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.

Pepcom MobileFocus

Pepcom MobileFocus came to SanFrancisco May 13th with an exuberant Mexican theme. Known for their clever themes, bountiful food and drinks and an interesting collection of booths presenting not only classic standbys like Logitech but some unusual off the grid offerings. Some that caught my eye:

Home Advisor:

Once you have passed the Rite of Passage from renter to homeowner – you are now the landlord – responsible for maintenance and upkeep. This is not something that most of us were born to do – and there seems to be an infinite number and an unbelievable variety of jobs needing to be done. For this kind of information I go to my neighborhood list serve for recommendations – it only works sporadically.

Into the breach comes Home Advisor – a middleman that will put you in touch with these services – plumbers, contractors, electricians – when you need them – could be almost immediately – get three estimates and provide you with a price range for your neighborhood. The careful vetting of the service people seems to be a very important acomponent.

Thinking about it – I probably spend more on my house than I do on cars. This has beginning to catch the attention of clever entrepreneurs and Internet giants such as Google and Amazon. The market for online home services, as reported by the NYTimes, is to be in the range of 400-800 billion dollars.

Home Advisor sounds almost too good to be true – but I’m willing to try it out on a small job and will report back.


As the name sort of implies, it is an ecological ATM. It looks like a cross between a very happy and clean Waste-Management bin and an ATM. It accepts your phones, tablets and MP3 players and gives back cash. Cameras and live operators monitor and verify the customer’s identity and evaluate the value of the item. Here in Oakland, there are concerns about the safety of patrons using the ATM. ecoATM says that the kiosks are installed in malls, and with lighting and the cameras there is security. It may help you to clean out your desk drawer of miscellaneous small electronic devices and buy you a fancy dinner for two.

Perfect 365 by arcsoft:

A digital makeover uses Face Detection technology to capture your face and apply digital makeup and arcsoft is offering it for free. This is fun thing to do with some friends. The technique has been used in computer make-up games and by some salons. I know of an instance where a pet dog was digitized and then made up for a Christmas card. I suggest you stick with your face. Contact Don’t mention the dog.


New Work by the In Step Dance Theatre

The In Step Dance Theatre had a performance of their latest work on May 3, 2015.

Joy Newhart, the artistic director with a MFA from Mills has choreographed a piece on two dancers – Laura Alvarellos, trained in Spain and Sierra Kellog, schooled in California.

When asked to describe how they felt about the dance and what it meant to them, they came up with “Run, Search, Try, Live, Balance, Shift.” – it pretty much tells it all.

Their dance-running, so different from racing, generated internal energy that exploded out of their bodies lifting them skyward or crumpling them onto the floor. Feet stamp – claiming location, hands reach out – searching. When the bodies connect – the movement is tender and sensuous, both bodies – one blond, one raven haired become like two sides of a coin. Music selections were from Yann Tiersen.

It is a privilege to be at a performance where the collaboration between choreographer and the dancers is so fresh and immediate.

ISD is founded as a collaborative of performing and visual artists exploring ways to integrate various artistic disciplines to create unique forms of performance. This is just the latest one. For more information, check out In Step Dance Theatre.