By: Timothy Nutter for The Dirt
Sacramento Ballet will commence the 2023-24 season with their annual performance series, “Beer and Ballet”.
The show takes place on an outdoor stage at the home of Sacramento Ballet—the CLARA Studios in midtown Sacramento—and features new choreography by company dancers, tasty options from food trucks and a free draft beer or glass of wine with every ticket. Performances run September 29—October 8 (though several dates are already sold out), with curtain times of 2p and 8p. Advance tickets are available.
Every year the company produces five programs, which take place at several venues.
The big story ballets, such as “The Nutcracker” are staged at the Safe Credit Union Performing Arts Center, where more than 2,000 guests can cheer on a single evening. The contemporary ballet programs have been staged recently at the Sophia on Capitol Avenue, the B Street Theatre’s venue, where 350 can gather. But the opening show of the year takes place in a very different setting.
E. CLAIRE RALEY STUDIOS for the PERFORMING ARTS
The E. CLAIRE RALEY STUDIOS for the PERFORMING ARTS, or “Clara” for short, lives in a relatively quiet, residential part of Midtown Sacramento, several blocks Southwest of Sutter’s Fort. Driving past the elegant Mission Revival architecture, you could be forgiven for thinking it a school. That’s exactly what the facility originally was—Fremont Primary School, founded in 1921. In 2016 the site was renovated into an arts complex and now a number of different cultural and artistic organizations work there, including the Sacramento Ballet.
Fitting a professional ballet company into the architecture of a primary school took some doing. The renovation of the historic building required extensive reinforcement with steel cables to open the west wing classrooms into more spacious dance studios. Without those steel cables, pillars would have been required, breaking up the dance floor.
Last year Sacramento Ballet began presenting its “Beer and Ballet” shows outdoors at Clara, on the former playground blacktop. Here again, evolving from school to dance venue meant extensive elbow grease and additional infrastructure. Arriving from the parking lot, you’ll see an enormous white pavilion, a low stage to support the dancers, and bespoke seating risers where an audience of 200 can watch the show while sipping a cool drink.
Beer will be provided by Bike Dog Brewing Company of West Sacramento, while the wines will be provided by Old Sugar Mill Wineries of Clarksburg. Food will be available for purchase from several locally operated food trucks.
“Beer and Ballet” shows have a particular strength: the variety of the choreography.
Last year’s show ended with a brilliant duet/duel blending martial arts with ballet, throwing the audience into a kinetic group finale, racing to the finish with a Beethoven piano sonata.
Anthony Krutzkamp, Artistic Director of the company, confirmed twelve of his dancers have prepared original choreography for the show this year. The new works display how the exposure of these artists to different choreography and choreographers bears fruit in the development of their own unique work and working processes.
“They’re taking on a different look and feel,” Krutzkamp said. “It’s those experiences they have with us, they have over the summer [with other dance companies and with Capital Dance Project], they’re just becoming a bit different artistically—it’s really fun to watch the chameleon process.”
One aspect of this development has been about more sophisticated partnering skills and methods for coaching partnering steps.
Because Krutzkamp hires dancers for their strengths, not to all look alike and have the same height, dancers are forced to hone their partnering skills all the more, accounting for differences between bodies.
“When you’re partnering, it’s different types of bodies together and that coaching is really fun, because you’re like ‘how are we going to get this person who’s five-six, who dances with a person who’s six-one, but then the other cast, the dancers are five-five and five-eight?’,” he explained. “Their center load is completely different, the sensibility of how you lift them is completely different. It’s actually my favorite part of my job: bodies, physics, art—all in one.”
The whole show runs about two hours, with two intermissions. Arrive 15-minutes early, and also catch a pre-show performance by the Second Company, composed of trainee dancers.
The Second Company is a growing part of Sacramento Ballet, recently giving their own show together with students from the School of Sacramento Ballet. That show was held at Land Park Amphitheater, an outdoor venue which has been the subject of its own renovation project.
Davisites keen on building up the arts here in town might find “Beer and Ballet” especially inspiring: dance, music, people, food and drink brought together by adapting and extending the existing arts infrastructure, creating something beautiful and new outdoors.
Some of our own arts buildings tempt the imagination as sites for a similar outdoor venue. Think of the Pence Gallery patio, the E Street Plaza, or the parking lot adjoining Third Space Art Collective at their new location.
It’s a nice dream to enjoy for a moment: dancers, actors, musicians and poets, all leaping with abandon across an outdoor stage in downtown Davis. Could it be done? Outdoor events have their challenges but the Sacramento Ballet seems to be making it work.
They present us with a model of how, in the right place, with the right extra infrastructure, the right event can drive a vibrant arts and culture scene forward.
If you drive from Davis
If you drive from Davis, navigate from the freeway to N Street, heading east. When you pass the large brick building on your right, turn right on 25th Street, and then again right on O Street. Immediately on your right will be the gate into the parking lot. Parking can also be found on the neighboring streets.
E. Claire Raley Studios for the Performing Arts
2420 N Street
Sacramento, Ca. 95816
(enter parking lot on O Street between 24th and 25th)
Dates: September 29 – October 8 (some performances already sold out)
Times: 2pm and 8pm
Cost: $60 + free glass of wine or beer
Venue website: claramidtown.org
Venue phone: none
Wheelchair accessible: yes
Organizer: Sacramento Ballet