Sean Dorsey Dance “Boys in Trouble”

“Boys in Trouble”
Sean Dorsey Dance
April 19-23, 2018
Z Space, SF

Talk about Us: Then Dance

Sean Dorsey has a lot to say. As a trans-gender, queer choreographer he has created wonderful events for himself and his dancers (Brian Fisher, Arvéjon Jones, Nol Simonse, Will Willard), which he will now take on a 2 year, 20 city tour, including a stop at the Joyce Theater (NYC). Dorsey is the founder and artistic director of Fresh Meat Productions.

When he and the company are not telling their stories, illustrating personal incidents and lecturing on beliefs, they dance marvelously. But dance becomes talk and talk dissolves into dance episodes. The Izzy awarded duet with Arvéjon Jones and Will Willard grabs attention and admiration since they just dance. The dance speaks of their affection and skill. Also, Nol Simonse’s foray into toe shoes, wearing a purple dress in “The Story of My Body” also says it beautifully. The issues masculinity, femininity, whiteness, blackness, and personal pride are all explored: the dances illustrate and express the complexity of the issues.

Dorsey is able to go from talk to dance. When the dance sections are achieved, the lighting (often a long upstage-downstage diagonal) the strength, lyrical skill, body shapes and stage spaces illustrate the group’s wonderful ability. Music by Dr. Alex Kelly, Jesse Olsen Bay, Ben Kessler, Grey Reverend and Anomie Belle underscore and support all the performances.There is humor, satire, sadness and messages delivered, but best of all, Sean Dorsey and the “Boys in Trouble” deliver beautiful dance.

Joanna G. Harris

Sean Dorsey “Boys in Trouble”

Mark Foehringer’s ‘Alice’

Mark Foehringer’s Alice in Wonderland, inspired by Lewis Carroll’s timeless story, Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland.
The new production premiered at the Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center, April 7, 2018.

The production featured collaborations with puppeteer Simon Trumble (The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Bay Area Children’s Theatre, Berkeley), musical director Michael Morgan (Oakland Symphony), costume designer Stephanie Verriere (Verrieres & Sako), scenic designer Peter Crompton (award recipient of Bay Area Critic’s Choice, Shellies and many Goodman Choice awards), Projection Designer Frederic O. Boulay, and lighting designer Matthew Antaky (Opera Parallele, Cabrillo Music Festival).

To follow the events on stage it helped to be well acquainted with Alice and her adventures. The opening tea party was not that in Wonderland, but apparently on the lawn in Oxford, England where Lewis Carroll taught and met the real Alice. One had to look carefully for the Mad Hatter in the Wonderland tea party to know that was there. Events move very quickly. All could be clearer had we met the characters one at a time in an opening parade.

Rafael Boumaila portrayed the White Rabbit, a kind of ‘master of ceremonies’ who keeps Alice moving. Moses Kaplan was the Mad Hatter (and the Mushroom) and was delightful in that most artful of characters. Jetta Martens (Queen of Hearts) and Carlos Ventura (King of Hearts) kept the mischief of ‘stealing tarts’ cleverly feverish so the rescue operation succeeded. Other characters included LizAnne Roman Roberts (Cheshire Cat) and Emily Hansel (March Hare). Coral Martin and Jessica Egbert served as Puppeteers. Sonja Dale as Alice mimed, acted and danced her way with and beyond all the characters. She was always the center of attraction.

Foehringer was able to give this 50 minute production as whirlwind glimpse of the story. As an adult, I felt very advantaged; I knew the intricacies of each event from many years of reading. A child might feel more comfortable with fewer events, fewer characters and one simply through-line.

The design, especially Boulay’s projections and Antaky’s lighting deserves special awards. The live music, the musicians added unique delight to this production.

Joanna G. Harris

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Dimensions Dance Theater

Dimensions Dance Theater
April 13,14, 2018
Malonga Casquelourd Center, Oakland

45 Years of Excellence!

Latanya d. Tigner and her group, Dimensions Dance Theater, presented a moving program of works on Friday, April 13. The evening was a celebration of the 45 years of “producing, creating, performing and teaching dance that reflects the historical experiences, struggles and contemporary lives of African-Americans.” Alongside of Ms. Tigner, Deborah Vaughan, co-founder, provides continued artistic leadership.

Three works on the program offered a range of treatments of current social concerns. The first, “You Never Know,” choreographed by Ms. Tigner, was a series of episodes concerning homelessness. Apparently the dancers contributed to the stories, which were poignantly illustrated in movement and mime by dancers Macaiah Bell, Denice Simpson Braga, Laura Elaine Ellis, Marianna Hester, Bridgette Lott, Dorcas Mba and Valerie Sanders. This work and the one that followed, “Ain’t No Turning Back, “ a tribute to Harriet Tubman, 19th century abolitionist, are truly dance-dramas. Both works were beautifully and expressively produced.

A short film, produced by Oakland Cultural Arts, was shown before the finale. It was a splendid example of dance around various Oakland neighborhood sites.

The finale, “Dundundba” was joyous jazz/hip-hop event choreographed by Alseny Soumah. Live music accompanied the lively activity as flags waved and feet flew.

The audience stood and cheered. It was a terrific ending to an evening of celebration.

Joanna G. Harris

A complaint about the Natnl. Ballet of Canada’s “Nijinsky”

We saw this performed at the SF Opera House on Friday April 6th. The performance has been reviewed elsewhere, but as a mere member of the audience, I found that there was something very annoying about the evening. The ballet presents some parts of Nijinsky’s life and his fantasy rememberences of his performances. I just couldn’t tell what was going on! There were dancers representing his wife, sister, mother, father. Nowhere in the notes could they be bothered to indicate something like, “his sister, in a red dress” (or was that his wife in the red dress?). How am I to know. Giving me the name of the ballerina doesn’t help – I do not know the Canadian company, and even if it were the SF company, from where I sat I could hardly identify the person well enough to be sure who it was, to correlate with the program. Come on, is it ‘cheating’ to really tell us who is who?

A note on the ballet itself – it seemed strange that when various roles were being depicted, the music relentlessly stayed in Scheherzade. Didn’t quite go with the faune nor with “Le Spectre de la Rose”


Timon of Athens: Cutting Ball Theater

Cutting Ball Theater, San Francisco
Timon of Athens” by William Shakespeare
Directed by Rob Melrose
April 6-29,2018

Morality for our time

Melrose suggests in his program note, that with Timon, “we expire the collision of the wealth of the tech world and the poverty we see on the streets every day in the Tenderloin.” Shakespeare critics throughout the ages have found the play, though lacking in cohesion, still, of continuing interest. It is a work rarely performed, though.

I recommend a youtube visit to National Theatre Live, Simon Russel Beale, actor, visit to the British Museum and the trailer. That production, also set in contemporary times, has the great advantage of the National Theatre’s resources, but most important, the profound training that English Shakespearean actors have in the delivery of their lines.

The actors of Cutting Ball’s production do very well, but there are many, many lines. Even in the small theater’s space, some lines do not carry, nor do the clarity of words and their necessary enunciation. These skills take time. There is also, for this reviewer, a background sound score which does not add, but detracts from the general coherence. Nevertheless, Brennen Pickman-Thoon, as Timon, Courtney Walsh, as his servant Flavius, David Sinaiko as Apemantus and others, and Ed Berkeley, Alcibiades as others, bring to the play its great dramatic impact.

English historical drama boasts a period in the fifteenth and sixteenths century when “morality” plays were produced, “ plays about the human predicament,” “what it means to be human,” often represented on stage by a single dramatic figure. Such is the essence of Timon. As the historical critic states, “Man exists, therefore he falls, nevertheless he is saved.” Shakespeare, the ultimate poet/playwright, works this material to portray an overgenerous, proud man, betrayed and humiliated, who subsequently rejects the world. How and if he is saved will depend on your judgement. Ultimately he is true to himself, rejecting others.

The Cutting Ball production is set on three sides of an ingenious set by Michael Locher which serves as meeting place, banquet hall and Timon’s ultimate solitary retreat. This, and the free use of other house spaces makes for a lively ‘theater in the round.” There are both men and women actors, so except for Timon and Flavius, one must keep track of all the ‘others’ who fill parts as senators, guests, servants and dancing girls.

The production lasts over two hours, with one intermission, but the generous courtesy of the lobby hostesses will help you with refreshments in the break. Read it! Listen carefully. Think how it applies to our times and Enjoy!

Timon (Brennan Pickman-Thoon, center) laments the power of gold to corrupt all things while Phynia (Radhika Rao, left) and Timandra (María Ascensión Leigh) look on. Photo by Rob Melrose















Timon (Brennan Pickman-Thoon) gives a toast at one of his wild parties. Photo by Liz Olson















Joanna G. Harris

SF Ballet: Natl. Ballet of Canada – “Nijinsky”

San Francisco Ballet presents
The National Ballet of Canada
Nijinsky” A ballet by John Neumeier
April 3-8, 2018
San Francisco Opera House


Before you go to see the amazing production of “Nijinsky” at the SF Opera House, open your copy of Nijinsky’s biography, find your dance history book and look for Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe. Then the kaleidoscope of Nijinsky’s roles and the characters that appear in Part One, a retrospect of the dancer, and ‘’Les Ballet Russe” will become clear. If not available, take time to read your souvenir program.

As a dancer Nijinsky appeared in Fokine’s ballets, “Petrushka”, “Le Spectre de la Rose,” and “Scheherzade.” Then, under Diaghilev, who, as the program notes, regarded Nijinsky as his “love-protege,” the dancer became a choreographer. He choreographed “L’Apre midi d’un faune,” “Jeux,” and then the shocking “Le Sacre du printemps,“ to Stravinsky’s “controversial score.” All this, Neumeier notes, implies that Nijinsky “broke new and original paths toward modern choreography.” But, as can be seen in the well dramatized opening sections of this production, the audiences were not pleased.

Neumeier sets the ballet in Nijinsky’s mind, has him imagining his various roles as well as the intrusion and humiliation the dancer suffered with Diaghilev’s love and estrangement. All this passes before the audience in a setting imagined at the Suvrette-House performance. We witness Nijinsky’s wife, his sister (the famous choreographer Bronislava), his brother, his mother and father, the ballerina Tamara Karsavina and the “new” dancer, Leonid Massine, who succeeded Nijinsky as Diaghlev’s lover and next choreographer for the Ballet Russe. Do your homework!

Nijinsky, as dancer is performed primarily by Guilliaume Coté, a brilliant dancer who is particularly moving in the second half of the program which is located in the mad house of his mind. All the events of his life, including World War !, death and infidelity haunt him. Coté is able to master a variety of gestures and acrobatic skills to portray madness. The company around him, taking many roles, provide a set of gorgeous montage chorus stagings. All soloists deliver great performances: Romala, Heather Ogden; Bronislava, Jenna Savella; Nijinsky’s brother, Dylan Tedaldi; Diaghilev, Evan McKie; Tmara Karsavina, Sonia Rodriguez; Massine, Skyler Campbell. Naomi Ebe takes various roles as alternative Nijinskys. He is outstanding as the Harlequin in “Carnaval.”

The company, soloists and corps, deserve great appreciation and applause for this amazing production. Neumeier’s vision and choreographic design for the piece is ingenious. The SF Ballet Orchestra, under conductor David Briskin handled the variety of musical selections with great skill. Do your homework and Go!

Guillaume Côté in “Nijinsky” National Ballet of Canada© Aleksandar Antonijevic