Tag Archives: ballet performance

Diablo Ballet: Why They’re Still Going Strong After 22 Years

Diablo Ballet has a lot to celebrate: This year the company marked twenty-two successful seasons (with a gala evening that opened with moving speeches by City Councilwoman Cindy Silva, and co-founder/Artistic Director Lauren Jonas) and the company has never looked better. While many San Francisco Bay Area dance companies are struggling to stay afloat, this is not the case with Diablo Ballet. The reason is clear: Diablo Ballet brings an eclectic offering of dance to the stage and beyond into the community through its PEEK Program (Performing Arts Education & Enrichment for Kids), the only arts education program of its kind offered by a professional dance company in the Bay Area. The PEEK program has served 65,000 kids since 1995, most recently a group of incarcerated teen girls in the Contra Costa County juvenile justice system.

The program began with Tears From Above, choreographed by Val Caniparoli with music by Elena Kats-Chernin. Dancers Rosselyn Ramirez and Jackie McConnell wore simple dresses in muted tones, dancing a sensual, fiery interplay with bare-chested men, Christian Squires, and Aidan Young. The dancers’ technique was gorgeously fluid, yet they held nothing back as they undulated, leapt, and turned wildly, driven by cellists Joel Cohen and Janet Witharm.

A world premiere of the film We, Divine, choreographed by Robert Dekkers, with cinematography by Walter Yamazaki followed. This simple, elegant film, set to music by Jacob Wolkenhauer, showed the company in a series of stop-motion choreographic vignettes of the dancers in flowing silks (designed by Christian Squires), giving viewers a new way to appreciate the Diablo Ballet.

Sonya Delwaide’s Serenade, choreographed to Ernö Dohnányi’s Serenade For String Trio (Featuring violinist Philip Santos, cellist Janet Witharm and violist Katrina Wreede) was a playful, acrobatic piece, that opened with a trio of dancers and the musicians in an unusual location onstage behind them. Mayo Sugano and Christian Squires were particularly exquisite in the 2nd movement; Ms. Sugano’s delicately arched feet highlighted her precise lines. In the 3rd movement five dancers created an interconnected series of lines and shapes in movement, ending with a humorous tableau, posing in homage to the musicians.

Tetyana Martyanova held center stage in the solo from Diablo Opus, choreographed by Gary Masters, set to music from Cara Mio Ben. Clothed in red, her hand covering her mouth, it was easy to feel her longing, sadness and isolation, although she was surrounded by men. The piece was short, with a sweet ending as Martyanova was carried offstage by a trio of men.

The evening ended with another Diablo Ballet Premiere, the Petipa classic La Fille Mal Gardée, re-envisioned for the company by Lauren Jonas. Although the choreography was new, the black and white costumes gave the piece a timeless look. Amanda Farris and Jamar Goodman were a strong, sturdy duet. Newcomer Jackie McConnell showed strong technique, particularly in her pirouettes. This ballet was the perfect end to the evening; a light, crisp end, like a glass of bubbly.

Diablo Ballet’s 22nd gala was a wonderful retrospective for the company, with something old, something new, and even something blue (the costumes in Serenade). It’s easy to see why they’re still going strong.

How Ballet and Football Are Alike…and Different


© 2014 Grier Cooper

With all the talk about football players diving into ballet it seemed fitting to look at ways in which they are similar and ways they are different. This past weekend I went to see my first football game – ever– the Oakland Raiders (Raider Nation!) and noticed it’s a very different vibe going to a football game, although (just like at the ballet) you still get dressed up and you need a ticket to get in. Unlike the ballet, you also need to submit to a thorough bag check and metal detectors, plus you can’t bring your purse in if it’s larger than 4 ½ X 6 and not transparent. Still, watching athletes in action is always inspiring, whether they are swanlike waifs or built like tanks. Let’s look a little more closely at ballet and football, beginning with the similarities:


  1. Inhuman strength. Both dancers and football players spend most of their waking hours training, cross-training and sweating their butts off. This automatically elevates them to superhero status.
  2. Great butts. Hey, it’s true, whether or not you’re willing to admit you noticed. Because you did. Totally.
  3. Respect. Mostly because of items 1 and 2. How can you not respect a person with inhuman strength and a great butt? Plus they put on a good show.
  4. Injuries. Even though both types of athletes are capable of superhuman feats they are still human underneath it all.
  5. Career Length. Both dancers and football players usually retire in their thirties, meaning both careers are hella short.

The differences are a little more apparent:

1. Audience participation. You will never hear anyone yelling in the middle of at a ballet performance “Man, that was terrible! What are you doing!”(*obscenities edited out*). If you do, the person will be swiftly removed, I assure you.

2. Pay Scale. The top average salary for an NFL player is $17,600,000. Let’s not forget the celebrity endorsements and other perks. The average ballet dancer’s salary is a tiny $15,080 – $26,419. Midlevel dancers, often soloists, could earn as much as $50,000-$58,000 a year and celebrated principal dancers can earn a couple of thousand dollars per performance. Which is just sad.

3. Audience size. Michigan Stadium, home of the Michigan Wolverines, has a seating capacity of 109, 901, while Old City Stadium (home of the Green Bay Packers) holds a mere 25,000. The David Koch Theater (home of New York City Ballet) holds 2,586, San Francisco Ballet’s War Memorial Opera House holds 3,200 and Devos Performance Hall (home of Grand Rapids Ballet) holds 2,400.

4. Arrests. The fans of the Oakland Raiders have long been associated with rowdy, and sometimes violent, behavior, but a review of recent police records reveals that 49ers fans currently hold the Bay Area title for breaking the law on game day.


© 2014 Grier Cooper

49ers Data:
Aug. 17 = 18 arrests
Aug. 24 = 38 arrests
Sept: 14 = 31 arrests

Sept. 18 = 17 arrests

Oct. 5 = 22 arrests

Raiders Data:

Aug. 15 = 10 arrests

Aug. 28 = 6 arrests

Sept. 14 = 21 arrests

Average arrests at the ballet: um, none.

Whether you are a diehard football fan or ballet fan or both, that concludes our exercise in comparisons.To quote Colin Quinn as he wrapped up the SNL Weekend Update: “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”


© 2014 My Lovely Husband