Oakland Ballet dancer, Stephanie Salts, working with Turffeinz dancer, Noh Justice
On April 7, 2014, ten dancers, from the Bay Area to New York City, converged in the heart of Oakland to begin preparing for Oakland Ballet’s spring repertory production, Oakland-esque. For nearly 9 hours each day, these talented artists have been vigorously rehearsing four world premieres that will debut on the Malonga Casquelourd stage this weekend, May 16-17. While each of the choreographers has their own individual voice and distinct style, they all share one common thread as they began creating for this exciting program. All of the works on this program have ties to, or inspiration from, Oakland’s local art scene. Read on for a teaser about the four Oakland-inspired works premiering May 16-17 in Oakland-esque.
Sonya Delwaide – Rocky Road:
Starting off the program is a work by local choreographer, Sonya Delwaide. While Sonya may be a native of Quebec, she planted her roots in the Bay Area in 1996 and is currently an Associate Professor in the Dance Department at Mills College. Her new work, Rocky Road, starts off the Oakland-esque program on the right foot, or in this case, wheel. Oakland’s very own AXIS Dance Company will be sharing the stage with OBC artists to perform Sonya’s piece – which is set in the era of the Great Depression. Using her quirky sense of fun, Sonya’s piece gives the feel of a silent movie, with a strong plot line that can speak for itself without using words. Incorporating the OBC dancers with AXIS Dance Company’s dancers’ sometimes wheelchair-bound vocabulary, this tasty treat has no boundaries. You will also enjoy the Jazz styling of longtime Oakland resident, Earl “Fatha” Hines, to coast you through this work.
Robert Moses – TIP:
The world premiere of Robert Moses’ TIP will be the second work in this program and his second creation for the company since Graham has taken over Artistic Directorship of Oakland Ballet. Robert’s piece is yet another example of his seamless work that can often be seen on the other side of the bay. While watching this dance, you experience a clear sense of relationship between the dancers. At the same time, you may also feel that this work can change direction at any moment. At one time, it may seem as if the dancers are working together. Then in the blink of an eye, this feeling changes to a sense of tension and explosiveness. TIP is accompanied by some great music created by Oakland-raised Bass Guitarist Larry Graham, Jr.
Molissa’s new creation, Redwood Park, is inspired by Oakland’s local park of the same name. Molissa, or Mo as the dancers affectionately call her, is another local choreographer and faculty member at Mills College. While Molissa has been recovering from a knee injury, she surely didn’t have any issues hiking around and gaining inspiration from this park that holds the largest remaining natural stand of coast redwood trees. Mo is known for her stamina works that are founded within her strong modern training. This work is no exception, as you will see four of OBC’s company men scaling this hilly, yet visually picturesque work. An extra treat to enjoy as you ascend into the hills will be live music created especially for this piece by local composer Joan Jeanrenaud, performed live by Mills Alumnus Nava Dunkelman and Anna Wray.
While Graham may not be local to the Bay Area, he is no stranger to the community. As Oakland Ballet’s Artistic Director, he has been an integral part in assuring that the vast Oakland arts community continues to have a voice that includes dance. To round out this program, Graham has created a work that takes community to a new level. At the suggestion of Oakland Mayor, Jean Quan, OBC has partnered with several local artists to inspire, and take part in, his new dance creation. Two dancers with the YouTube viral, BART popular dance group, the Turffeinz, Gary “Noh-Justice” Morgan and Rayshawn “Looney” Thompson, have been the inspiration for this work, and will be sharing the spotlight alongside Oakland Ballet Company dancer. The Turffeinz specialty, “turfing,” is a locally cultivated style of dance and an acronym for Taking Up Room on the Floor. It originated as a way to represent the different “turfs” that each dancer is from. Throughout Turfland, you will hear songs that were created by Oakland artists and have a unique Oakland flavor. Costumes painted with vibrant colors by local artist Samuel Renaissance add to the experience. Expect to see some fluid footwork that often ends up on the tips of the artists’ sneakers and all of the dancers of Oakland-esque dancers taking up space on our stage.
The dancers have been working very hard rehearsing these works, collaborating with incredible artists, and performing at outreach events around the community. While some of the dancers are not local, it has been heartwarming to see everyone embrace and become a part of Oakland’s very important arts community. We can’t wait to see you this coming weekend to share what Oakland Ballet, and Oakland, is all about.
Friday, May 16th at 8 PM
Saturday May 17th at 2 PM & 8 PM