News & Reviews

Oakland Ballet Company Reviews

Spring Repertory Seasons

REVIEW  | Dance Commentary – Scene and Heard
By Heather Desaulnier  |  June 2018
Oakland Ballet Company marked the transition from May to June with Scene & Heard, a selection of work dedicated to the breadth and range of story in ballet. For this program, Artistic Director Graham Lustig charged six choreographers with the task of creating short narrative ballets. The resulting commissions (three from within the OBC family and three from local choreographers) made for a terrific afternoon of choreography, danced by a company that is looking impressively strong.  |  read more

REVIEW  | The San Francisco Chronicle – Scene and Heard
By Allen Ulrich  |  June 2018
Most ballet audiences love a good story graphically told, but not all choreographers can spin a yarn successfully. That gift requires both instinct and training. So, bravo to Oakland Ballet Artistic Director Graham Lustig, who planned his company’s spring season around the art of the narrative. No fewer than six premieres by local dance makers filled the schedule.  |  read more

REVIEW  | Dance Europe – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
By Carla Escoda  |  June 2017
All of these elements converged in a deft and stunning repudiation of much of what is going on in contemporary ballet today…Tender courtship rituals, laced with wit and humour, evolved into sensual couplings of astonishing beauty.  |  read more

REVIEW  | ArtsSF – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
By Paul Hertelendy  |  June 2017
Graham Lustig can pull rabbits out of the hat, or make silk purses from a pig’s ear, or merely make vibrant ballet evenings out of nearly nothing. Just call him somewhere between hyper-wizard and miracle worker. The case in point is his economically trimmed version of “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” mounted for the plucky Oakland Ballet.  |  read more

REVIEW  | Repeat Performances – A Cappella Our Bodies Sing
By Jamie Robles  |  April 2016
The chorus in the background hummed the anthem of the times, “We shall overcome.” The raw vigor of the singing and the clear rhythms of the gospel songs added energy and momentum to the dance, moving the concert from the abstract to the impassioned. This was a fascinating concept for music and dance, and followed the company’s well deserved Izzie Award last year celebrating its 50th anniversary. Hats off to all involved!  |  read more

REVIEW  | The San Francisco Chronicle – A Cappella Our Bodies Sing
By Allen Ulrich  |  April 2016
Lustig has a habit of recruiting some of the Bay Area’s finer independent dance talents to his cause, and he has done it again by commissioning the Janice Garrett-Charles Moulton team to create “Divining,” which is simply too fine to vanish after the next two weeks. The music — vocal excerpts by 12th century composer Hildegard von Bingen, dispatched splendidly by Vajra Voices — was the most substantial of the evening and the only piece that seemed a parallel creation with the choreography.  |  read more

REVIEW  | The San Francisco Chronicle – Five Decades of Dance
By Allan Ulrich  |  May 2015
No director can sum up the history of a ballet company in a little over two hours, but Graham Lustig came close Saturday afternoon at the Paramount, where the Oakland Ballet Company celebrated its 50th birthday. A host of Bay Area dance luminaries filled the auditorium, signaling that the company in the past was a significant presence on the arts scene. With this gala, Lustig clearly hopes that the future will be equally as bright.  |  read more

REVIEW  |  Oakland-esque: Oakland Ballet’s Love Letter to a City
By Carla Escoda for the Huffington Post |  May 2014
Ballet companies everywhere are trying to stay relevant, agonizing over how to build audiences and attract a younger demographic to the opera house. Oakland Ballet’s straightforward strategy is to take ballet to the streets — literally and figuratively.  |  read more

REVIEW  |  Dance Commentary – Oakland-esque
By Heather Desaulniers  |  May 2014
The Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts was alive with movement and music as the Oakland Ballet Company presented three performances of “Oakland-esque”, their spring production. In this two-act program, the cast and audience took a chronological journey beginning in the late 1920s and culminating in the present day. Inspired by these past nine decades, four world premieres by four different choreographers offered stylistic breadth and range of genre. Though at their core, each piece was committed to “Oakland-esque’s” larger narrative: the strength of community spirit.  |  read more

REVIEW  |  San Francisco Chronicle – Oakland-esque
By Allan Ulrich |  May 2014
“Oaklandesque” is not an adjective in common usage, but if Graham Lustig has his way, this admission of the singularity of the city across the bay should soon find a place in the vocabulary of dance practitioners and dance audiences. For last weekend’s spring concert by the Oakland Ballet Company, artistic director Lustig hit upon the idea of producing a series of four premieres, involving choreographers, dancers or musicians with some connection to the neighborhood, all to be performed by members of his troupe. As seen Saturday evening at the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts, this quest for diversity was appealing and occasionally rousing.  |  read more

REVIEW  |  San Francisco Bay Guardian – Oakland-esque
By Rita Felciano |  May 2014
Now in his fourth year guiding the newly constituted Oakland Ballet Company, Artistic Director Graham Lustig seems to have found his stride in creating a troupe that respects its past but is no longer tied down by it. If, for the time being, the “ballet” part of the company’s name has to take a back seat to the place where it is at home, so be it. “Oakland-esque,” four world premieres for OBC’s spring season at the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts, offered an affable afternoon of spiffily danced, and at the very least conceptually intriguing, choreography.  |  read more

REVIEW  |  San Jose Mercury News – Oakland-esque
By Ann Murphy |  May 2014
In a high-energy if imperfect night of turf dancing, graffiti decor, jazz, dance theater, funk, postmodern dance and live avant-garde percussion, Oakland Ballet Friday night qualified as “Oaklandesque.” Opening a two-day program of that title at the Malonga Casquelord Theater, artistic director Graham Lustig, a British expat, may have grasped a keener sense of the pulse of the complex East Bay city than either of his predecessors.  |  read more

REVIEW  |  San Francisco Chronicle – Diaghilev Imagery Spring Repertory Season
By Allan Ulrich  |  May 2013
This longtime pillar of dance in the East Bay has, under choreographer Graham Lustig, gone through a rebirth the past few years. Last weekend, at the Malonga Casquelord Center for the Arts, Lustig realized a long cherished and much postponed dream for the troupe, “Diaghilev Imagery,” a mixed bill program inspired by the legendary impresario Sergei Diaghilev and the works created for his legendary Ballets Russes.  |  read more

REVIEW  |  The Huffington Post – Diaghilev Imagery Spring Repertory Season
By Carla Escoda  |  May 2013
In this centennial year of the Ballets Russes’ notorious Rite of Spring — a tour de force that revolutionized 20th century art — Oakland Ballet paid homage to Diaghilev and his collaborators by boldly re-imagining three other works from the same era, vastly different in style and temperament.  |  read more

REVIEW  |  San Francisco Chronicle – FORWARDS! Spring Repertory Season
By Allan Ulrich  |  May 2011
With a bill determined to divert, the Oakland Ballet Company returned to the boards Thursday evening at the wonderfully intimate Laney College Theater.  |  read more

Luna Mexicana

REVIEW Critical Dance – Luna Mexicana
By Bryn Namavari  |  November 2017
The show brought a cabaret feel to the ‘traditional’ setting of the Paramount, and in many ways was a lively street festival transported to the stage. While it is hard to put a finger on exactly what this show is other than to say it is a “revue,” the audience showed a truly amazing appreciation for the programming and stood out as one of the most exuberant groups to attend a performance in the locale. The entire evening was enveloped in a sense of pageantry: a mélange of traditions, exhibition and celebration. Many audience members embraced the spirit of the night arriving in fancy dress including painted faces, vibrant floral headdresses and even full-length gowns.  |  read more

REVIEW ArtsSF – Luna Mexicana
By Paul Hertelendy  |  November 2017
The Mexican counterpart to the European Day of the Dead is a joyous feast of color and vivacity despite all the skulls and skeletons dancing about the Paramount stage (as well as others who were ticket-buyers, watching from the prime seats out front, with elaborate face paint). The performance pace was breath-taking, the caliber of dance and music unassailable. |  read more

REVIEW Repeat Performances – Luna Mexicana
By Jamie Robles  |  November 2017
The air was charged, many of the audience dressed in skeleton outfits, women and girls with their hair crowned with flowers, and faces painted in the joyous colors of the sugarsculpted skulls of the season.  |  read more


REVIEW  |  Oakland Ballet’s Jangala
By Joanna Harris  |  March 2018
All the staff, cast and dancers and especially Graham Lustig are to congratulated for this extraordinary production. It is wonderful to know that Lustig, is including the Oakland community in his outreach and reaching that community where they live, in the various neighborhood high schools.  |  read more

REVIEW  |  Oakland Ballet’s Jangala
By Anoushka Agrawal  |  March 2018
There is something remarkably charming about the blend of the traditional with the contemporary — as if two completely different cultures and eras are merged into one. Oakland Ballet Company’s “Jangala” exemplifies this.  |  read more

Graham Lustig’s The Nutcracker

REVIEW  |  The San Francisco Chronicle – Graham Lustig’s The Nutcracker 2018
By Steven Winn |  December 2018
Oakland Ballet’s Nutcracker a sumptuous affair. Children brightened row after row of the Paramount Theatre on Saturday afternoon, Dec. 22 in the first of three weekend performances of Oakland Ballet’s The Nutcracker. |  read more

REVIEW  |  Dance Commentary – Graham Lustig’s The Nutcracker 2018
By Heather Desaulniers |  December 2018
Artistic Director Lustig’s version of The Nutcracker is a classic one, told through the eyes of Marie, the ever-riveting Ramona Kelley, and her Nutcracker Prince, the confident, poised Seyong Kim. But classic should not be confused with standard or stale. To the contrary, this Nutcracker has innovation and creativity to spare. This Christmas Eve party is filled to the brim with energy. |  read more

REVIEW  |  The East Bay Times – Graham Lustig’s The Nutcracker 2017
By Sally Hogarty |  December 2017
Some children in the Bay Area may have “sugar plums dancing in their heads” as the holiday season draws near, but just as many dream of something a bit more substantial – a nutcracker. Much more than the variety used to open nuts, this particular nutcracker can become real, magically turning its wooden self into a gallant prince.  |  read more

REVIEW  |  The San Francisco Chronicle – Graham Lustig’s The Nutcracker 2017
By Allen Ulrich |  December 2017
For Oaklanders, a sure sign that Christmas is fast upon us is sighting the 19th century balloon taxi that whisks heroine Marie to the Land of the Sweets. That glorious contraption was spied at the Paramount Theatre on Saturday, Dec. 23, when the Oakland Ballet Company opened its all-too-brief annual run of “The Nutcracker.”  |  read more

REVIEW  |  Critical Dance – Graham Lustig’s The Nutcracker 2016
By Bryn Namavari  |  December 201
The Paramount Theater’s Art Deco architecture is stunning accentuated by Christmas trees and small children running through the lobby wearing sparkling tiaras – an idyllic setting for the fantasy of The Nutcracker. An annual tradition for so many families, this glittery ballet follows a special girl (Marie in this production, Marichen, Mary, Masha, and Clara in others) and a beautiful prince who is transformed from her precious nutcracker doll. There are magical presents, battles between toy soldiers and mice, a wicked mouse king and a far off dreamland. It is the perfect accompaniment to the holidays: a time of magic and of dreams.  |  read more

REVIEW  |  The San Francisco Chronicle – Graham Lustig’s The Nutcracker 2016
By Allen Ulrich |  December 2016
The weekend marked the sixth holiday season for Artistic Director Graham Lustig’s “Nutcracker,” and the production has become a part of the Bay Area holiday schedule. There are reasons. Like its Oakland Ballet predecessor (by Ronn Guidi), the newcomer is viewer friendly to a degree. The ballet seems about real people dealing with real vexations and pleasures.  |  read more

REVIEW  |  The Huffington Post – Graham Lustig’s The Nutcracker 2014
By Carla Escoda  |  December 2014
The Nutcracker has become the annual meal ticket for most ballet companies. Most productions overdose on the saccharin in an attempt to appeal to a wider Disney demographic, yet retain some of the more disquieting elements of the original E.T.A. Hoffmann story (like the creepy magician uncle.) So it was a relief to witness Graham Lustig’s deft handling of the tale for Oakland Ballet, aided and abetted by Zack Brown’s stylish sets and costumes.  |  read more

REVIEW  |  San Francisco Chronicle – Graham Lustig’s The Nutcracker 2014
By Allan Ulrich  |  December 2014
Because it usually arrives on local stages last in the chain of “Nutcrackers,” Graham Lustig’s production, as danced by the Oakland Ballet Company, always comes as a capstone to the holiday dance season. The fanciful yet traditional plot and design and the live performance of the Tchaikovsky score add up to a complete “Nutcracker” experience. Recent dance history repeated itself Saturday afternoon at the Paramount, where Artistic Director Lustig launched the energized Oakland Ballet Company’s historic 50th anniversary season with a sweet, comforting revival of this version of the ballet.  |  read more

REVIEW  |  Critical Dance – Oakland Ballet Company: The Nutcracker
By Claudia Bauer |  December 2014
If the throngs queued up outside the Paramount Theatre to see Oakland Ballet’s “Nutcracker” are any indication, rumors of ballet’s imminent demise are greatly exaggerated. Ahead of the December 20 matinee that opened the three-performance run and the company’s fiftieth-anniversary season, hundreds of children wearing tiaras, Snow White costumes and other fancy-occasion duds tried to escape their parents’ grips and dance on the sidewalk. The curtain couldn’t rise soon enough for them.Some of those children will see “The Nutcracker” once and never see another ballet. For others, the performance will serve as the gateway to a lifelong addiction to ballet. OBC artistic director Graham Lustig is hip to this essential truth, and he savvily designed his “Nutcracker” to amuse the former and enchant the latter.  |  read more

REVIEW  |  San Francisco Chronicle – Graham Lustig’s The Nutcracker 2013
By Allan Ulrich  |  December 2013
“Nutcracker” is surely the most adaptable of standard ballets. Any version that hopes to hold the stage requires at least  two ingredients: a dreaming protagonist named either Marie or Clara and the presence of and an implicit belief in the Tchaikovsky score. Graham Lustig’s “Nutcracker,” revived by the Oakland Ballet Company on Saturday afternoon at the Paramount Theatre, certainly possesses the first requirement and does reasonable well by the second.  |  read more

REVIEW  |  San Francisco Chronicle – Graham Lustig’s The Nutcracker 2012
By Steven Winn  |  December 2012
The Oakland Ballet Company’s sunny, perky version of The Nutcracker sparks a rooting interest in the troupe. Right from the start, with a mischief-filled pantomime scene that ends in a snowball fight before the Tchaikovsky Overture is through, Artistic Director Graham Lustig’s staging of the holiday staple at the Paramount Theatre projects a playful but determined will to succeed.  |  read more

REVIEW  |  Ballet.Magazine – Graham Lustig’s The Nutcracker 2010
By Renee Renouf  |  December 2010
Whatever else the new Artistic Director of Oakland Ballet may be, he’s spot on in curtain speeches.  Acknowledging Sally Streets’ picture in the back stage corridor of Oakland’s Paramount Theater where the first of four performances were scheduled between December 23 and December 26, he added the name of Sonya del Waide, heading the dance department at Mills College, before acknowledging the fiscal sponsorship of some of the biggie corporations situated In the East Bay. His comment about the sunny day in the Bay Area would be considered summer in England was quite endearing.  |  read more

REVIEW  |  SFGate – Graham Lustig’s The Nutcracker 2010
By Allan Ulrich, Chronicle Dance Correspondent  |  December 25, 2010
Just one more “Nutcracker” to go before we store it with our memories for another year. Fortunately, Graham Lustig’s staging of this family classic, new to the Bay Area, mixes tradition with whimsy and looks beguiling.  |  read more

REVIEW  |  Contra Costa Times – Graham Lustig’s The Nutcracker 2010
By Jennifer Modenessi  |  December 2010
From the moment the curtain rose on the Oakland Ballet Company’s Thursday afternoon premiere of “Graham Lustig’s The Nutcracker” at the Paramount Theatre, it was clear that the veteran dance organization is looking toward the future, and not at the past.  |  read more

REVIEW  |  Oakland Tribune – Graham Lustig’s The Nutcracker 2010
By Angela Woodall  |  December 2010
Longtime ballet patron Don Monaco first watched the Oakland Ballet Company perform Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” at the Paramount Theatre 18 years ago. He has not missed a season since. “I used to think every three years was enough,” he said. The world of ballet began to captivate Monaco, little by little, as he watched the energy and love the troupe put into “The Nutcracker.”  |  read more

OBC in the News

NEWS  |  Oakland Ballet’s ‘Nutcracker’ Brings a Vibrant Community Together
By Carla Escoda |  December 2013
Ballet to the People gatecrashed a lecture/demonstration by dancers from the Oakland Ballet Company at Burckhalter Elementary School on Thursday morning, surrounded by an enthusiastic, engaging and well-mannered crowd of third graders. As Sharon Kung, Megan Terry, Greg DeSantis, and Vincent Chavez gave a capsule history of ballet, and performed excerpts from The Nutcracker, the kids sat, rapt, occasionally exclaiming in awe at the jumps and turns and dramatic overhead lifts.  |  read more

NEWS  |  Oakland Ballet’s ‘Nutcracker’ Runs Dec. 21-24 at Paramount Theatre
By Sally Hogarty |  December 2013
This time of the year, children dressed in their best finery flock to theaters throughout the Bay Area to see a nutcracker come to life and a little girl’s dreams fulfilled. A number of children in the Bay Area will receive more than the thrill of watching the story of Clara (sometimes known as Marie) and the magic Land of the Sweets unfold. They will be on stage in a variety of roles as the Oakland Ballet presents The Nutcracker from Dec. 21-24 at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland.  |  read more

NEWS  |  Oakland Ballet’s ‘Nutcracker’ Breaks Ice With Kids
By Sarah Hayden|  December 2011
A ballerina extends one arm and arcs the other over her head, her fingers curved as though holding a delicate bubble. Her peach satin shoes shimmer as she floats across the stage en pointe. One might liken her to a nightingale or a princess, but those are not the first comparisons that come to the audience’s mind.  |  read more

NEWS  |  Holiday Dance: ‘Nutcrackers Abound’  |  read the article

NEWS  |  Graham Lustig leapt at chance with Oakland Ballet  |  read the article

NEWS  |  Reporter Don Sanchez interviews Graham Lustig (video)  |  see the video on ABC7

NEWS  |  Art in schools with Cheryl Jennings (video)  |  see the video on ABC7

NEWS  |  Oakland Ballet and Mills dancers join forces  |  read the article from The Campanil

NEWS  |  Graham Lustig selected to guide Oakland Ballet
By Mary Ellen and Robert Hurwitt
  |  |  read the article

NEWS  |  Oakland Ballet names Graham Lustig as new artistic director
By Jennifer Modenessi  |  Contra Costa Times  |  read the article