La Jolla Music Society traces its roots back to 1941, when Nikolai Sokoloff, former conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, originally founded the Musical Arts Society of La Jolla. Over the years, the organization has grown and prospered, adding dance to their offerings a decade ago.
This spring’s Dance Series programs are particularly appealing: two very different companies from two very different parts of the world — the south of France, and the Southern Hemisphere.
On March 18, at the Civic Theatre, Malandain Ballet Biarritz will present a new spin on the old tale of “Beauty and the Beast,” set to music by Tchaikovsky. Under the direction of choreographer Thierry Malandain, known for combining classical technique and contemporary vision, MBB has become one of Europe’s most popular dance companies since its beginnings in 1998, in the resort town of Biarritz, on France’s southwestern coast.
This full-length “Beauty,” called “beautiful and dark” by French reviewers after its 2015 premiere, is influenced by Jean Cocteau’s 1946 classic film and Malandain’s own inner demons, and brightened by “the choreographer’s acute sensitivity, wit and talent.” Here in its U.S. premiere, it’s as far from the new Disney film as you can imagine, but promises to be a stunning experience.
The company’s last visit here was quite an experience, according to Leah Rosenthal, LJMS Director of Artistic Planning, who had seen them perform “Cinderella” in France and excitedly booked them to be part of the Dance Series in May 2015.
“A week before, we got word that all their crates of costumes were stuck on a boat somewhere off the east coast,” she said. ”We didn’t want to cancel, so they offered to do a program of short pieces, bought costumes at whatever shops they could find, and somehow made the whole thing come together beautifully, and did master classes too. They were fabulous!”
This month’s visit should be less fraught and just as fabulous — definitely a don’t-miss event for dance-lovers.
And next month, on April 8, Black Grace, which has been hailed as “the most positive, living expression of any New Zealand art,” will present their own six short pieces at the Spreckels Theatre, combining traditional Maori dance and Samoan body percussion with modern dance and hip-hop. Founding artistic director Neil Ieremi may have been, at 19, a late-starter in dance, but he went from becoming an accomplished dancer and choreographer to establishing a company that uses his New Zealand’s indigenous dance and his family’s Samoan heritage to create exciting, powerfully athletic works that have won him worldwide acclaim and prestigious awards.
These two dance troupes will surely bring something fresh and new to our stages, and each performance will be preceded by interviews with the artistic director and selected dancers. “We’re so thrilled to be able to bring them to San Diego,” Rosenthal said. “They really are unique voices in the dance world.”
IF YOU GO: Malandain Ballet Biarritz, 8 p.m. March 18, Civic Theatre, 1100 3rd Ave., downtown San Diego. Black Grace, 8 p.m. April 8, Spreckels Theatre, 121 Broadway, downtown San Diego. Pre-performance interviews at 7 p.m. Tickets: $20-$75. (858) 459-3728. ljms.org