Dance Forum Newsletter, Vol. 1, Issue 4

This piece was originally published and distributed to the Dance Forum, a special interest group consisting of Cal Performances constituents with a penchant for dance. 

Over the next three months, Cal Performances presents three widely differing dance companies, each phenomenal in their own right. On Friday, March 15, Trisha Brown Dance Company returns to the Zellerbach stage as part of Brown’s three-year farewell tour. One month later, from April 23 through April 28, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, a mainstay of Cal Performances’ dance programming, gives seven performances. Their four programs range from two Bay Area premieres to a mix of classic Alvin Ailey originals. As the 2012-2013 season comes to a close, join us for the Bay Area premiere of Eifman Ballet’s Rodin, a full-length ballet based on the life of French sculptor Auguste Rodin and his tumultuous relationship with Camille Claudel (May 10—May 12).

Trisha Brown Dance Company’s one-night-only program brings a mix of old and new, opening with her 1987 Newark (Niweweorce). After its US premiere at New York City Center, The New York Times called it “Miss Brown’s most successful integration of music, decor and dancing.” Based on a sound concept by painter Donald Judd that was subsequently realized by art-rock composer Peter Zummo, Newark presents Brown’s dancers at the height of their athletic ability. The second piece on the program, Le Yeux et l’âme, began as Brown’s re-staging of the classic Rameau one-act opera Pigmalion (spelled “Pygmalion” in English), which is based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses. After the success of Brown’s Pygmalion, the dance sections were developed into a full-length dance suite. The French title translates as “The Eyes and the Soul.” The program closes with I’m going to toss my arms—if you catch them, they’re yours (pictured above and below). Set to Alvin Curran’s “Toss and Find,” a piece for piano and tape composed specifically for Brown, the work premiered in 2011 at co-commissioner Théâtre National de Chaillot in Paris.

Born in 1936, Trisha Brown began her dance career after receiving a B.A. in dance from Mills College in Oakland, studying with Anna Halprin, and teaching at Reed College. Upon leaving academia, she arrived in New York in 1961 and joined what was to become Judson Dance Theater. As a member of this company, she began experimenting with movement, pushing the limits of dance and performance. In 1970, she formed her own company, creating groundbreaking new works and collaborating with postmodern composers and visual artists. In the late 90s, she began working in opera, where she could control music, movement, and visuals. Her first production, L’Orfeo, was hailed by The Daily Telegraph as being “as close to the perfect dance opera as I have ever seen.” She then went on to produce four more operas, the most recent being the aforementioned Pygmalion in 2010. Due to a series of minor strokes, Brown announced that she will take the title Founding Artistic Director and Choreographer, passing directorial duties to Associate Artistic Directors Diane Madden and Carolyn Lucas. Over the course of the three-year tour, entitled Proscenium Works, 1979-2011, Madden and Lucas shift the objective of the company from creation to documentation, thus preserving Brown’s legacy as a postmodern innovator. For more, read Allan Ulrich’s cover story for this week’s 96 Hours.

The following month, a Cal Performances favorite returns to the Zellerbach: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Known for its daring athleticism, the company has performed in Berkeley countless times. This year, the company gives seven performances, bringing four programs of both recent and classic material. In Program A, the company brings two Bay Area premieres—Kyle Abraham’s Another Night (pictured below), inspired by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers’ landmark recording of “A Night in Tunisia,” and director Robert Battle’s Strange Humors (pictured above), set to an energetic score by British composer John Mackey. Program B consists of Grace and Minus 16, two very popular repertory works from 1999. In the third program, audience members will get a chance to see Garth Fagan’s newly restaged From Before, first choreographed by Fagan in 1978. The program also contains Rennie Harris’ Home, which premiered in the Bay Area last year. Lastly, the company brings a program of Ailey classics, a series of excerpts from eight pieces choreographed by Ailey himself, spanning nearly 20 years of the company’s history. As always, each performances concludes with the unforgettable Revelations.

In addition to its annual dance engagements, Alvin Ailey shares a special relationship with Cal Performances due to our hosting of AileyCamp, a six-week tuition-free dance camp for at-risk youth. As the only AileyCamp location on the West Coast, Cal Performances has produced produced the day camp in association with Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation for 11 years and counting. David McCauley, Director of AileyCamp Berkeley, said of the 2012 session’s concluding performance, “When [the campers] talked about the show, tears would start to well up in their eyes. And that’s how you know there was a real exchange of energy.” This year’s AileyCamp final performance will take place on August 1 at 7:00 p.m. Watch for more details on location.

As part of their world tour, Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg brings Rodin, a new full-length ballet that explores the relationship between French sculptor Auguste Rodin and his muse, Camille Claudel. Boris Eifman, director and choreographer, says, “The main idea of the new production is the price that great artists have to pay for their masterpieces, which is deep drama and intolerable severity of their earthly life.” The work is described as a “modern psychological ballet,” in the vein of Eifman’s previous productions—Onegin, Anna Karenina, and others. Formed by Boris Eifman as the Leningrad New Ballet in 1977, Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg is a modern ballet company that treats the stage as a laboratory. Known throughout Russia as a “choreographer-philosopher,” Eifman eschews contemporary notions of what ballet should be, and is more interested in exploring the ways dance can delve into the human mind and spirit.

Copyright Cal Performances, U.C. Regents, 2013