by Diane Claytor
Time certainly does fly! In only a few short weeks, Diablo Ballet will close its 21st season. This year’s grand finale, performing on May 8 and 9, will celebrate masters of dance, featuring
- Just –Diablo Ballet’s Premiere of the thrilling duet by celebrated choreographer Trey McIntyre
- The exciting duet from Book of Alleged Dances by renowned dance maker Val Caniparoli
- The romantic wedding pas de deux and finale from Coppelia
- Do Be: Double Happiness, a new spellbinding work by Robert Dekkers, set to an original score by composer Chris Cerrone –a 2014 Pulitzer Prize finalist in music — and performed live by guitarist and percussion duo, The Living Earth Show
Robert, Diablo Ballet’s Resident Choreographer, is very excited to be presenting Do Be: Double Happiness, a whole new piece – and concept – for Diablo Ballet. In addition to dancing with, and choreographing for, Diablo Ballet, Robert, once named a “25 To Watch” artist by DANCE Magazine and called a “mad genius” by the Huffington Post, founded his own San Francisco dance company in 2009: “Post:Ballet. In 2013, Robert was approached by The Living Earth Show’s electric guitarist Travis Andrews and percussionist Andy Meyerson. This twosome, referred to as “The most unique ensemble to come out of the San Francisco Conservatory,” and “energetically provocative” by the SF Examiner, has earned a reputation as one of the most versatile and virtuosic contemporary chamber groups on the west coast. Travis and Andy said they had a project in mind – they wanted to produce a full-length dance performance with a quintet of original scores, which they would perform live. And they wanted Robert to choreograph the entire production. Robert had never met these musicians and initially, he said, he wasn’t sure he wanted to do it. “So I put it on the back burner” he admitted. A month later, he attended an event where The Living Earth Show was performing. “They were incredible,” he noted, “their performance was fantastic and I knew that I definitely needed to reconsider my original response.
“They are amazing, highly trained musicians and are commissioning exciting composers, providing a platform for composers to create new works,” Robert said. He loves the instruments Travis and Andy use – percussion and guitar, which, he continued, “are traditionally associated with rock music so putting them into a concert hall context is very similar to my vision as a choreographer. I love to take my classical dance training and infuse it with things that are relevant to me and our world.” Soon, a very innovative year-long collaboration was born. And Diablo Ballet is a beneficiary of the amazing efforts of these extremely talented artists. Determining that it was a lot of work to put together a full length piece in a short amount of time, Robert and The Living Earth Show decided to produce five chapters – each of which can stand on its own yet is related to the others. “It’s sort of like a transformer,” Robert stated. “Separately each is strong. Together they make a super piece.” According to Robert, the theme behind the full production is the search for balance, explaining “I heard a philosopher once talk about how, in our western culture, we do, do, do, exhausting ourselves to where we then just want to be, be, be, shutting ourselves off. He suggested that a much healthier way to live is to find balance, to do be, do be, do be.” Within Do Be, there are five scores written by five different composers. Four of the chapters will be performed by Robert’s Post:Ballet company but when he talked to Diablo Ballet’s Artistic Director Lauren Jonas about the project, Robert told her there was one score he thought would be perfect for Diablo Ballet; it was agreed that Chapter 3, Do Be: Double Happiness would premier at the end of Diablo Ballet’s 21st season. Chris Cerrone, the composer for this third chapter, has been described by The New Yorker as a “rising star;” his recent opera, Invisible Cities, was a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize. “This score, which Chris named Double Happiness, is particularly beautiful,” Robert said. “It’s going to be a great fit for the Diablo Ballet dancers.” In keeping with the Finding Balance theme of the full-length production, Robert said this third chapter piece is about “letting go of the past, not letting things that have happened define who we are. I spoke to Chris about his inspiration for his composition and he used the word ‘melancholy’ for the first section. So I started talking to others about what melancholy means to them and someone said it describes the feeling one has when there are regrets that can’t be changed; it lingers. So, to me, the whole idea of balance is learning to let go, let go of expectations, let go of shame, let go of the past.” The second part of the score, according to Robert, sounds liberating, like rebirth, being set free; and the final section deals with bliss, “the kind that happens when everything is balanced, lined up just right, where everything is peaceful,” Robert said. And this is the outline he’s using when choreographing the piece.
Because of nerve damage, Robert, unfortunately, isn’t able to dance right now. This is the first major piece he’s ever put together without being able to dance and demonstrate his ideas. So he’s using a lot of “movement vocabulary” created with the Diablo Ballet dancers. “It’s interesting to see how each dancer creatively interprets certain movement phrases,” Robert noted. “They all know me and what I like, which they clearly kept in mind when creating their own movements, but it’s also been great to see what their natural inclinations are, the way they instinctively move.” Robert is, admittedly, nervous about how this is all going to come together with his own current limitations. Lauren, on the other hand, is not at all apprehensive. “I am so excited about this piece,” she stated. “The music is incredible and I have no doubt that the piece will be special and very well received.” The first chapter of Do Be was performed at Post:Ballet late last year and the second premiered at Post:Ballet’s March fundraiser; chapters 4 and 5 will be presented in the summer and fall, respectively. And Robert is so delighted that he’s able to produce the middle chapter for Diablo Ballet. “Diablo Ballet is such an important part of who I am as an artist,” he said, “I am so linked with Diablo Ballet and it’s only fitting that a part of this very unique collaboration be with them.” You, too, won’t want to miss this very special production. To see for yourself how Robert, Chris, The Living Earth Show and Diablo Ballet’s incredibly talented dancers define Do Be: Double Happiness, be sure to get your tickets for the May 8 or 9 show at Walnut Creek’s Del Valle Theater. Go to https://diabloballet.org/tickets/ or call 925-943-7469.