Dancing on the Day of the Dead

"Luna Mexicana" mixes folkloric and Mexican music with ballet at the Paramount.


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Oakland Ballet Company presents "Luna Mexicana" with choreography by Graham Lustig to honor Dia de los Muertos.

Robert Downs Photography

If old timey cartoons have taught us anything, it’s that skeletons love to dance. So it should be no surprise that, in the Oakland Ballet Company’s celebration of the Mexican Day of the Dead, a young woman’s dreams bring back deceased friends and relatives from beyond the grave—and they arrive in the form of spectral dancing skeletons.

That’s Graham Lustig’s Luna Mexicana, a family-friendly hour-long dance and musical performance cast with five female and five male dancers. All will be wearing vivid, vibrant costumes along with striking makeup as they assume Dia de los Muertos traditions as the living honor the spirits of the dead with offerings, food, music, and dance.

Tottering, joyously cavorting skeletons; girls twirling in their beautiful, colorful skirts; a shaky bride-and-groom duet; and a “deer dancer” are among the characters that will be dancing in reverence for the spirits of the departed. Audience members are encouraged to wear costumes, with prizes being awarded for the most expressive. Sweet pan de muerto sold by vendors in the lobby and mariachi music should add to the festive feel.

Nov. 1, 7 p.m., adults $12-$22, kids $7-$12. Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakland; Nov. 5, 3 p.m., $28 adults, $22 children and students, Amador Theater, Pleasanton. OaklandBallet.org.

 

Art

Visit the home studios of over 100 artists, sculptors, and craftspeople throughout Berkeley during the Berkeley Artisans Studio Open House to see blown glass, ceramics, ornaments, handmade furniture, sculpture, photography, paintings, and more. Pick up a free map and directory of participants at 2547 Eighth St., #24-A, Berkeley, or download it from the artisans website. Nov. 26-27, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Free. Various Berkeley locations. BerkeleyArtisans.com.

Meanwhile, at the Pizzichillo-Gordon Art Glass Holiday Studio Sale, Bruce Pizzichillo and Dari Gordon open up their art glass studio for a real day of holiday bargains, handcrafted artisan glass sculptures, and baubles at up to 50 percent off the marked price. They make the perfect stocking stuffer for the glass connoisseur on your shopping list. Pizzichillo and Gordon will be available to answer questions and discuss their work. Nov. 25-27 and Dec. 3, 10, & 17; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Free. 2680 Union St., Oakland. QuePasaGlass.com.

 

Classes

The annual Thanksgiving dinner might be a great time to meet old friends, reconnect with relatives, reflect on the blessings of the year, and gorge on turkey (OK, especially gorge on turkey), but the lead-up to the big meal is one of the most stressful days of the year for the conscientious host. The relatives are on their way, and Thanksgiving dinner is a disaster. Whatever can one do? Fear not, the special four-course Holiday Boot Camp: Everything But the Bird will help you handle the holiday season like a seasoned pro. Learn creative recipes, do-ahead techniques, and tips and tricks to eliminate the stress from holiday cooking and baking. In addition, the course will take you beyond the traditional Thanksgiving staples. Tired of the same old stuffing and mashed potatoes? Are you still serving that same canned green-bean-and-cream-of-mushroom-soup dish that you mastered back in high school home ec? It’s time to wow your Thanksgiving visitors with some tangy new twists on Thanksgiving standards—like sourdough, fennel, and sweet sausage stuffing, cranberry ginger chutney, cream of chestnut soup, and gingerbread cake with molasses cream. Nov. 5, 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. $130. Rocket Restaurant Supply, 2940 Seventh St., Berkeley. FieldKitchenCookingSchool.com.

Pine wreaths are great for the holidays, but when you create a wreath from living succulents you can enjoy it all year long. The Succulent Wreath Workshop will help you select the succulents that best fit your tastes. Learn from an expert how to plant and care for your wreaths. All materials provided. Nov. 16, 6-8 p.m. $90 adult, $80 garden members. UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive, Berkeley. BotanicalGarden.berkeley.edu.

 

Events

In India, Diwali is an ancient springtime festival in which people celebrate the annual triumph of light over the retreating dark by illuminating the night with thousands of lanterns. UC Berkeley’s International House celebrates Diwali with a grand buffet of favorite Indian dishes—and a dining hall transformed by dozens of candles. Nov. 1, 6-8 p.m. Free for International House residents, $15 for nonresidents. Second floor dining commons, International House at UC Berkeley, 2299 Piedmont Ave., Berkeley. IHouse.berkeley.edu.

It’s a rootin’ tootin’, yeha!-ing, giant-10-gallon-hat-wearin’, sarsaparilla-swiggin’, armadillo-worryin’ good time as Sunol celebrates the good old days of the Wild West. Sunol’s Cowboy Hootenanny includes square dancing, homemade lemonade, rope-making, quilting, and more. Nov. 5, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Event is free; parking is $5 cash. Old Green Barn Visitor Center, Sunol Regional Wilderness, 1895 Geary Road, Sunol. EBParks.org.

The Castro Valley Meet in the Street officially kicks off the holiday season with a festival of live music, holiday shopping, and the eclectic, electric parade of lights. See floats from local service organizations, churches, and schools, as well as antique cars, Powell’s Irish Dancers, service dogs, motorcycles, and the triumphant annual return of Santa Claus. Nov. 12, 3-9 p.m. Light parade begins at 5:30 p.m. Free. Castro Valley Boulevard, Castro Valley. CVMeetInTheStreet.org/index.html.

When one parade of lights just isn’t enough, head down to the San Rafael 37th Annual Parade of Lights and Winter Wonderland for more twinkling, tinkling holiday sparkles. Enjoy a holiday marketplace with arts and crafts, live entertainment, children’s activities, free snow sledding, and one of the largest holiday parades in the Bay Area. Tree lighting ceremony to follow parade. Nov. 25, noon-8 p.m. Parade starts at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 26, 9 a.m.-noon. Free. Fourth Street from B Street to Lootens, San Rafael. DowntownSanRafael.org.

 

Dance

Vaslav Nijinsky was one of the greatest ballet dancers of the 20th century, renowned for his grace and agility but also famous for his tragic fate. Diagnosed with schizophrenia at 29, he spent the rest of his life in asylums. Mikhail Baryshnikov and Robert Wilson now collaborate on a brand new ballet Letters to a Man inspired by Nijinsky’s diaries, bringing to the stage the full story of the great artist’s troubled life and relationship with his art. Nov. 10-12, 8 p.m., Nov. 13, 3 p.m. Tickets start at $50. Zellerbach Hall, 101 Zellerbach Hall #4800, Berkeley. CalPerformances.org.

 

Film

My Love Affair with the Brain sounds like it could be a classic 50s B-movie about a lab-coat wearing, beaker-carrying scientist who finds herself falling for a suave disembodied brain from another world, but it’s actually the equally fascinating story of Berkeley anatomy professor and trail-blazing brain researcher Marian Diamond. The movie is co-presented by the Berkeley FILM Foundation and features a post-film discussion. Nov. 15, 7 p.m. $10. New Parkway Theater, 474 24th St.,
Oakland. TheNewParkway.com.

The Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies and The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life sponsor a screening of Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem, about an Israeli woman who fights to obtain a divorce from her religiously devout husband, as part of a yearlong series on Israeli film. Reception included. Nov. 1, 6 p.m. Free. Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, 2121 Allston Way, Berkeley. Magnes.org.

 

Music

Lauryn Hill & Nas are back working together again. Hip-hop musician, songwriter, and actress Hill is known for her smooth flow rhymes, afro-Caribbean influenced melodies, and politically acute sensibilities. Her one studio album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, received widespread critical praise that presaged a successful solo- touring career. Nas is a force in his own right, known for his outsized personality and highly publicized feud with rapper Jay Z, but also for his evocative, raw lyricism and honest talk about life on the street. Together, these the two worked together in 1993 to create the catchy but deceptively poignant tune “If I Ruled The World.” See what they have cooked up this time. Nov. 4, 6 p.m. $150-$588. The Greek Theatre, 2001 Gayley Road, Berkeley. TheGreekTheatreBerkeley.com.

Folk rocker Joan Baez has been a voice for peace and progress since she first picked up a guitar; the social justice songstress first launched her musical career in 1960, dovetailing with the counterculture era with which she’s most come to be associated. But in 50 years of nonstop work, Baez continues to speak (and sing) her conscience. She’s still singing. Hear her at the Fox. Nov. 6, 7 p.m., and Nov. 7, 8 p.m. $55-$85. Fox Theater, 1807 Telegraph Ave, Oakland. APEConcerts.com/venues/fox-theater-oakland.

Continuing a 600-year-old tradition, the traveling Vienna Boys Choir brings alive the magic of the Christmas season with European folk songs, classical masterpieces, hymns, and holiday carols. Saturday, Nov. 26, 8 p.m. Tickets start at $40. Zellerbach Hall, 101 Zellerbach Hall #4800, Berkeley. CalPerformances.org.

 

Nature

Rhinos are the second most majestic animals in the world (let’s be honest, they’re never going to beat elephants in that whole “bigness” category) and they’re critically endangered. In Helping Rhinos, CSU San Marcos research scientist and Helping Rhinos USA founder James Danoff-Burg talks about what his organization is doing to save these iconic animals and what you can do to help. Nov. 3, 6:30-9 p.m. $12-$20 sliding scale. All proceeds benefit Helping Rhinos. Oakland Zoo, 9777 Golf Links Road, Oakland. OaklandZoo.org.

From all atop the parapets, blow a multitude of cornets–the monarchs have returned! The beautiful monarch butterflies grace Ardenwood Historic Farm with a stop on their annual migration, and the Return of the Monarchs nature walk is the best time to pay your royal tribute. Nov. 25, 11 a.m. Free. Ardenwood Historic Farm, 34600 Ardenwood Blvd., Fremont. EBParks.org.

The perfect outing to help you and your canine companions shake off the after-Thanksgiving tryptophan haze, the Post-Turkey Dog Excursion is a hike for well-behaved pooches that follows a moderate path through the Black Diamond Mines backcountry. Nov. 26, 10 a.m.-noon. Event is free; parking is $5 cash. Upper parking lot, Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, 5175 Somersville Road, Antioch. EBParks.org.

 

Theater

The Hello Kitty monument, a gigantic Mt. Rushmore-esque carved bust of the famous-for-being-cute Japanese cartoon character, is surely a world wonder—except that it doesn’t exist, In this mockumentary talk The Rise and Fall of Hello Kitty Monument, artist Kathy Aoki discusses the deathly serious fictional history of this fake monument to critique and lampoon the global obsession with mass-marketed cuteness. See large-scale artifacts, an interactive map, and both audio- and video-based works about Hello Kitty’s nonexistent memorial. Nov. 3, 6 p.m. Free for BAC Members, $10 nonmembers, RSVP requested. Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St., Berkeley. BerkeleyArtCenter.org.

 

Published online on Oct. 25, 2016 at 8:00 a.m.

This report was published in the November edition of our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.

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