Thanks, Lively Arts, for a wonderful ‘Best of the West’

What did I feel at the end of Sunday’s “Best of the Bay,” a wonderful showcase of professional dance?


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Yes, I’m very much aware that’s a homespun, mouth-agape-at-what-they-do-in-the-big-city reaction to an evening of high-caliber dance on my part. But we’ll save the sophisticated critical tone for another time.

The fact remains that I am deeply appreciative to the Lively Arts Foundation and its veteran artistic director, Diane Mosier, for all the work that went into bringing six (count ‘em! six!) to the Saroyan Theatre. Imagine the logistics: all those phone calls, emails, details, negotiations. It’s a major undertaking just to bring in one professional company from out of the area. To coordinate half a dozen all for one performance must have been a mind-slam.

Mosier told me beforehand that the evening would have a little something for everyone, and she was right. From the stately shuffle of the bride and groom Day of the Dead characters in Oakland Ballet’s “Luna Mexicana” to the vigorous physicality and red-and-black blur of machismo in the Pacific Ballet Dance Theatre’s “Gayane,” the evening was a wonderful mix of contemporary and classical ballet.


Among the highlights was getting to watch an all-grown-up Carolyn Lippert (now with American Ballet Theatre in New York) take the stage as the lead ballerina after dancing there many times as a child. Another Fresno ballet product was Erin Yarbrough-Powell, who with Robert Kretz danced a graceful “Moonlight Serenade” with Smuin Contemporary Ballet.

The selections from “Gayane,” combining traditional Armenian folklore and classical ballet involved legs fluttering so quickly they became a blur. And I think my favorite of the evening was Menlowe Ballet’s colorful and striking “Kimono Wednesday, inspired by Claude Monet’s painting “La Japonais.” Indeed, it was like a painting come to life.

The only less-than-stellar thing about the performance was the smallish size of the audience. Fresno’s cultural clan needs to figure out a way to better support Lively Arts and its stellar offerings. I can’t wait for the Ailey II dance company to return Feb. 24. Mark it now on your calendar.

Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

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