Local dance troupe presents 'Double Happiness' | February 29, 2012 | Almanac | Almanac Online |



Arts & Entertainment - February 29, 2012

Local dance troupe presents 'Double Happiness'

Menlowe Ballet follows November debut with March performance at MV performing arts center

by Renee Batti

Lisa Shiveley is not a cruel woman, but sometimes she likes to see grown people cry. She experienced that exquisite pleasure last November, she said, at the debut performance of Menlowe Ballet.

"People were crying in the lobby" during intermission, moved by the beauty and athleticism they had just witnessed, Ms. Shiveley said, hand on heart as she recalled the experience. Seeing such appreciation "is extremely rewarding — and I'm in for Round 2," she added.

Round 2 is just around the corner: Menlowe Ballet, established in early 2011 and based in Menlo Park, will present its second dance performance, under the banner "Double Happiness," on March 16 and 17 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts.

A highlight of the program will be the performance of the work "Double Happiness" by Menlowe Ballet co-founder and artistic director Michael Lowe, a former bright star of the Oakland Ballet. The work is of a genre of dance Mr. Lowe has become noted for — a contemporary form that borrows from classical dance, but is rooted in cultural themes.

"The ballet was inspired by the Chinese symbol of Double Happiness, and offers a peek into the Eastern meaning of the joining of two souls spiritually and emotionally," Mr. Lowe explained in a written statement.

In addition to works created by Mr. Lowe, the March production will include performances by the Savage Jazz Dance Company of Oakland. Dancers from that company, which features new works inspired by jazz culture, will perform two pieces.

Also on the program will be Mr. Lowe's "Cirque," which received an enthusiastic response from audiences in November when Menlowe Ballet performed the work's world premiere, Ms. Shiveley said.

Students from the Menlo Park Academy of Dance will also take part in the production. The new dance troupe collaborates with the academy "to provide elite students with professional performing opportunities," according to the company's literature.

Ms. Shiveley, an Atherton resident who serves as the dance troupe's executive director, said Menlowe Ballet recently held auditions, and was overwhelmed by the response from dancers whose companies have shut down or cut back. "There are a number of displaced dancers who have no jobs," she said in a recent interview, noting that even the Oakland Ballet has postponed a major performance originally scheduled for this spring, due to financial woes.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Oakland Ballet faces an $80,000 deficit, and may reschedule the program for spring 2013.

The precarious footing of the Oakland and other local dance troupes is troubling to Ms. Shiveley, who is searching for new fundraising approaches to keep Menlowe Ballet on its toes. "Failure is not an option," she said.

A former dancer who still takes classes at the Academy of Dance, Ms. Shiveley stressed the need to support dance in the Bay Area and "the people who have dedicated themselves to be masters of a craft. ... It seems so urgent to me that we find a way to have them share their talents with us" and to ensure that local audiences have access to the riches of dance.

"Do we want this talent to leave the Bay Area? I don't think so."

The new company hopes to raise funds through ticket sales and donations, and has established a "Friends of Menlowe Ballet" group. "There's no magic to this equation — we must raise community support and sell as many tickets as possible for our upcoming season," Ms. Shiveley said.

That community support could take the form of "gathering a group of friends and coming to see 'Double Happiness' on March 16 and 17," she said. "Then, if you are moved and inspired by the experience, consider becoming a Friend of Menlowe Ballet.

"We believe that shared cultural experiences contribute to a sense of community and connection to one another, and we are honored to be part of this in Menlo Park."

The March 16 and 17 dance performances are set for 8 p.m. Friday, and 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday. Go to mvcpa.com, or call 903-6000, for tickets, which are $43-$50 general, and $28 for seniors and students.

The Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts is at 500 Castro St.

Go to menloweballet.org for more information about the dance company.


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