Brews and tutus
Beer & Ballet
Each spring, the Sacramento Ballet turns its young (need we add “bold”?) dancers loose, giving them the opportunity to choreograph new short works for intimate, in-studio performances. This annual showcase is called Beer & Ballet, and it’s the company’s most spontaneous and invariably surprising program.
Rather than taking place in the formal setting of the 2,400-seat Community Center Theater, Beer & Ballet happens in the Sacramento Ballet’s funky building on K Street. It was constructed many decades ago as an auto-body shop and reconfigured as a performance space. The scuffed-up dance floor in the “big room” takes up most of the square footage. The audience sits in six simple rows of plastic-resin chairs on temporary risers (95 seats in all). You sit close enough that you can see every move—and hear the dancers breathe!
You also can chat with them during intermission and after the show. And there’s plenty to talk about, because Beer & Ballet features 15 new works. The program opens and ends with large pieces, starting with Bobby Briscoe’s “Needles and Thread.” Mixing modern and classical elements, the piece uses 15 dancers in three scenes, each set to a different kind of music, from Philip Glass to Antonio Vivaldi. Closing the show is Jared Nelson’s “Jump Jive,” a high-energy piece set to the big-band sound of Benny Goodman, with a dozen dancers doing eye-popping, fast-paced moves.
Other pieces are smaller and more serene and operate largely within the style of classical ballet, like Kermit Allen’s “Variété des Fleurs,” with three female performers dancing to music from Bach’s solo cello suites. Or veteran dancer Jack Hansen’s lovely “Agnus Dei,” set to a vocal version of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, with Hansen and fellow veteran Kirsten Bloom. These two dancers have been featured in many of the company’s larger performances, so it’s a treat to see them working together at close range.
If you want to see Beer & Ballet, it’s best to reserve a seat. Walkups often are turned away at each performance. Beer & Ballet plays at 7 p.m. on March 3, 11, 17 and 18. (At press time, the Sacramento Ballet’s Web site listed the March 3 and 11 performances as sold out.) The Sacramento Ballet Building is located at 1631 K Street. Admission is $25 and includes a glass of wine, soda, water or the titular beer, provided by event co-sponsor Brew It Up!