Over the past few years, it looked as if the Oakland Ballet was about to grand-jeté itself right off a cliff. Between disappointing attendance numbers and the financial hit arts organizations took in the wake of 9/11, by 2004 the company had to cancel an entire season, lay off all but three employees, and let many of its dancers go to seek their fortunes with other companies. But the community, in the shape of foundations, individual donors, other arts organizations, and the City of Oakland, wouldn’t let 2003 be the ballet’s last dance. The “Keep Us Dancing” campaign brought in enough money to put the company back in its black tights. The ballet has brought back eight dancers and hired eight new ones, and is looking forward to the 2005 season, its fortieth.
So it’s time to party, and party the Ballet shall, with a grand black-tie gala Saturday at the Oakland Marriott City Center at 1001 Broadway. KRON4’s anchor Vicki Liviakis will serve as mistress of ceremonies, and opens A Magical Journey with a cocktail reception at 6:30 p.m., giving way to dinner, a performance, live auction, and dancing to live music from Sidepocket, Pamela Rose’s seven-piece band playing a selection of American music from soul, blues, and jazz to swing and rock. Individual tickets are $250, with $150 tickets available for under-thirty balletophiles; table sponsorships start at $2,500 for a table of ten. For invitations, please e-mail [email protected]
Gala guests will enjoy the return of Eugene Loring’s classic Billy the Kid, based on the music of Aaron Copland, the first time in ten years the company has performed the piece. The lineup also includes excerpts from Nijinska’s pure Russian Diaghilev-era Les Noces and Les Biches; Michael Lowe’s acrobatic Double Happiness — its American and Asian themes woven together with live Chinese music; and an exuberant new tribute to Ella Fitzgerald from Broadway choreographer Donald McKayle, featuring live music by the Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra backing jazzy singer Ledisi. A Magical Journey sets the stage for upcoming season shows of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, Scott Rink’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and the company premiere of Dudley Brook’s comic A Short Solo — followed, naturally, by everyone’s holiday favorite, The Nutcracker. For the Oakland Ballet, life does indeed begin at forty. — Lisa Drostova
The Tempest hits Orinda
A desert island, storm-tossed lovers, mistaken identities, magic, jolly tars — Shakespeare’s deceptively light-hearted The Tempest has everything going for it. California Shakespeare Theater’s latest production of the comedy, directed by Lillian Groag, stars the husband-wife team of Triney and Mhari Sandoval as Caliban and Ariel, with crowd-pleaser Anthony Fusco as Prospero. Previews begin tonight (Wednesday, 8 p.m.) and the show opens Saturday for a run through October 23, at Cal Shakes’ Bruns Amphitheater, Orinda. CalShakes.org — Kelly Vance
Ayodele Nzinga has been adapting plays her way for her Lower Bottom Playaz theater troupe all along, so it’s no surprise that when she hits on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, she makes it her own: “It’s an urban tale now; we tie it into the city,” says artistic director Nzinga of the tragedy, playing for six performances starting at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the outdoor Sister Thea Bowman Memorial Theater (920 Peralta St., West Oakland). MC Duncan wants to unify his turf — the O — and uses OG Mac to do the job. “We’ve got great witches,” she boasts, plus a cast of some of the East Bay’s most exciting spoken-word artists — including Nzinga herself in a cameo as Hecate the evil spirit. Info: 510-208-1912. — Kelly Vance
Lush for Life
Days of Wine and Roses brings to mind Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick’s impossibly romantic version of alcoholism. Playwright and screenwriter J.P. Miller’s scenario, part disapproving social commentary and part goofy love story, doesn’t get revived much, which is why the Act Now! Theatre Company’s production — directed by Stephen Murphree and starring Brenda Reed and Rich Aiello — is arguably noteworthy. It opens Friday evening (8:15 p.m.) and plays through October 22 at the Dean Lesher Center in Walnut Creek. Tix and info: 925-943-7469. — Kelly Vance