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Oakland Ballet's “Dia de los Muertos” a Memorable Program

by Joanna G. Harris
November 5, 2018
The Paramount Theatre
2025 Broadway
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 465-6400
Joanna G. Harris Author, Beyond Isadora: Bay Area Dancing, 1916-1965. Regent Press, Berkeley, CA, 2009. Contributor to reviews on culturevulture.net
The Oakland Ballet, under the leadership of Graham Lustig, really knows how to celebrate with its community. This year, the "Dia de los Muertos" (Day of the Dead) program, November 2 & 3 at The Paramount Theatre brought in several groups to add to the festivities.

First: the “Blessing Ceremony” danced by Nahui Ehekatl & Co. Aztec dance company brought scenic and costume wonder to the stage as the group of feathered dancers and drummers asked “Permission to Dance” from the ancestors. Then, Ballet Folklórico México Danza, citing Chichimeca Mexican territory as their homeland, performed some polkas and schottisches that were brought there by European immigrants.

Lustig’s “Luna Mexicana,” last year’s production, established the ceremony of “the day of the dead.” With Jasmine Quezada in the leading role as the mourner, the stage filled with skeletons and ancestors, images that delighted the audience with amazing costumes and movement. Particularly applauded was the "bride and groom duet” dance performed by Samantha Bell and Landes Dixon. Of course, the “hat dance” was the favorite. The audience hooted, clapped and was thoroughly involved with the memorable event which marks the Halloween holiday.

The life of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo inspired Oakland Ballet, in collaboration with Ballet Folklórico’s Martin Romero, to produce a new ballet “Viva la Vida!”. The work unfolded in several episodes, some depicted her paintings of beloved animals, some, her life with Diego Rivera, and her commitment to left wing revolutionary politics. The Rivera section involved a series of duets, one with Frida (Nina Pearlman) and others with the several women who were his lovers. Alberto Angulano danced Rivera. A tango, choreographed by Romero held unusual charm. It appeared to be danced by two men, but that, of course, was not clear. The full company joined the “Uprising” event: Walt Whitman was quoted; the Mexican flag flew…and the International was sung. What a finale for these political times. “Viva la Vida!” is an outstanding celebration! Bravo!
Oakland Ballet Company in 'Luna Mexicana.' Pictured: Samantha Bell and Landes Dixon.

Oakland Ballet Company in "Luna Mexicana." Pictured: Samantha Bell and Landes Dixon.

Photo © & courtesy of John Hefti


Oakland Ballet Company in 'Luna Mexicana.' Pictured: Frankie Lee Peterson.

Oakland Ballet Company in "Luna Mexicana." Pictured: Frankie Lee Peterson.

Photo © & courtesy of John Hefti


Oakland Ballet Company in 'Luna Mexicana.'

Oakland Ballet Company in "Luna Mexicana."

Photo © & courtesy of John Hefti


Oakland Ballet Company in 'Viva la Vida,' a collaboration with Ballet Folklórico México Danza.

Oakland Ballet Company in "Viva la Vida," a collaboration with Ballet Folklórico México Danza.

Photo © & courtesy of Alan Briskin

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