These artists are dissolving the very boundaries of their art forms, creating performances that cut across cultures and disciplines, accepted definitions of classical and contemporary, and even time and space.
Ragamala Dance Company
Written in Water
(Sat–Sun, Dec 2–3)
Minneapolis-based Ragamala Dance Company has been lauded for bringing "a visionary approach to an ancient art form” (Dance Magazine) in its stunning productions rooted in the South Indian Bharatanatyam classical dance form. Written in Water explores the cultural complexities of the modern world through the metaphor of the ancient Indian board game Snakes and Ladders, with a live music score performed by an ensemble of four musicians, including jazz trumpeter Amir ElSaffar, known for his distinctive fusion of contemporary jazz and Iraqi maqam.
(Fri–Sat, Feb 3–4)
Juxtaposing circus arts with the glorious music of Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria, Monteverdi's 17th-century opera about Ulysses' homecoming, the Australian troupe Circa tells a timeless story of loss and displacement in its latest production, Il Ritorno. Six masterful acrobats join four chamber musicians and two singers in a stark staging that powerfully unites music with movement. "The piece reverberates with real emotional pungency, as if the essence of homesickness has been bottled. I've seen grief many times on stage, but seldom have I seen it depicted so well" (The Guardian, London).
The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
(Fri–Sun, Feb 9–11)
The remarkable Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra returns to Berkeley with acclaimed pianist Jonathan Biss (who will also direct some works from the keyboard) to share the bounty of their ambitious Beethoven/5 collaboration, a five-year plan to commission five composers to write new piano concertos, each inspired by one of Beethoven’s. Here, the orchestra performs three of these commissions, each paired with its companion Beethoven concerto. The first program includes Timo Andres’ Pulitzer-nominated The Blind Banister and Beethoven’s Second Concerto; Salvatore Sciarrino's new concerto is paired with Beethoven's Concerto No. 4 on Saturday; and the final concert includes George Tsontakis’ wistful, elegant O Mikros, O Megas, along with Beethoven’s towering Emperor Concerto.
Company Wang Ramirez
(Sat-Sun, Feb 24-25)
Partners in life and in performance, Korean-German dancer Honji Wang and French-Spanish dancer Sébastien Ramirez explore the complexities of human relationships and modern identities through their inventive dance-theater aesthetic. Their acclaimed hip-hop-meets-tanztheater opus, Borderline, features a cast of six dancers hooked up to an aerial rigging system, allowing them to defy gravity as the nuanced choreography explores visual metaphors of flight, struggle, freedom, constraint, and the forces that connect us and tear us apart. "An ingenious show by stunning performers” (The Evening Standard, London).
Julia Bullock, soprano
John Arida, piano
(Sun, Mar 25)
At the 2016 Ojai at Berkeley festival, Julia Bullock portrayed French philosopher/mystic Simone Weil in a new-music oratorio, and the legendary dancer/singer Josephine Baker in a jazz suite, both within the span of a few days—and both to rave reviews. In recital, the formidable and versatile young soprano lends "a wonderful combination of power and expressive directness" (San Francisco Chronicle) to her carefully curated programs, here mixing art song by Schubert, Barber, and Fauré with selections from the African-American jazz and blues traditions of Nina Simone and Billie Holiday.