The beauty of ballet is enchanting and the Santa Clara Ballet capitalized on the movement of this art form and the warming of the weather with its Spring Enchantments production on June 2.
The afternoon started with "One Upon a Dream," a segment featuring may of the company's younger dancers. From there, it went into "From Barre to the Stage," beginning with a barre routine from slightly older students and then progressing into a stage showcase of their skills.
The show then moved into scenes from Coppelia, with choreography by Benjamin Reyes (modeled after Arthur Saint-Leon). This was the first chance for the audience to really see what the school has to offer.
After a brief intermission, SCB performed the opening scene from Les Sylphides.
The DanceWright Project of San Francisco performed an interesting dance "Alter Egos-Trios," with one dancer fighting her demons (other dancers). This was a modern dance performance full of drama and intensity.
Dance Attack Studios of Los Gatos followed with "Aranjuez," an ethnic themed performance with a Spanish feel where the dancers created memorable lines with their bodies.
But, what followed was the highlight of the enter performance. Copious Dance Theater in San Francisco mesmerized with its "Taka" dance. The beat of the drums and the movement of the modern dance was spellbinding. As the dancers flung themselves across the stage, fell into each other's arms, and created captivating imagery with their bodies, a story unfolded. The costuming, the music, and the combination of male and female dancers was simply stunning. An entire show by this company would almost be too much as the visual appeal was so superior to anything else on stage.
That's not to say the other performances were bad - each one was pleasurable to watch, but the Copious segment really made the show. This should have been the finale, but sadly it only led up to the second intermission.
The finale was an SCP performance of the family favorite, Peter and the Wolf. Combining delightfully fun costumes, humor, and ballet, the final segment of Spring Enchantments was the perfect way to introduce children to the art of ballet. Amber Bill (the duck) lucked out in her role as the character received the most laughs and was most likely the favorite of the children in the audience. Mikhail Guz as Peter (Guz was also a soloist in the Coppelia and Les Sylphides segment) was also a highlight of this performance - his energy, athleticism and ability to dance throughout all three SCB scenes is to be commended.
The show, which ran a little over two hours was lovely. Except for a few minor missed cues (from lighting and sound) and extended delays, it was what Santa Clara Ballet needed. Outside of the holiday Nutcracker performance, not much is seen from the storied ballet company so it was nice to see SCB do something in June to remind the community that classes are ongoing and the school produces quality ballet performers.
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At the end of February, the Santa Clara Players opened its first show of the new year with Harvey, the story about a six-foot one-and-one-half-inch invisible rabbit and the man who can see him.
Elwood P. Dowd is the only one who can see Harvey - that is, until his sister Veta admits that she, too, has seen the rabbit and knows that Dowd isn't as crazy as everyone would like to believe.
However, Veta and her daughter, Myrtle Mae, are trying to climb the social ladder and admitting she sees the giant rabbit won't help her status. So, instead of allowing Dowd and Harvey to live in peace, she decides to have him committed to the sanitarium as a way to rid herself of that pesky Harvey forever.
But, what happens when Veta gets committed instead of her brother? Is she tortured and poked by all of the gadgets inside the facility? Is it a place she wants her brother to live?
There comes a point where the doctors tell Veta about a special shot they can give Dowd - a shot that, once taken, will rid them of Harvey forever. Dowd will become perfectly normal and just like everyone else. No longer will he be kind and generous to everyone he meets. Instead, he will turn into an angry, bitter person and won't have time to stop and smell the roses.
Dowd doesn't want to take the shot, but he's so eager to please Veta that he agrees. It just so happens that when Veta finds out what happens after the shot, she's not so sure she wants to lose her sweet brother, even if it means Harvey will be around forever.
There's plenty to like about this show. Steve Corelis is a wonderful Dowd, bringing a bit of innocence and genuineness to the character.
Steve Lewis is fantastic as Dr. William Chumley. He throws out some great facial expressions to really sell his role.
Even a smaller character like Mark Rosen as Duane Wilson (the orderly) is quite good. The character comes off as a little, for lack of a better word, dense, and he's always willing to use brute force to make the patients listen, but there's something (almost) charming about him.
The only criticism is that it's not exactly a funny play. There are a few one-liners that go over quite well, but overall, there isn't much to laugh at. Serious (or mostly serious) plays are fine, and there's nothing wrong with them, but don't go in expecting to laugh out loud the entire 2.5 hours. Instead, go in expecting to enjoy a lengthy (you're definitely getting your money's worth) show with a little heart and soul.
Harvey continues tonight through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. The show wraps up next Thursday, Friday and Saturday with its final three performances (all at 8 p.m.). Visit http://scplayers.org/reservations/ to purchase tickets.
There are various forms of performing arts. Initially things like dance and theater are thought to be the most common types of artistic endeavors, but we see art as so much more.
It's the poetry reading, done with feeling and emotion at the hole in the wall coffee shop downtown; the folk singer-songwriter strumming his guitar on his front porch; the exchange of jabs in boxing (or any other sport even though the "dance" isn't choreographed); and the charisma it takes to perform stand up comedy. Sure, there are others, but something like stand up often gets overlooked.
On February 7, a handful of comedians including Cody Woods (pictured left), Joe Bates, Priya Prasad, Ori Zadok, Gail Williams, Greg "G" Williams (no relation), Alicia Rangel (debuting that night) and Tony Harrison came together to perform their art for a nearly sold out ComedySportz venue in downtown San Jose.
Woods was a superb host, often improvising and going off script to keep the audience engaged. One of his funnier ad-libs involved picking on an Asian man in the audience for his phone's GPS system, when in the middle of the show, the phone claimed the man had arrived at the venue. Utilizing a stereotype to his advantage, Woods had not only the man laughing at his own error (not turning off the device), but the entire audience laughing as well.
Bates (pictured right) also opened with a little ad-lib, climbing onto a chair next to a window on the stage and stating he expected Muppets to start poking their heads out during the show. While not receiving as many laughs as Woods' audience "attack," Bates' unscripted insertion further proves that comedy is an art form. Sure, it can be a little vulgar, as Bates proved with some of his jokes on dating and self-love, but stand up is an art form nonetheless.
Knowing and adapting to your audience is also what makes stand up a form of art. Would Zadok (pictured left) have done a joke about getting blood drawn and "accidentally" squeezing the nurse's breast if he wasn't performing to a room of doctors and nurses? He may have, but I'd like to believe that he performed that specific joke simply because of the kind of people who were expected to be in the audience.
Or what about Williams (Greg, not Gail - pictured left)? Would he have been performing at the fundraiser had he not been a Kaiser nurse? It's possible that he still may have been on the bill, but after the show (in a talk with Harrison, the organizer) it was revealed that because of Williams' connection to Kaiser and Kaiser's connection to JW House, Williams was introduced to Harrison and put on the bill. And, because
of Williams' personal connection to so many of the audience members, he knew exactly how to adapt his performance to his audience as many of his jokes centered around being a male nurse and working with women and children all day.
Even Rangel, a founding member of JW House's Young Professional Advisory Committee, wanted to challenge herself by performing - and she proved that the performance art isn't exactly easy. Sure Rangel received some laughs for many of her jokes, but others bombed horribly (to be fair all of the comedians had at least a couple of jokes that didn't go over so well with the audience). But, comedy and stand up requires a certain type of personality and ability to relate to the audience.
It's clear that not just anyone can climb up on a stage and say witty things. The performance, the art, must be honed over a period of time. The jokes must be practiced and retold in other ways to find the most favorable outcome. A relationship with the audience must be built in a matter of seconds - they'll know if they like you instantly.
This isn't theater or film. There isn't time for a character to grow on you. The audience isn't going to listen to someone for two hours and determine they are friendly, inviting, heartless, cold, the hero or the villain. They're going to listen for 30-60 seconds and decide if they'll tune in or tune out.
And that's why comedy is a performance. An instant connection; an engaging 15 minutes; a laugh; a groan - it's all part of the art.
What a cast! What a show!
Starting Arts Dream Team produced the Tony award winning musical "In the Heights" January 17-19 at Santa Clara High School.
The Dream Team is comprised of Bay Area high school students who try out to be part of the elite squad of performers.
Last year, the group put on Les Mis, which challenged them vocally. This year, they were challenged physically as most of the students were gifted actors and singers, but the majority had no formal dance training. The group worked hard for a short 14 weeks to put this show together and the results were nothing short of outstanding.
The story centers around a group of immigrants (and children of immigrants) in Washington Heights, New York. The barrio, as it's put in the play, is home to
these characters and they struggle with the idea of belonging. Usnavi, the main male character who runs the corner bodega, wants to return to his homeland. Vanessa just wants to get out of the Heights. The Rosarios immigrated to provide a better life for their daughter Nina, and struggle with her desire to date Benny - the only non-Latino in the group. Sonny sees the Heights as home and has no desire to leave, as does Abuela Claudia, but as life changes the characters must find acceptance. And, they do - In the Heights.
The acting of the cast we were lucky enough to see was stellar. Jordan Plutzer (Usnavi) was a perfect male lead - combining humor, fantastic vocals, and sensitivity to his character. And, the females were incredible. Eva Zakula (Vanessa) was sassy and smart. Micaela Laber (Abuela Claudia) showed genuine emotion in her performance as the aging matriarch of the group. And, Kelly Rosales (Nina) was superb as the Stanford drop out who returns "home" to realize that graduating is vital to her future, and the future of her family.
This wasn't "just" a high schooler performance. This was a performance that could have been done on any main stage, in any part of the country, with adults and been just as good. Yes, at times, the dancing was a little strained, but for 14 weeks of rehearsals that pushed these kids to learn hip hop, salsa and lifts, it was a pretty good showing of the skill these "kids" have. Many of them are destined for greatness and a future in musical theater!
On October 6, SCPAF attended the sjDANCEco Shakespeare Dances performance at the California Theatre in San Jose.
The group's artistic representation of classic Shakespeare plays was absolutely beautiful. They started with Othello, moved into Macbeth, on to Hamlet and ended with Romeo and Juliet before pausing to prepare three world premiere performances, Keyed, Fire The Grid, and Beneath the Visiting Moon.
After intermission, the company premiered The Moor's Pavane (variations on the theme of Othello).
Not only was the company's movement incredible (a mix of classical ballet and modern dance), but the costumes were visually stunning, particularly during The Moor's Pavane. Pauline Lawrence Limon (costumes) really paid attention to color combinations by mixing a bold violet-red, subtle white, a pleasing orange, and a yellow-orange costume to tie everything together. Simply stunning.
Members of the SCPAF mailing list were able to take advantage of a special offer for the Friday or Saturday night performance. Join our mailing list to find out how you can be part of our next great promotion.
The Santa Clara Performing Arts Foundation is pleased to announce a discount for two SCU Presents performances.
On September 29 at 7:30 p.m. SCU Presents kicks off its season with a piano concert by SCU's own virtuoso pianist Hans Boepple and a program of audience pleasing treats.
Tickets are $5-$15.
Then on Oct. 12 at 8 p.m., SCU Presents hosts Sinatra Forever: A Tribute to Frank Sinatra. Rick Michel shines as one of the greatest singers of all time in this concert full of classic Sinatra songs.
Tickets are $20-$40.
Santa Clara Performing Arts Foundation has a special discount for these two events. Use the promotion code "Sing3" at www.scupresents.org or call the box office at (408) 554-4015 to receive a $3 ticket discount at these events.
Key On Arts
An occasional blog of the Santa Clara Performing Arts Foundation.