Seasoned Dancers

This year, you'll find a bittersweet tinge to the comic ballets of the Mark Foehringer Dance Project

Comedy matters to choreographer Mark Foehringer, whose work is colored by his unconventional childhood (raised in Brazil by Minnesotan Lutheran missionaries) and by his terpsichorean history, which includes dancing character roles en travesti (in drag) for classical ballets like La Fille mal gardée and Cinderella. But at this year's Mark Foehringer Dance Project home season, viewers can expect bittersweetness with their wit, reflecting not only the hardships of maintaining a ballet company in a shaky economy, but also the mood of this last anxious year.

Change and the passage of time inform this program, although it's whimsy that distinguishes Foehringer's The Four Seasons from other balletic adaptations of Vivaldi's score. The piece opens with “Spring,” a comic pollination rite buzzing with birds, bees, and butterflies; followed by the “Summer” couplings and uncouplings of young lovers; the sepia-toned Victorian picnic of “Fall”; and “Winter,” with its retirement home where long-standing disputes play out and the unpartnered waltz with their walkers. “It's not a laughing at,” Foehringer likes to say of the ending, “it's a laughing about.”

String Quartet, a world premiere set to Prokofiev's String Quartet No. 1, is driven by the music's emotional energy, from the dynamic entrances of its boisterous allegro to its lyrical partnering and meditative conclusion. Ballet San Jose of Silicon Valley dancers Ramon Moreno and Michael Doerner make guest appearances in this ensemble piece. The Lark, with music from Glinka's A Farewell to St. Petersburg, is a pensive duet about leaving the old and embracing the new. Finally, Nuages, a trio inspired by Debussy nocturnes, imagines the solitary feeling of walking on clouds, straddling the dizzying space between them.

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