect exponentially additive? I suppose not always, but it’s experimental and creative – I love it.

Slow Dancing: 9/22/07 Music Center Plaza

Notice Placido Domingo (Director & Conductor of LA Opera) smiling benevolently in the background

I finally went and saw Slow Dancing, David Michalek’s outdoor art piece featuring the greats of the dance world, stretching a 5 second dance piece into 10 minutes, slowing down the dancers’ movements to a beautiful abstract outdoor art piece. Currently at the Los Angeles Music Center for another week, I was so glad to have caught it here because it made quite a splash a month or so ago in its premiere in Lincoln Center in NYC. My favorites are the ballet dancers, of course, but there were over 40 performers in all, and it was fascinating to see such a variety of dancers featured in such a public piece, each obviously at the top of their dance genre.

Herman Cornejo, an ABT dancer, demonstrating how beautiful his technique is, even slowed down thousands of times from original speed. Here is a sample of his video here.

Janie Taylor, a principal ballet dancer with NYCB, does her controversial hair flip. I actually really liked her piece; it was very showy and dramatic, I sorta wished more dancers showed off a bit more. Dancers can do amazing things, and Janie definitely showed a great example of it.

The two NYCB principal ballerinas (Janie and Wendy Whelan) were performing at once. It was great to see the contrast, a young newly promoted principal dancer dancing next to a seasoned prima ballerina of NYCB. I was a bit disappointed by Wendy’s choreographed bit though; I wish she coulda done something classically ballet, such as fouettes or pirouettes (I would LOVE to see that in slow motion!) or something “showier” that may have been exciting to see slowed down.

Costumes were used to great effect in slow mo…Shasta Cola showed this to great effect, as well as the belly dancer Nejla Yatkin.

I really liked the way the screens were set up in Los Angeles; we got to see four screens simultaneously (instead of three in NYC), and if you sit in one corner, you can see all of them. I also liked how the screens were near ground level so we could see the action up very close. The different styles of dance were so interesting to see in slo mo; the Indian dancing, with all its delicate intricacies, were featured prominently in slow motion. Even the eyes were so controlled, as opposed to Herman Cornejo, whose eyes seemed to be the only muscles in his body that wasn’t trained to obey his every command. Krumping was also portrayed by “Lil C“, I sat fascinated by the odd muscle twitches and waves of muscle movements across his chest.

But…the question remains: What is art? When I was watching this piece, I didn’t think of it as an art piece, I thought of it as dance, slowed down. It’s not even technically a video since the artist Michalek used a high speed camera to capture images that look like they are moving when showed in succession. Art mentioned that there was some article asking why only dance critics reviewed “Slow Dancing”, and not art critics? Is it not considered “serious” art? I can see why the art critics did not review this piece, although I think it would be a great to hear another point of view. I think it’s a great way to show dance in a completely different format, a useful marketing tool you can say, to reach a new audience. Most of the people watching on Saturday evening were there because KCRW radio sent over a DJ or they were already at the Music Center for Avenue Q. And while it was fun for us dance fans to see our favorite dancers in slow motion, most of the people looking at the piece did not know what caliber these dancers are in their dance form. In slow motion, everything looks easy. How great would it have been to credit the dancer’s name, biography, and dance form in an easily accessible place (albeit posters and programs were passed out to the crowd, it was very dark and difficult to read). Does it take away from the piece without understanding the difficulties of dance technique and understanding what these dancers have accomplished in their art form? I don’t know…but I do know that with my understanding of ballet and some of the dancers, made me look at the piece in a different way. I mean, the classical ballerinas didn’t even wear ballet shoes, and most people probably didn’t know they were ballerinas as opposed to modern dancers. No tutus either, as Susan mentioned.

Who else should have been photographed and featured in this piece? Baryshnikov? Rasta Thomas? Twyla Tharp? Mark Morris? Many names come to mind….but what a fun piece and a fun way to spend a Saturday evening, with my fellow dance fan friends Art & Susan.

A Little Night Music: South Coast Repertory, 9/18/07



I found myself in a comfortable and familiar arena yesterday when I sat front row center at South Coast Repertory‘s production of a Sondheim piece, “A Little Night Music”. I ran to the theater, made it to the box office three minutes before production, and with my luck, someone had turned in a front row center seat last minute due to illness. Great for me!

The theater for South Coast Repertory productions is so perfect, so intimate! I loved this theater. Reminded me of the La Jolla Playhouse a little bit. This production is so light and frothy, but with the dark undertone about the reality of relationships (typical Sondheim!). Sorta like watching a delightful production of Cosi van Tutti mixed with Company. I am always amazed by Sondheim’s talent in portraying human relationships and ridiculous love predicaments, and this definitely did not disappoint.

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The aging husband marries an 18 year old, but is in love with his old flame, an aging actress. The husband’s young son is in love with his stepmom. The aging actress has many lovers, including a married man, whose wife accepts because she simply loves her husband. The two servants get it on somewhere in the stable. It’s all very complicated and fun, especially when they all find themselves in the countryside one weekend. Duels, death, adultery,’s all there.

I didn’t know anything about this piece and opened my program. To my surprise, Mark Jacoby (from Broadway’s “Sweet Charity” as Vittorio and “Sweeney Todd” as Judge Turpin) stars in this wonderful charming production as the lawyer Frederik Egerman. Very similar to his role in Sweeney on Broadway, he plays someone who works in a courthouse and loves very young women. Poor guy, I hope he doesn’t get typecast as a pedophile. :) He does wonderfully as the droll, helpless aging man who tries to recapture his youth by marrying someone very young, although he realizes that you can’t rewind time.

Other notable performers were Stephanie Zimbalist, as the aging actress with many lovers, singing the musical’s most famous song “Send in the Clowns” with simplicity and sadness. I liked how she sang it in a way (no belting) because even though people love that song, she sang it as it should have been, slightly quiet and dejected. Misty Cotton and Damon Kirsche had amazing singing voices, and Amanda Noughton stole the show with her dry humor and impeccable timing, all underlining a simple desire for her husband to love her utmost and only.

Each person in this complicated tryst contemplates death (who doesn’t want to die in the face of unrequited/complicated love?) as an option … but in the end, everyone seems to choose ‘being alive’, because, love is everything!

A great deal seems to be going on in this house tonight. . . . Will you tell me what it’s all for? Having outlived my own illusions by centuries, it would be soothing at least to pretend to share some of yours.


Well, I think it must be worth it.


It’s all there is, isn’t it?

Clay: Kirk Douglas Theater, 9/12/07



This fresh performance piece “Clay“, headed off-Broadway showcased the talent of one man, Matt Sax, who created this piece after being turned down for the school play in college. Amazing performance theater piece, it’s a mix of hip hop, rap, character filled, angsty plot showcasing his amazing talent. I wonder how much of it is ad-libbed? I must say that the plot is not really in my taste though; if it’s real, it’s shocking…and if it’s made up, then it seems so melodramatic, almost stereotypical. However, while this story unfolded (a teenage falling in love with his stepmom while learning how to rap and express himself through a mentor in Brooklyn)…I couldn’t help but feel I was watching a Legal

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Aid case…pretty dark stuff. However, the story is filled with humor, great acting (so many different characters, although his female roles all seem to be very similar :p). The lighting is especially expressive in this piece, creating shadows that made his face look dark when he wore his hood, and highlighting his pop-y final success performance at the end of the piece.

It’s a daring piece, and truly experimental. It works though, and I can’t help but feel it would be perfect in an off-Broadway setting.

NY Phil Opening Night Gala Concert: Live from Lincoln Center


Does the presence of a Sex and the City DVD on top of the TV decrease the cultural snobbery quotient of this photo?

The opening night gala for the NY Phil is currently being aired on PBS, in their “Live From Lincoln Center” series. It’s amazing how pivotal the Lincoln Center is in American fine arts – you can’t talk about any form of fine arts without mentioning the Lincoln Center at one point or another, whether it be ballet, Broadway, classical music, or opera.

Of course a televised symphony performance isn’t as attention-grabbing nor as euphoric as a live performance. I love being enveloped in the sounds of a live orchestra, with lots to see in addition to the lush sounds. That being said, it’s still a wonderful opportunity for viewers like me, who are on the opposite coast, to hear and watch great performers such as Yo Yo Ma.

He was the reason why I am watching this. I saw Yo Yo Ma perform this same piece, the Dvorak cello concerto, in Shanghai, China a few years ago (actually quite a few years ago). After the concert, I turned to my friend and said that Ma plays like what every musician strives to sound like, in his/her head, without any obstacles such as technical limitations or bias. When Itzhak Perlman introduced him on TV by listing his flawless technique as his first feature of a great artist, I realized that I’ve never even thought about Ma’s technique. Ma’s genius lies in the fact that his musicality so overwhelms everything that his technique is completely unnoticeable, and all you notice is the music pouring out of him. Even on a televised show like this, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the TV screen.

Let me mention that the Yo Yo Ma recital at Cal Performances sold out extremely fast. And it’s only a recital, without a full orchestra! Amazing.

It’s hard to tell how “good” the NY Phil is on TV, and how it compares to my beloved San Francisco Symphony. Many happy wishes on their gala opening, which is tomorrow. Another great season is about to begin!

Back to the NY Phil gala. It’s an all-Dvorak program, including the Carnival Overture, the Cello Concerto, and Symphony No. 7., conducted by Lorin Maazel. Now I have a bone to pick about the program. It seems like very few classical music symphony programs are making me happy these days. Maybe I’m just cantankerous, or am old fashioned (at the ripe age of being in my twenties). But what happened to the “normal” programming, where a good mix of differing composers are featured in one program, that are linked thematically/musically? I guess that’s too passe now? Dvorak is definitely gala-worthy in that his music is powerful, emotional, moving and majestic. But my feeling is that even with great works like the works presented here, things start to sound the same. And it’s a gala! It should be outlandishly and over the top with diverse offerings, an unabashed spectacle. A celebration of the beginning of the season.

I started having fun with some screencaps and my camera. More random thoughts:


You’ll never get a view like this, live.


This is the reason why I dated the principal oboe player, when I was the principal flute player (proximity, if it wasn’t obvious). Ah, good old youth orchestra days…


I can feel his pain and his passion through the screen. Absolutely breathtaking.

Check your local listings, see if it’s playing in your neck of the woods, here.

Mozart Dances: PBS Special


I finally got around to watching my most recent precious acquisition, a copy of the recent Live from Lincoln Center broadcast Mozart Dances, which unfortunately was not broadcast in Southern California. Jolene reviewed the PBS broadcast here, and we both have similar thoughts so I’ll try not to be too redundant.

I was lucky enough to have experienced the World Premiere of this piece last year at the Mostly Mozart festival at the New York State Theater. It is one of my favorite Mark Morris pieces, an understated piece of work. I wouldn’t say it’s a signature Mark Morris piece, it lacks campy humor (the butt slapping in L’allegro comes to mind), which is greatly loved by Mark Morris audiences, and while I enjoy the humor, the beauty of Mark Morris is the way the dance is inspired by the music, not the other way around. Emmanuel Ax (the pianist) said it so wonderfully, when he said if Mark Morris wasn’t a dancer, he’d be a conductor, he is that musical. What a compliment!

I won’t even try to review the whole piece, it’s so complicated and too much to remember. A few details come to mind:

  • The marching motif totally made me laugh. It’s like Mozart’s music; he has parts where the left hand does a marching beat, and after a while, the right hand takes over in a running river-like melody. This is reflected in the dance, where abruptly, the dancer will shift from flowing movements to a solid march. To the audience eye, it looks a bit unexpected, but if you follow the music, this is reflected perfectly as the music dictates. The dancers did it in such a way, as if they were saying, “I’m in the middle of something but I feel like taking a bathroom break” or something to go offstage. And sometimes, when it looked like a dancer was exiting, he/she would turn back as an afterthought, with a hand raised, “Wait“. How many times have we done that, saying “bye” on the telephone then realizing a really long but juicy story to relate, last minute? Brilliant.
  • Loved Eleven, the four hand sonata…the slow movement was beautiful, and the piece, up to this certain point, was simply male dancers on stage. What struck me is when the women entered in the middle of the piece…it was the exact moment when the melody changed to a minor tone. Whoa. It was so fitting because a minor tone comes with a little bit of drama, melancholy, and romance…coinciding with the exact moment women make their entrance, with romantic long flowing skirts.
  • Emmanuel Ax is a piano genius. Mozart is such a tricky thing to play, my piano teacher used to tell me it’s so much easier to pound out a
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    Rach concerto than to perform a delicate Mozart piece with perfect evenness (the scale-like runs are killer) and nuance…very very difficult.

  • There’s been lots of discussion about the filming of the piece, but I really enjoyed it. Perhaps its’ because I’d seen it in its entirety on stage in the theater, but I enjoyed the closeups of the musicians and conductor, which as an audience member, is very very limited. Closeups of the dancers were great too, and while I did notice that perhaps we may have lost some glimpses of action on stage, I have a feeling we didn’t miss that much.

Oh What a Night!


I love the lighting in this musical; it made me appreciate what lighting does to a show. It gives it a gritty feel to the set, almost making it look like you’re in a black and white world.

The Jersey Boys National Tour is back in northern California, this time at the much bigger Sacramento Community Center Theater, featuring the Sherry cast, starring Chris Kale Jones, Deven May, Erich Bergen, and Steve Gouveia. Everything is the same, except for a few new members (Lauren Tartaglia as Francine et al.) and a new “traveling” set that involves “rabbits” on a track on the stage floor. It’s a little different to get used to, but hardly noticeable.

Some random observations:

  • Jackie Seiden as Mary Delgado: great enunciation, especially appreciated by audiences in the second balcony.
  • The audience is CRAZY. Not the most polite crowd in the world, many audience members (especially, for some reason, elderly women) treat this as a Tom Jones concert. I had women sitting around me who were waving their arms, singing unabashedly at the top of their lungs (out of tune, I might add). It doesn’t help that the theater also allows for drinks to be taken back to your seat, with mini bars on every floor. I get that this show really takes them back to their golden days, but out of respect for the actors and for the people trying to enjoy the stellar onstage singing, I found it really distracting. The audience also stopped the actors from delivering their lines – both Chris Jones and Erich Bergen had to stop and restart lines while the crowd just went insane. I wonder if the actors mind – I wouldn’t be surprised if their opinions are mixed.

I was also kindly invited to hang out with the cast members over beer and complimentary appetizers at a local bar/restaurant. I met Deven’s dog (a very cute Akita (… Evita!)), and was immersed by fun (and unprintable ;) ) stories. Deven, Steve G., my friend and I ended up closing out the bar in addition to a very patient waitress and restaurant owner. Talking to Steve is always enlightening, because he has been with the show since its very beginnings in La Jolla. It’s so amazing that a small show in San Diego became as big as it did, and the path of the show is mind boggling, as the show continues to spread out to new audiences and keeps changing. I mean, what better way is there to spend an evening talking about my favorite topic, theater, with people who know a lot about it?

My initial review of this show while the same cast was in previews at the Curran: here

If you’re not one of the lucky ones to already have a ticket to see this cast, go see if there are any left, here.

Jersey Boys Tour website