Menlowe Ballet honors its lineage

Dance company performs Nov. 15-17 at M-A Performing Arts Center

Performances: Menlowe Ballet performs Friday and Saturday, Nov. 15 and 16, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 17, at 2 p.m. in the Menlo-Atherton Performing Arts Center, 555 Middlefield Road in Atherton. Tickets, from $28 to $45, can be purchased at menloweballet.org or by calling 800-595-4849.


By Renee Batti, Almanac News Editor

Founded a mere two and a half years ago, Menlowe Ballet is chronologically just a kid. But its lineage? That's an entirely different story -- one that links the Menlo Park-based regional dance company to rich and revered traditions of ballet art.

A key figure in that lineage, the iconic founder of the Oakland Ballet who lifted that company to international status, will have a prominent role in Menlowe Ballet's new production, being staged this month at the Menlo-Atherton Performing Arts Center. The ballet company, led by Artistic Director Michael Lowe, will perform two works by Ronn Guidi, who launched the Oakland company in 1965 and served as its artistic director for 33 years.

The program will be performed Friday through Sunday, Nov. 15-17. And it's called "Lineage" in recognition of Mr. Guidi's enduring influence on the local company's co-founder, Mr. Lowe, who was a principal dancer and choreographer with the Oakland Ballet for some 30 years.

"I met Michael when he was 18 -- we have history," Mr. Guidi, 77, said in a recent interview. Turning to Mr. Lowe in the studio the ballet company shares with Menlo Park Academy of Dance, he added, "I threw you on the stage."

"Lineage" will showcase two works by Mr. Guidi: "Trois Gymnopedies" and the pas de deux from his full-length ballet, "Romeo and Juliet." It also will feature Mr. Lowe's "Tribute," a world premiere, and "Serie."

Mr. Guidi rose to international prominence through his work reconstructing and staging ballet masterpieces of Sergei Diaghilev's Ballet Russes, and gained stature, too, with his staging of Americana classics. His commitment to those works led him to lure "some of the dance world's last remaining legends to Oakland to set works directly on his dancers," Lisa Shiveley, Menlowe Ballet executive director, said in a press release. Among those legends were Leonide Massine, Irina Nijinska, Eugene Loring, Agnes de Mille, Frederic Franklin, and Anna Sokolow.

During that time -- "an era of ferment," Mr. Guidi said -- Mr. Lowe was an avid participant in the creative and re-creative whirl. And he danced leading roles in many of the works.

"I attribute much of my choreographic inspiration and sensibility to the experiences I had working with these great artists," Mr. Lowe said in a written statement. "Our season, 'Lineage,' reflects my fascination with the tradition of passing dance down one generation to the next -- artist to artist."

In reconstructing the Ballet Russes pieces, which he said were created between 1909 and 1929, Mr. Guidi said his goal was to be true to the original. His own teacher came out of that tradition, he said in explaining his interest in resurrecting those works and bringing them to the stage. Other prominent dance companies throughout the world have since staged the reconstructed works.

But that project was only a part of Mr. Guidi's career, and local audiences will get the chance to see two of his original works in "Lineage." "Menlowe Ballet seems like the logical home for my ballets," he said in the press release. "It's been a joy for me to watch Michael grow from dancer, to gifted choreographer, and now to artistic director.

"Michael knows my work well, so adding my ballets to the Menlowe Ballet repertoire is exciting. It's as if it's all still part of the family."


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