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A fruitful autumn harvest / Highlights from the season's stage, dance, architecture, books, art, classical and pop.

September 07, 2008


Before his death, John Cage planned to write a score for a large orchestra deployed in the round to accompany a 360-degree dance piece by his longtime collaborator, Merce Cunningham. Instead, Cunningham's "Ocean" premiered in 1994, in a restored circus in Brussels, two years after Cage's death, with an orchestral score by a Cage assistant, Andrew Culver, and electronic music by David Tudor. It is the great American choreographer's most complex work: The music envelops the audience while the dancers evoke a wondrous watery world. Since then, "Ocean" has been given in tents, amphitheaters and traditional halls. But nothing is likely to top -- or, more accurately, undercut -- this fall's presentation of "Ocean" by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. It will be performed 90 miles out of town and 150 feet below the surface of the Earth, in a quarry.

Rainbow Quarry near St. Cloud, Minn., Sept. 11-13,

'Romeo and Juliet,

on Motifs of Shakespeare'

Before Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet," there was Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet, on Motifs of Shakespeare," which will be given its West Coast premiere this month in Berkeley by the Mark Morris Dance Company. This isn't the "Romeo and Juliet" you know from either Shakespeare or Prokofiev. In 1935, the composer returned to Russia after nearly two decades in the West and wrote a radical ballet with a spiky score and a happy ending that suited his recent interest in Christian Science. Neither music nor scenario, however, suited Stalin's regime, and the ballet was not performed. Five years later, Prokofiev rewrote "Romeo and Juliet" in a populist romantic style that Stalin could handle. It instantly became -- and has remained -- the most beloved of all modern ballets. The original score vanished and was only recently discovered in a Moscow library. Morris' setting of it was performed for the first time in June at Bard College. The New York critics, for the most part, preferred what they already knew, musically, dramatically and choreographically. So bring an open mind.

Zellerbach Auditorium, Berkeley, Sept. 25-28,

'Fall for Dance'

Last October, taking a cue from City Center in New York, the Orange County Performing Arts Center launched "Fall for Dance": two two-night programs showcasing a total of 11 classical, contemporary and ethnic dance companies from the U.S. and abroad. Probably the smartest thing about this effort to enlarge the center's audience for dance was the price: All tickets cost a sawbuck, and all shows sold out. So this year, "Fall for Dance" will be back, featuring such attractions as Beijing Dance/LDTX from China, Madhavi Mudgal from India, the National Ballet of Canada and, from nearer afield, the Trisha Brown Dance Company and Keigwin + Company. OCPAC Executive Vice President Judy Morr, who conceived the series, says that if all goes well, she'll expand it next year, just as City Center has enlarged its version. After all, "For $10, who wouldn't want to come?"

Orange County Performing Arts Center, Oct. 2-5,

Kirov Ballet

Despite its rarefied status, classical ballet is as susceptible to the whims of fashion as any other form of show business. But withal, the Russian company known at home as the Mariinsky Ballet and abroad as the Kirov Ballet remains the art form's gold standard. Now more than 250 years old, it will visit the Southland twice before year's end, for engagements at Segerstrom Hall in Orange County and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in L.A. You may or may not thrill to its "Don Quixote" and "Giselle" (at OCPAC) or its "Nutcracker" (at the Music Center). You may or may not luck out and see a world-class star (Diana Vishneva, say). But the discipline and beauty of the corps de ballet are likely to linger in your memory.

Orange County Performing Arts Center, Oct. 7-12,, and Los Angeles Music Center, Dec. 17-20,

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui

Half Moroccan and half Flemish, dancer and choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, 32, is all the rage in Europe, where critics have been smitten with his post-Pina Bausch amalgam of dance, music, theater and art. UCLA Live is importing "Myth," a two-hour work he made in 2007 in association with the Antwerp, Belgium, theater collective Toneelhuis. It focuses on five characters trapped in a limbo that's been likened to a world between life and what comes after. The action unfolds to the accompaniment of a live score inspired by early Italian religious music. And to think that the teenage Cherkaoui was inspired to start dancing by such '80s performers as Janet Jackson.

Royce Hall, Oct. 17-18,

San Francisco Ballet

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