An All-Lustig Showcase at Laney
Plus, Oakland Ballet hosts a vigorous dance fest.
Calvin Thomas and Alysia Chang in rehearsal for Oakland Ballet’s spring production, "A Midsummer Night’s Dream."
The most difficult decision for any performing organization is to find its groove in terms of aspiration, identity, and the kind of audiences it wants to attract. The good news, at a time when the arts are so threatened, is the rebirth of Oakland Ballet Company under the directorship of the British-born Graham Lustig.
For over 50 years, standing in the shadow of its larger cousin across the bay, Oakland Ballet had struggled, blossomed, and faded, but it had survived. It had always been a remarkable institution, most famous for its refusal to participate in the national hail-Balanchine chorus, favoring other voices and—in its glory days—the extraordinary reconstructions of the much-lamented Ballets Russes repertoire. Those days are gone. Yet Oakland Ballet refused to die, though it needed help.
When in 2010 Lustig looked at the company, there were no dancers, but it did have an enthusiastic committed board of directors. Lustig saw that Oakland and its artistic community were growing. He knew the company’s history, and he had a strong sense that he could bring it back. So he took a chance and signed a part-time contract. The first season, he brought with him his own delightful Nutcracker, which immediately found its place in the chorus of this beloved holy day celebration.
Now Lustig has taken another big step—a full-time commitment to Oakland that includes not only a commitment to the company’s artistic growth, but also its responsibilities as a community organization. “We have grown, and we are financially secure. I feel that I can contribute more by being here full time,” he said. Modestly, Lustig had considered a mixed bill for this season’s spring program. “But the board asked that I present my own work,” he explained, “because they also want Oakland to get to know me as a choreographer.” So he chose a reprise of his Shakespeare-inspired A Midsummer Night’s Dream and created the world premiere of Consort to some of the Bard’s sonnets.
That same weekend, Oakland Ballet will also host the third annual East Bay DANCES festival, whose 10 companies will showcase one more time the variety and vigor of East Bay dance.
Oakland Ballet Company spring repertory season program:, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Consort, June 1-2, 7:30 p.m., June 3, 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., $15-$45. East Bay DANCES, June 4, 4 p.m. $15-$25. Both on stage at Odell Johnson Performing Arts Theater, Laney College, 900 Fallon St., Oakland, OaklandBallet.org, BrownPaperTickets.com.
This report appears in the June edition of our sister publication, the East Bay Monthly.
Published online on May 30, 2017 at 8:00 a.m.