Guest Choreographer — 2016 Fall Season
This November, dance icon Dennis Nahat returns to Menlowe Ballet with his staging of the rapturous classical Le Corsaire Pas de Deux. Nahat previously contributed several works to Menlowe Ballet, including the Pas de Cinq excerpt from his Swan Lake and In Concert. Nahat is Founding Artistic Director of both Cleveland Ballet and Ballet San Jose. A dance icon, Nahat had an illustrious performing career with Joffrey Ballet and American Ballet Theater, where he danced as a principal. His choreographic credits extend from ballet to Broadway, television and film, where he has created over 104 works. Says Nahat of his experience working with Menlowe Ballet, “The artists at Menlowe Ballet are exciting at each and every rehearsal and performance. They are as good as it gets. Michael Lowe has given his company a special mark, distinguishing it as one unto it its own.”
Guest Choreographers — Prior Seasons
Val Caniparoli's versatility has made him one of the most sought after choreographers in the United States and abroad. Although he is most closely associated with San Francisco Ballet, his artistic home for more than 40 years and former resident choreographer, Caniparoli has contributed to the repertories of more than 45 companies, including Texas Ballet Theater, Joffrey Ballet, Scottish Ballet, Boston Ballet, Hong Kong Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Northern Ballet Theatre, Pennsylvania Ballet, Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Ballet West (resident choreographer 1993-97), Washington Ballet, Israel Ballet, Richmond Ballet, Louisville Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Singapore Dance Theatre, Atlanta Ballet, State Theatre Ballet of South Africa and Tulsa Ballet (resident choreographer 2001-06 ). Caniparoli has also choreographed for the Chicago Lyric Opera, San Francisco Opera, and The Metropolitan Opera.
He has worked on several occasions with the San Francisco Symphony, most recently on the Rimsky-Korsakov opera-ballet Mlada, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas. Caniparoli has been the recipient of ten grants for choreography from the National Endowment for the Arts, an artist fellowship from the California Arts Council, and two awards from the Choo-San Goh and H. Robert Magee Foundation. Work with American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco includes choreography for A Christmas Carol, A Doll's House, A Little Night Music, Arcadia and the creation, with Carey Perloff, of a new movement-theater piece, Tosca Cafe.
Gregory P Dawson, a former Lines Ballet dancer, formed dawsondancesf (ddsf) in 2007 as an outlet for his choreographic goals and vision. Shortly thereafter he created which light in the sky is us for Company C Contemporary Ballet (nominated for an Isadora Duncan Award for choreography) and became the Assistant Director of the California State Summer School of the Arts’ Dance Department in Southern California. In the fall of 2011, Mr. Dawson became Artistic Director of Dawson Wallace Dance Project in Denver, Colorado, where the Denver Post named him “the best choreographer in Denver.” Soon after, Dawson received a CHIME grant, partnering him with choreographic mentor Elizabeth Streb. In September 2013, dawsondancesf re-established its presence in San Francisco with the world premiere of fabricca matterasso d’argento at Zaccho Dance Theatre. Following this, Mr. Dawson created birds eye view (a collaboration with the Richard Howell Quintet) for the 2014 Black Choreographers Festival, which received an Isadora Duncan Award. In the Fall of 2014, Dawson premiered in this moment with Richard Howell and in the same year ddsf made its debut in New York City. The Zellerbach Foundation funded the premiere of his intrinsic motion project, and in the summer of 2015 ddsf completed a five week residency at CSSSA’s summer intensive at Cal Arts where Dawson is assistant to the Chair.
Dawson, who received a BA from Saint Mary's College, currently teaches and choreographs for all LINES Ballet Educational Programs. In 2016 ddsf received three Isadora Duncan Nominations for Outstanding Achievement in Performance.
Reginald Ray-Savage is Artistic Director and Founder of the Savage Jazz Dance Company, and Dance Department Chair of Oakland School for the Arts. Mr. Savage began his professional career with the Katherine Dunham Dance Company. After moving to California in 1989, he founded Savage Jazz Dance Company in Oakland in 1992 and has since established himself as a dance artist whose work is rooted in the spirit and cultural heritage of jazz music. Mr. Savage has collaborated with Menlowe Ballet twice. In 2012 he brought his own company to perform as part of Menlowe Ballet's second season. Most recently, he choreographed an original work on Menlowe Ballet's company dancers. “I created Bru’s Sweet for Menlowe Ballet with the intention of celebrating all that is jazz. The work is sensual, classy, sweet, sexy and sweaty, and Menlowe’s dancers are incredible. They dance the ballet with passion, energy and technique that is quite thrilling.”
Ronn Guidi founded Oakland Ballet in 1965 and rose to international prominence through his work reconstructing and staging ballet masterpieces of Sergei Diaghilev's Ballet Russes. He gained stature, too, with his staging of Americana classics and through choreographing over 50 original ballets. Menlowe Ballet's Artistic Director Michael Lowe started his professional career with Guidi at Oakland Ballet. Guidi was a guiding inspiration when Lowe launched his own choreography career. For Menlowe Ballet, Guidi shared two ballets which represent both ends of his choreographic spectrum. Trois Gymnopedies and the pas de deux from his full-length ballet, Romeo and Juliet.
"Menlowe Ballet seems like the logical home for my ballets," Guidi said. "It's been a joy for me to watch Michael grow from dancer, to gifted choreographer, and now to artistic director. Michael knows my work well, so adding my ballets to the Menlowe Ballet repertoire is exciting. It's as if it's all still part of the family."
Betsy Erickson, a balletmaster with San Francisco Ballet since 1992, boasts an association with that company stretching back to her debut in Nutcracker in 1963. Although she left to dance with American Ballet Theater for five years, she returned in 1972 and performed with distinction until retiring in 1984. After her retirement, she choreographed several ballets which were set on Oakland Ballet where she also worked as a balletmaster and first met Michael Lowe. After Lowe launched Menlowe Ballet, they decided to work together again. "Michael said he'd like his dancers to experience something more classical. So I went to see the company; they're very physical, very athletic, fresh and different...Since they're such brilliant movers, I proposed Songs." Set to Richard Strauss, it had premiered with Oakland Ballet in 1990.
Viktor Kabaniaev trained at the famed Vaganova School in St. Petersburg, Russia. During the years that followed, he worked as a principal dancer in various ballet companies in the former Soviet Union, Germany, and United States. As a choreographer, he has created more than 40 works for companies, including the Cincinnati Ballet, Ballet Austin, Smuin Ballet, and Moving Arts Dance. As guest choreographer with Menlowe Ballet, he premiered Sweet Sadness, set to Sibelius' Violin Concerto in D minor. The concerto, he says, evoked days and experiences gone by. "For me, it's an individual looking back, and remembering things with sadness," Mr. Kabaniaev says. He experiences that sweet sadness himself, he says, when remembering his early life in Russia, also in Germany. "I left my heart there. ... I'm affected by pictures of the past."