Compiled by San Diego Jewish World staff
City of Hope
Southwestern Jewish Press, January 8, 1955, Page 5
The Installation of Officers of the City of Hope Auxiliary has been postponed due to the untimely death of Bill Schusterman, husband of Goldie Schusterman.
Temple Men’s Club
Southwestern Jewish Press, January 8, 1955, Page 5
With “Sports Nite” as the theme, Temple Beth Israel Men’s Club I planning a get-acquainted meeting for all members and prospective members, January 11 in the Temple Center.
Prominent local sports personalities who will speak include: Olin Dutra, Mission Valley golf pro; Sammy Stein, former top notch pro wrestler, Bill Starr and Bob Elliott of the Padre Ball Club.
During the meeting a 16 mm movie sound projector will be presented to the Temple. This projector was purchased from Men’s Club funds set aside for such worthwhile projects.
For further information regarding “Sports Nite” contact the program chairman, Al Brooks, Atwater 4-618.
(High School search)
Southwestern Jewish Press, January 8, 1955, Page 5
Possible sites for a new high school in the East San Diego area are under examination by the Board of Education.
Native Son to Sing At Russ January 26
Southwestern Jewish Press, January 8, 1955, Page 6
Theodor Uppman, California-born baritone, who created the title-role of the Benjamin Britten opera, “Billy Budd,” highlight of the London 1951-52 music season, will give a San Diego recital Wednesday evening, 8:30, Jan. 26 in Russ Auditorium.
Young Uppman’s local engagement is the second event on the current Master Artist Series.
Uppman is considered one of the most exciting opera and concert stars to arrive on the international music scene in a long time.
Salzburg Marionette Theatre Here Jan. 15
Southwestern Jewish Press, January 8, 1955, Page 6
One of the famous Salzburg Marionettes measuring 3 /12 feet tall is shown by Professor Herman Aicher. The famed Marionette Theatre will present three performances at Roosevelt Auditorium on Saturday, January 15.
The most famous marionette theatre in the world comes to San Diego for three performances on Saturday, January 154 at Roosevelt Auditorium. Coming from Salzburg, Austria, since its founding in 1913, the Salzburg Marionette Theatre have given some 7733 performances in Salzburg alone, hwere, since 1936, they have been an integral part of the Salzburg Music Festival.
Professor Herman Aicher, founder, and his family, will present “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” at the matinees at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., while a Johann Strauss evening will be given at 8:30 pm.., including the complete English versio of the opera, “The Fiedermaus” and the “Blue Danube” pantomime ballet. These programs are designed for young and adults alike, and offer entertainment of the highest order and genuine art.
The deLannay-Howarth box office opens January 3 from 10 to 5:30 daily for public sale of tickets. Matinee tickets are unreserved and are available at $1.66 while reserved tickets for the evening performance are available at $2.76, $2.21 and $1.66. Reservations can be made by telephoning BE-2-3457.
Ballet Theatre Here January 16
Southwestern Jewish Press, January 8, 1955, Page 6
The Ballet Theatre, first American-born of the big-time dance companies, will appear in San Diego Sunday evening Jan. 16 at 8:30 in Russ Auditorium. The famed dance troupe’s local engagement is a William E. King attraction.
When the Ballet Theatre plays here, its leading dancers will be Igor Youskevitch, top-ranking classical dancer in the ballet field today, the peerless dramatic dancer, Nora Kaye, John Kriza, one of the most vital and versatile young dancers in America, and Ruth Ann Koesun, Eric Braun, Lupe Serrano, Erik Bruhn and Sonia Arova.
This dance company of 100 will travel with its own symphony orchestra, under the musical direction of Joseph Levine. Dimitri Romanoff is regisseuer.
Tickets are available at Palmer Box Office, 640 Broadway.
“Affairs of State” Next at Old Globe
Southwestern Jewish Press, January 8, 1955, Page 6
A witty attire on love and politics, set in Washington during the Truman administration, “Affairs of State” will open the New Year at the Old Globe Theatre. Starting on January 10 and playing e3very night but Sunday for a limited run, the show will feature an outstanding cast under the direction of Craig Noel.
Leading lady Charlotte Henry, who will be remembered for her career in motion pictures and on the professional stage, has appeared as principal in three Globe hits: “John Loves Mary,” “Strange Bedfellows” and “Goodbye, My Fancy.” Leading man, Robert Hartle, a graduate of famed Cleveland Playhouse, last winter was visible in a Channel 8 TV Show, “Green Thumb.” Globe Theatre favorites Jack Mosher and Eleanor Rose, last seen in the Community Theatre production “Lo and Behold.” Bill Nelson has done radio work at WWRL and WMGM in New York, in Bremerton, Wash., and as disc jockey aboard the USS Princeton, broadcasting to Task Force 77 during the Korean campaign.
These five fill the stellar roles in “Affairs of State,” a smartly place Louis Verneuil comedy relating what happens when the Hon. Dan Cupid drops a few bombs over the Capitol dome.
L.A. Philharmonic Presents Piatagorsky
Southwestern Jewish Press, January 8, 1955, Page 6
Gregor Piatigorsky, world famous cellist, will be guest soloist when the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra resumes its current local concert series, Sunday, Jan. 23 at 8:30 p.m. in Russ Auditorium. Alfred Wallenstein will be on the podium.
Piatigorsky, who has been heard by more people than any other living cellist, began his career at the age of 8 playing in the orchestra of a small theatre in Dnepropetrovak, his home town. By the time he was 15, his fame had spread to Moscow where he was appointed first cellist of the Imperial Opera. When he arrived in this country in 1929, his reputation already was international. In the two decades since his American d3ebut, he has performed in the United States and Canada more than 1000 times including some 250 appearances as soloist with every major orchestra in America.
Tickets are available at the Palmer Box Office, 640 Broadway.
Southwestern Jewish Press, January 8, 1955, Page 6
You can’t get up the ladder of success any faster by stepping on the heads of those you are passing.
“Adventures in San Diego Jewish History” is sponsored by Inland Industries Group LP in memory of long-time San Diego Jewish community leader Marie (Mrs. Gabriel) Berg. Our “Adventures in San Diego Jewish History” series will be a regular feature until we run out of history. To find stories on specific individuals or organizations, type their names in our search box.
By Sheila Orysiek
SAN DIEGO–The 17th Annual Jewish Arts Festival, which runs from May 30th to June 21, spans the wide spectrum of the performing arts. Malashock Dance and Hot P’Stromi brought together modern dance and Klezmer at the Lyceum Space Theatre in downtown San Diego. I attended the performance on June 13th.
What better way to celebrate art than to bring together artists of different genres to celebrate the life of another artist? John Malashock – founder and choreographer of Malashock Dance – and Yale Strom – violinist, composer, filmmaker, writer, playwright and photographer – combined their significant talents to produce their newest collaboration Chagall.
The Lyceum Space Theatre is a small venue (seating approximately 270) with a square stage jutting out into the audience on two sides. Thus one is both near enough to feel close to the action, but far enough away to see the design concept as a whole. Seats are in tiers, so for the most part sight lines are good. Because of the proximity over zealous amplification can be avoided – for which this observer is grateful.
Strom brings his varied background plus a group of musicians playing Klezmer (and more) under the name: Hot P’Stromi. The program opened with several selections of Klezmer from parts of Eastern Europe, such as the vicinity where Chagall was born and spent his childhood, to Romania which is just across the river.
Love it or not, and I do love it, it is impossible not to respond to Klezmer. In some ways it is like American jazz – the musicians responding to one another, each in turn picking up the motif – adding, subtracting, clarifying and crafting a specific sound for a specific instrument. Then, coming all together they go rollicking along. But, Klezmer also can be winsome and even sad. The audience reacted to both – some barely able to keep their seats.
John Malashock founded his modern dance company in 1988 and has been a significant presence in San Diego ever since. His background is impressive and runs the gamut from film (dancing in Amadeus), television specials, choreographing for many other companies – both dance and opera -culminating in four Emmy awards. He spoke to the audience briefly – but enjoyably – about the work being performed and his plans for it.
Chagall is still a work in progress and Malashock presented three scenes from what will eventually be a full length amalgam of dance, music and imagery. The first scene was of the village Vitebsk, where Chagall was born in what is now Belarus, but was then Russia and at times Poland. The second scene is his first significant love who introduces him to her friend who becomes the “love of his life.”
Michael Mizerany, associate artistic director and senior dancer (with an impressive resume including two Lester Horton Dance Awards) was “Chagall” and brought to the role an understanding of how to portray a painter/artist through the art of dance/movement.
It is difficult to understand why Chagall would reject his first love, Thea, (Lara Segura) for Bella (Christine Marshall). But love is not mental – it is visceral and there is no accounting for it. It is the one emotion we cannot place at the service of reason; however, I think I would enjoy seeing that explored a bit more. Segura was a lovely Thea. Costumed in a simple short white sheath she danced passionately while still innocent enough to introduce her friend to her lover. Marshall, surely a fine dancer, didn’t quite tell me what Chagall saw in her to capture his heart – but perhaps that was not Malashock’s intent. Or perhaps Chagall didn’t know.
Chagall’s physical love feeds his artistic vision. He takes his brush and paints her in invisible images upon invisible canvasses. Then, he uses his brush to explore her body – never vulgarly – but always seeking to understand her outline. Maybe that is what he really needs.
The pas de deux (this is modern dance so perhaps I should say “dance for two”) is well done – but somehow didn’t convey the depth of passion that must have been there. However, this is still a work in progress not only for the choreographer, but also for the dancers and they haven’t as yet internalized it. It is certainly a good beginning.
Tribes premiered in 1996 and has the feeling and confidence of a complete work, completely conceived – much like a Mozart symphony. It is a dance (again using Strom’s original music) which is described by Malashock as follows: “….each dancer creates his/her own culture. These fantastical “tribes” connect, collide, and ultimately share in a blending of the eternal spirit.”
It is always fascinating to see what Malashock does with the music; forming groups and then breaking them apart. Each twosome or threesome dances to the same music at the same time, but completely differently – bringing to view other aspects of the music. And each is valid and “true.” I find myself saying “yes, that is how the music looks.” He also never falls overly in love with his own invention – it is given, enjoyed and then he moves on, confident in his next vision. The flow is natural, never contrived, and though one knows of the reality of the endless rehearsal which must have taken place, the movement is fresh, natural and seemingly – what a painter would call – a “happy accident.”
The dance flows from shape to shape, pausing for just a moment to allow the eye to capture it, but still keeping the seams between phrases invisible. The entire body is used; hands and heads as important as legs and arms as important as spines and breath. There were a couple of times, when the choreography allowed, I would have enjoyed seeing some eye contact betwixt the dancer and the observer – a living connection; “I am also dancing for you.”
Dance critic Orysiek is based in San Diego. She may be contacted at ORZAK@aol.com
SAN DIEGO (Press Release) – San Diego REPertory Theatre will present the 17th Annual Lipinsky Family San Diego Jewish Arts Festival: A Joyous Celebration of Art and Soul, directed by the REP’s Associate Artistic Director Todd Salovey. This year’s festival will be held May 30 – June 21 and celebrates the richness of Jewish culture through theatre, music, dance and visual arts.
This year’s festival, sponsored by the San Diego REPertory Theatre with 18 community co-sponsors, will feature four world premieres including selections of a new dance/musical about the life and loves of Marc Chagall, featuring a first-ever collaboration between Malashock Dance and Klezmer/World Music Expert Yale Strom. Musical highlights include Tango with a Jewish Flavor and top Israeli band, Moshav.
Teatro Punto y Coma: The Show Across the Street
A world premiere Jewish comedy (in English); June 2 , Wednesday @ 7:30pm; June 3, Thursday @ 7:30pm; June 5, Saturday @ 8:45pm; June 6, Sunday @ 5:00pm. Lyceum Space
Teatro Punto y Coma’s presents its hilarious new comedy The Show Across The Street. A Jewish Mexican American Theatre troupe creates the sequel to Fiddler on the Roof! Featuring original music, dance, video and the classic Teatro Punto Y Coma style, written and directed by Robert Moutal based on a story by Pepe Stepensky. Starring: Yigal Adato, Mari Pili Becerra, Jaya Fux, Aida Masliah, Salo Maya and Robert Moutal, with choreography by Dalia Feldman. Artistic Director David Chait. Sponsored by the Ken Jewish Community Tickets: $20
Surround Event: Thursday, June 3, 6:30pm. Lyceum Lobby. Founding artistic directors Pepe Stepensky, and David Chait and writer/director Robert Moutal, discuss the 20-year history of Teatro Punto Y Coma, and the making of The Show Across The Street.
Moshav Band in Concert: June 7, Monday @ 7:30pm, Lyceum Stage. The Festival rocks with the soulful groove of one hot Jewish band: Moshav. Raised in Israel on Moshav Meor Modi’im, Yehuda, Yosef, and Duvid Solomon have rocked since childhood. Beautiful music and stage charisma have built Moshav a following across the U.S. Influences from Carlebach to Van Morrison, their music inspires and soars. Sponsored by Soille San Diego Hebrew Day School, Young Israel of San Diego, United Jewish Federation Israel Center, and A Culture of Peace. Tickets: $20 | With dessert reception: $25. Surround Event: Monday, June 7 @ 6:30pm. Lyceum Lobby
Meet the new UJF Israel Center Director Shlicha, Shoshi Bogoch. Shoshi was sent to engage the community to Israel. She will speak about the Israel Center, growing up in Jerusalem, and opportunities for San Diegans of all ages to enjoy Israel.
Malashock Dance with Yale Strom: Chagall
A world premiere dance/musical with live music, June 10, Thursday @ 7:30pm; June 12, Saturday @ 8:45pm; June 13, Sunday @ 7:30pm. Lyceum Space
“In our life there is a single color, as on an artist’s palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the color of love.” —Marc Chagall
Marc Chagall’s life, loves, and stunning images are the heart of a brand new dance/musical. John Malashock’s evocative choreography touches the heart and awakens the senses. Yale Strom is a masterful composer of Eastern European folk music of the soul. This program features a short concert by Yale Strom and Hot P’Stromi, followed by an encore performance of Strom/Malashock’s popular Tribes. In a world premiere, Strom and Malashock will then present three sections of their dance/musical, Chagall, an evocative telling of the artist’s changing loves and styles.
Tickets: $25 | Students: $15; Producing Partner: Jordan Ressler Charitable Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego
Surround Event: June 10, post-show, Lyceum Lobby: Dancer, choreographer, and San Diego treasure John Malashock will be joined by one of the world’s leading experts on Jewish folk music— musician, composer, author, and filmmaker Yale Strom—to talk about Marc Chagall’s life and their magical new musical.
Women of Valor 2010
June 13, Sunday @ 2:00pm; Lyceum Space;“A woman of valor, who shall find?” Festival Director Todd Salovey, Ali Viterbi and Leah Salovey re-unite to create a brand new exploration of the strength and vision of San Diego Jewish women. This world premiere play tells the uplifting story of six remarkable San Diego women and includes poetry, music, images and a treasure trove of love. All proceeds will benefit the three Jewish high schools of San Diego. Sponsored by and benefiting: Torah High School of San Diego, San Diego Jewish Academy, Southern California Yeshiva—SCY High. Tickets: $18 | Sponsors: $180
The 10th Annual Klezmer Summit: Jewish Tango + Klezmer + Free Knishes!
June 21, Monday @ 7:30pm; Lyceum Stage
The city’s most exciting Klezmer concert returns with heart stopping tango to a Jewish beat. Join top musicians Camarada with exotic Jewish-flavored tango from South America and Europe. Live tango dancers and thrilling vocals bring tango with a Yiddish twist. Closing the program will be festival favorite Yale Strom and Hot P’stromi with originals and Klezmer classics drawn from his extensive travels across Eastern Europe. Free Kosher knishes for all! Tickets: $18
Two Free Library Concerts
Sunday, May 30
Alexander Gourevitch and Freilachs— popular klezmer clarinetist. Alexaxander Gourevitch was trained in Russia, plays for Orquesta de Baja California and expresses his musical soul with his entire body! Come to the library for a free concert! Alexander’s clarinet will make you dance with joy. 1:30pm—Encinitas Branch Library; 540 Cornish Drive, Encinitas, CA; 3:30pm—Vista Branch Library, 700 Eucalyptus Ave., Vista, CA
North Coast Rep: Jewish Play Readings
The Immigrant by Mark Harelik and Randal Myler; June 14, Monday @ 7:30pm.
Mark Harelik stars in a staged reading; the uplifting story of his family’s Jewish roots in Texas. A funny and heartfelt story of an immigrant who settles in a small town as its only Jew. Post-show discussion with playwright Mark Harelik. Tickets: $20
Mandate Memories by Lionel Goldstein; June 15, Tuesday @ 7:30pm.
A stirring portrait of Israel’s tumultuous founding is revealed when Gustav Frolich, an eighty-year-old Israeli survivor of the camps visits Jane Stirling, 62—once widowed, once divorced—in a small English town. Their mysterious connection forged post-British Mandate reveals a conflict and a secret. Post-show discussion with playwright Lionel Goldstein. Tickets: $20. Community Co-Sponsors: A Culture of Peace, Ken Jewish Community, Leichtag Family Foundation, Lipinsky Family Foundation, Malashock Dance, North Coast Repertory Theatre, Old Globe Theatre, Jordan Ressler Charitable Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego, San Diego County Library, San Diego Jewish Academy, Seacrest Village,Soille San Diego Hebrew Day School, Southern California Yeshivah High School—SCY High, Teatro Punto Y Coma, Torah High School of San Diego, United Jewish Federation Jewish Center,Young Israel of San Diego.
The 17th Annual Lipinsky Family San Diego Jewish Arts Festival: A Joyous Celebration of Art and Soul
When: May 29-June 21, 2010
Where: The Lyceum Theatre, North Coast Repertory Theatre, The Encinitas Branch Library, The Vista Branch Library
Lyceum Box Office: (619) 544-1000
North Coast Rep: (858) 481-1055
Two shows $2 off, three shows $3 off (except for North Coast Rep play readings)
Festival passes for all San Diego REPertory Theatre events only $60!
Preceding provided by San Diego Repertory Theatre
By Sheila Orysiek
SAN DIEGO — One of the unique aspects of dance among the art forms is that it affords us the opportunity to observe not only its fruition, but also its creation. It willingly lends itself to a public birth: the dancers, the choreographer and the audience all participating in the process.
John Malashock is a prolific creator of modern dance and periodically invites the public to join him and his dancers for a studio series to observe the actual “on the spot” creative process. This takes place in their beautiful facility in a building devoted to dance in what was once the San Diego Naval Training Center. Though the studio is large the setting is intimate; chairs set around the wall – nothing between the audience and the dance.
Next year, April 2011, the San Diego Museum of Art will host an exhibition “Dreams & Diversions – 250 Years of Japanese Woodblock Prints.” In the Museum’s Copley Auditorium, Malashock Dance will present “The Floating World” a dance complement to the exhibition. Visual projections are planned in collaboration with filmmaker Tara Knight.
On April 11, 2010, Malashock and seven (the eighth was injured) dancers in practice clothes continued on with the birth of this work which had begun the previous evening – only a few phrases of dance had been choreographed. The theme is “of a journey” – dancers on tour – after a performance – feeling the exhaustion of body and spirit – and the effort to reconnect the two. In pairs – man/woman – back to back – sometimes spinning laterally away from one another only to return, but never connecting visually or emotionally.
The music was a legato violin adagio with the dancers at times working into the music and at times dancing through it. After adding additional dance phrases and several times running through it from the beginning, it was interesting to watch the dancers incorporate the movement immediately into muscle memory. Though they could only glimpse one another, their individual internal metronomes began to synchronize. As the choreographic vision flowed from Malashock to the dancers – they became the repository of his memory.
Then Malashock began to change the vision of the choreography by breaking it up by gender; men started with the second section while women started with the first original section – the movement coming together with the final section and the dance took on the aspect of a visual fugue. Another change had the women begin their movement a phrase behind the men. Further experimentation changed the number of dancers to only two pairs, which narrowed the focus and design from a symphonic palette to a four “voice” aria. Each change altered the dance considerably, each with its own integrity.
After the rehearsal/performance, Malashock answered questions from the audience and explained that between these initial creative sessions and the premiere next year, everything was open to change; the music, the choreography, the dancers.
On the chairs upon which we sat were cards with some of Malashock’s perceptions of his work:
“For me, the music that I choose to choreograph to is one of the most important decisions because it is so integral in shaping the movement I create.”
“Fact: The music you will hear tonight might not be used in “The Floating World” production. By changing the music, your reaction to the piece will inevitably change as well.”
“I have a ‘style’ of choreography or movement vocabulary, but I am always trying to expand that vocabulary to create something unique to the project I am working on.”
“Fact: Dancers and staff often nickname certain signature moves, creating a vocabulary unique to Malashock Dance. Here are some examples: The Drunken Elephant, Shot in the Back, Find the Hold, Kill the Bug, and Icky Creepy.”
“Research of a new work’s subject matter plays a subtle, but important, role. The information sits in the back of the brain and is drawn upon subconsciously.”
“Fact: I have traveled to Japan several times and have traveled extensively throughout California. Those travels and my performance touring experiences will definitely be in my mind as I choreograph.”
A further “on the spot” studio view of this work in progress is scheduled for May 15-16, 2010.
Orysiek is a dance critic based in San Diego. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Sheila Orysiek
SAN DIEGO–One of the thrills of dance – both to the dancer as well as the observer – is the momentary euphoria of suspension in space and the freedom of apparent flight. City Ballet of San Diego’s production on March 21 of Peter Pan at the Spreckles Theatre is a delight in every sense – including the sensation of flight.
Ballet dancers “flying” about the stage is not new – but quite old. We can see in a number of lithographs of the Romantic Era ballets in the 1800′s, sylphs, peris, wilis and other winged female creatures hovering above the stage. It fulfilled the desire of the Romantic Era to turn a woman into something sublime and unreachable. Peter Pan and his world are the dream stuff of children or better yet, those of us lucky to have never quite lost the child we were.
This ballet in two acts is fraught with staging difficulty; from several complex sets (designed by Catherine I. Irving), carefully crafted lighting (Stephen Judson), bright choreography (Bruce Steivel), and a technical company “Flying by Foy.” This last is surely an art form in its own right. Two dancer/technicians were assigned to “fly” each character. An additional challenge was the complex choreography of several flights happening at once, and on musical cue, which could not be rehearsed in the studio but only on stage which rather restricted the time spent in rehearsal. Notwithstanding all this complexity of changing sets, flying and earthly choreography, it all spun out smoothly like a silken skein.
The highlight was the aerial pas de deux between Wendy (Ariana Samuelsson) and Peter Pan (Gerardo Gil). From earth to air – from air to earth – the transitions were like those we experience in dreams; now we touch earth – now we are free. Gil was an intriguing other world creature but still human enough to make us wish to join him. Janica Smith’s Tinker Bell, while rife with impish naughtiness, was also the imp in each of us. Wendy’s brothers: Patrick Lahey as John, and Megan Nichols as Michael – were mischievously enjoyable.
This entire production was thoroughly enjoyable on every level. The characters are fun, the mood is light, the ballet entirely accessible to even the newest member of the ballet audience. Though there were many children in attendance, it is a delight no matter one’s age.
Other characters: Emily Pardington was loveable as Nana, the Dog; John Nettles as Mr. Crocodile, who was responsible for Capt. Hook’s hook (is this the same John Nettles who is the Company’s music director?) was smilingly fearsome; Capt. Hook (Kevin Engle) was properly evil and comically engaging. Well done to the pirates: Bryce Corson, Geoffrey Gonzalez, Kyle Rivieccio and special mention to fire cracker “Smeed” danced by Daniel Ching.
Moving into fouetté turns without the usual preparation is difficult. That whipped leg can begin the rotation either from the side (a more Russian version) or the front – but one needs to decide ahead of time which it will be.
This ballet is a worthy addition to City Ballet’s growing repertoire and I hope it sees many more happy flights.
The music by Thomas Semanski – synthesized and recorded – was wedded to the story and choreography in every sense.
Orysiek is a freelance dance reviewer and columnist based in San Diego. She may be contacted at email@example.com
By Sheila Orysiek
SAN DIEGO–I have read that Jews are very good at analysis – taking apart a problem, looking at it – analyzing its segments, and recomposing it. This comes from centuries of studying Talmudic text, group discussion, and lifelong dedication. I am not a student of such scholarship, but I did have a couple of grandfathers and great grandfathers who spent their lives in such study. So, maybe their genes infiltrated mine and stood me in good stead in ballet class. They surely would have been surprised how their legacy was used.
Ballet class is divided into two major sections. The first half takes place at the barre and is a slow warm-up. The second half is in the center of the room where dance combinations and technique are put into practice. The vocabulary of ballet movement is sub-divided into several major categories: adagio – slow; allegro – fast; waltz – 3/4 time and usually large sweeping steps and finally grande pas – the largest jumps and turns in the repertoire. After about ten years of schooling, I felt that I was in some control of each of these elements. That is, until the day Mr. Davis walked into the classroom.
Mr. Davis was a large imposing man who strode to the front of the room with force and flair. As it usually happens with a new teacher, all of us in class that day made a special effort to understand what he wanted and tried our best to execute it. Generally it takes a while to feel comfortable with the style of a new teacher; to incorporate the demands into an already assimilated store of knowledge that each student possesses. This was by no means a beginner class. All of us had been dancing many years and were already at varying levels in the professional hierarchy. Still a new teacher is like trying on new clothes, it takes time to wear them gracefully.
The first half of class went well. Then Mr. Davis announced that he felt the allegro component of ballet was sadly under-taught and he hoped to rectify that neglect. He rattled off a string of pas (steps), and instructed the pianist for the correct tempo. The combination he wanted was sixty four beats in length with no repeated sequences, and as many as three steps per beat; all at breakneck speed. The class came to a halt as if we had hit a brick wall – as well we had. When some complained that the music was too fast, he informed us that we were too slow.
Mr. Davis never demonstrated, at that technical level it is usually not necessary. Also, he would never say the combination more than once. There was no rehearsal and no slow work up to the tempo required. It was therefore necessary to commit to memory instantly sixty four counts of instruction, transfer that to the body and dance it full out the very first time. Everyone failed. I was in despair. Worse yet, Mr. Davis was designated to be our teacher for quite some time, he had a signed contract.
I studied the problem. First was the difficulty of committing to memory on only one hearing the string of dance pas (steps). If I couldn’t remember it, how could I begin to perform it? He even spoke at an abnormally fast speed! Another problem was that as a tall dancer it takes a bit more time for my longer foot to peel off the floor than for a shorter dancer. That is always a problem; a taller dancer just has to move faster. After every class as I drove home I painstakingly tried to reconstruct the bits I could remember. Then when I got home I practiced without pause to the fastest tempo I could find in my collection of music. No matter how hectic the rest of my schedule, I never neglected this post mortem work. I worked on this seven days a week. Yes, we had a Sunday class and I never missed any of it.
As the days and weeks went on our class shrank in size. Some dancers were reduced to tears. Others simply left. It was almost impossible to find another ballet class at the professional level in San Diego. Beginner classes are everywhere, but not the higher levels. Some people in our class always seemed to have to go to the rest room or left early when we reached the allegro portion of the day’s lesson. After a year only a handful of us struggled on. It had become a personal challenge to me.
Mr. Davis called his allegro combinations “Chinese puzzles” and indeed my mind and body agreed. His demanding choreographic patterns were a wonder of intricacy. If a certain step was usually performed as a forward motion, he would be sure to ask for it moving backward. If a certain sharp turn was usually done inwardly, he wanted it outward. It was all perverse, almost demonic. Even the pianists had difficulty and we went through several before one was found who could perform up to the teacher’s demands for speed.
After a year I was still working on a daily basis on the portions of the allegro I could remember. Then gradually I found the memory problem had ceased to be a problem at all. It took me two more years to master the speed. But each step, as blindingly fast as it had to done, still needed the correct accompanying arm patterns, head positions, and maybe even a smile.
It wasn’t until the end of three years, with just a few of the survivors of the original class left that it all came together for me. One day, Mr. Davis stopped the class, looked at me and pointed, “Do it!” he commanded. The music started and I was off in a dash. My feet were no longer part of me; they had a life and force of their own. My arms hit and flowed from one pattern to another. The accents and syncopation were there. A smile was on my face. As I finished, my reward from him was a sharp nod and half of a smile. Not to be outdone by this understated acknowledgment of my accomplishment, I said to him, “May I do it faster?” With a glint in his eye he nodded to the pianist and off I went again. Later in class as he walked by me, he whispered, “That was very good!”
I accepted this in silence. I remained silent until I was safely in my car at which point I shouted “YES!!” I think my grandfathers and great grandfathers would have been proud.
The illustration, “Sur La Pointe,” is after a painting by dance columnist Orysiek, who may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Sheila Orysiek
SAN DIEGO–There is a first and last time for everything. The first time an infant raises its head to look around at the world. The last time Moses addressed the Hebrew tribes and then stood on a mountain and watched them walk off into history. That, for me, is the most poignant portion of the Torah. And, we each in many ways, face these first and last times, too. Today I bought my last pair of ballet slippers.
The first time was in 1966 when I had to go downtown San Diego to the only store which sold ballet slippers and pointe shoes. I had no idea what I was doing, how to chose, or what size for which to ask. I was at the mercy of the sales clerk, who fortunately was knowledgeable. I knew nothing of how to sew on the strips of elastic or where upon the shoe they went. It was all part of the mysterious dance world I was entering.
Through the years I learned exactly where to sew those elastics (one turns down the heel flap and in that fold sits the end of the elastic). I also learned through the experience of suddenly having the elastic pull loose, that they needed to be sewed on as if my life depended upon it, because if they suddenly pulled free it could precipitate a nasty fall. Before the days when pink elastic strips were available to match the dance tights, I carefully dipped them in Calamine lotion – the only substance I could think of that was the correct color.
After a year of industrious application to my dance studies I was rewarded one day when my teacher quietly said: “Sheila, you are ready for pointe work – buy pointe shoes.” I was facing the barre at the time, and she couldn’t see my face but had she been able to – she would have seen a big, huge, happy smile spreading from ear to ear. Pointe shoes! At last!
During forty years of dancing and teaching, I bought hundreds of pairs of pointe shoes. Old pointe shoes replaced my need for slippers although I always kept a pair handy. It was not unusual for there to be six or seven pairs of dance shoes at any one time in my dance bag. For performances, the number increased to almost a dozen. Feet change from hour to hour depending upon weather, amount of work, and the dance to be performed which necessitates a variety of shoes to fit the moment.
Every pair of slippers and pointe shoes is made by hand and even when made by the same hand, are different from pair to pair. My purchase of that first pair of pointe shoes was fairly simple though I didn’t have the experience to make an informed choice. The selection was so limited in those years that one made do with what was available. Today the choices are huge and though that is a good thing, it can also be confusing.
At the end, when retirement came, I had on hand dozens of pairs of pointe shoes. I winnowed them down to two pairs – one terribly worn (full of its own history) and one pair in fairly clean condition. I kept them as adjuncts to my series of dance lectures which I was often called upon to give. People like to see pointe shoes up close – touch them – even try them on. And, it is surprising to many how worn a shoe can be – the difference is startling.
I also had on hand – at the end of my last class – a pair of slippers. I have been using them every evening as I give myself a short – very geriatric – a shadow of a shadow of a shadow – of ballet barre work. Today I don’t do this series of exercises with any future in mind – simply to keep track of my sense of balance and movement. Lasting only 20 minutes, nevertheless, it gives me an opportunity to move to music and remember.
Well, that last pair of slippers tore last night and today I went to buy another pair. This will be absolutely, my final pair of dance slippers. As I sit and sew on the strips of elastic I remember that first time – the excitement and the indecision of exactly where upon the shoe to sew them. At least, today – 43 years later – as I sew them on, I have no doubt where the elastic goes and how it should feel. Forty years – a generation of time – but my journey is now from the Promised Land to a desert empty of dance.
Orysiek is a freelance writer based in San Diego. She may be contacted at email@example.com
By Sheila Orysiek
SAN DIEGO– In Paris, in 1841, the ballet Giselle was danced for the first time. It was part of an entire repertoire in the various arts which became known as the Romantic Era; dance, literature, poetry and music. This milieu envisioned the female as ephemeral, not quite human; a sylph, a swan, a wili, a spirit. Love was unfilled, unrequited – the lovers were parted – usually by death. Having recently added pointe shoes to their armamentarium, the ballerinas were particularly suited to this oeuvre; poised on the tip of the toe they seemed to take flight across the proscenium stage into a spiritual world.
One hundred and sixty-eight years later, Giselle is still being performed by every major ballet company in the world and still presents the dancers with not only considerable technical challenges, but significant acting opportunities. It is considered the equivalent of Hamlet for the ballerina. Within the structure of the choreography she is given ample time to develop her vision of how a young girl living in a woodland village responds to being duped by a nobleman pretending to be her societal equal and professing his love and honorable intent and so claiming her heart.
To convince the modern audience that one can indeed die of broken hopes becomes more difficult with the passage of each decade that this ballet is performed. Equally, the male dancer as Count Albrecht has a great deal of latitude – more than in many roles for the danseur – to transcend the choreography. While he is living a lie and we condemn him in the first act – he must also claim our sympathy so we will believe his grief in the second act.
There are several other roles of importance requiring both dance and acting throughout the ballet: Giselle’s mother, Albrecht’s “other” betrothed the Countess Bathilde, Myrtha as Queen of the Wilis and Hilarion a village swain in love with Giselle who in his attempt to save her is instead the vehicle for her dementia and demise. And equally important is a strong, cohesive corps de ballet. They are the setting for the jewel – and if the setting is akilter – the jewel is flawed.
The challenge of this ballet – of any of the Romantic Era ballets – is to take the flesh and blood difficult choreography and make it exquisitely ethereal. No sense of difficulty can be allowed to peep through, A stray foot, an incomplete hand, an uneven diaphanous skirt – and we are jerked back from the imaginary “other” world to the realities of this world.
Dancers today are asked to essay a large number of different styles from hip-hop in pointe shoes through Balanchine and back to ballets rife with history such as Giselle. This difficulty is compounded because that long history includes ballerinas such Alicia Alonso, Galina Ulanova, Margot Fonteyn, Carla Fracci – the visions of those dancers still glow in the collective memory. So, accepting this challenge and joining that list is no small matter.
City Ballet of San Diego has added this quintessential Romantic Era ballet to its repertoire and in the performance I attended on November 8, at the Spreckles Theater – itself a classical jewel – the Company showed again it is moving from strength to strength. The choreography of Jules Perrot, Jean Coralli and Marius Petipa also included the hand of the Company’s resident choreographer Elizabeth Wistrich. It was a pleasure to see that nothing was done to excess – penché didn’t go much past the accepted Romantic height, and except for a few foot to the ear moments (ah well, I do have to realize that time goes on) – the structure of the Era was respected.
The first act Peasant pas de deux danced by Janica Smith and Geoff Gonzalez was fun with only a momentary fix now and then. He is occasionally a bit choppy in the quick terre a terre sequences – almost as if there’s not time enough for the stretch and release in the knee. However, they made visible the foreshadowing of the second act pas de deux of Giselle and Albrecht. Also enjoyable were Giselle’s friends and the other village inhabitants. They participated in the action without being too fussy. And, there too, some of the corps choreography foreshadowed the second act.
I’ve enjoyed watching Tara Formanek over the past several years as she moves from challenge to challenge. She was an icy Myrtha. It is a difficult persona to play since being icy and remote without being stiff and obscure is the problem. She did well with both. I would like to see her not simply step into her piqué arabesque/attitudes – but “place” them. Give that moment meaning.
Leo Goykhman, was one of the better Hilarions I have seen. He made him a man in love with a woman – several steps below the social hierarchy than the nobleman he is contesting – without being awkward. He may be a peasant but he is not a clod. He has principles though his plan goes awry.
Gerardo Gil as Albrecht has also given the role thought and made good choices. His grief was neither maudlin nor self absorbed – it was not about him – but about the woman he lost. It is difficult for the modern male dancer who doesn’t spend a great deal of time dancing the Romantic ballets to fully absorb this very special style without crossing the line to florid absurdity. Gil was never absurd – but he shouldn’t be afraid of a softer approach in the upper body.
Ariana Samuelsson, as Giselle, gave a well thought out mad scene. When the audience falls completely silent with not a rustle nor a cough to be heard, then the ballerina knows that she has taken a role danced hundreds of times before and made it new again. She made the tension palpable. Samuelsson was in her element. During the mad scene she kept the audience totally absorbed in her drama – watching once again the old story unfold and though knowing how it would end – still entranced in the action. In the second act she floated as a spirit but loved as a woman – and so kept both Albrecht and her audience in her hands.
And finally, the corps de ballet which is the rock without which the ballet dies. The only niggle – if the majority has time to fully point the jumping foot in chassé sauté arabesque – then everyone has time to do it. The crossing voyagés were beautifully done – no bouncing legs, no hiccupping chests, and no jerking reflex in the arms or head. A triumph, for sure. They, too, silenced the theater with their art. In their final tableau, as they stood across the back of the stage with arms straight out to the side, on pointe in fifth position- not a wobble in an ankle – not a throb out of place. It was an eye catching moment that will stay in my memory.
Made up of mostly young musicians, the City Ballet orchestra under the direction of John Nettles accomplished the task with satisfaction – playing for dance is an entirely different kind of challenge than playing in a musical concert. Hopefully, they too, will move from strength to strength.