Sunday, June 5, 2011


Saturday afternoon I was back in Berkeley for the closing of the Royal Danish Ballet at Zellerbach Hall. They programmed La Sylphide last Tuesday to show their more traditional side, and then Saturday night offered a contemporary mixed program of "Nordic Choreographers." I was a couple of hours early for that because Nikolaj Hubbe, the company's director, scheduled an early talk in the theater lobby about 1) the Bournonville ballet tradition, and 2) the Danish national character, and 3) what it has been like for him personally to make the transition from New York back to Copenhagen.

He was funny and smart and well worth hearing. Dancers, he said, historically enjoyed about the same social status in Europe as servants or prostitutes. Only recently have they begun to share in the increasing prestige of other creative artists.

After the talk I had a good chunk of free time before the performance started – time I occupied by wandering across campus under a mixture of sunny skies and stormy-looking skies. It had rained heavily earlier in the day.

The carved marble bear (above) ornaments a carved marble bench in the formal garden of plane trees around the Campanile. There is another similar bear on the other end of the bench. When my daughter was a child she liked these two marble bears.

The brick-built French-Victorian edifice above is called South Hall. Several decades ago, it was my grad-school home on the campus. Engravings and photographs from the 1870s show South Hall and its twin North Hall as the only two buildings then existing – on a broad swathe of otherwise empty land. For a short while, they constituted the entire campus. North Hall was knocked down in 1917. South Hall survived.

There are always new buildings on this campus. Saturday was my first sight of the relatively new Jean Gray Hargrove Music Library, with asymmetric outlines.

Berkeley in the summer can be a a ghost town. This familiar place on Bancroft was almost deserted when I stopped for coffee.