Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan

Cal Performances. UC Berkeley
Friday, January 22: Saturday, January 23, 2016

Dance, Nature, and Western Influence


Cloud Gate Theatre of Taiwan’s HUANG Pei-hua, TSAI Ming-yuan perform Rice

Cloud Gate Dance brought its gorgeous dance “Rice” to Zellerbach Auditorium this past weekend. All ecological fans and all lovers of the exotic must be pleased with the performance. The sections of the piece consist of episodes entitled “Soil”, “Wind”, “Pollen (1 & 2)”, “Sunlight”, “Grain”, Fire”, and “Water”. These dances were backed by brilliant video, illustrating and amplifying the work, filmed on location over a cycle of rice cultivation in Chihshang in southeastern Taiwan. It sometimes drew more attention than the dance.

The influence of the Martha Graham School, where director Lin Hwai-min studied, is visible throughout. Hwai-min states that Cloud Gate’s hybrid aesthetic “combines Western classical dance techniques with Easter “rounded” movements that draw on martial arts and tai chi.” “Classical” usually refers to ballet; none that was present, but the intense use of the upper body, the central pelvis and the flexed foot and hand, so characteristic of Graham, was the standard expressive movement of the women’s chorus. The men’s work, however, was characterized by the use of long bamboo poles and its use in martial arts.

The contrast was particularly evident in a section entitled “Grain” in which a woman in a red dress does a long lament surrounded by the women’s chorus. Her solo work seemed a derivative from Graham’s “Lament”. Also notable was the duet “Pollen II” a duet on the ground, barely visible in the green lighting, but clearly a fertility ritual. The chorus work was beautiful and moving throughout, creating long passages of slow movement interspersed with intense sections of reaching, falling and lifting.

Lin Lee-Chen is to be congratulated on bringing such an unusual dance experience to Berkeley and the United States. It is important for audiences to see how new dance has been inspired by such cross-cultural traditions.

(Picture credit: LIU Chen-hsiang)

Unanticipated Consequences of Gun Ordinances – Oakland 2016

Last night, the Oakland City Council passed three ordinances relating to firearms, two on safety and one on large capacity magazines.

One of the speakers raised two valid questions, which were not answered or even discussed:

1. It is now a misdemeanor to not properly secure a firearm in an unattended vehicle or in a home. The question put forth is how would this effect reporting a stolen weapon? If the theft was of an unsecured weapon, reporting the theft would subject the owner to prosecution, so the theft would probaly go unreported.

This would make a difference if, in the absence of the ordinance the theft would have been reported. I have no information on the percentage of weapon thefts which are reported. I think that matters.

2. Residents of Piedmont have a peculiar situation – Piedmont is entirely surrounded by Oakland (just as Brookline is completely surrounded by Boston). A Piedmont resident who is in legal posession of a large capacity magazine cannot legally leave Piedmont with it, because the new ordinance prohibits the posession of such a magazine in Oakland, but there is no way to leave Piedmont without traversing Oakland.

Unless the State of California or the County of Alameda ban these magazines, thus making possession in Piedmont subject to legal restriction, it would seem that Piedmont residents are trapped by this ordinance.

I hope that some thought is given to these (unanticipated) consequences and that the situation is resolved without the considerable expense of litigation.


It was pointed out to me by a friend that 18 U.S. Code § 926A – Interstate transportation of firearms takes care of the weapon transportation problem:

“Notwithstanding any other provision of any law or any rule or regulation of a State or any political subdivision thereof, any person who is not otherwise prohibited by this chapter from transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm shall be entitled to transport a firearm for any lawful purpose from any place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm to any other place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm if, during such transportation the firearm is unloaded, and neither the firearm nor any ammunition being transported is readily accessible or is directly accessible from the passenger compartment of such transporting vehicle:

 Provided, That in the case of a vehicle without a compartment separate from the driver’s compartment the firearm or ammunition shall be contained
 in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console.”
Perhaps someone can see if this also covers magazines too.


Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host.

Cal Performance
December 12,13, 2015

Listening and Watching

Ira Glass seems to be known by everyone who listens to his KALW program, “This American Life.” His fan club in California is enormous and many of them seemed to be in Zellerbach Auditorium on the UC Berkeley campus on December 12. They love his talk, his asides quips and the range of his storytelling, about life, death, including jokes and commentary.

The problem presented is, how to combine this with the work of two dancers, Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass? Well, of course dance has been working with words for centuries (does Glass know this?) and for these three, the problem was how to balance three acts and dance in appropriate intervals between chats. For the most part, they all succeeded, though Glass can and does go on and on. But then, he joins the dance.

Act I consisted of Glass’ considerations on the hard, short life of the dancer. To illustrate this Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass repeated a short dance phrase traveling back and forth and back and forth across the stage, adding appropriate arm gestures and arabesques to illustrate. The two are about the same size and, dressed alike, the moved alike. Yes dance (as all other art forms) takes repetition, but is enlivened by some variation.

The most charming event of the evening was enacted by the performers to recall the days of junior high school dances. They decked the stage with balloons and lights, enlisting six audience members to be crowned as school royalty. Lots of stage effects, lots of poignant talk, too much like a kids’ show.

For this reviewer, the best piece of dance was a slow solo (not clear which dancer) concerning the loss of a friend. Glass’ narration was lost to me, but the dancer’s effective simple action, opening up and letting go, was dramatic and convincing.

Glass offered a long poetic spiel on the death of friends who were both poets. A dance depicted that also, but it was long into the program and didn’t ‘take,’ and wasn’t appropriate for this event.

But at the end, Glass donned a clownish costume and, with great bravura, joined the two as a central figure. That was the best illustration of getting into the act that these three brought to the stage.

Twyla Tharp: 50th Anniversary Tour

Zellerbach Auditorium, UC Berkeley, CA
Fri-Sat. Oct 16-17 8 PM Sun Oct 18, 3 pm

Toujours Tharp

The program opens with a Fanfare by composer John Zorn, followed by Preludes and Fugues and a new work set to J. S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier. The second premier e “Yowzie”, celebrates vaudevillian humor set to the jazz of Henry Butler, Jelly Roll Morten, “Fats” Waller and Wesley Wilson.

Tharp’s dancers are extraordinary, (except one the tall girl who had little oomph and no theatrical projection), but Tharp throws so much stuff at you (the audience ) that I (an overexposed dance watcher), was exhausted watching and really seeing the form and structure. The Well-Tempered Clavier deserves clarity and even a semb lance of music visualization. Given all of her classic training, the Bach seemed hectic each section ‘topping’ the next with design and groupings. Trios were succeeded by duets. One by Savannah Lowery and John Selya was particularly charming. There were a few solo moments. The men danced with great skill: the girls seem to disappear, their roles less featured unless as partners they were swung and lifted. For the prelude at the end, the dancers form a circle, then twist and turn ala Balanchine. It was, at last, a satisfying formation that completed the work.

“Yowzie” apparently gleans reference from characters and incidents in silent films and 1930s dance halls. There is a sloppy lady soloist who droops throughout the riotous mime and wiggly bits by the ladies in red, the lively little girls, the men outfitted, seemingly as pirates and city-slickers, Santo Loquasto dresses them all in multi-colored, fragmented outfits. There so much going on that sometimes the humor is lost. One very clear section is a ‘come on’ from a gay guy that almost succeeds.

Loud applause and great kudos to the company: John Selya, Rika Okamoto, Matthew Dibble, Ron Todorowski, Daniel Baker, Amy Ruggiero, Ramona Kelley, (a Berkeley girl) , Nicholas Coppula, Eva Trapp, Savannah Lowery, Reed Tankersley and Kaitlyn Gillialand. How they survive the high energy, complex patterns, multiple changes of pace and direction that is characteristic of Tharp’s work is almost beyond belief. As my friend said, “And they have to do this tomorrow night… and again the next day?!”

The music selections of American jazz, for me, are the real hits of this number. The program reaches out to today’s younger audience, all very lively, offering too much, and as usual, too many turns and lifts, but it’s lively fun. All the music was recorded, alas. Bach could sound better. The costumes as noted were by Santo Loquasto; the lighting by James Ingalls.

Casual Connect SF 2015

Casual Connect is in town – SF that is – at the Hilton Union Square for three days, August 11-13. If you are not playing a console or PC game you are very likely playing a game that has been made, marketed or monetized by someone at this convention. Casual games is the category for the games we play on our phones, tablets, pads and watches. The industry is immense, encompassing indie games, kid and casino games, apps creation, monetization techniques, including big and small players. Michael Eisner, giving the keynote, will be only one of the over 300 speakers to the estimated 3000 attendees.

The convention provides lectures and an open floor format, so you can walk around and talk to people involved in the industry. Developers showcase their games, the interaction is open and easy – giving rise to their name, Casual Connect. Plenty of parties to connect in over food and drink, and the signature event is the party at City Hall celebrating the awards for the top indie games. If you want to do mobile games this is where you want to be; if you are already in the business you already know about Casual Connect.

Follow-up on Home Advisor

I was trying out Home Advisor on a staircase with a single step that needed the stringer repaired.
I got four names containing references and phone numbers to call plus estimates. The estimates ran from $225 – $650. I didn’t care for the references for one of the names and one said that the company no longer took on small jobs. I sent an email photo to the remaining two. One called back an gave me a price of $175. I did not hear from the other. When we finally connected and he saw that the repair would require replacing boards he upped the priced to $200 – fair. Work was done in about 3 hours, and was good. Would consider having him do the whole staircase.
The problem I see is that it is impossible to be given an estimate simply on the client’s verbal description, even photos are not enough. A real estimate requires a site visit and that is time consuming for the service person – less so if they are local. I don’t know how to get around that. Email addresses should be included with the phone numbers and perhaps a suggestion that the client send in a photo. Home Advisor, however,  is a good starting point
The follow-up by Home Advisor was intense, I got emails every other day. It took me about two weeks before I had made contact and had any idea how things were going. Everything went along well and so I didn’t need assistance. Will try them again. Getting a lead on a good and trustworthy service person is  great beginning.