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Cream of the Crop: May

A flotilla of dance performances, symphony season wrap-ups, and select theatrical and visual art extravaganzas for your entertainment!

It’s May!

The hills are green, the buds have budded/burst/blossomed, Easter’s over and summer vacation is rising like a phoenix on the horizon. It’s time to catch a flotilla of dance performances, symphony season wrap-ups, and select theatrical and visual art extravaganzas.

I took a peek at April’s column and thought the chronological mashup was messy, so this month, we’re trying categories. Pick one from each genre or be a one-track-only theater couch potato and gorge on your favorite art form.

Either way, shut down the laptop, turn off your cell (unless you’re a tweeter for Diablo Ballet!) and ride the night-out wave with this month’s Cream of the Crop:


Diablo Ballet at Shadelands Arts Center Auditorium

Friday, May 4, at 7:30 pm, and Saturday, May 5, at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Diablo Ballet is first out of the gates with George Balanchine’s Tarantella, a devilishly difficult pas de deux that threatens to exalt the dancers—if it doesn’t kill them first! Generating equal excitement is a new creation from ODC San Francisco’s Co-Artistic Director KT Nelson, whose intellect and experience always lift the art form to dizzying heights. Company member Robert Dekkers wears two hats as he presents a new work sure to live up to his Dance Magazine “25 to Watch” moniker. As is so rarely the case these days (and therefore, most appreciated), the company brings live music into the mix under the direction of Greg Sudmeier.

Smuin Ballet at the Lesher

Friday, May 18, 8:00 p.m., and Saturday, May 19, 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.

One of the Bay Area’s premier company soars into Walnut Creek with two premieres: Swipe by Val Caniparoli, and Through by Ma Cong. Caniparoli is everywhere—and everywhere terrific—so expect the combination of the dancers finely honed technique and bravura attitude to knock your socks off. (It’s OK, it’s almost summer anyway!) Cong’s previous ballet set on the company was a hit. Riding on four tracks from Academy Award-winning composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, there’s a home run in the making. Michael Smuin’s Symphony of Psalms feeds the soul to round out the program.

Company C Contemporary Ballet at the Lesher

Friday, May 25, at 8 p.m., Saturday, May 26, at 8 p.m., Sunday, May 27, at 3 p.m.

Anyone who thinks that just because Artistic Director Charles Anderson hung up his tights years ago, this little atom bomb of a company isn’t making a splash—better think again. Hot off a run in New York City, the spring program kicks you-know-what with works by Anderson, Peter Anastos and a returning masterpiece, "Which Light in the Sky Is Us," by Gregory Dawson.


Center Rep, Xanadu at the Lesher

May 18-June 23, check website for times

It’s tempting to remind you that Center Rep shows always have high production values (awesome sets, sensational costumes, terrific lighting) or that Olivia Newton-John has come back into vogue, or that “Have You Never Been Mellow” almost sounds good after 35 years, but really, the reason to get your tickets NOW is Jennifer Perry. The local choreographic wiz could make a pig in a tutu look like Margot Fonteyn (Look it up—you have Google, don’t you?) and nobody sets bodies in motion better than this homegrown talent. Season closer and rare opportunity to wear bell bottoms without shame.

Visual Arts

Bedford Gallery, Outfitters: The Contemporary Art of Clothing

Through May 13

I already hit this button last month, but if you haven’t stepped out to see this show, you have 13 days to get your life together. There’s nothing better for altering your perspective (legally, without the use of controlled substances) than gazing at a dress made out of flowers or a jacket constructed of M&M wrappers. Suddenly, you’ll be seeing clothing in every recycling bin you encounter while strolling away from another of curator Carrie Lederer’s innovative exhibits.


California Symphony at the Lesher

Saturday, May 5, 7:30 p.m., Sunday, May 6, 4:00 p.m.

Young American Composer-in Residence D.J. Sparr adds new meaning to the concept of spinning music with a world premiere for the close of the CSO 25th Anniversary Season. Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto renders itself to the masterful Lara St. John and Donato Cabrera holds up the baton to chorus, soloist and instrumentalist in Beethoven’s joyful ode, the Ninth Symphony.

Chamber Music SF - Sergey Khatchatryan

Saturday, May 12, 2:30 p.m.

Chamber music is intimate, personal, even naked, in its stripped-to-the-essential structure. In the hands of a masterful soloist, the greatest compositions are rendered sublime and the music takes on a special clarity as each member of the “team” concentrates on the others, instead of on a conductor. With Khatchatryan, a young, slender as grass guest violinist soaring through Beethoven’s A major violin sonata, then tackling two works by Bach, there’s no reason stay away. TIVO the golf tournament and hustle over to the Lesher. 

Diablo Symphony at the Lesher

Sunday, May 13, 2:00 p.m.

The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming! And it’s a good thing, because the Dmitris (Shostakovich, Kabalevsky and Shostakovich) represent all the Cold War angst, lust, pathos and hilarity you can force into an empty vodka bottle. Eliane Lust arrives with her magic fingers for the Kabalevsky and guest conductor Jonathan Knight, Professor of Music at Los Medanos College could become a permanent fixture as the symphony completes its five-conductors-audition-for-the-post season.

Noche Latina: Sunset Social Series at the Ruth Bancroft Garden

Friday, May 18, 5:30-8:00 p.m.

Pete Escovedo for the ears, La Furia Chalaca and Pyramid Brewery for the tongue, native plants for the eyes: it’s a sensational sensory feast. Need we say more? Get thee out of the casa and satisfy every craving.


This month, I’m recommending you do the research and explore “Phantom Week at the downtown Century 14 movie theater.” Is it for real? Let us know!

And, also, I’m reminding you that May outings must include taking your mom to brunch/shopping/a movie/bed and breakfast/a cruise on the Riviera/three weeks in an Italian villa….Ok! Ok! Just grab a bouquet of flowers at the farmers market, but whatever you do, DON’T FORGET MOTHER’S DAY!

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