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  • Manny Crisostomo /

    Ma Cong, a resident choreographer with the Tulsa Ballet, works with Sacramento Ballet dancers on a new ballet, “Acceptance.”

  • Manny Crisostomo /

    Sacramento Ballet dancer Ava Chatterson appears in Trey McIntyre’s “Wild Sweet Love.”

  • Manny Crisostomo /

    Choreographer Ma Cong, above, instructs Sacramento Ballet dancers on his “Acceptance,” being staged next week in a three-part show that includes works by Edwaard Liang and Trey McInture. At right, Cong keeps a critical eye on the troupe’s execution of dance moves.

  • Manny Crisostomo /

    Sacramento Ballet dancers Christopher Nachtrab and Sarah Hicks will be featured in Trey McIntyre’s “Wild Sweet Love.”

More Information


    What: Red Hot Valentine!!! Excerpts from the ballet “Wild Sweet Love,” wine, cheese and desserts.

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday

    Where: Sacramento Ballet rehearsal studio,1631 K St., Sacramento

    Cost: $25


    What: “Wild Sweet Love,” a program of three ballets, “Wild Sweet Love,” “Wunderland” and the premiere of “Acceptance.”

    When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, next Friday and Feb. 15; 2 p.m. Feb. 16.

    Where: Community Center Theater, 1301 L St., Sacramento

    Cost: $19-$70

    Information: (916) 808-5181;

Dancing and romancing in the modern world with the Sacramento Ballet

Published: Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014 - 5:02 pm
Last Modified: Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014 - 7:40 pm

You may ask, “What’s it all about?” but you won’t need to wonder what it all means when you see the Sacramento Ballet’s new production, “Wild Sweet Love.”

The three-part performance features the world premiere of “Acceptance” by up-and-coming young Chinese choreographer Ma Cong, Edwaard Liang’s “Wunderland” with music by Philip Glass, and Trey McIntyre’s contemporary title piece.

The Valentine’s Day-ready ballets are contemporary works exploring facets of love. Co-artistic director Ron Cunningham says all the audience has to do is bring a personal history, and the dancers will do the rest.

The diversity of programming not only suits the consistent ballet patron, Cunningham said, but he hopes to surprise the occasional consumer who thinks ballet is all “Swan Lake and tutus.”

“I think they will be astonished by what they see on the stage,” he said.

“The ideas are a little bit more abstract in a contemporary ballet, typically,” Cunningham said.

“It’s not a story like ‘Hamlet’ or ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ I would liken it more to poetry than to prose. It has a point of view to it and that point of view can be very specific and personal to the choreography. However, the viewer watching it will interpret it through a filter of their own life experience.”

The ballets receive a preview Saturday as excerpts from the works will be performed at Sacramento Ballet’s studio. The full productions debut with four performances at the Community Center Theater on Feb.13-16.

“Two people sitting next to each other might see something completely different in how a ballet moves them, or makes them laugh, or makes them feel what ever they feel,” Cunningham said. “I think in that way contemporary ballet really reaches out to the individual and touches each person differently.”

Cunningham must challenge his dancers while appealing to the audience.

“We want our artists to experience the full gamut from the full-length classics, very contemporary ballets, to the great neoclassic Balanchine ballets, and ballets invented for them,” he said. “By doing that, our dancers are very motivated to be in this company. They want to be here because this is what they live for.”

Cunningham’s professional company of 26 dancers will need their classical training and athletic physicality for the demanding choreography Cong has been teaching them. He demonstrated a corkscrew leap he wanted the women to execute, which blindly landed them in their male partners’ arms as they finished the mid-air turn. The dancers then repeated the move themselves to a piece of recorded music.

“Almost,” Cong said, as he showed how he wanted the women to start and finish the move. The dancers mimed the movements on their own while Cong stood calmly in their midst working through the sequence in his head. Then he started the music again, and the dancers went to work tossing themselves into the air.

“Yes, that’s it!” he said as they precisely executed the turns.

During a rehearsal break the choreographer said the music by Zoë Keating and Kevin Keller inspired the new work, which harkens back to the seven years Cong spent training as a Chinese classical dancer at the Beijing Dance Academy.

“It has a very strong beat behind the theme of the music, so ... it inspired me to a lot of shapes, body movements that I learned when I was back in school. That’s coming from that part of my background,” Cong said.

“The piece is very, very physical and on top of it, it has a lot of emotional moments, and I don’t want it to overload it. When I was young I learned Chinese painting, and one of the Chinese painters told me, ‘The art is between yes or no. It’s never yes and never no, it’s in between.’ I didn’t understand what that was when I was little, but now I understand. It’s the right balance, the perfect balance.”

Cong said it’s better for people to see the dance because he can’t really explain it.

“It’s hard to say which is actually better for me because then people can understand it by themselves,” Cong said.

Call The Bee’s Marcus Crowder, (916) 321-1120. Follow him on Twitter @marcuscrowder.

Read more articles by Marcus Crowder

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