On stage, performing in front of an audience, is where Jennifer Lauren feels most like herself. “I’ve been dancing since I was 3,” Lauren says. “It’s just who I am.”
For 25 years, Lauren has danced in professional ballet companies — first with Alabama Ballet, then, for the past 15 years, with Miami City Ballet.
“Performing and dancing, to me, feels like I’m singing through my body,” Lauren says. “You know how great it feels to belt out a song? That’s what dancing feels like. I forget about everything else except for what I’m telling through my body.”
On Sept. 23, Miami City Ballet, led by artistic director Lourdes Lopez, will open the Cal Performances’ 2022-23 season with George Balanchine’s iconic 1967 Jewels. And on Sept. 25, the Dover Quartet will make its in-person debut after performing two years earlier for Cal Performances at Home.
Also this fall, Cal Performances will present the San Francisco Symphony and its music director Esa-Pekka Salonen, on Oct. 21 for a Halloween-themed concert; Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan performing 13 Tongues from Oct. 29 to 30; the Soweto Gospel Choir on Nov. 5; and Camille A. Brown and Dancers from Dec. 14 to 16.
For Lauren, performing in Jewels — one of her favorite ballets — is especially exciting. The three-part ballet is Balanchine’s take on three countries’ traditional styles of dance. Each part is named after a different jewel — French is “Emeralds,” American is “Rubies” and Russian is “Diamonds.”
Since Lauren joined Miami City Ballet in 2007, the company performed Jewels throughout the years, but she was never cast. Eventually, she accepted it wouldn’t happen.
But now, in her 16th season, she was finally cast — in the principal role in “Rubies.”
“I was super-thrilled when I found out,” she says.
While “Diamonds” is a classical, pure form of ballet, and “Emeralds” is a swirling mix of beautiful ballerinas in long, romantic tutus, Lauren says, “Rubies” is quirky and creative, never the same twice. It’s fun and jazzy and doesn’t have to be perfect.
“It’s just completely fun,” says Lauren. “Everyone has their own style and take on ‘Rubies.’ I don’t think you’ll see one dancer who does ‘Rubies’ the same.”
About Lourdes Lopez
Lourdes Lopez has been the artistic director of Miami City Ballet for 10 years. She is the first woman to run the company and, until this year, was the only woman artistic director among the 10 largest ballet companies in the U.S. (Tamara Rojo was named artistic director of San Francisco Ballet in January 2022.)
Miami City Ballet just welcomed a new, but seasoned, dancer into the company this year. With the help of Lopez and others, Ukrainian dancer Yuliia Moskalenko joined the group as a principal dancer after Russia invaded her home country. After Moskalenko, who had been a principal of National Opera of Ukraine, recovers from an injury, she will begin performing with the company.
“It’s awesome that Lourdes has given her this opportunity to dance and to start a new life here,” Lauren says. “We’ve been trying to give her as much as we can and welcome her.”
Lauren says she hopes audiences at Cal Performances will come away from Jewels feeling like they saw something genuine and are inspired to see more ballet.
“I feel like everyone gives their heart and soul to the audience,” she says. “It’s a special spirit we have, and I hope people feel like we’ve given them a piece of ourselves.”
Miami City Ballet will perform Jewels through Sunday, Sept. 25. That same day, the Dover Quartet will perform three pieces — Haydn’s Emperor Quartet, Amy Beach’s 1929 quartet built on Alaskan Inuit melodies and Mendelssohn’s third quartet from his Opus 44 — in Hertz Hall on campus.
The quartet is comprised of violinists Joel Link and Bryan Lee, violist Hezekiah Leung and cellist Camden Shaw.
Shaw, a founding member of the Dover Quartet, began playing the cello at age 6. “I actually play the cello because my parents wanted me to play string quartets with them and my older sister,” he says. “I was the last one born, so I had no choice in the matter.”
Even though Shaw got his start young, he says performing in a quartet is still incredibly hard work that requires each player to quickly switch roles.
“I think it does attract a certain personality that enjoys being the soloist for a moment, but also who really genuinely enjoys supporting their colleagues, to see them shine. And we take turns with that.”
His best performances, he says, happen when he’s least aware of himself — when he disappears, and he’s transported somewhere else.
“You want to be really focused on how you’re feeling in the moment,” he says. “The most extreme way to put it is it’s like an ego death. But it’s kind of true. If you’re really in that zone, then you almost shouldn’t exist anymore. It’s hard to get to that, but it’s wonderful when that happens.”
He says the way a musician’s body interacts with an instrument is similar to the way a dancer expresses emotion with movement.
“If your hands are working like machines, and your bodies are working like machines,” Shaw says, “you can be very accurate, but there’s something different about the expression.”
Miami City Ballet will perform Sept. 23 to 25 in Zellerbach Hall, and the Dover Quartet will perform Sept. 25 in Hertz Hall. Buy tickets online, by phone at (510) 642-9988 or at the ticket office at Zellerbach Hall on campus. Tickets for Miami City Ballet are $10 for UC Berkeley staff and faculty. Use this link to order the discounted tickets or order by phone or in person.
Discounted tickets are available all season for UC Berkeley students: For $10, Golden Bear Circle tickets get students the best seats in the house for select performances; flex passes are available for any four, six or eight performances; student groups of more than 10 can get tickets for $15 each; discounted rush tickets go on sale an hour before a performance; and Cal students always get 50% off ticket prices for any performance.
And UC Berkeley faculty, staff and alumni, non-UC Berkeley students and KQED members get $5 off ticket prices.
Buy tickets and learn more about the 2022-23 season on Cal Performances’ website.