Category Archives: best of

2009: A Year in Review

Happy new year’s, everyone! I hope everyone had a good one – a friend of mine rented a cabin in the mountains of Oregon this year, and a bunch of us took a road trip up there to celebrate the start of a new decade.

A snapshot I took of my trip to Oregon for the new year's

It’s always a fun time to look back to the previous year to look at all the things that I experienced in a theater. One of the biggest thrills this year was when I was asked to be a guest on public radio discussing theater in the Bay Area. Also, I had a blast watching and taking photos of rehearsal for the Smuin Ballet. Stuff like that is always a thrill!

Here’s a random list of memorable moments from 2009:

  • Sarah Van Patten’s entire season with the San Francisco Ballet: Literally everything she danced last season was absolute perfection and deeply memorable. There was her biggest role, her heartbreaking and unforgettable portrait of the fragile Odette in Swan Lake. Then there was her razor sharp Sanguinic variation in Balanchine’s Four Temperaments, her haunting performance in Morris’ gentle “A Garden” (gently partnered by Ruben Martin Cintas), to the wide-eyed comedic ballerina in Robbins’ The Concert, to the tragic heroine in the dramatic Jardin aux Lilas, to the beautifully feminine lead in Balanchine’s Jewels in “Diamonds”. She showed an impressive versatility as well as an unforgettable stamp in each role. Van Patten’s appeal is not obvious nor in-your-face, but a deeper, quieter one that draws the audience in to observe her more carefully. She embodies her roles fully, to make you believe that she is Odette, or that she is a mannequin in Morris’ A Garden. Her gentle musicality and clear expressive eyes speak volumes. Her Swan Lake will be the one to see this year, as the SF Chronicle called her “by far the most scintillating Odette/Odile”. She is also, rightly, nominated for an Isadora Duncan Dance award for Outstanding Achievement in Performance for her entire season last year.
  • Martha Argerich performing the sparkling Ravel piano concerto with the San Francisco Symphony. There is nothing like watching a piano legend as she tossed off phrases with ease, and breathlessly held the audience’s attention at her finger tips in the second movement. I was also caught by surprise when I found myself bewitched by Ligeti’s Requiem, featuring the San Francisco Symphony Chorus.
  • Pascal Molat in Robbins’ A Concert. Hilarious.
  • Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Romeo Et Juliette by Jean-Christophe Maillot. An amazingly dramatic and suspense-filled production, presenting a classic in a new light thrilling to modern audiences. Carla Korbes was a particular standout as a smart and spunky Juliet. The balcony scene is a touching and funny standout, with a first love dance that embodies young love – the thrill and the awkwardness of it all.
  • My friend Nicole’s wedding, where the bride danced a moving solo Polynesian dance for her new husband that brought tears to everyone’s eyes, set in the gorgeous natural backdrop of the island of Hawaii. This is what dance is – embodying emotion when words aren’t enough. Her movements were warm and inviting, and even though I didn’t know the meaning behind her arms’ gestures, it made you want to believe every word she was saying.

Things to look forward to next year:

  • Yo Yo Ma as the artist-in-residence with the San Francisco Symphony. I believe all the concerts are sold out.
  • John Neumeier’s A Little Mermaid with the San Francisco Ballet, as well as a smattering of world premieres for their 2010 season.
  • Jiri Kylian’s Petite Mort with the Smuin Ballet
  • In the Heights national tour

Anything you’re looking forward to seeing this year?

Best of 2008

And… I’m back! Apologies for the long absence, but I hope everyone had a great holiday like I did. I did a bit of shuttling back and forth from home (HOME home) and work, but it was all worth it and I managed to keep things up at work at the same time. Can everyone believe it’s already 2009?? It’s hard not to look ahead to the next year without being optimistic. But last year was a good one. On a personal and professional (i.e. non-blogging) level, 2008 was filled with a lot of frustration and struggle, but I ended up a much happier and stronger person. Last year was truly a year I can say that I really grew. That much strife is never fun, but if this year brings the same, I hope I’m ready for it! And what a great year this was for theater! Below are things that impressed me deeply. Let’s get on with it.

Biggest event of the year: San Francisco Ballet’s New Works Festival. Hands down, this event was probably the most widely written about event of the year. I attended opening night which was a blast being surrounded by critics I’ve read so much about. As advertised, it was an over-the-top, stupendous event that sent reverberations throughout the dance world, all of the world, with its 10 world premieres in three days by the greatest choreographers alive today. In another sense however, it was difficult to ignore a disappointment that no matter what, this festival could not live up to its hype. Crammed into three days, the pieces looked much more alive and urgently present when I saw the company later in the year, on tour. Despite the harriedness and the hype, the festival was simply awesome.

Best performance of the year: Yuan Yuan Tan and Tiit Helimet’s Giselle, especially the second act. Heartbreaking, heavenly, transporting, it was a performance that transcended this world. Tan and Helimets seemed to melt into each other, and it’s a performance I’ll never forget.

Yuan Yuan Tan and Tiit Helimets in Tomasson’s Giselle. © Erik Tomasson

Honorable mentions:

Breakout stars of the year: two performers that unexpectedly floored me this year (which, as I see more and more great performers, is getting harder to do but these performers are phenomenal) – a tie between pianist Orion Weiss‘ vibrant rendition of Beethoven’s Fourth Concerto with the Marin Symphony, and Isaac Hernandez‘s explosive yet brief solo as the Russian in San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker who will be one to watch for the upcoming year.

Orion Weiss

Isaac Hernandez

A common theme for this year: the merging of science and art. From opera (John Adams’ Dr. Atomic), to ballet (Wayne McGregor’s Eden/Eden about cloning), and classical music (Turnage’s Three Asteroids) and even a choreographed piece of my own. None of these pieces were even created this year, but I’m slowly starting to see science’s influence emerge repeatedly in the arts.

Best non-ballet, non-classical musical event: Berkeley Rep’s Figaro. Yes, I realize my biases and preferences for ballet and classical music are clear, but there were other events that I thoroughly enjoyed as well, such as the genre-defying play at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, a company that continues to take risks and always presents something surprising, innovative, and relevant.

A special shoutout to: A great year for TV, especially PBS’ Great Performances. From the startingly poignant performance of Raul Esparza in the revival of Sondheim’s Company, to the magical broadcast of SF Ballet’s Nutcracker, to SF Symphony’s opening performance of Carnegie Hall’s season, I’m duly impressed with the arts that are made accessible to audiences all over the US.

Most popular blog entry: Sascha Radetsky’s Last Performance with ABT by FAR - either he’s the most googled ballet dancer or he’s googling himself a million times, with my review of San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker the next popular blog entry with so many people googling it during Nutcracker season that it broke the record on my blog for the most number of hits in one day.

Most anticipated events for 2009:

  • Martha Argerich performs Ravel’s piano concerto with MTT and the San Francisco Symphony
  • the entire 2009 season for San Francisco Ballet which is, believe it or not, better than last year’s (especially the full length Balanchine’s Jewels, Swan Lake, and an evening of Mark Morris) and let’s not forget to savor the final year for Tina LeBlanc with the SF Ballet
  • Julia Adam’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Diablo Ballet.

Martha Argerich

My advice for 2009:

  • Support theater!! Buy tickets, drag friends with you, comment and discuss what you see either on this blog or other blogs, and don’t forget about smaller, local companies that are struggling in this dismal, arts-unfriendly economy
  • Do not buy pre-sale tickets for Wicked but wait it out until the hype dies down (and it will!).

What were your favorite performances for 2008? Anyone think I left something out?

Here’s to a year of innovative theater, unspeakly beautiful dance, and soul-touching music!

Jolene’s Best of 2007 list


Best performance of the year: Two shows come to mind -

I spent as much space in a scary moment in Joshua Bell’s show than the more positive aspects of the show, but thinking back in 2007, Bell’s fresh and innovative take on a beautiful yet overfamiliar piece really brought it to life, and it shines in my memory as one of the best performances of the year. Two runner ups, in two pieces that really stand out just because they were so fun: Miami City Ballet’s “In the Upper Room” and SF Ballet’s Nutcracker.

Best male performer of the year: Raul Esparza in Company, Herman Cornejo spicing up a random collection of pieces at ABT’s first program at Cal Performances in the Le Corsaire pas de deux.

Best female performer of the year: Felicia Fields in the Color Purple, Lea Salonga as Fantine in Les Mis.

Best new discovery of the year: Miami City Ballet

Best regional production of the year: My discovery of the Berkeley Repertory Theatre was a great one, in which I still feel the effects of the quietly moving ripple that was after the quake. Another fun one was Expedition 6, at a much smaller local theater. Just wondering how many more local gems remain to be discovered?

Best performance event in a non-traditional theater venue: Project Bandaloop at Orange County’s Fall for Dance on the outdoor walls of the OCPAC.

Favorite televised theater event: Mark Morris’ Mozart Dances on PBS

Biggest theater obsession: Jersey Boys

Most anticipated performance for 2008: Company on PBS, watching Alvin Ailey for the first time, SF Ballet’s 75th anniversary season, esp the New Works Festival and Giselle!

Theater Favorites 2007

Best performance of the year (ex. best ballet performance, best play, best musical, best classical music concert, best opera, any/all of the above)

Mark Morris, Mozart Dances at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

Best male performer of the year

Raul Esparza, Company. Honorable mention: John Gallagher in Spring Awakening.

Best female performer of the year

Alessandra Ferri, Manon

Best new discovery of the year

Journey’s End

Best performance event in a non-traditional theater venue (ex. performance in the street, art gallery, library, trash dump)

Stars in the Alley

Favorite televised theater event

Mark Morris’ Mozart Dances (see a theme?), Wynton Marsalis Red Hot Holiday Stomp, Met’s I Puritani

Most likely to be the next big thing (ex. performer, choreographer, playwright, etc. based on something you saw this year)

Lin Manuel Miranda, writer, creator and performer in “In the Heights”, Jamie Garcia Castilla from SF Ballet

Most anticipated performance for 2008

PBS broadcast of Company, Alvin Ailey at Cal Performances, Nina Anashiavelli’s Giselle, “In the Heights” performance on the Tony broadcast!

Best of 2007, alphabetically

Inspired by mmonk’s yearly tradition, I am presenting the theatrical memories version for this year:

Avenue Q cast party

Blythe, Gil


Des Grieux (Bolle & Corella)

Ehle naked

F*cked, Totally


Hell No

Idiot Tony voters

JLY & John Gallagher


Lovely ladies (esp. Lea)

Mozart Dances

Neuenmeier at BAM

Othello twice

Private Mason

Quoted in the NYTimes

Rush opera tix (totally worth it)

Stars in the Alley



Valentine’s Day with Mark Morris

Wynton Marsalis’ Red Hot Holiday Stomp

Xanthe’s breathtaking performance

Young soldiers topless

Zany Nut

Best of 2007


I hope everyone is having a great time preparing for the holidays! I can’t believe how close Christmas is – I was in the plane mulling over the holiday season and preparing myself for the New Year. I also did a lot of reminiscing about the past year, and how amazing it’s really been.

With this, an idea hit me. It’s admittedly taking a cue from a lot of the makeup/beauty blogs that I peruse from time to time, but it’s about taking a moment to look back and to pick our theater favorites for 2007. Let’s see how many theater blogs we can get to participate! I’ll do the following as well. You can choose to answer any/all of the questions below, and even to make up a few if you like. You can answer the following for one class of theater (such as ballet) or answer the best performance of the year for ballet, dance, classical music, and/or musicals. I realize each blog and blogger is different with a specific set of interests, so tailor it as you will.

  • Best performance of the year (ex. best ballet performance, best play, best musical, best classical music concert, best opera, any/all of the above)
  • Best male performer of the year
  • Best female performer of the year
  • Best new discovery of the year
  • Best regional/local performance of the year
  • Best performance event in a non-traditional theater venue (ex. performance in the street, art gallery, library, trash dump)
  • Favorite televised theater event
  • Biggest theater obsession
  • Most likely to be the next big thing (ex. performer, choreographer, playwright, etc. based on something you saw this year)
  • Most anticipated performance for 2008

Maybe everyone can write down their answer, and a brief explanation with relevant links to each entry. And if you can’t narrow it down to one, list your top few. There are no specific rules with this, just for fun and to promote discussion on the stuff we saw this year. Attach the image at the top of this entry, by adding to your entry the following html:

<a href=””>

<img src=”>


Email me if you would like to participate at , and I’ll get a master list going.

Just to get things rolling, I’m going to tag the following people:

Have fun. I’m looking forward to reading everyone’s answers. I’ll have my list up soon.

Edited to add:

The lists are starting to come out! I’ll update as soon as they’re published.