Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

Win tickets to ‘Les Ballets Trockadero’

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UPDATE: Congrats to winners Stephanie Bradshaw and Allyson Jensen.

ORIGINAL POST: You’ve got to see the dancers of Les Ballets Trockadero of Monte Carlo to believe them. The world’s foremost all-male comic ballet company is very funny — and incredibly talented. For nearly 40 years, the Trocks, as they’re affectionately known, have combined incredible artistry with downright camp. Men play all the roles on stage, male and female. (Each dancer is assigned male and female personas and often switches back and forth depending on the dance.) When they’re dressed as women, they’re men in drag, yes. But they’re men in bad drag.

Here’s the incredible thing: While portraying women, the men actually dance on pointe, way up there on their toes. Girl ballet dancers start learning this technique at an early age. These men have to wing it.

Fresno gets its first visit from the Trocks in nine years on Saturday night thanks to the Lively Arts Foundation, which is bringing the international touring group back to the Saroyan Theatre. I have two pairs of tickets to give away to two lucky Beehive readers. These are very nice tickets — Orchestra row N, priced at $55 each.

To enter the contest, leave a comment on this post answering this question: Which you think would be harder for you to do — dance on pointe or push a marble with your nose across the Saroyan stage? (Or, if you don’t want to answer our silly question, just say why you’d like to see the show.) I’ll pick two  winners, each of whom will win two tickets to the 7:30 p.m. event.

Deadline to enter is 9 a.m. Wednesday. Please don’t enter more than once. I’ll be informing our winner by email on Wednesday by noon, so keep a watch on your inbox. If I haven’t heard from a winner by Thursday morning, I reserve the right to pick another. These are paper tickets, so you’ll need to be able to come down to The Bee’s front counter by 5 p.m. Friday to pick them up. Rules are on the jump.

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Win tickets to Lively Arts Foundation’s “The Nutcracker”

Little known fact: In my younger years, I served as a stage hand for a local production of “The Nutcracker.” Essentially, I made sure that the Christmas tree got wheeled on stage at the right time and that the floors were mopped between shows (lest the dancers slip or trip). So, I’ve seen the show a couple of times and can say that there are few things more quintessentially Christmas than this ballet.

The Lively Arts Foundation presents its version of the retelling of “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” this Saturday and Sunday at the Saroyan Theatre. We have two tickets to give Saturday night’s performance for one lucky Beehiver. To enter to win, leave a comment on this post telling us what you think of as quintessential to the season. Deadline is 5 p.m. Thursday.

Please don’t enter more than once. Winners will be chosen at random and notified via email Thursday night. So check your email if you entered. Reminder: Because there are physical tickets, you will need to pick them up at The Fresno Bee office (1626 E. St.) during business hours (8 a.m.-5 p.m.). Complete rules on the jump.

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Win tickets to ‘Mystic India’


Looking for a happy Friday evening? I don’t think you’ll have to look farther than the Lively Arts Foundation’s presentation of “Mystic India,” a live Bollywood dance spectacular. This kind of music and dance just seems to bring out the smiles in audiences. Here’s a description:

Audiences can expect an explosion of colors and energy as they travel on a celebratory journey through Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Gujarat, and even through the progression of Bollywood films via a stunning visual display that fuses dance, theater, and spectacular special effects.

I’m giving away two pairs of tickets to the 7:30 p.m. Friday concert at the Saroyan Theatre. To enter, leave a comment on this post. (If you know something about Bollywood, feel free to share your favorite movies or dance styles.) Deadline is 7 p.m. today (Monday). One comment per person, please. I’ll be informing winners at about 7 p.m. via email, so check yours around that time. If you’re a winner, you’ll be able to pick your tickets up at Will Call. Rules are on the jump.

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Wanted: one Drosselmeyer


You can’t have “The Nutcracker” without Drosselmeyer, the godfather/clockmaker/magician whose “magic box” transforms the Nutcracker doll into a dancing human. (At least that’s the way the story goes in the Central California Ballet version.)

For years, Drosselmeyer has been played by veteran performer Hal Bolen. But Bolen has decided to retire as Drosselmeyer in this year’s ballet, which will be performed Dec. 14 and 15 at the Saroyan.

That leaves artistic director Diane Mosier on the hunt for a new Drosselmeyer. She describes it as a “pivotal character part that requires some musicality and maturity.”  Think you have what it takes? Auditions for the character will be held 7 p.m. Saturday at the Fresno State music building, Room 165. (Auditions for dancers start at 11 a.m.) Details: (559) 246-2953.

DANCE REVIEW: Dance Theatre of Harlem

Fresno welcomed the reborn Dance Theatre of Harlem main company back with gusto Sunday night to the Saroyan Theatre. The famous ensemble has visited the city five times starting in 1989. When it had to shut down in 2004 for economic reasons,  the brand was continued with its “second company,” a training troupe for younger dancers. (That group visited Fresno in 2010.) The re-formed main company made its debut just a few weeks ago in Louisville, Ky.

The challenges of kicking off a new company — even one with such a storied tradition — are numerous, and it was probably too much to expect an early performance such as this to brim with the confidence and unified artistic vision that one would hope from a world-class ensemble. That said, I was ambivalent about Sunday’s performance.

Only when the company took the stage in its fourth and final piece, Donald Byrd’s explosive “Contested Space” (pictured above), did the evening feel riveting. Set to the jarring music of Amon Tobin, this “hip exploration of contemporary male/female relationships,” as the program put it, unfolded with a smoldering, mechanized, aggressive sensibility.

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Donald’s weekend picks

Besides tonight’s must-see concert starring that little lady with the giant voice, Kristin Chenoweth

Fresno will only be the fourth city so far to get to see the newly reborn main company of the Dance Theatre Harlem, which had to shut down in 2004 for economic reasons. The performance is 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Saroyan Theatre. I give you the whole story in Friday’s 7 cover story. [Details]

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Win tickets to Dance Theatre of Harlem

UPDATE 11/9: Congratulations to winners Joey Fernandez and Jan Quezada. Hope  you enjoy!

ORIGINAL POST: I have tickets to give away to a very big-deal dance event taking place Sunday: a performance by the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Any occasion in which a top-notch New York company performs in Fresno is a major event, but the wow factor of this concert is multiplied for an interesting reason. The Dance Theatre of Harlem had to shut down in 2004 because of financial difficulties, but it’s being revived. The first performance was just a few weeks ago in Kentucky, and the company is on tour looking toward an anticipated New York debut in spring 2013. So Fresno is one of the first cities to see the newly reconstituted group perform.

(After Dance Theatre of Harlem shut down, the company’s “second” performing group — made up of younger dancers, many in training, continued the brand under the name “Dance Theatre of Harlem Ensemble.” That group performed in 2010 in Fresno.)

So here’s the deal: I have two pairs of tickets to give away to Sunday’s performance, which takes place 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Saroyan Theatre.  These are premium seats (Row J, orchestra) that would go for $78 each.

To enter our giveaway, leave a comment on this post. I’ll pick two winners at random who each will receive two tickets. Deadline is 4 p.m. Wednesday. If you enter, please remember to check your email, because that’s how I’ll be notifying winners. These are paper tickets, so you’ll need to be able to come down to The Bee’s front lobby during business hours by 5 p.m. Friday to pick them up.

See complete rules on the jump.

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Donald’s weekend picks

I can’t push this dance concert enough: It’s an incredibly big deal to line up eight dancers from the world-renowned San Francisco Ballet to perform. I write about “Ballet Stars of San Francisco,” which will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Saroyan Theatre, in the cover story in Friday’s 7 section. [Details]


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Win tickets to ‘Ballet Stars of San Francisco’


You might not expect one of the year’s most impressive dance performances to be staged in August, but that’s exactly what’s happening 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Saroyan Theatre. The Lively Arts Foundation is bringing eight world-class dancers from the San Francisco Ballet to town. The company is considered one of the three top in the country, which means we’ll get the chance to experience some amazing talent on stage.

We’re devoting the cover story in Friday’s 7 section to the event, and you’ll get to read all about each of the eight impressive dancers. Tickets to this show run from $30-$78.

So here’s the contest: I have two pairs of prime orchestra seats (rows N and O) to give away to two lucky Beehive winners. This is a quickie contest: I’ll give the tickets away to the SECOND and EIGHTH commenters on this post.

These are paper tickets, so you’ll have to be able to pick them up at The Bee’s front counter between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Friday.

The winner will be notified by email, so keep checking. If I don’t hear from you within half an hour after I send a winning-confirmation e-mail, I’ll pick someone else at random. No repeat comments please. You’re ineligible if you’ve won something in the past 30 days. We won’t post any comments until we have a winner. Complete rules after the jump.

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Differing views on LINES Ballet Fresno performance

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The Alonzo King LINES Ballet made its Fresno premiere Friday at the Saroyan Theatre.

Norma Mastin of Madera writes:

Why on earth would you show a beautiful picture of a classic ballerina [Life section, Feb. 23] on a page advertising that dreadful modern dance performance? In the article it says that it is contemporary ballet as compared to modern dance. When I was at Stanford 60 years ago, that was modern dance. I don’t care what they are calling it now, it is NOT ballet. I know that the audience loved it, as there was a lot of whistling and ovation after ovation. That’s fine; I’m glad that they knew what they were going to see. You could have at least had a picture of the pair of modern dancers, instead of that classic ballerina.

The friend I was with commented, “Rimsky-Korsakov would have turned over in his grave if he could have heard what they did to his beautiful Scheherazade”. That is such a lovely piece of music; it’s a shame.

I have a response from Amy Querin, artistic director of the Fresno Dance Collective, who loved the performance, on the jump, plus a few thoughts from me.

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Donald’s weekend picks

Besides Jackie

The Lively Arts Foundation is bringing in Alonzo King LINES Ballet, the acclaimed San Francisco contemporary ballet company. Here’s my story from Thursday’s Life section about the company’s 7:30 p.m. Friday performance at the Saroyan Theatre, where the reimagined Arabian-Nights tale “Scheherezade” will be staged.


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Catching up on the arts beat

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What with the holidays and all, some stuff in my inbox slipped through the cracks. Here’s a digest of tidbits:

NEA HONORS: The Lively Arts Foundation landed a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. It’s one of 162 Challenge America Fast-Track Grants awarded nationwide. From Lively Arts’ press release:

The award is to help support the Foundation’s Discover Dance Outreach presentation of Alonzo King’s LINES BALLET in “Scheherazade” at the William Saroyan Theatre, Friday evening, February 24, and will also help underwrite a contemporary ballet master class for dedicated Central Valley dancers as well as an introductory movement class in the celebrated Alonzo King idiom for interested community members who may be only recreational or casual dancers.

In addition to its internationally-celebrated interpretation of “Scheherazade” the LINES company on Feb. 24 will also perform its popular “Dust and Light;” contemporary ballet choreography to 15 classical melodies of Faith by Archangelo Corelli and Francis Poulenc.

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An acrobatic ‘Nutcracker’


When the Central California Ballet on Saturday opens its annual production of “The Nutcracker” at the Saroyan Theatre, all eyes will be on Ethan and Nikki White, finalists in Paula Abdul’s recent “Live to Dance” TV show, who are dancing the roles of the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. (I interviewed Ethan White for a piece in Thursday’s Life section.)

But there will be another sure-fire crowd pleaser. In the traditional Russian dance, eight gymnasts from Break the Barriers of Fresno will perform. The organization is dedicated to bringing together people of various abilities into the able-bodied world of sports and arts. The participating dancers are members of the organization’s gymnastics team.

The eight dancers have been rehearsing with the rest of the nearly 100-member cast for the ballet, which will be performed 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

The Russian dance has some of the most rousing music in Tchaikovsky’s ballet. Diane Mosier, the ballet’s artistic director, says the gymnasts are ready to put on quite a show.

“They can hurl their bodies in the air in a very awesome manner,” she says.

In fact, some of their routine couldn’t be practiced in the ballet company’s rehearsal space at Fresno’s In the Spotlight Dance Center, which has a 10-foot clearance. They had to wait until they got into the actual theater.

“We couldn’t do everything because the ceiling wasn’t high enough,” Mosier says.

Donald’s weekend picks

Sometimes things just fall into place. Our esteemed artist for the 7 section, John Alvin, had already prepared our cover for the Fresno Philharmonic’s “Oz with Orchestra” performance when I interviewed conductor Theodore Kuchar for my cover story. When I asked Kuchar which parts of the film had particularly affected him over the years, the first thing he mentioned was the flying monkeys. I had to smile knowing this was our cover:


The Philharmonic performs two shows: 2:30 and 8 p.m. Saturday.

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Win tickets to ‘A Wicked Night at the Ballet’

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UPDATE: We have a winner: Kassandra Garcia. Look for a story in Friday’s 7 section about “A Wicked Night at the Ballet.”

ORIGINAL STORY: I’m giving away two tickets to the Lively Arts Foundation’s “A Wicked Night at the Ballet,” which will feature an evening of classical and contemporary dance from top-notch Bay Area dancers. It’s 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Shaghoian Hall on the Clovis North High School campus.

The program features the full Menlowe Ballet company — which was a highlight at the “Best of the Bay 2″ concert in January at the Saroyan Theatre — along with members of the Smuin Ballet, the San Francisco Ballet and Ballet San Jose. Among the pieces to be performed: an original piece from Menlowe Ballet titled “Plague,” the famed “Black Swan” pas de deux from “Swan Lake,” and the pas de deux from the graveyard scene in “Giselle.”

I’ll give the pair of tickets to the THIRD commenter on this post. I won’t post any comments until at least three are received. These are “paper tickets,” so you’ll need to be able to pick them up at The Bee’s front lobby on Friday. Please leave a real address and please check it. No duplicate entries allowed. You’re ineligible if you’ve won something from us in the past 30 days. Complete rules after the jump.

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Donald’s weekend picks

If you’re a dance fan, you most definitely do not want to miss “Best of the Bay 2,” which is bringing an all-star lineup of professional Bay Area dance companies to the Saroyan Theatre for one performance only. The show is 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Read my story in today’s 7 section for more details.


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The Groupon craze continues


How much Groupon (and Groupon competitors) can the market handle? That’s the thrust of Bee business writer Bethany Clough’s interesting piece today. The wild success of Groupon has sparked a number of competitors, including several local ones. (A new local outfit,, just debuted, and it hopes to spread to other cities.) Does Groupon and its ilk pay off? It depends. From Bethany’s story:

A nationwide survey of small businesses by a professor at Rice University in Houston found that 66% of businesses contacted said their Groupon experience was profitable. But about one-third said the deals didn’t benefit their bottom line. Some said the bargain seekers never turned into regular customers, or even came back once to pay full price. And the steep discounts can be particularly hard for restaurants and retailers that have fixed expenses. Service-based businesses and others that see little increase in costs with more customers generally have an easier time, the study found.

The Fresno Philharmonic tried a Groupon offer for its recent Edgar Meyer concert, and the promotion resulted in sales to almost 400 new customers. I noticed yesterday that the Lively Arts Foundation is trying a similar promotion with its Saturday performance of “Best of the Bay 2.” (It’s a great deal: a 47% discount.)

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Win tickets to ‘Best of the Bay 2′


Ballet is big in pop culture these days, thanks in part to the success of the movie “Black Swan,” and I’m sure there are some who saw that flick curious enough to want to see live dance on stage. While there isn’t any gore planned at this Saturday’s “Best of the Bay 2″ dance concert at the Saroyan Theatre, you’ll certainly get a lot of exciting ballet. The program is a mix between classical ballet (there’s even a selection from “Swan Lake,” the featured ballet in “Black Swan”) and contemporary ballet, which has elements of modern dance. Several powerhouse dance companies from the Bay Area will be on hand, including the world-acclaimed Robert Moses’ Kin company, the Ballet San Jose and LINES Ballet. Think of it as a dance smorgasbord — and you don’t even have to drive three hours to see all that talent.

I have TWO tickets to the 7:30 p.m. Saturday concert to give to a lucky Beehive reader. Enter by leaving a comment below, telling us either 1) if you’ve seen “Black Swan, did the movie make you more or less interested in seeing live ballet? or 2) if you haven’t seen the movie, have you ever gone to any ballet besides “Nutcracker”? We’ll pick the winner at random. The deadline is 4 p.m. today (Thursday), so don’t dawdle. These are actual paper tickets, so if you’re a winner, you’ll have to be able to pick them up between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday at The Bee’s front lobby. We’ll contact the winner by email, so be sure to leave a real email address AND CHECK IT this afternoon around 4:30 or so. Complete rules are on the jump.

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There are a lot of capital letters in TAIKOPROJECT. Part of me wishes this talented company could have put a little more of that same show-biz OOMPH in the concert performance it brought Saturday night to the Shaghoian Hall.

Don’t get me wrong: I wasn’t looking for “STOMP,” the long-running Off-Broadway smash which has perfected a musical-theater-style percussive extravaganza over the years. I realize that TAIKOPROJECT is a more seriously musical endeavor — a much more defined ensemble using bona fide instruments (instead of garbage can lids, say) and drawing upon the rich cultural heritage of traditional Japanese drumming.

But, like it or not, TAIKOPROJECT is doing its thing in a world accustomed to the high production values and theatrical through-line of “STOMP.” And it’s clear that TP, which is what I’ll call the company for short to preserve precious capitals, aspires to at least some of that entertainment gloss. Choreography, lighting design, costumes and humor all play a role. This is no staid chamber music concert.

That said, I walked away from Saturday’s performance (sponsored by the Lively Arts Foundation) completely impressed by the musicality of the event and not so much by the presentation.

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Donald’s weekend picks

Spectrum Art Gallery’s big fund-raiser of the year, its annual print auction, is Saturday, and if you’re looking for great buys on exquisite shots from professional photographers — some of them nationally known — this is the place to be. Below is one of the prints up for auction by John Sexton.


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Win tickets to TAIKOPROJECT


UPDATE 10/29: Our winner is Candelario Luna. Congratulations!

ORIGINAL ENTRY: This sounds as if it’s going to be an amazing cultural event. The energetic company known as TAIKOPROJECT comes to the Shaghoian Hall 7:30 p.m. Saturday in a show sponsored by the Lively Arts Foundation, and the performance is sure to pump up the audience. We have two tickets to give away to a lucky Beehive reader.

Just leave a comment on this post. The deadline is 3 p.m. Thursday.

We’ll pick the winner at random and notify him or her via e-mail. So leave a real e-mail address, and check it, because there’s a quick turnaround on this giveaway. No repeat comments please. You’re ineligible if you’ve won something from us in the past 30 days. Full rules after the jump.

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More free tickets: Lively Arts Foundation’s 20th anniversary gala

UPDATE 11:55 a.m. 3/26: Looks like we have a winner. Thanks for playing!

ORIGINAL ENTRY: If you’re a fan of dance, you won’t want to miss “Best of the Bay!,” which celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Lively Arts Foundation in Fresno. The 7:30 p.m. Saturday performance at the Saroyan Theatre will include several highly regarded professional dance companies from the Bay Area, including San Francisco’s Smuin Ballet (featuring Fresno native Erin Yarbrough), Ballet San Jose, Company C from Walnut Creek and San Francisco’s Lines Ballet.

I have two tickets to give away to this event. I’ll give them away to the THIRD commenter to this post. You’ll need to pick your tickets up at the Bee. No multiple entries are allowed. We won’t publish comments until we have the winners. Rules are on the jump.

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