Ah, the end of summer camp -- awkward mixers, mysterious rashes, and for the kids at AileyCamp, a four-part dance and theater extravaganza. Eye Sea: Passages is the culmination of the camp's fourth year of totally free, all-round wholesome fun. The program, founded by the prestigious Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, offers sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders in underserved school districts transportation, dance clothing, and a scholarship for a free summer of training in ballet, jazz, modern, and African dance, "as a vehicle for developing self-esteem, self-discipline and critical thinking skills," along with "personal development classes" and, most important, awesome field trips. The directors of the Berkeley/Oakland branch (the first on the West Coast) spent extensive time scouting talented students within the Berkeley, Oakland, Richmond, and Alameda school districts, so it seems apt that the final hurrah is a Fame-ish crash course through the training the kids have received over the summer, capped off by a performance piece informed by the development they've done this summer in drug education -- overseen by filmmaker and playwright Michelle Lee and Planned Parenthood theater organizer Tina Banchero.
While the performers themselves are not professionals, the instructors certainly are. Along with the aforementioned instructors, ballet is taught by Willie Anderson, a principle at Ballet San Jose; modern by Derrick Minter, currently a director at Ailey II (Ailey Dance Theater's community performance and outreach company); jazz by Vince Collins, a dancer at the Dance Theatre of Harlem and previously at the Miami Conservatory of Ballet; and African by Naomi Johnson Diouf, the current director of the Diamano Coura West African Dance Company in Oakland. Like other heart-warming tributes to the power of art in children's lives, the show seems poised to be a surprise hit.
Patrons are encouraged to reserve tickets early (admission is free) from the Cal Performances Ticket Office in UC Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall. The shows (3 and 7 p.m.) will be held in the smaller Zellerbach Playhouse due to renovations, and could possibly go standing room only -- so bring your good shoes. Info: 510-642-9988. -- Fritz Brantley
Mirth in Venice
It's been suggested that Gilbert and Sullivan's The Gondoliers was inspired by Sir Arthur Sullivan's visit to Italy in 1888 -- he subsequently filled the comic operetta with references to the tarantella and saltarello, as well as tossing in Spanish Gypsy dance music and opera quotes from Mozart to Bizet. Were G&S the Lloyd Webber & Rice of their time? Lord help us. The Gondoliers, G&S' twelfth collaboration, is a tale of love, blindfolds, noble babies switched at birth, and monarchist politics, all set in everyone's favorite sinking romantic city, Venice. It plays four performances, in a production directed by Barbara Heroux for the wonderful Lamplighters, Thursday through Saturday at Lesher Regional Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek. 925-943-7469. Info: Lamplighters.org -- Kelly Vance
Origami for Peace
A Japanese folk legend holds that folding a thousand origami cranes grants long life. After being exposed to radiation during the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945, twelve-year-old Sadako Sasaki attempted to stave off leukemia by making the intricate paper birds, yet died after folding only 644. Her classmates completed the remaining 356, fulfilling the prophecy, in a sense: a statue of Sasaki holding a crane now stands in Hiroshima's Peace Park. To commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the atomic bombing, the Teen Playreaders will read her story aloud, then join the audience to make a thousand paper cranes, to be hung on the statue. Saturday, 3 p.m. at the Berkeley Library's North Branch. 510-981-6195. -- Eric K. Arnold
Art 'n' tha Hood
For many artists, bringing a work -- whether literary, performance-based, musical, or verbal -- to completion is the payoff, but the reward wouldn't be as sweet without the cathartic process of getting to that point. This Friday at Berkeley's Hillside Club, writers, actors, monologists, mixed-media artists, and poets will convene in the debut of a recurring series, New Works in the Nabe. The diverse bill includes novelist Jonathan Keats, spoken-word artist Paulina Borsook, jazz pianist Ben Stolorow, singer-songwriter David Gans, and author Susan McCarthy. Become acquainted with tomorrow's art today. $10 general admission and $5 for club members. For more info, call 510-527-0450. -- Eric K. Arnold
Culture Spy - April 20, 9:52 AM
Culture Spy - April 13, 12:18 PM