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Two Companies Take Stock of Repertory to Launch Seasons

Three’s Company and the California Ballet will jump the gun on the slew of major imports heading our way this year by launching their 1988-89 seasons this weekend. The two local companies will go head to head Saturday and Sunday evening for their kickoff concerts, but their performing venues are decidedly different.

Three’s Company’s opener will be sandwiched into the troupe’s summer low-tech series at their studio in Hillcrest, while Cal Ballet moves out to the alfresco atmosphere of Sea World’s Nautilus Amphitheater. Both have dipped heavily into the repertory for their opening programs. Maxine Mahon, director of the California Ballet, scheduled a mixed bag of dances that run the gamut from the 19th-Century classicism of “Swan Lake” Act II to a contemporary laser-lit ballet.

“We wanted to take advantage of the theme park setting and the wonderful opportunity to reach people who attend Sea World’s jazz and rock concerts,” Mahon said. “That’s why we wanted a laser-light ballet on the program.”

Associate Director Charles Bennett accepted the challenge of choreographing a modern but classically based ballet, “Opus 55,” to the eye-popping visual pyrotechnics of a laser light show.

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“I’m excited about working with lasers and I’ve been thinking about them as I choreograph,” Bennett said. “I’m playing on the light and shadow theme, because the Rachmaninoff music is very contrapuntal, but in my ballet, light means dark movement. I’m not taking the concept literally.”

Cal Ballet’s prima ballerina Denise Dabrowski will get her first shot at dancing “Swan Lake” Act II in seven years, and the troupe is bringing back Mark Lanham, her partner in last year’s “Romeo and Juliet,” to dance the role of the prince.

Bennett’s “By Candlelight” will show up again this year, along with Patrick Nollet’s “Valse Triste,” a pure modern-dance duet that had its genesis in Three’s Company concerts.

Three’s Company’s concert is being billed as a season-opener, but its real intent is to showcase the company and its repertory for the booking agents attending the Western Alliance of Arts Administrators annual conference in San Diego.

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“We’re always uncomfortable with repertory, but the presenters are in town, and we wanted them to see some of our best work,” said co-director Jean Isaacs. “We had to pick out things that don’t involve Patrick Nollet and Denise Dabrowski, because they’re dancing with Cal Ballet this weekend.”

The one local premiere on Three’s Company’s program is a duet Isaacs designed during a teaching stint in Europe early this summer. But the troupe will put its best foot forward with “Tabula Rosa,” an ensemble work that earned kudos for the company in San Francisco recently. A critically acclaimed collaborative duo choreographed and danced by Betzi Roe and former Twyla Tharp principal John Malashock is also slated for this pair of low-tech performances.


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