Stayin’ alive

Pub date October 20, 2009
SectionArts & CultureSectionDance

DANCE Oakland Ballet Company refuses to die. Its latest resurrection happened Oct. 16-17, after Ronn Guidi’s abrupt resignation in April had issued what used to be a thriving East Bay institution’s most recent death certificate. But some people can’t take no for an answer, and we all should be grateful to them. In this particular case, it’s the dancers — some veterans of the Oakland troupe, some freelancers but also members of Ballet San Jose and Smuin Ballet — who stepped into the breach. The choreographers donated their works. All but one of the pieces, Amy Seiwert’s Revealing the Bridge, had been performed by Oakland Ballet before. These works offered a glimpse of why the company has been such a vital part of Bay Area dance. It may have made a reputation for itself with the Diaghilev repertoire, but it was equally important in fostering contemporary ballet choreography, much of it locally grown.

The company, under the temporary leadership of Oakland veterans Michael Lowe and Jenna McClintock, has much going for itself: some money in the bank, a wealth of talent, and the good will of its audiences. Performing at Holy Names College — where the old company performed when money was really tight — brought in a crowd of young people, some of whom seemed new to ballet.

Book-ending three pas de deux with two ensemble pieces made for a varied, agreeably pleasing program that showcased ballet-speak in any number of dialects. Alonzo King’s 1990 Love Dogs showed him in much a less angular mood than his later works; Carlos Carvajal’s "Wedding Pas de Deux" from Crystal Slippers enlivened a grand tradition with young love; Seiwert’s Bridge smoothly stretched space. Val Caniparoli’s congenial and rhythmically smart Street Songs opened the evening; Lowe’s Double Happiness closed it with excellent duet work, but rather bumpy ensemble dancing.