Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Fun: Why there's nothing else like live theater

There's really nothing else like live theater, because every show is different, and you can never tell what's going to happen on stage.

Sometimes even things off-stage add to the drama, like this incident at a recent performance of San Francisco Ballet's Don Quixote:

To: Guy Who Screamed Obscenities at the Ballet the Other Night:

Another fantastic performance by the SF Ballet. I know you enjoyed it. Our whole section knows you enjoyed it. Every time a dancer would perform a particularly impressive jump, or a series of 3+ pirouettes, you would say, "Whoa!" or "Jaysus!"
Curtain comes up and the dancers begin to take their bows. You notice a few people standing up. Was it an ovation? NO! They were LEAVING! These people could not WAIT to get to their cars (they were obviously not MUNI riders, walkers or cab-hailers like most of us in the City)! They had no time for CLAPPING! They had to get out now!

It was then you yelled, in your beautiful gray-haired old crotchety man voice, "WILL YOU PEOPLE SIT DOWN AND LET THE *POLITE* PEOPLE SHOW THEIR APPRECIATION?!," slight pause, "YA A[bleep]S!"

more (warning: PG-13 language within)

While vocal fans like this man are very rare --- when was the last time you even heard a boo? --- we can promise you that the best live theater performances have an energy and excitement approaching that of a big football or basketball game. Audiences will clap, scream, and do whatever else they're moved to do. The energy between the audience and performers fills the hall, and you get to go along for a great ride.

Bet no one ever told you ballet could do that.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Dancer: Corina Gill

Corina Gill, a Southern California native, began training in San Diego in 1994, where she studied with Sylvia Palmer, and Ahita Ardalan. In 1999, she joined San Diego Ballet, dancing soloist and principal roles. Corina earned a BA in dance from the University of California, Irvine, where she performed leading roles in ballets such as David Allan's Cinderella. She was also chosen to travel to France to dance at the Conservatoire de Paris. She then joined Eliot Feld's Ballet Tech and also guested for Sacramento Ballet. She danced with Ballet Pacifica from 2003-2005, appearing as a principal in Molly Lynch's The Nutcracker and Robert Sund's Alice in Wonderland. Corina has also participated in the National Choreographic Initiative, dancing in new pieces created by Val Caniparoli and William Soleau. Corina joined State Street Ballet in 2005.

Along with SSB, Corina currently dances with Los Angeles Ballet in their inaugural season.

Corina Gill and Yuan-Ming Chang in Rodney Gustafson's A Midsummer Night's Dream, premiered during State Street Ballet's 2005-2006 season.

Pre-performance ritual:

  • 4 ibuprofen and coffee before warmup.
  • Hair - check.
  • Makeup - check.
  • Choose and lay out pointe shoes for each piece.
  • Costume - check.
  • Place sweat towels along with water and Red Bull on both sides of the stage.
  • Short prayer, and Merde!

Favorite ballet or role: Romeo and Juliet, in which I've never performed as Juliet yet, and must do so before I can retire, even if it takes me until I'm 40. The video recording of Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev in Kenneth MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet was what inspired me to be a ballet dancer.

Favorite food: Dim sum!

Favorite step: No particular step, but I love partnering best.

Hobby: Scrapbooking.

Current music playlist: Mozart's Requiem

Guilty pleasure: cigarettes ... I know, I know...

Daily support: My husband and God.

Daily mantra: "The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing." - Marcus Aurelius

Corina Gill and Oleg Gorboulev dancing George Balanchine's Agon in Los Angeles Ballet's inaugural season.

News: State Street Ballet elects two new board members

State Street Ballet would like to welcome its two newest board members: Thiep Cung and Jennifer Deacon.

Thiep (sounds like "tip") is CEO of the Warner Group Architects, Inc. located in Montecito, California. Thiep is a licensed Architect in the State of California and an active member of the American Institute of Architects. As Principal Designer, Thiep is responsible for all aspects of design for the Warner Group's high-end residential and country club projects. The Warner Group Architects are honored to have been selected four times by Architectural Digest for The AD 100, their exclusive listing of the world's top 100 architecture firms, including the 2002 'Legends', 2004 and 2007 issues. In May of 2007, the premier edition of The Robb Report Luxury Homes Design Directory honored The Warner Group Architects as one of the top 30 firms in the world.

Jennifer, a native of Santa Barbara, is the Assistant Dean of Development for the Donald Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at UC Santa Barbara. Since 1997, Jennifer has
designed and implemented several development programs at UCSB, serving as the Assistant Provost for Development for the College of Creative Studies, Director of Development for the University Libraries, and Assistant Dean of Development for Social Sciences. She is a Vassar College alumna and holds a New York State teaching credential in Social Sciences. Jennifer is married and has two sons.

When asked how she become involved with dance, Jennifer replies:

"My introduction to dance began in 6th grade cotillion classes at the Music Academy of the West with Ken and Mia Ota. But it was not until I attended Vassar, and became a member of the varsity fencing team, that I discovered ballet, a required weekly training component. I quickly discovered how physically demanding ballet is, and how complex and exhilarating it is to couple music with disciplined movement. I am in awe of the talent State Street Ballet has assembled. Through my involvement on the board I hope to invite more people to experience the exhilaration of professional ballet."

Welcome Jennifer and Thiep!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Steps: écarté

SSB dancer Alyson Mattoon mentioned below that one of her favorite ballet steps is écarté. Écarté, pronounced "ay-kar-TAY", is a position in which the dancer is lined up on a diagonal of the stage, stands on one leg and extends the other leg to the side. The arm on the same side as the extended leg is held above the head, while the other arm is held to the side.

Two famous ballet excerpts display écarté in its full glory. The first is the beginning of the Rose Adagio from Sleeping Beauty where Princess Aurora, danced here by Royal Ballet principal Alina Cojocaru, balances en pointe, or on her toes, several times in an écarté position.

The second is the beginning of Giselle's Act II pas de deux in which Giselle unfolds into an écarté position. Bolshoi Ballet principal Svetlana Zakharova demonstrates the position, albeit with a different use of the arms.

Gustafson School of Dance's Assistant Director Nicole Comella likes to go back to écarté's original French meaning of "thrown away" to explain the feeling of the position. For students, she likes to see the upper body stretched and not crunched, as if the various extremities of the dancer are being thrown apart or pulled away in opposite directions.

For the audience, Nicole points out that écarté presents a very flattering view of the dancer, since écarté is aligned with the diagonals of the stage, and lends a three-dimensional texture to the dancer's body. The dancer isn't facing directly front, which can flatten the dancer. Being at a slight angle to the audience, the contours and lines of the dancer's body become better delineated.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Review: La Sylphide and Napoli

The Santa Barbara Independent reviews the preview program for La Sylphide and Napoli:
Excerpts from La Sylphide and Napoli, presented by State Street Ballet

At Gustafson Dance, Sunday, February 4.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Schwyzer

It required dedication to come out on Super Bowl Sunday for a mid-afternoon preview of two classical ballets to be performed this coming weekend, but State Street Ballet rewarded its loyal supporters richly, and not only with a delicious buffet.

Read more of the review.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Feature: American Legends feature

A nice feature on our American Legends show from the Santa Barbara Independent:

State Street Ballet Premieres American Legends

by Elizabeth Schwyzer

Fostering the American spirit has always been central to State Street Ballet’s mission. Since its conception in 1993, Southern California’s only fully professional ballet company has prided itself on bringing a distinctly American approach to what is traditionally a Russian, French, and Italian art form. “There’s a restlessness about the American spirit,” said SSB Artistic Director Rodney Gustafson. “A youthfulness, and a desire to grow. I like to bring that to making dance — to take ballet in a new direction. Everything I do is kind of edgy.”

Read more of the feature.

Review: American Legends

The Santa Barbara Independent reviews American Legends:

American Legends, presented by State Street Ballet

At the Lobero Theatre, Saturday, September 16.

Reviewed by Felicia M. Tomasko

The opening night of State Street Ballet’s new season was a triumph. The dancers delivered beautifully in a bold, varied, and dazzling extravaganza. The selections ranged from serious to humorous, from nostalgic to cutting-edge, yet all shared a joyous celebration of Americana.

Read more of the review.

Dancer: Alyson Mattoon

Alyson Bryce Mattoon
is originally from Sedona, Arizona. Alyson attended the Virginia School of the Arts on scholarship and graduated with honors. Her affiliation with State Street Ballet began in the summer of 2000. While dancing with the company she has created the roles of White Rabbit in Robert Sund's Alice in Wonderland, and Bianca in Sund's Taming of the Shrew. Alyson has danced soloist roles in Giselle, William Soleau's Seasons, Sonnets, Five by Gershwin, Sund's Beauty and the Beast, B.A.N.D, the role of Arabian in Rodney Gustafson's Nutcracker and the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella.

Alyson also has a passion for teaching, and teaches jazz and ballet dance classes at Gustafson Dance, the official school of State Street Ballet.

Favorite ballet or role:
Victoria Simon's Salute To Sinatra. The only performance of mine I've ever been completely happy with? It has to be a performance of Ballroom SSB did in Los Angeles a few years ago.

(Note: SSB will be performing Ballroom this coming season, and the picture of Alyson and Chad Bantner below is from William Soleau's Five By Gershwin, part of the Ballroom program.)

Favorite food: Ice cream, cookies ... I have such a sweet tooth!

Favorite step: Anything that stretches me: Piqué arabesque, écarté, any kind of épaulement.

Hobbies: Cross-training, like spinning, weight training, and hip-hop classes. I also love sharing good food and wine with my friends.

Guilty pleasure: Indulging my sweet tooth.

Anything else you'd like to say? Ballet is really hard, and requires a lot of discipline and practice. The ease that you see on stage is the result of a really tough, daily physical routine --- it takes a lot of hard work, but the end result is always worth it. I'd encourage everyone (women and men) who's curious about dance to come visit the studio and take a class or two, just to see what it's like to be on the other side of the curtain. It's a lot of fun, and we always welcome new beginners.


Everything you've heard about ballet is wrong.

OK, maybe not everything, but there are lots of stories about ballet and dance that are just myths. And the thing no one ever tells you is that ballet is for everyone. Yes, everyone.

Who doesn't like seeing finely-tuned athletic bodies moving to some of the greatest music ever written? And all because they need to tell us incredible stories with an emotional intensity no other art form can duplicate.

Whether you've watched hundreds of ballets, a few, or even none, we'd like to take you behind the red curtain to see how it's actually done. And whether you're trying to figure out the finer points of temps de cuisse or just peeking in to see what the fuss is all about, we've got something for you.

Get to know some dancers. They've been described as normal people with extraordinary jobs. Why do these normal and presumably sane people keep dancing when it's the least respected performance art, with the lowest pay, and the shortest career span? Maybe there's something about the art of dance no one's ever told you.

Get to know the remarkable pieces they get to dance. What does it take to combine amazing athletic ability, artistic sensitivity, and some of the greatest music ever written, and then make it all look easier than a walk in the park? Some of the answers may surprise you.

And finally we'll tell you where you can actually see all this wonderful stuff we've been writing about. Of course, we'll tell you when State Street Ballet is performing, but we'll also let you know about can't-be-missed shows that happen in nearby and sometimes not-so-nearby places. If we create a mob of rabid, ballet-loving jetsetters, the world will just have to deal with us.

So join us on a journey of discovery by subscribing to our feed or via email to be notified of updates to the blog, and get to know one of the world's best kept secrets: ballet.