Drunk swan

Beer & Ballet’s your chance to tipple suds brewed by Sacramento ballerinas. And during a performance, no less. How en pointe.

Illustration by Mark Stivers

Sacramento Ballet presents Beer & Ballet, 7 p.m. May 25-28 and 2 p.m. May 29; $35 includes two beverages. Sacramento Ballet Studios, 1631 K Street; (916) 552-5800, ext. 2; www.sacballet.org.

Ballet has seen its unlikely pairings throughout history.

It has been more than 350 years, for instance, since King Louis XIV of France played a starring role in the 13-hour-long Le Ballet de la Nuit. Performed throughout the night, the dance epic depicted nightmares, sorrow and darkness. But, as dawn broke, Louis himself appeared, dressed as the sun. He was adorned with gold, rubies and rays of diamonds that branched from his head, wrists, elbows and knees as he symbolically vanquished the long night of the previous political era.

And, were there any doubts as to the seriousness of this symbolism, it didn’t last long: Over the course of the ensuing month, Louis presented his ballet eight more times, both for the French court and also the nobility in Paris.

The budget and political scope of ballet has been tempered a great deal since those heady days. For example, the Sacramento Ballet doesn’t indulge in 13-hour-long performances and instead favors snappier two-act shows. It also doesn’t have diamonds, rubies or gold amongst its wardrobe, due to modest economic constraints.

But it does have spirit. And beer, which—when paired with an evening of original choreography in an intimate setting—is royally rewarding, even for the most cultured urbanite.

Beer & Ballet, the annual in-studio performance by Sacramento Ballet dancers, returns this week and will attempt the magnificent feat of once again uniting the yin of beer drinkers with the yang of theatergoers for a harmonious cultural event.

Featuring a diversity of original choreography—varying in style from classical to contemporary—the ticket price will include a voucher for two beverages, which have been brewed up by the dancers themselves.

With the technical advice and resources provided by Brew It Up, the dancers have created two unique libations for the event: a light hefeweizen, which they’re calling Stumble-ina; and a darker Märzen with definite market potential, named Black-Out Swan.

Brew It Up owner Michael Costello’s been involved with the event for the last eight years and was excited to finally get Sac Ballet’s dancers in on the brewing aspect for the first time.

“We finally built that bridge to where the dancers could get involved with the brewing, which was a ton of fun,” Costello said. “Beer & Ballet has always been a very cool event that we think is a blast, and it’s really good for downtown arts and culture.”

While it may take a bit more goading for the brewers to get involved with the ballet aspect, they are enthusiastic attendees every year. “We usually go two or three times,” Costello said. “It’s great. Our volunteers always want to go, too.”

The Sacramento Ballet assumes you’ve never had a beer brewed by a ballerina, or its masculine equal, a danseur. And, unless you’ve been to Beer & Ballet in the past, it’s probably right.

The pairing of a casual bar libation with what is typically viewed as high art is appealing to many people, as its a nonintimidating gateway to an otherwise largely overlooked art form in America today. Ask anyone when the last time they drank a beer was, and they won’t have to think very long. But ask them the last time they went to a ballet, and the answer is probably “never.”

While many dismiss dance and ballet as hoity-toity, the Sacramento Ballet has been doing its part to change things on the local level. Through a series of more “low key” events, exemplified by Beer & Ballet, the troupe is actively demonstrating both accessibility and also versatility. This is increasingly appealing to a younger, less experienced theatergoing crowd.

This year’s Beer & Ballet is set to present 13 pieces, choreographed by resident dancers, in the personal setting of their cozy studio, offering the audience a unique opportunity to witness the dancers’ refined athleticism outside of the theater. Each piece is prefaced with an introduction by its creator, showing the breadth of experience that inspired the works, each one as different as the individual who composed it.

While tradition is at the root of all dance standards, reinvention is its constant equal, as demonstrated by the program. Dance has no standard texts or notation, like theatre or music, and is only a physical memory passed on from teacher to student. Each generation is responsible for reinterpreting the past, making every piece or choreographed sequence an ephemeral art of the present, fading away nearly as soon as it’s performed.

Every performance is precious—almost like a batch of ale—so the upcoming “brewhaha” by the Sacramento Ballet should make for a great pair.