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  • Writer's pictureJen Norris

Review: Post:ballet & Berkeley Ballet Theater w. Kronos Performing Arts Assoc. ‘still be here'

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

An abundance of riches is something to be savored, not taken in all at once, lest the beauty and uniqueness of one jewel be blurred by the close proximity of other gems. Such is the experience of watching Post:ballet and Berkeley Ballet Theater’s (BBT) still be here created with the Kronos Performing Arts Association (KPAA) in performance April 21 and 22 in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Forum. In seventy minutes, we are offered seven choreographed contemporary ballet works in addition to six interstitial dance pieces performed to the music of thirteen composers. It’s a lot.


Why so many voices in one evening? still be here, is Post:ballet’s first fully-staged presentation since the pandemic shut venues three years ago. Perhaps it is trying to make up for time lost, or a manifestation of the generosity of Creative Director Robin Dekkers, who leads both Post:ballet and BBT. It is a presentation whose creation no doubt enriched the lives of many artists. Both professionals and advanced students were given opportunities to collaborate and show work.

Dancers of Post:ballet 'still be here' Photo credit: Natalia Perez


The ability to rent a downtown theater is a privilege that should be shared with others. Resource sharing is a foundational principle of diversity, equity and inclusion programs. Dekkers and their colleagues are living by these principles, rather than paying them lip-service. Moving away from scarcity, this show is abundance embodied. With more than two dozen dancers filling the stage, a sense of communion and a shared purpose fills the space.


For still be here, Dekkers, Post:ballet and BBT commissioned dances from nationally and internationally recognized choreographers. The music for each piece is played live by a quartet of musicians from one of three Bay Area music schools: the Crowden Music Center, Oakland School of the Arts and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. The finale is performed by the world-renowned Kronos Quartet. This rotational structure requires one musical ensemble to exit and another to enter between each of the centerpiece dances.


Rather than allow breaks between works for the musician swap, the creative team chose to produce “interstitial” pieces. These dances are performed by members of Post:ballet and choreographed by Co-Creative Director Mia J. Chong. Remixes of Kronos’s 50 for the Future scores, a learning repertoire of fifty new works for quartets, written by composers from around the world and designed for students and emerging professionals, provide the interlude music. The remix recordings were made by young people from the youth development organization, Sunset Youth Services.


Amazingly the show is tight, and flows well, with a lot of polish. This is a tribute to the high-level of skill and artistry of the Post:ballet company dancers: Crystaldawn Bell, Chong, Colin Frederick, Emily Hansel, Caitlin Hicks, Moscelyne ParkeHarrison and Benjamin Warner who transition from one work to another with grace and ease. Warner and Bell get VIP status performing respectively in eight and seven pieces.


From this collage of work several pieces shine brightest for me. Choreographer Keon Saghari’s Sunjata’s Time: Nana Triban is gorgeously performed by Chong and Dixon to a jazzy score for oboe and clarinet composed by Fodé Lassana Diabaté. The opening tableau finds Chong, her limbs and body a tree swaying in the wind, anchored by Dixon, whose arced body lies wrapped around her feet. A trusting partnership develops as Chong’s body becomes an inverted basket as she is swung by her arms, with one arm threaded between her legs. A memorable lift finds her chest to the sky, her knees bent cupping his waist, as he offers her to the Gods. There’s a playfulness too as she hops onto his back, riding along as he spins. The piece ends too soon with Chong coiled at Dixon’s ankles; their roles reversed.


Glimpses of Muqam Chebiyat choreographed by Babatunji Johnson and performed to a mournful string quartet by Chinese composer Wu Man is almost narrative. Figures on a difficult journey enter, one man carries two others, one on his back, the other clinging to his front. They are followed by two more men who hand-in-hand scuddle low to the ground. From a momentary rest one runs seeking escape only to be drawn back by the leader, Pucci. A puppet master of sorts, he energizes each of his followers in turn to perform a short dance. As a group, the four disciples rise arching up from backbends, cartwheeling in a circle surrounding him. The final powerful image is that of Pucci atop the arms of the foursome.

Opening of Glimpses of Muqam Chebiyat part of Post:ballet still be here; Photo credit Natalia Perez


Other intriguing moments include a dynamic body-music section in which a trio of dancers slap their thighs and stomp their feet augmenting the string quartet by composer Charlton Singleton in Danielle Rowe’s Testimony. I was drawn in by the fascinating preoccupation with hands, twining and trembling, in Emily Hansel’s Knock.


Chong’s choreography for the interstitial work is strong. While I question the choice to create so many unrelated pieces in one evening, these movement sections often brought applause at times surpassing the commissioned work which preceded it. The exuberance of the leaps and fast backward runs of Interstitial for eight provide a refreshing palette cleanser following ParkeHarrison’s Darkness is Not Well Lit.


The willingness to bring so many in under the Post:ballet tent is to be applauded. Too much of a good thing is a good problem to have, especially as we emerge post-pandemic, hungry for live performance and community engagement. It is nothing a little careful editing can’t fix.


Kronos Quartet members during bow sequence for Post:ballet's 'still be here' photo: J Norris


Review by Jen Norris, published April 24, 2023; corrected for spelling & pronouns April 25


Production credits may soon be available here: https://www.postballet.org/season14

still be here

Presented by Post:ballet and Berkeley Ballet Theater

with Kronos Performing Arts Association


Creative Director: Robin Dekkers

Co-Creative Directors: Mia J. Chong and Moscelyne ParkeHarrison

Costume Designer: Aine Dorman

Costume Collaborator: Janethia Dorman

Lighting Designer: David Robertson

Associate Lighting Designer: Thomas Bowersox

Sound Designer: Brian Mohr

Production Manager: Kathy Rose

Program:

Marejada

Composer: Angélica Negrón

Choreographer: Chuck Wilt

Dancers: Sohel Bagai, Barry Balasingham, Crystaldawn Bell, Mia J. Chong, Allison Cohn, Landes Dixon, Lexi Duff, Soli Dunston, Luke Eastwood, Colin Frederick, Alizé Griffin, Emily Hansel, Caitlin Hicks, Ansel Klucsor, Chiara Kovac, Catherine Lynch, Teddy O'Brien, Astrid Olsson, Elie Orenstein, Moscelyne ParkeHarrison, Anthony Pucci, Ava Ramsdale, Manon Schul, Benjamin Warner, Allie Weinberger

Musicians: Crowden Music Center

Kira Bayer, Violin I

Isaiah Iny-Woods, Violin II

Thomas Renton, Viola

Zander Lee, Cello

Coach: Eugene Sor

Kira Bayer (Violin I), Isaiah Iny-Woods (Violin II), Thomas Renton (Viola), Zander Lee (Cello)


Violin I: Kira Bayer

Violin II: Isaiah Iny-Woods

Viola: Thomas Renton

Cello: Zander Lee

Coach: Eugene Sor


interstitial for ten

Pink Book - Sunset Youth Services Remix

Choreographer: Mia J. Chong

Dancers: Barry Balasingham, Allison Cohn, Soli Dunston, Alizé Griffin, Chiara Kovac, Catherine Lynch, Astrid Olsson, Elie Orenstein, Manon Schul, Allie Weinberger


Testimony

Composer: Charlton Singleton

Choreographer: Danielle Rowe

Dancers: Crystaldawn Bell, Caitlin Hicks, Benjamin Warner

Musicians: Oakland School for the Arts

Sina Kalkan, Violin I

MK Martinez-Griffith, Violin II

Aiden Lewis, Viola

Ben Ventura, Cello

Coach: Ilana Thomas


interstitial for four

Darkness - Sunset Youth Services Remix

Choreographer: Mia J. Chong, in collaboration with the dancers

Dancers: Lexi Duff, Colin Frederick, Caitlin Hicks, Anthony Pucci



Sunjata's Time: III. Nana Triban

Composer: Fodé Lassana Diabaté (Arranged by Jacob Garchik and Nick Kanozik)

Choreographer: Keon Saghari

Dancers: Mia J. Chong and Landes Dixon

Musicians: San Francisco Conservatory of Music

T. Colton Potter, Oboe

Caleb Rose, Clarinet I

Clayton Luckadoo, Clarinet II

Taylor Barlow, Bass Clarinet

Coach: Jeff Anderle


interstitial for one

Spazz - Sunset Youth Services Remix

Choreographers: Mia J. Chong and Moscelyne ParkeHarrison

Dancer: Moscelyne ParkeHarrison



Darkness is Not Well Lit

Composer: Nicole Lizée

Choreographer: Moscelyne ParkeHarrison

Dancers: Allison Cohn, Soli Dunston, Alizé Griffin, Chiara Kovac, Catherine Lynch, Ava Ramsdale, Manon Schul, Allie Weinberger

Musicians: San Francisco Conservatory of Music

Manny Vouse, Violin I

Alyssa Tong, Violin II

Hannah Wendorf, Viola

Elmer Carter, Cello

Coach: Dimitri Murrath


interstitial for eight

Circular - Sunset Youth Services Remix

Choreographer: Mia J. Chong, in collaboration with the dancers

Dancers: Crystaldawn Bell, Lexi Duff, Landes Dixon, Colin Frederick, Emily Hansel, Caitlin Hicks, Moscelyne ParkeHarrison, Benjamin Warner



Glimpses of Muqam Chebiyat

Composer: Wu Man (realized by Danny Clay)

Choreographer: Babatunji Johnson

Dancers: Sohel Bagai, Luke Eastwood, Colin Frederick, Teddy O'Brien, Anthony Pucci

Musicians: Oakland School for the Arts

Sina Kalkan, Violin I

MK Martinez-Griffith, Violin II

Aiden Lewis, Viola

Ben Ventura, Cello

Coach: Ilana Thomas


interstitial for three

Soumaworo - Sunset Youth Services Remix

Choreographer: Mia J. Chong, in collaboration with the dancers

Dancers: Crystaldawn Bell, Emily Hansel, Benjamin Warner

Knock

Composer: Joan Jeanrenaud

Choreographer: Emily Hansel

Dancers: Crystaldawn Bell, Mia J. Chong, Colin Frederick, Caitlin Hicks, Moscelyne ParkeHarrison, Anthony Pucci, Benjamin Warner

Musicians: San Francisco Conservatory of Music

Alyssa Tong, Violin I

Manny Vouse, Violin II

Hannah Wendorf, Viola

Elmer Carter, Cello

Coach: Dimitri Murrath


interstitial for six

Lazarus - Sunset Youth Services Remix

Choreographer: Mia J. Chong, in collaboration with the dancers

Dancers: Crystaldawn Bell, Colin Frederick, Emily Hansel, Caitlin Hicks, Moscelyne ParkeHarrison, Benjamin Warner


Le Bois

Composer: Bryce Dessner

Choreographer: Ihsan Rustem with inspiration from choreographers Mia J. Chong, Emily Hansel, Babatunji Johnson, Moscelyne ParkeHarrison, Keon Saghari, Danielle Rowe, and Chuck Wilt

Dancers: Sohel Bagai, Barry Balasingham, Crystaldawn Bell, Mia J. Chong, Allison Cohn, Landes Dixon, Lexi Duff, Soli Dunston, Luke Eastwood, Colin Frederick, Alizé Griffin, Emily Hansel, Caitlin Hicks, Ansel Klucsor, Chiara Kovac, Catherine Lynch, Teddy O'Brien, Astrid Olsson, Elie Orenstein, Moscelyne ParkeHarrison, Anthony Pucci, Ava Ramsdale, Manon Schul, Benjamin Warner, Allie Weinberger

Musicians: Kronos Quartet

David Harrington, Violin

John Sherba, Violin

Hank Dutt, Viola

Paul Wiancko, Cello


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