Monthly Archives: July 2010


A quote from Anthony Bourdain in his book, Medium Raw, that I was reading on the plane a few weeks ago.

“If there’s a new and lasting credo from the Big Shakeout (the economic crisis) it’s this: People will continue to pay for quality. They will be less and less inclined, however, to pay for bullshit.”

He was speaking about high end restaurants and the gimmicks they employ. So true for the arts as well.

Dance Your PhD 2010

The Quantum Ruler – Dance your Ph.D. 2010 from Krister Shalm on Vimeo.

The competition is back on, folks! For all you scientists who work all day and night in windowless labs in fluorescent lighting (or is that just me?) and have always longed to express yourself through dance!, here’s your chance. The Dance Your PhD competition is on again for current and past PhD candidates, and the deadline for submitting your video is on September 1, 2010. The prizes are cash this year, and a chance to see your video at the Imagine Science Film Festival in New York City in October. (Personally, last year’s prize of seeing professional choreographers reinterpret your PhD into a more official dance sounded cooler, but I’m most likely in the minority.) An even cooler prize would be a guarantee from Science to print a first author paper from your PhD, but no such guarantees are included. :)

Is it also an unexpected perk for non-scientists to be able to read about the science that is being done behind closed doors?

For more details, click here. If anyone submits one, please let me know!! Also included this year are comments from last year’s videos, which are helpful. I wonder what they said about mine, the exploring, dancing, slightly promiscuous young neuron??

Review: Festival del Sole “Stars of American and Russian Ballet”

Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky, courtesy of ABT

It was a gorgeous drive into Napa Valley on a Friday early evening. Amidst fields of vineyards, Napa Valley got a taste of big city fine arts with the Festival del Sole. Only in its fifth year with a focus on fine arts, food, and wine, this was the first year that this festival included a dance performance, with big names from the New York City Ballet to the Bolshoi. From the start of the performance, there was excitement in the air; the presenter announced his surprise that the full house proved that there really is an audience for dance in Napa.

The program was an eclectic mix of pieces ranging from classical ballet to modern, from the well-known to the more obscure. Not surprisingly, the audience favorites by far were the familiar and the virtuosic. Andrew Veyette and Megan Fairchild brought down the house with  Balanchine’s Stars and Stripes. Veyette ate up the stage with his impressive lines and even more impressive charisma. In the midst of being awed by Veyette’s stretch and artistry, he made you smile with his playful attack and his grin. His chemistry with Fairchild was pure fun, in this glitzy rendition of Stars and Stripes, and it was perfect for the gala atmosphere of this performance. Later, Veyette and Fairchild’s Swan Lake didn’t fare as well; it felt like a more embellished and a slightly more muddled version of the classical ballet.

Petipa’s Don Quixote, danced with flair by San Francisco Ballet dancers Lorena Feijoo and Vitor Luiz, was another standout. I’ve always found Feijoo to be both a stylistic and stylish dancer, and she shines in Don Quixote. Every detail is colored with sass and flirty eyes, and Luiz flew through the air to the audience’s delight. Feijoo and Luiz also performed Forsythe’s in the middle, somewhat elevated with red-hot sensuality, the sexiest rendition I’d seen yet. I wished the music had been louder though; I hadn’t realized how much the heart-pounding beats of Thom Willem’s score was central to experiencing this piece.

The central billing of this evening was American Ballet Theatre’s Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky. Their transparent rendition of Balanchine’s Apollo added touches of humor and humanity amidst its stark angles. Every movement deliberate, Beloserkovsky distinguishes between the soft swoops to the pointed punctuations of quick footwork. Glances and smiles are shared between Dvorovenko and Beloserkovsky, and the expansive ending lingers with Dvorovenko and Beloserkovsky draped over each other looking up with hope. Their other two offerings for the night, however, didn’t fare so well – Jessica Lang’s “Splendid Isolation III” is several minutes of melodramatic posturing, and Anatoliy Beliy’s “Carmen Suite” is even more so,  but more kinetic and even more over the top. Despite their program choices, Dvorovenko is positively statuesque, dancing beyond her diminuitive frame with glamor and dynamism, and Beloskerkovsky is pure elegant strength in various states of bare-chested costumes.

Bolshoi principal Marianna Ryzhkina and ABT soloist Gennadi Saveliev (a substitution for Bolshoi’s Dmitry Gudanov) were the epitome of control in excerpts from Raymonda and Giselle. They especially simmered in Giselle, with sadness and forgiveness in breathtaking balances and heartache.

One of the problems with this gala format is that each piece is so short, and it leaves you wanting to see more. There were some rough edges in the evening, with its stage that often left dancers in the dark practically in the wings when preparing for a set of leaps or turns, some sound fluctuations, and trouble getting people ushered into their seats on time. But these things are trivial; there was an adoring audience (including Rita Moreno and Helgi Tomasson), incredible dancing, and the buzz thanks to the visiting guest stars. Everyone left with something new and challenging, in addition to the familiar classics, and an anticipation for what the festival will offer next year. I hope that Festival del Sole continues to incorporate more dance offerings for the future.

Festival del Sole

San Francisco Symphony and its audience

An interesting quote from San Francisco Symphony conductor, Michael Tilson Thomas, about the symphony listening experience from the audience point of view (via the Wall Street Journal).

“In some places, there is a certain ritualistic aspect to it. The audience expects to have a certain kind of experience, which perhaps reaffirms certain nice and comfortable things from their life. The idea that you can shake it up a bit at the concert or experience something new is very particular to this area and this audience.”

I know that Thomas was trying to say that Bay area audiences are different, and perhaps the Bay area is better than most places, but I still see a lot of both groups of people at the symphony.

San Francisco Symphony’s summer season ends this weekend with a bang with a really fun program, starting with John Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine, Chris Noth (“Mr. Big”) narrating Copland’s Lincoln Portrait, the original jazz band version of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue (super cool), and a collaboration with the UC Berkeley Marching Band for the hit Broadway tune “Seventy-Six Trombones”. Come early for music and dancing with the Martini Brothers, plus desserts and specialty drinks in the lobby. For more information, click here.

New Company Members for San Francisco Ballet’s 2011 Season

Artem Yachmennikov taken at the Het Nationale Ballet, taken by Angela Sterling

New company members for San Francisco Ballet’s 2011 season has been announced! Artem Yachmennikov will be joining as a principal dancer, previously from the Mariinsky Theatre Ballet, Het Nationale Ballet, and the Bolshoi Ballet. Vito Mazzeo will join as a soloist, previously from the Royal Ballet and the Teatro dell’Opera. The new corps members are Daniel Baker (previously a soloist at the Miami City Ballet), Nicole Ciapponi, Koto Ishihara, Elena Kazakova, Dustin Shane, Sebastian Vinet, Lonnie Weeks, and SF Ballet apprentices Kimberly Braylock, Myles Thatcher, and Sylvie Volosov.

Congratulations! It’ll be exciting to see how the newly hired soloists will perform, as well as seeing the familiar faces of previous SF Ballet students and apprentices (apprenticii?) who graced the audience last year in vivid, lasting moments onstage. Check out the new roster, here.

Napa Valley’s Festival del Sole

Summer is a downtime for the arts as many organizations closes its doors for the summer, but there’s still a lot to see, especially in the form of festivals which appear to be everywhere in the Bay Area.

The 5th annual Festival del Sole begins today in Napa Valley. In the beautiful locale, a festival of fine arts, fine foods, wine, and wellness includes, for the

first time, an evening of international dance, featuring stars from the American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, the Bolshoi Ballet, and San Francisco Ballet. Titled, “Stars of American and Russian Ballet”, this is like the all-star exhibition game in baseball that I was forced to watch the other night. Representative dancers from top international ballet companies come together in an exciting program of classical and modern ballet, Â including some of my favorite ballets and some I’ve always wanted to see.

Principals from American Ballet Theatre Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky will be dancing Balanchine’s Apollo pas de deux, Jessica Lang’s Splendid Isolation III, and Anatoliy Beliy’s Carmen Suite. New York City Ballet principals Megan Fairchild and Andrew Veyette will perform an excerpt from Balanchine’s Stars and Stripes and Jerome Robbins’ Andantino. Bolshoi principals Marianna Ryzhkina and Dmitri Gudanov will perform exceprts from Raymonda and Leonid Lavrovsky’s Paganini. San Francisco Ballet principals Lorena Feijoo and Vitor Luiz will perform excerpts from Forsythe’s in the middle, somewhat elevated and Don Quixote.

The gala will be on Friday, July 23, 2010, 6:30pm, at the Lincoln Theater Napa Valley in Yountville.For more information on this concert as well as the full calendar of the Festival del Sole, click here. Other performers participating in the Festival del Sole include Joshua Bell, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Chris Botti, Conrad Tao, and the Bay Area choir Volti.