Arts & culture, Campus & community, Events at Berkeley, Performing arts

New Cal Performances season explores interplay between humans and machines

The 2022-23 season of performances by UC Berkeley's performing arts presenter span genres, from dystopian opera and classical music to contemporary dance and hip-hop theater

person performs on stage
William Kentridge's "SIBYL" will be at Zellerbach Hall on March 17-19, 2023. (Photo by Stella Olivier)

With a slate of up-and-coming artists and well-established greats, UC Berkeley’s Cal Performances announces its 2022-23 season of performances that span genres, from dystopian opera and classical music to contemporary dance and hip-hop theater.

This is the second year in a row that Cal Performances has had the opportunity to present its new season in person — something that executive and artistic director Jeremy Geffen is ecstatic about.

portrait of jeremy geffen

Jeremy Geffen is executive and artistic director of UC Berkeley’s Cal Performances. (Photo by Kristen Loken)

“It feels so great to be in person again,” said Geffen, whose team transitioned to online programming in 2020 after the COVID-19 pandemic required the cancellation of in-person events. “Digital performances are wonderful, but the feeling of community you get when you’re listening or seeing others is unmatched. I pay attention differently, and I respond differently.”

Following a special performance in August by conductor Gustavo Dudamel and Encuentros Orchestra, two performances will open the season in September 2022 — Miami City Ballet with George Balanchine’s iconic 1967 triptych of dances Jewels and the Dover Quartet, who’s making their in-person debut after performing two years earlier for Cal Performances at Home.

On Oct. 30, harpsichordist and fortepianist Kristian Bezuidenhout will chart the evolution of keyboard technology, marking the first performance of Illuminations: Human and Machine, a season-long series of performances that explores the interactions between technology, creative expression and communication through performances, public programs and academic encounters.

“Human and Machine highlights humans’ need for tools to communicate and express themselves,” said Geffen. “The purpose of technology is to serve humanity, and it can be used for the greater good or not. There’s a dark side to technology. So, it’s a complicated, but necessary, relationship.”

dancer performs on stage

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan will perform 13 Tongues on Oct. 29 and 30. (Photo by Chia-Yeh Lee)

The series will include five other performances — Colin Currie Group and Synergy Vocals performing the music of Steve Reich; Sō Percussion performing recent works; Michael van der Aa’s Blank Out, featuring soprano Miah Persson; William Kentridge’s SIBYL; and Parable of the Sower, an opera by the daughter-mother team Toshi Reagon and Bernice Reagon based on Octavia E. Butler’s 1993 novel of the same name and its sequel.

Parable of the Sower is set in a dystopian future not very many years from now when technology has let us down,” said Geffen. “We put too much faith in it and lost a lot of our basic controls of humanity. In Human and Machine, we are looking at the power technology gives us to express ourselves, but also at some of the potential consequences of investing too much of ourselves in it.”

In December, U.K. hip-hop dance theater troupe Boy Blue will perform Blak Whyte Gray: A Hip-Hop Dance Triple Bill, a three-part work that combines popping, krump and African dance set to a layered electronic score. Boy Blue is one of the season’s several debut artists, which also includes soprano Ying Fang, pianist Seong-Jin Cho, cellist Zlatomir Fung, violinist Alexi Kenney and violinist Rachell Ellen Wong.

“Cal Performances has a long tradition of introducing artists at the early stage of their career, and allowing them to develop a relationship with our audience,” said Geffen.

dancer performs

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will perform on April 11-16. (Photo by Dario Calmese)

On April 14, the Danish String Quartet will return to perform Schubert’s Rosamunde Quartet and the Bay Area premiere of a new work by Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir, a Cal Performances co-commission.

“Anna Thorvaldsdottir is one of the most interesting compositional voices of our time,” said Geffen. “There is something tectonic about her music. It’s very attuned to the natural world. There’s an incredible harmonic language, and at the same time, the gestures are so powerful. Everyone walks away moved by her works.”

Ending the the season in June 2023 on a powerful note, Russian choreographer and artistic director Boris Eifman will present his 2019 ballet Russian Hamlet, which reimagines Shakespeare’s play in the context of Russian history by focusing on the tragic figure of Tsar Paul I as he grapples with a hostile world built on violence, treachery and lies.

Subscription packages for Cal Performances’ 2022-23 season go on sale to the public on April 26 at noon. Single tickets go on sale on Aug. 9. Packages and tickets are available online, by phone at (510) 642-9988 or at the Zellerbach ticket office. Berkeley students receive 50% off all events and, starting Aug. 9, can purchase $60 flex passes, good for any four performances. Faculty and staff receive $5 off of most events.

Learn more about Cal Performances’ 2022-23 season on Cal Performances’ website.

Cal Performances executive and artistic director Jeremy Geffen introduces the performing arts presenter’s 2022-23 season.