By Diane Claytor

Harmonious, according to the dictionary definition, means “forming a pleasing, consistent whole…made up of sounds that combine agreeably…pleasing to the ear, tuneful, melodious.” And Beauty…well, we all have our own definition of beauty, but according to dictionary.com, it’s the “quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind.” On February 2nd and 3rd, you’ll be able to experience – with both your eyes and your ears – the full meaning of Harmonious Beauty when the award-winning Diablo Ballet presents its second program of its 24th season at Walnut Creek’s Del Valle Theatre. Featuring romance, charm, mystery, athleticism, a world premier, live music and, of course, the power of magnificent dancing, Harmonious Beauty will continue Diablo Ballet’s tradition of bringing world class entertainment to the local community.

And Here We Are by Danielle Rowe

Danielle Rowe, who retired in 2015 from the prestigious Nederlands Dans Theater, a contemporary dance company in The Hague, has created a world premier for Diablo Ballet, And Here We Are. “The foundation of this piece,” Danielle explained, “is about one couple at three different stages of their relationship.” The couple is represented by three couples, “their younger selves, middle age selves and older selves.

“Have you ever had the feeling that you wished you could go back and talk to your younger self and, duringthose difficult times, just say ‘it’s going to be ok, everything will sort itself out,’ almost console your younger self?” Danielle asked. That’s what she was focusing on when she created this dance. “It’s about that time in a relationship that was difficult, turbulent, challenging – and how the couple worked through it. The older couple is looking at those moments, reflecting on them and almost wishing they could go back, knowing everything would be ok.”

Danielle knew she wanted to create a piece that focused on different times in a relationship. She had several pieces of music in mind when developing the dance, but ultimately settled on Gustav Mahler’s Piano Quartet in A Minor. “It’s such a dramatic piece of music and I’m hoping to let the music speak for itself,” she stated.

A collaborative choreographer, Danielle had concepts and ideas of how she wanted the piece to unfold but knew that it “would evolve and possibly go in a different direction” once she started working with the dancers. Once she saw how the dancers interpreted her movements, she knew adjustments would likely be made. “I think it would be detrimental to myself and the dancers if I just came in with precise movements before actually seeing them. I believe it’s important to create with the dancers, not just on the dancers” she said.

Born in Australia, Danielle trained at the Australian Ballet School before joining the Australian Ballet in 2001, where she was a principal dancer for ten years. She joined the Houston Ballet in 2011 and then the Nederlands Dans Theater in 2012. While dancing with the Houston Ballet, Danielle was named one of the “25 to Watch” by Dance Magazine; they described her dancing as “effortless fluidity.” She now loves choreographing, “loves being back in the studio, fusing all these different styles of dance I grew up with,” she noted.

Danielle moved to San Francisco when she retired from full time dancing to be with her husband, Luke Ingham, a principal dancer with the San Francisco Ballet. They now have an active 20-month-old daughter.

Milieu by Robert Dekkers

When Diablo Ballet’s Resident Choreographer Robert Dekkers introduced Milieu to Diablo Ballet in 2016, criticaldance.com wrote “The score and choreography both explore the idea of the piece’s namesake…the look and feel, the mood and character, the style of a place a social environment…the piece came together with great harmony.”Milieu is defined by dictionary.com as “surroundings, especially of a social or cultural nature.” According to Robert, “Milieu explores our environment, how it’s evolving. In the beginning, the dancers represent atoms and molecules. They then evolve into a sort of organism that moves as a whole. From there, they begin to develop individuality and as the piece goes on it it’s into the evolution of relationships. It ends with a question of the milieu as we move into the future and the next phase of evolution in the world in which we live.”

He continued explaining his ideas: “It’s really the old question of the evolution of relationships. In the beginning everyone is very connected and then deeper relations are formed between individuals.” Basically, Robert is exploring our evolving relationship with the world, ourselves and one another in a rapidly changing environment.

The piece was originally created by Robert for Phoenix’s Nova Ballet in 2009; it was his first collaboration with Daniel Berkman, a Bay Area electronic musician, composer, multi-instrumentalist and producer; they now collaborate together frequently. Robert admits to reworking the piece this time around somewhat, although the basic structure and general outline remain the same. “The world view I have now is different than where I was in 2009,” Robert said. “It’s important to me that when a piece comes back, it has some evolution.” The last movement, Robert noted, is the one that’s getting the most workshopping, “Past and present are basically the same, the future is the one that’s getting reevaluated.”

Bachtrack.com reviewed Milieu when Diablo Ballet performed it in 2016, referring to the “shimmering sounds” of Daniel Berkman’s score and noting that “There is a humanity and biting wit to Dekkers’ work that sets it apart from others…” And The Huffington Post said, “The ensemble displayed fearless athleticism as well as drop-dead chic.”

A Cinderella Story by Val Caniparoli

In 2004, famed dancer and international choreographer Val Caniparoli created A Cinderella Story for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. At the time, a Canadian reviewer lauded the production’s “brilliant dancing technique” and noted it’s showbiz origins, saying “it conjured up the elegance and excitement of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.” According to numerous write ups by different reviewers over the years, this production, featuring the music of the legendary Broadway composer Richard Rodgers, is everything that traditional ballet is not. The entire production features a retro 1950’s look, from the music to the costumes to the choreography. Or, as a review of the Louisville Ballet’s production said, “It’s Cinderella with a bebop, blues, swing, tango feel.”

In an interview Val had in 2010 with the Tucson Weekly, he said that the great thing about A Cinderella Story “is we’ve been allowed to arrange the Rodgers music in a bluesy, jazzy fashion…you’ll see dance forms inspired by other dance forms.”Val has contributed to the repertoires of more than 45 dance companies over the years but he is most closely associated with the San Francisco Ballet, his artistic home for more than 40 years. According to his biography, Val has “created a body of work that is rooted in classicism but influenced by all forms of movement: modern dance, ethnic dance, social dancing and even ice-skating.” He admits that nothing he does is strictly ballet, “but everything has a strong classical structure.”

Val didn’t begin his dancing career until he was in his early 20’s, considered late in life for most dancers. He’d studied music and theater all his life, and as a young man, he happened to take a master dance class. The instructor, impressed with his raw talent, encouraged him to study ballet. “I auditioned at San Francisco Ballet School and pretended I was 16. I got a scholarship. Within a year and a half, I was in the company,” Val reported.

Diablo Ballet will be featuring the romantic Ballroom Pas De Deux from A Cinderella Story, sure to transport audience members to a magical time and place.

Libera, a short film by Walter Yamazaki & Justin Levitt

Premiering last year during Diablo Ballet’s 23rd Anniversary performance, and winning several awards since, Libera, the short film by Walter Yamazaki, has been brought back by popular demand. It has been described as “a short film examining the dancer in two worlds – the world of constraint and the world of infinite freedom – and how they must strive to find balance between the two…” Dancers often struggle with the complexities of their own minds. Whether they are bound by their self-doubt or liberated by their love for dance, it is a continual journey of self-discovery and faith in their chosen path. criticaldance.com wrote about Libera, stating, it “introduced the dancers in a far more intimate and personal way – an exploration of identity, of life purpose, of BE-ing and dance-ness.”

Libera has collected a number of honors, including a Telly Award for its directing and a U.S. Hollywood International Golden Film Award for its music, by Justin Levitt.

Encores by Sally Streets

Sally Streets originally created Encores in 1996 for Artistic Director, Lauren Jonas, her sister Corinne and Karen Portner Lapointe. According to Jonas, “Sally created the ballet in five sections, including a duet for my sister and I where we were a mirror of each other.” The duet is not currently included in the ballet as it is so hard to cast two dancers who look enough alike to make it work, although the finale section where Lauren and Corinne danced, is still included. When the company revived Encores in 2011, Heather Desaulniers’ Dance Commentary stated, “Sally Streets’ “Encores” was my favorite piece of the afternoon. In it, we were treated to amazing lifts in the first pas de deux and delightful flirtation in the second.”

Sally Streets, renowned for her teaching and choreography, was born in Oakland and started taking ballet classes on the recommendation of her pediatrician. At 18 she toured the United States by bus, dancing alongside glamorous luminaries like Frederic Franklin and Alexandra Danilova. Because of funding, she was cut from that company, so she flew to New York, took an open class at New York City Ballet and soon found herself dancing with the company. She stepped away from the world of ballet to raise her family. All three of her children chose careers in ballet including her daughter, New York City Ballet principal dancer, Kyra Nichols, who for 33 years was one of the company’s most beloved ballerinas. Sally is still currently a part of Berkeley Ballet where she has been teaching and choreographing ballets since 1981 and has also served as Diablo Ballet’s Artistic Advisor since the inception of the company.

You can enjoy this incredible program on Friday, February 2nd at 8 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 3rd at 2 p.m. or 8 p.m. at Del Valle Theatre in Walnut Creek. To purchase tickets, click here or call 925-943-7469. Each performance is followed by an interactive Q&A with the dancers and choreographers as well as a complimentary dessert reception with an opportunity to meet the artists.

For tickets or information, call Diablo Ballet at (925) 943-1775 or click here.