Yearly Archives: 2017

‘The Arts Academy School of Classical Ballet’ Mentors All Ages in Napa

Kirsten Livingston of Arts Academy School of Classical Ballet

Photo courtesy of Arts Academy School of Classical Ballet

Ballet training fosters a sense of confidence, physical awareness, dedication, and can be an encouraging community atmosphere with the right teacher. Opening this September in Napa, The Arts Academy School of Classical Ballet will be offering classes for all ages. Founder Kirsten Livingston is putting her extensive experience and passion for teaching into the new school. “I believe that everyone should dance regardless of what their particular goals are.” There is a place for all at Livingston’s school—young people wishing to express a lively, creative spirit in a positive environment, teenagers who plan to pursue a professional career in classical ballet, or adults looking for an artistic outlet. “I want every child who walks through my doors to have the best possible experience with dance and their training,” Livingston assures.

With twenty-six years of teaching experience, Kirsten Livingston has learned how to shape her program to individual needs while retaining a sense of discipline in the studio. It takes focus and hard work to train with classical ballet, but it should be enjoyable as well; finding that balance is key to a well-run dance academy. Her own formation ranges from the intricate staccato style of contemporary ballet at the Balanchine school to personal training with Russian ballerina Madame Valentina Belova in a traditional style of ballet. She has had training from the Pacific Northwest Ballet, our local world-class company San Francisco Ballet, and has studied the more structured RAD style of teaching. As a result, no matter what each student is trying to achieve, Livingston is able to draw on a wide range of influences to choose what will work best for them.

Because ballet is a performance art, there will be opportunities to do so, although as a fledgling school, that program will be built up with time. Starting with small scale productions, such as holiday cheer to bring into homes for the elderly, or a spring concert, productions are likely to be based on story ballets and perhaps in the future a staging of Nutcracker. Partnering with Lucky Penny Community Arts Center for a location, the academy is conveniently accessible from the highway.

To learn more about the new school, ask questions, and sign up for classes with a 10% discount, join Kirsten Livingston at the open house sessions, August 26 and September 2 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Fall classes will begin on September 5, meeting on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

The Arts Academy School of Classical Ballet
Phone: (408) 309-8029

Lucky Penny Community Arts Center
1758 Industrial Way, Suite 208, Napa

Glittering ‘FairyWorlds!’ at the Cannery

Review of FairyWorlds!
Adapted from William Shakespeare
Directed by Jared Sakren
For tickets / schedule :
Railroad Square, Santa Rosa
(Enter through 6th Street Playhouse parking lot)
Shakespeare in the Cannery in association with 6th Street Playhouse

RUN: August 10 – September 2, 2017
RATING: 4 of 5 stars

(August 11, 2017)

Shakespeare in the Cannery - FairyWorlds!

Photo by Eric Chazankin

Adapted from William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Jared Sakren‘s vision wraps the stage in shimmering mists of fairyland with a host of floral draped creatures hovering in twinkling adoration of their otherworldly royals. April George’s lighting design casts mystical colors of moonlight, while Maci Cae Hosler’s costumes are almost unwieldy in their spectacle, with sweeping cloaks, light infused wings and streamlined battle gear of Amazon warriors.

Despite the visual feast of this production, which at times suffers from technical hiccups, it is the intimate character driven moments that make FairyWorlds! come alive. In a brilliant choice of casting, Elizabeth Henry is both Hippolyta and Titania, while Chris Schloemp portrays Theseus and Oberon, creating parallel mature love stories. Sakren’s nuanced directing becomes obvious when he takes the nearly mute Hippolyta and turns her into a force to be reckoned with, using the physicality of an Amazon to keep her engaged in scenes, rather than melting into a backdrop piece as I have seen in other productions. The antics of Schloemp and the wedding party turn the final act’s mechanicals performance into Renaissance RiffTrax style hilarity.

Craig A. Miller struts into the role of Bottom, wheezing and bellowing as the monstrous love of Titania, and causing fits of laughter from the audience in his prolonged comedic death scene as Pyramus. His fellow mechanicals take to their roles, with Al Kaplan as the put-upon Peter Quince / Prologue, whose bellowed pronunciation corrections from backstage are perfectly timed. Jill K. Wagoner’s Tom Snout / Wall interacts adroitly with Miller’s Pyramus, making faces at him throughout the scene.

Shakespeare in the Cannery - FairyWorlds!

Photo by Eric Chazankin

Haplessly caught in the snares of fairies are the young lovers, who wander through the woods, tossed by magic’s capricious ways. Abbey Lee’s feisty Hermia turns Marty Pistone’s fight choreography into a sort of vicious dance, furious at her new rival, Haley Rome’s Helena, who keeps a level head at the gathering whirlwind of events. Joseph Favalora’s acrobatic Puck is cheerful and graceful; his poise, always at the tips of his toes, maintains the fairy quality of his character, contrasting the heavily traditional role he takes as Philostrate.

FairyWorlds! captures the enchantment of Shakespeare’s play with a dreamscape atmosphere. It’s exciting lighting design and enthusiastic cast weave an entertaining evening in the unique cannery ruins venue.

Rhythm Transcendence on a Summer Night

Review of Fascinating Rhythm
By Gary Gonser, SFBATCC

Directed by Eric Jackson
Music Direction by Matt Smart
Choreography by Nick Kepley

For tickets / schedule :
Jack London State Historic Park
Glen Ellen, CA
Transcendence Theatre Company

RUN: August 4-20, 2017
RATING: 4.5 of 5 stars

(August 4, 2017)

Transcendence Theatre - Fascinating Rhythm

Photo by Rebecca Call

The grounds of Jack London State Park reserved for the Transcendence Theatre always inspires me. A short trek up to the check-in tables and we are greeted by both volunteers and performers who really show they are glad we have come this evening. A little further and we see the valley open up in front of us with tables, booths, food trucks and live music. This is not just another venue space, but a commitment to making the stay here as relaxing and exciting as possible.

This is opening night under a variable sky. The rain has passed and the clouds are making way for stars and a full moon. The local patrons from Sonoma and Santa Rosa told me they would not miss these summer evenings. Many have been coming here for 4 years or more and are quite content to relax into the show with a picnic and some wine.

Slowly, we all make our way into the old winery walls that define the “theatre” and find our seats facing the large stage and vineyard hill behind. Stephan, Brad and Amy greet us with a high energy welcome. The band is onstage for this production, spread across the backstage and ready to start the show. What do they have for us this evening?

Transcendence Theatre - Fascinating Rhythm

Photo from Transcendence Theatre

The rhythms in this production are varied from the bright “Everything Old is New Again” with Gavin Waters and Rachel Louise Thomas to the tap dancing energy of “Happy Feet.”  The orchestra has a particularly rich brass section that comes out in “Happy Feet” for our enjoyment. Janis Snyder assembles some excellent costumes to show off the dancers.

The progression of a song from singer to ensemble comes naturally to Transcendence. Erika Conaway starts the “Song of Purple Summer” and draws her ensemble group onto the stage to fill the early evening with choral music and modern dance. This is the type of music that fills the valley and sky with shimmering song, floating up to the moon above. A little heaven, please.

Transcendence Theatre - Fascinating Rhythm

Photo by Chris Hardy

With the 50th anniversary of the summer of love upon us, Transcendence presents the dueling guitars of AJ Ackleson and Colin Campbell McAdoo with “Summer of 69.” This early rock is mesmerizing and reminds us of the better parts of the 1960s.  We can always romanticize about what it would have been like with this music on our minds.

Add “Arthur in the Afternoon,” “Dancing with Myself,” and “Rise Up” for rhythms that are not your Broadway standards and lyrics! The point is to use the talent, music, variety and dance to create fantastic music with a flair for the stage. The little vignettes that spotlight the unusual routines and music build up to the entire company taking over the stage with “Fascinating Rhythm” and act 1 is complete.

The sun has gone down by the intermission, just on schedule for this show. The full moon moves out to help light the entertainment and our hearts.  Shaleah Adkisson belts out a mean “Play That Song” with full company backup moving and singing to fill the large stage.

“Baby That is Rock and Roll” pulls out the stops for the band and company. Suddenly the tempo changes to “I Got Plenty of Nothing” with Mike Kirsch. This flow of energy from large to intimate keeps the music and dance fresh for the audience while giving the dancers time to change. The second act continues this segue from large to small to large to keep us on the edge of our seats.

Matt Smart plays a mean piano with “Piano Man” as his baby grand piano moves center stage. The company is drawn out onstage to catch the mood with the audience. Now the sky is dark and the stage takes on a nightclub atmosphere for dance and song. This is perfect for the ebb and flow of the late night rhythms.

“A Sky Full of Stars” and “The World Goes Round” finish up the evening with hope and caring. Transcendence Theatre goes a full circle from the rhythms of 1960s rock to the peaceful rhythms of a thoughtful evening out with friends. It could not be better.

For large vision music and dancing, the Transcendence Theatre Company is making its presence known in the North Bay. Fascinating Rhythm runs through August 20 at Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen.

$39, $59, $65, $85
Available online at

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