Holiday Ballet Without Sentimentality

Diablo’s "A Swingin’ Holiday and More" offers party time in an intimate but no less fun-filled evening.


Jackie McConnell and Jamar Goodman in "A Swingin' Holiday."

Berenger Zyla

In Small is Beautiful, economist E.F. Schumacher proposed the concept of “sufficiency” over “bigger is better.” He wasn’t talking about the arts, but he might as well have.

Take Diablo Ballet. For the last 22 years, this sturdy group has succeeded where many others have failed. It did so by offering buried treasures and hot-off-the-grill work with but a tiny ensemble, sometimes on postage-stamp-size stages, often with live music. The secret of Diablo’s longevity is no secret: a clear vision of what the company is through a repertoire that stresses quality—whether old or new—and excellent and committed dancers who bring life as well as dance experiences to their tasks.

Instead of plugging into the sentimentality of the upcoming holidays, Diablo’s A Swingin’ Holiday and More offers party time in an intimate but no less fun-filled evening with Broadway choreographer (an American in Paris) Sean Kelly.

Expect to see slinky high-stepping guys and dolls, which may even tempt you to sign up for some jazz dancing classes. Music will be live.

With Airs de Ballet, Diablo presents the company premiere of the 1971 Lew Christensen ballet, set to music from French composer André Gretry’s opera Zemire et Azore. Described as being full of playful and charming duets and trios, it stayed in the San Francisco Ballet’s repertoire for over a decade. Christensen choreographed Airs for Balanchine ballerina Violette Verdy, known for her charm and sparkling footwork.

Christensen may be best remembered as SFB’s longtime artistic  director, from 1952 until the era  of Helgi Tómasson in 1985, but he also was a wide-ranging prolific choreographer of over 100 works rarely seen today. So this is an opportunity to get a glimpse of his choreographic contribution to American dance.

Rounding up this holiday romp will be Diablo resident choreographer Robert Dekkers’ first company commission, the 2012 Happy Ending to an eclectic mix by Australian composer/electronica artist Pogo. Dekkers is a no-holds-barred choreographer, one of the most entertaining and appealing dance makers working in the Bay Area. He just about guarantees the  happy ending that one hopes for  in a holiday program.

Diablo Ballet, Nov. 11, 8 p.m.; Nov. 12, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.;  Nov. 13, 2 p.m.; $27-$45, Del Valle Theatre, 1963, Tice Valley Blvd., Walnut Creek, 925-943-7469,


Published online on Nov. 7, 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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