CAL Performances Announces Its 2015-16 Season
by Lou Fancher
There are a lot of ways to stand out in a crowd.
Make loud noises, dress up in colorful costumes, act outrageous, whisper seductively, coil your body into unique and nearly grotesque positions, invite friends from other countries who contrast the local population to join you, do something radical.
Announcing its 2015-16 season, presenter CAL Performances is doing all of the above. After all, it’s not easy in the Bay Area’s crowded arts scene to holler “Get over here!” loud enough to get San Franciscans and East Bay folks to parade over bridges or through tunnels to Berkeley RADICAL. Yes, the season even bears an audaciously acronymic title, which stands for Research and Development Initiative in Creativity, Arts, Learning. The idea is to braid disparate elements — audiences, students, artists, the 100-year-old U.S. National Park Service, Bach, Beethoven and more — into a sturdy ladder of discovery and exploration.
Embarking on the journey in Fall 2015 with an extended residency by conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela (Sept. 22–26), large scale and intimate performances divide into three areas of concentration: The Natural World, ReVisions and ZellerBACH.
Highlights include David Robertson and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra presenting Olivier Messiaen’s, Des Canyons aux Étoiles, with a visual essay by Berkeley photographer Deborah O’Grady (Jan. 31). A season-long focus on quartets (Danish String Quartet [Nov. 22] and Takács Quartet [Feb. 21] also appear on the season calendar) brings SF-based Kronos Quartet, performing Terry Riley’s “Sun Rings” with visuals by Willie Williams (May 1).
Not-to-miss picks here are Austin, Texas theater troupe Rude Mechanicals with their Stop Hitting Yourself, (Nov. 19–22), dance-theater artist Trajal Harrell, The Ghost of Montpellier Meets the Samurai (Mar. 18-19)
Modern dance maven Twyla Tharp brings her 50th anniversary tour featuring new works set to John Zorn, Henry Butler, and J. S. Bach (Oct. 16-18). Concerts by the Bach Collegium Japan (Oct. 24), Brentano Quartet (Apr.10), and an all-Bach recital by violinist Gil Shaham with Films by David Michalek keep the…err, Bach rolling.
World culture and winning returns signal inclusion: Chitresh Das Dance Company (Feb. 27-28) Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour (Nov. 7), flamenco diva Buika (Mar. 19), Mark Morris Dance Group (Mar. 11–13), Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (Mar. 29–Apr. 3), Wynton Marsalis (Sept. 18); This American Life host Ira Glass with choreographer Monica Bill Barnes (Dec. 12-13) and more. A variety of additional world stage, new and early music, recital, theater, dance, jazz and orchestra events make the season a crowd of stand outs.
Ironically, Cal Performances director Matias Tarnopolsky — leading the Berkeley brigade — would never stand out in a crowd. More like a reluctant impresario than a flashpoint as he announced the CAL Performance’s ambitious season, Tarnopolsky leaves the impression of a well-bred gentleman who’d hold a mirror up to the sun to avoid even nature’s own spotlight. But that’s OK, Tarnopolsky doesn’t have to shine. CAL Performances will do that for him.