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Sharp Curve Ahead: Catherine Grow of Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley limbers up for the season.


Fall 2003 Arts Guide:
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Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley

DENNIS NAHAT isn't just for adults. In fact, the veteran choreographer and artistic director of Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley is still a kid himself, as enchanted as ever by the art to which he has dedicated his life's work. He even gets excited all over again by The Nutcracker, that perennial which most companies are obliged to stage every December whether they want to or not, in order to pay for the remainder of their seasons. "We're adding some new dances in the traveling sequence. They'll be a surprise," he says almost joyously.

While the ballet will shortly announce its selection of a new CEO, it could hardly have a better point man than Nahat. His anticipation of a "great season" is irresistible, his enthusiasm palpable. To get him going, just mention the names of Martha Graham, Yuriko, Michael Smuin or Flemming Flindt. As a young dancer, Nahat worked with Graham and later with the San Jose-born Yuriko, who danced with Graham and took charge of the Graham company following the visionary choreographer's death in 1991. Company premieres of two Graham classics include Appalachian Spring in the season-opening October program and the solo Frontier in the season-closer next May. "When I met with Yuriko to discuss these pieces, she told me that she wanted the opportunity to set the repertoire in a manner consistent with Graham's intentions," Nahat explains. He adds that Yuriko also wanted to extend "arigato" (thank you) to her hometown for nurturing her lifetime love affair with dance.

The full company will frame the famous Graham/Copland work with revivals of Michael Smuin's Stravinsky Piano Pieces--featuring well-known Bay Area pianist Roy Bogas and witty costumes by Willa Kim--and Nahat and Ian Horvath's US, a pageant of American popular and vernacular dances set to original recordings of Irving Berlin, Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman, among others. Some more recent dance styles and their music have been added.

December will see The Nutcracker and, in February, a revival of Nahat's full-length, three-act version of Delibes' Coppélia, a "comedy family ballet, classical in style but with an up-to-date look" that recounts the ETA Hoffman tale of the toymaker whose mechanical doll is so lifelike that young men fall in love with it (her). "Expect dolls, explosions, magic, and a full orchestra," Nahat promises. David Guthrie will do the sets and costumes.

Perhaps the most anticipated production of the coming season is the world premiere in March of Flindt's Out of Africa, based on Isak Dinesen's book, with music selected from the works of Danish composer Carl Nielsen. (The ballet enjoyed a major success a few seasons back with Flindt's Phaedra.) Actually, this is the public premiere of Out of Africa; the original, titled Lucifer's Daughter, was performed once for the 25th wedding anniversary of the Queen of Denmark in 1992. This all-new production is restyled, en pointe, and recostumed, and includes a chorus of 100 singers onstage.

In addition to Graham's Frontier, the season finale will present company debuts of Peter Martin's Hallelujah Junction and Lew Christensen's final work, Vivaldi Concerto Grosso. Nahat's exuberant Go Daddi-O! will add the final touch, with Bill Duncan's vivacious 1930s-style score, "the most familiar swing music you've never heard."

When Nahat speaks about The Nutcracker and Coppélia, he glows with the wonder of childhood. If you want to feel that glow, just ask him about kids. The ballet's dance school is a source of some of his greatest pride, and he spends part of his summer in Wheatley Heights, Long Island, as artistic director of the dance program at the acclaimed Usdan Center for the Performing Arts (which offers talented and motivated youngsters opportunities otherwise only available to kids from wealthy families). To underscore his commitment to succeeding generations, Nahat has just announced a new young family series that will include Silly Simon (taken from a Hans Christian Andersen tale), choreographed by BSJSV school director Lise la Cour and featuring young dancers from the school along with company members. In addition, the ballet has scheduled shortened versions of The Nutcracker and Coppélia for younger children. "The family series is something we have wanted to do for a long time," Nahat says, confident that it will provide his company with another way to strengthen its ties to the community.

Scott MacClelland

Where: San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, 255 Almaden Blvd., San Jose
When: Thursdays at 7:30pm; Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm; Sundays at 1:30 and 7:30pm
How Much: $19-$68
Info: 408.288.2800, www.balletsanjose.org

Oct. 16-19: Stravinsky Piano Pieces; Appalachian Spring; Us
Dec. 12-28: Dennis Nahat's The Nutcracker
Dec. 14: Children's Nutcracker (1:30pm)
Feb. 5-8: Coppélia
Feb. 7: Children's Coppélia (1:30pm)
March 25-28: Out of Africa
April 22-25: Silly Simon. At the San Jose Repertory Theatre.
May 6-9: Hallelujah Junction; Vivaldi Concerto Grosso; Frontier; Go Daddy O!

Margaret Wingrove Dance Company

FOR THE START of its 21st season, the company presents three new works choreographed by founder Margaret Wingrove. The pieces look at an artist (Marc Chagall), a writer (Zelda Fitzgerald) and the sacred path known as the labyrinth.

Where: The Stage, 490 S. First St., San Jose
When: Oct. 30-Nov. 2 at 8pm
How Much: $20 general, $15 seniors and students; $25 for Saturday show and reception.
Info: 408.283.7142

Flint Center

TWO SIGNIFICANT traveling dance shows come to Flint Center, 2120 Stevens Creek Blvd., Cupertino. Tickets are $10-$45; call 408.998.8497.

Oct. 23: Momix. A work called Opus Cactus. 8pm.
Nov. 16: Suzanne Farrell Ballet. An all-Balanchine program. 7pm.

Chitresh Das Dance Company

CHITRESH DAS, who specializes in north Indian dance styles, has put together a premiere, Tarang, for the fall, featuring a top-line array of Indian artists: tabla player Abhihit Banergee and mandolist Snehasish Majumdar, among them.

Where: Mexican Heritage Theatre, 1700 Alum Rock Ave., San Jose
When: Sept. 21 at 4pm
How Much: $18-$22
Info: 415.863.9834 or 415.499.1601; www.odctheater.org

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From the September 11-17, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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