Monthly Archives: March 2012

Exhilaration for Days: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at Zellerbach Hall

The experience of attending an Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performance is slightly different from that of most other dance company productions. The audience is more diverse both in age and race, and often treats the performance not as a spectacle to sit still and watch in reverent silence, but as a series of invitations and provocations, a sort of call-and-response with movements and shouts, spontaneous applause, and whistling. That was true the first time I saw them perform at New York’s venerable City Center, and even more so earlier this month at Zellerbach Hall, as part of the Cal …Continue reading

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Final Letter from a Crossing Guard

Patrick McGinty, who was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is a graduate assistant in the MFA program at Portland State University. His story “Final Letter from a Crossing Guard,” published in ZYZZYVA’s Winter ’11 issue, marks his first time in print.

A dark but humorous missive from a mother at the end of her rope, “Final Letter” does carry emotional heft, despite the narrator’s occupation, which could lend itself to easy ridicule but doesn’t here. The following is an excerpt from McGinty’s story.

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In the Spring Issue

In Mexico, poets, journalists, artists, bloggers and students lead the fight for civil society and conscience now being called “The Mexican Spring.” A fight against violence and corruption, but also against the lies and submission propagated by Mexico’s all powerful media monopolies. ZZZYVA’s [Spring] issue on the Mexican drug war takes you to the front lines with pieces by Mexico’s bravest and most talented independent journalists. Anyone who reads it will get a strong dose of Mexico’s darkness, but also of the exhilarating new winds gathering force every day.—Francisco Goldman Essential pieces of recent journalism from Mexico in translation for …Continue reading

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Terra Incognita

Melina Draper is a poet living in Fairbanks, Alaska. Her most recent book is Lugar de Origen–Place of Origin (Oyster River Press), a bilingual book of poetry co-written with Elena Lafert.

“Terra Incognita” is one of her two poems published in ZYZZYVA’s Winter ’11 issue. Both poems take Charles Darwin’s travels through Argentina in the 19th century as their theme. In “Terra,” as Darwin uncovers fossils in a place that “quaffed blood, ingested gristle, guts, and bone,” it’s hard not to think of Los Desaparecidos, the thousands upon thousands of people who “disappeared” during Argentina’s so-called Dirty War of the late ’70s and early ’80s.

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The Bull

Josh DuBose, who lives in North Hollywood, is an actor and and a writer, as well as the owner/operator of a small transcription firm catering to entertainment journalists. His story “The Bull,” published in ZYZZYVA‘s Winter ’11 issue, is his first work to appear in print.

A riff on the Ugly American, “The Bull” details a honeymoon destined to go wrong. Bawdy but thoughtful, the story ultimately goes to a surprising place, playing the narrator’s laugh-out-loud misadventures against a yearning he can’t quite define. The following is an excerpt.

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Truly Knowing What You Eat: ‘Field Guide to California Agriculture’

America’s appetite for all things culinary seems boundless. The saturated media environment tempts with food blogs, hundreds of new cookbooks, and on-line restaurant reviews. Wait staff routinely reel off the provenance of every item on the menu, and some reality television offers meals as entertainment. Visiting with vendors at a local farmers’ market provides a closer encounter with the “who,” “what,” and “where” surrounding California’s food supply. For those wanting to dive deeper, though, the recent Field Guide to California Agriculture (475 pages; University of California Press) offers an illuminating and entertaining trek into what authors Paul F. Starrs and …Continue reading

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The Thousand-Plus-Mile Journey to Sugar: Q&A with Cheryl Strayed

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail is Cheryl Strayed’s brave and beautiful memoir about the author embarking as a young woman on a journey she’s underprepared for, doing so at a time in her life when she needed to move mountains—or at least, move among them—to feel complete again. When Strayed’s mother dies unexpectedly, she grieves hard and becomes feral. The phrase “walk it off” comes to mind as Strayed follows through on the heroic impulse to hike 1,100 miles alone. It sounds miserable. It sounds impossible. In her youthful stubbornness, she doesn’t know she can’t …Continue reading

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Righteous Passion: S.F. Ballet’s Program 3 — ‘Trio,’ ‘Animaux,’ and ‘da Rimini’

Helgi Tomasson, the San Francisco Ballet’s artistic director and principal choreographer, combined elements of modern and classical ballet to create “Trio,” set to Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence. While much of the ballet recalls the aggrandized ballroom prancing one sees so often, softened arm positions and unusual footwork modernized the movements. The women’s richly autumnal-colored dresses, though shaped like a slightly less stiff version of the lampshade skirt (ballet’s frumpiest costume), were slit to the hip, and allowed a leg to swing out in many steps and kept the piece from looking as primly traditional as it might have otherwise. But …Continue reading

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Dressing the Parts: S.F. Ballet’s Program 2 — ‘Chroma,’ ‘Beaux,’ and ‘Number Nine’

The San Francisco Ballet’s Program 2, which finished its run late last month, started strong. Wayne McGregor’s “Chroma” — one of three works making up the program — looked more like contact sport than ballet, an effect strengthened by the horn-and percussive-heavy, action-film score by Joby Talbot and Jack White III. MacGregor was not trained in classical ballet, and his choreography diverges from the classical in several refreshing ways. Ballet’s traditional “lift”—the illusion that the dancers do not share our subjection to the laws of gravity—was tossed out. The dancers seemed to revel in their weightiness, often moving in ways …Continue reading

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The Winning Crowd

The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Andrew Carnegie Medal, and PEN Center West Best Book Award, Gary Soto is the author of thirty-five books. His most recent are the e-novel When Dad Came Back (University Press of New England) and the YA story collection Hey 13! (Holiday House).

“The Winning Crowd,” his nonfiction piece in ZYZZYVA‘s Winter 2011 issue, is Soto’s account of attending a 49ers game (pre-Harbaugh era) with a friend, arriving at the stadium dressed “to the nines.” Funny and sinister, the piece could be read as a straight-ahead story of civility and elegance stirring the wrath of slovenly, crude sports fans. (As anybody who attended games at Candlestick Park last season could tell you, there was plenty of uncivil behavior at Niners games.) But it also works as a broader tale of how signs of culture and style can upset the very community you consider yourself part of.  The following is an excerpt.

Soto reads with Faith Gardner and Blossom Plum at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 8, at Mrs. Dalloway’s Bookstore in Berkeley.

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The Scandal of Content: The Cutting Ball Theater’s ‘Tontlawald’

In devised theater, rather than starting with an already written script and finished production design as you would in traditional theater, the company creates text, music, movement, and design elements together as they go through the rehearsal process. Though there’s no devised aesthetic that defines it like a genre, devised work tends to be more physical, to make more use of every skill each actor possesses (singing, dancing, playing musical instruments). There’s also a strong preference for adapted material among companies that make devised work—maybe because this kind of experimental collaboration is easier if you at least know the outlines …Continue reading

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Juxtaposing California: Caroline Baudinet’s ‘Feelings’ at ArtAbout Davis

Homeland Security has a hard time buying Caroline Baudinet’s love for the West Coast. Arriving in San Francisco last week, the French artist said she was interrogated about her repeated visits to California. In her jeans, black work boots, and black leather jacket, Baudinet reenacts the scene with the humorless officials at SFO: Where are you going? Who are you staying with? How do you know these people? We are browsing at Riki Design in downtown Davis, where her photographs will be part of the Davis ArtAbout, and I’m noticing how customers stop to listen to her cut-gravel French accent. …Continue reading

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