Sacramento Ballet Company Presents The Great Gatsby

February 10, 2013, the Sacramento Ballet Company presented the Great Gatsby  at its matinee performance. The performance educated, energized and delighted the audience.

Through dance the ballet company illustrated how the convergence of drama, intrigue and changing morals in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s third novel ended in senseless tragedy.

The famed author tells a story that show how youthful love, playful infatuation and moral restlessness within a wealthy society group can end in tragedy. The time is the rollicking jazz era of sex and alcohol  in the 1920’s.

The dancing was excellent.

The ballet company showcased the attitudes  and the mannerisms of the wealthy with  smooth foxy trots, class cohesion through group closed precision high kicking, their predatory prowling while avoiding to become prey and their hostility towards the less fortunate through tango-like movements; and finally their grace through smooth and exact swing techniques.

The music was superb.

The orchestra energized the auditorium  with Ragtime and Dixieland sounds.  A bossy tuba and a snappy snare drum metered the classic jazz beat of the period. Not to be out done, a jubilant clarinet raced the scales with sounds of joy.  All within me danced. Applauds and calls flowed from attendees to appreciate the joyful swing  music.  During other tunes, the clarinet called forth feeling of pain with sustained sounds that whined and stretched into a wail.

The performance began ten minutes late. Management announced the late start accommodated the many last minute ticket purchasers. The inconvenience was worth the wait. In the language of modern competitive sports, the Sacramento Balllet Company left it all on stage. The exuberance and chatter of the departing crowd suggested a bright future for this dance company ‘s future performances.

Create Magic at Christmas Through Music

During the Christmas season, few musical compositions rivals the magic of Messiah’s “Hallelujah” chorus by George Frederick Handel.

Words from an anonymous poem expresses it best:

But Handel’s harmony affects the soul,
to sooth by sweetness, or by force controul;

The Gentleman’s Magazine (May 1740),

Handel, a German, was musically trained in opera by Italians and seasoned in southern German sounds. These experiences came together in presentations of  oratorios to England. Even today the baroque tradition of this composer continue to contribute experiences as instrumentation of all types and sounds take stage with new technological advances.

Georg Frederick Handel (1685-1759) was born in Halle, Germany the same year as Bach. He studied with the great organist Wilhem Zachou from the age of seven to nine. In 1706 he went to Italy and began mastering contemporary trends of opera. He returned to Germany as Court composer for the Elector of Hannover who would become the English King George I.

With the blessing of his former patron, Handel went to England. He shifted his  focus from presenting operas to the wealthy to delivering understandable musical experiences to the middle class via oratorios sang in English. It flourished.  He died a wealthy and respected composer.

Click the oog file link  or mp3 file link to hear the beloved Hallelujah chorus. Sing along.

Feel the power it generates through its prose and the promise it proclaims.

OOG File



Oratorio – A musical composition for voices and orchestra, telling a sacred story without costumes, scenery, or dramatic action.

Baroque– a style of composition that flourished in Europe from about 1600 to 1750, marked by elaborate musical ornamentation and development of new instrumental playing techniques.

Public Domain

Georg Frederick Handel 1685-1780

Sacramento Ballet: Romeo and Juliet

Last Thursday night, Sacramento Ballet staged its opening performance of Romeo and Juliet at the Sacramento Community Center. The fresh Sacramento evening air failed to stay the attendees as they filled the auditorium with a festive but expectant mood.

At the customary signal, attendees scurried to their places and the auditorium came to silence and then darkness. The red velvet theater curtains became the screen for floor-to-ceiling project images of the Capulet and the Montague Families courts of arms. Each projection garnered equal area – a clue that we were about to witness this spirited family rivalry. With this opening, the ballet had begun.

Silence broke with the blast of the opening music. The telltale lighted musician’s stands were not visible. The stage was flanked with two larger-than-life speakers that filled the auditorium with the ballet’s opening sounds. Despite the generosity of the Raley Family support, the economy exerted it presence at the event. I was disappointed by the absence of an orchestra.

The curtains parted to a joyous market scene. My disappointment gently faded as this company’s assiduously told the timeless story of “love at first sight” with exquisite dancing, well-choreographed sword fighting, and dramatic acting.

The ballet’s light moments – the antics of Mercutio –  evoked laughter from the audience. The happy moments of the wedding undoubtedly parted smiles on many women’s faces. And the serious moments transported each attendee to witness a senseless death and eventually unfortunate tragedy. It wasn’t long before the economic peril  - no orchestra  -  faded from my concern.

I had seen this company perform Romeo and Juliet accompanied by an orchestra. Of course, it was great!  But this performance ranks as one of its best as the dancers more than made up for the piped music.

Amanda Peet’s danced a lyrical Juliet. She convincingly displayed the emotions of strong defiance to marriage custom; to complete surrender to love. Her scenes with Romeo: tranquil grace filled with emotion. This veteran dancer is a pleasure to watch as she used body to articulate Juliet.

Stefan Calka danced Romeo. His beautifully sculptured body attested attention to trade. His disciplined dance highlighted o the Juliet character from their stealth observation of each other in the their first scene to the violently passionate expression in their last scene. They were an electric pair full of emotion and of spirit.

As the performance progressed, an opening distraction during the market scene faded to my region of opening night forgiveness. My expectation had been met. The audience voiced its satisfaction with a standing ovation to thunderous applaud. Apparently its expectation had been met also.

This evening was a delightful February gift to Sacramento’s ballet aficionados. And to the newly initiated, this company was a great ambassador.