Passion for the art of dance is perhaps the defining quality of Oakland’s Ronn Guidi, director of the Oakland Ballet Academy and founder of the famous Oakland Ballet. An ever-energetic mainstay of the East Bay dance scene, Guidi created the Oakland Ballet in 1965 and led the small regional company to international attention in the 1970s with his canny choices of repertoire.
Bolstered by a National Endowment for the Arts grant and ambitious world premieres, like Eugene Loring’s “The Tender Land” — for which composer Aaron Copland himself conducted the opening night — Guidi’s enthusiasm and efforts paved the way for the troupe to become a major force in dance as one of the few remaining companies in the world performing the lavish and inventive ballets created for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. It was Guidi who brought in such living legends as Leonide Massine, Frederic Franklin and Irina Nijinska to stage authoritative restorations of “Boutique Fantasque” and “Les Biches.”
Guidi expanded the company’s scope over the next decade with ballets by some of the giants of 20th-century dance, including works that were rarely seen anywhere at the time — Kurt Jooss’s “The Green Table,” Agnes de Mille’s “Fall River Legend,” Ruthana Boris’s “Cakewalk,” Bronislava Nijinska’s “Les Noces” — as well as more than 50 of his own creations and restagings of classics like “Giselle” and “Les Sylphides.” In addition, he commissioned works from notable local choreographers, such as Betsy Erickson, Tandy Beal, Margaret Jenkins and Remy Charlip, all of which inspired several generations of dancers in the Bay Area.
After 33 years at the helm of the Oakland Ballet, Guidi retired from the company in 1998, to be succeeded by Karen Brown, who directed the company until 2005, when it was forced to close its doors after its 40th anniversary season. Spark follows Guidi’s revival of the company he founded and its return to the stage with a triumphant performance of his own “Nutcracker” in 2006.