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A Weekend Full of Dance on Local Stages

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Lauryn Winterhalder and Stefan Calka in Julia Feldman's "Here in Dreams" at Sacramento Ballet.

Continuing a three decade tradition of dancers creating dances for each other, Sacramento Ballet‘s “Beer and Ballet” program — the first under new artistic director Amy Seiwert — reaches its final performances this weekend. As a sort of choreographer’s apprentice program that allows the dancers to learn what it’s like to be the ones calling the shots (or the moves, as it were), Seiwert’s edition of “Beer and Ballet” comes with new surprises.

Seiwert was one of the first to choreograph in the program under co-artistic directors Ron Cunningham and Carinne Binda when she danced with the company is the 1990s. She is continuing the program, with similar success, as this year’s dances attest. One addition to the program Seiwert has introduced is a mentor to the dancers.  This year, Seiwert and Val Caniparoli, a choreographer most closely associated with the San Francisco Ballet, serve as mentors.

“Mentorship is not about ‘fixing’ someone’s work or saying what’s right or wrong about their piece,” Seiwert said before a recent performance. “Rather, it’s about being there when the right question is asked at the right time, when the mentee can see a new perspective or sharpen the focus of a work.”

Caliparoli and Seiwert each worked with five dancer/choreographers on the current program — which continues Thursday through Sunday. They all exhibit professionalism in design despite the face some of them are first attempts at choreographing. The dancing, as it always is with this company, is exceptional.

Among the best are “Here in Dreams,” a sensual duet choreographed by Julia Feldman and danced by Lauryn Winterhalder and Stefan Calka; “Autonomy,” choreographed by Shania Rasmussen (who also created the accompanying music), and danced by Winterhalder (again) and Alex Biber and Isaac Bates-Vinueza; “Swipe Me Right,” a light-hearted, fun, contemporary dance by Dylan Keane, for 10 of his fellow dancers; “Heads or Tails?” choreographed by Austin Meiteen, in which dancers Bates-Vinueza and Jonathan Harris represent the two sides of one being, or, as Meiteen describers it: “That which you are seen by others, and that which you see yourself as”; and “Veneration,” a huge, classical ballet-inspired piece choreographed by Christopher B. Nachtrab to “Souvenir de Florence” by Tchaikovsky and danced by a whopping 15 dancers. “Swipe” and “Veneration” show the choreographers’ confidence in directing such a large number of dancers so skillfully.

Performances of “Beer and Ballet” are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Cunningham-Binda Stage at the CLARA Studios for Performing Arts, 2420 N St.

Tickets are $60 and are available by calling (916) 552-5800 or going to SacBallet.org.

‘CATS’ is Back

“Cats,” one of the biggest hits in musical theater history returns to Sacramento in a big national touring production that runs through Sunday at the Community Center Theater.

The original Broadway production of “Cats” opened in 1982 at New York’s Winter Garden Theatre (where I first saw it) and ran for 7,485 performances (18 years). A 2016 revival began opened on July 31, 2016 and ran until Dec. 30, 2017 after 593 regular performances.

Although some critics — or theater snobs, in my book — call Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals derivative, his music itself repetitive, practically continuous touring company shows prove people can’t get enough of Lloyd Webber’s creation.

In this production, Keri Rene Fuller plays Grizabella, Brandon Michael Nase is “Old Deuteronomy.” McGee Maddox is an audience favorite as Rum Tum Tugger.

Evening performances are at 8 p.m. through Saturday, with matinees at 2 p.m. Thursday, Saturday and Sunday (final show). The Community Center Theater is at 301 L St. Tickets are $38-$115.

For tickets or for more information, call (916) 808-5181 or go to BroadwaySacramento.com.

Photo by Marissa Gearhart.

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About the author

Jim Carnes

Jim Carnes

Jim Carnes has masters degrees in English and journalism and is a former National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow in popular culture at Stanford University. He has covered Sacramento arts and entertainment for more than 20 years. He currently writes about and reviews theater, dance, music and events in the Sacramento area.

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