Oakland Ballet Company lends new meaning to the word ‘resilient.’ Founded by Ronn Guidi in 1965 (as Oakland Ballet), it developed a reputation for restaging – often with the participation of the original choreographers– classic early-20th-century ballets, such as Petrouchka, Les Biches, and Les Noces. Guidi retired in 1998. In the hands of an inexperienced director, the company collapsed eight years later. In 2007, Guidi came out of retirement to revive the troupe as Oakland Ballet Company. The celebrated Graham Lustig, straight from a position at American Repertory Ballet, took over as artistic director in 2010. (Lustig also heads up New Jersey’s Lustig Dance Theatre school and company on a part-time basis.)
A budget deficit forced the company to postpone its 2012 spring season. But rather than dwell on its situation, in the spirit of its founder, it maintains a positive outlook.
This weekend, Oakland Ballet Company takes advantage of two performing opportunities. It will be dancing in three separate gallery spaces during Oakland Art Murmur’s First Friday gallery walk event. (On the first Friday of every month, from 6pm to 9pm, a gallery-rich section of Oakland is closed to traffic to allow patrons to stroll safely among participating spaces.)
The ballet’s own fundraising event, The Power of Many, takes place at Oakland’s Kaiser Center Auditorium the next day. On both evenings, the company plans to present segments of three pieces by Lustig: Pulcinella, a reworking of the Diaghilev-era commedia dell-arte-style Stravinsky-Picasso-Massine collaboration; Six Pianos, a contemporary pas de deux; and a tango-inspired quartet from Pas de Pizzaz set to music by Piazzola. The cocktail-style event will also include silent and live auctions.
This summer, Oakland Ballet Company sponsors a two-week ballet boot camp at Mills College in July. It will also hold auditions to expand its roster for the December 2012 Nutcracker production.
Exemplary in terms of performing its civic duty, the company donates more than 1,000 Nutcracker tickets each year to Oakland Public School students and to the social service non-profit Community Access Ticket Services. It also performs in-school programs at an ever-larger number of Title I schools and maintains an active presence at Oakland-area festivals and street fairs.