All posts by Airha Dominguez

Writer at Xpress Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @Airha9

SF Ballet Review: Romeo & Juliet

Image by laobc via openclipart


The San Francisco Ballet ended its 2015 repertory season with the romantic story of Romeo and Juliet at the War Memorial Opera House on May 9.

The principal dancers of the night were Vanessa Zahorian who played Juliet and Joan Boada who played Romeo.

Zahorian had an amazing corporal expression. In Act III, Juliet’s parents want to marry her to Paris, an aristocrat from the same Capulet family, but she refused. In this scene, Zahorian expressed her mixed feelings of fear and love toward her parents and her displeasure toward dancing with Paris. Her movements looked forced and she did not express the same energy as when she danced with Romeo. Even though Zahorian’s facial expressions were difficult to see from the balcony section, her body language could be seen from the last seat of the house.

The costumes and sets, created by Jens-Jacob Worsaae, were amazing. They transported the audience to Verona where the story takes place. In scene II, Juliet and Romeo were married in secret by Friar Laurence. The stage transformed into a chapel with an altar and a renaissance painting of the Virgin Mary holding Jesus in her arms. The lighting created by Thomas R. Skelton added a dramatic look.

One of the most beautiful dances of the night was in the scene called “Juliet’s Bedroom.” In this scene, Romeo spent the night with Juliet where they consummated their marriage. He needed to leave before the sun came out, but Juliet did not allow him and instead, they danced in an emotive pas de deux that was full of subtle movements of passion and love.


SF Ballet Official Website

Principal Dancer Joan Boada Garcia Spotlight video

Principal Dancer Vanessa Zahorian

Smuin ballet debuts at Yerba Buena Center

Image by laobc via openclipart


Smuin ballet opened its spring program called “Unlaced Dance Series” on Friday night at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

This season, the company showcases four choreographies, among them, Petal, Rome & Juliet Pas de Deux and the world premiere Ask Me. The styles of these choreographies range from contemporary ballet, classical ballet, and jazz.

The first dance of the program was Petal. Ellen Pickett, a choreographer from San Diego, first choreographed this piece for the Atlanta Ballet. At the beginning of the dance, the stage was illuminated with yellow lights, giving the appearance that dancers were performing in a yellow box. Smuin dancers executed this piece with strength and precise technique. Movements included sliding on the floor, lifts and fast turns. Female dancers wore yellow leotards and male dancers wore blue pants without shirts.

The second choreography of the program was Romeo and Juliet Balcony Pas de Deux interpreted by dancers Erin Yarbrough and Jonathan Powell. This piece was created in 1976 by the founder of the Smuin company, Michael Smuin, who passed away in 2007. Dancer Yarbrough, who has been dancing with the company since 2003, said that this is a special performance.

“I was dancing with my fiancé,” said Yarbrough. “I get to express my feeling of love for my partner.”

The last choreography was Ask Me, a world premiere choreographed by Adam Hougland. The music was a fusion of jazz and retro-soul and the choreography was  energetic.

Susan Morenstein, attendee, came to see the Smuin ballet for the first time.

“All the pieces were very different from each other, so it gave me as a person in the audience a broad spectrum of dance,” she said.

The coming performances of Smuin ballet, “Unlaced Dance Series,” will be held in Walnut Creek, Caramel and Mountain View. For more information, check the Smuin Ballet website.

We are 43: the fight for justice continues

Violeta Luna performs a piece entitled “Piedras de luna para José Luis (Vírgenes y Diosas III) in honor of José Luis Luna Torres, one of the 43 missing Ayotzinapa at the “From Ayotzinapa to San Francisco” event at Code and Canvas Gallery, February 7, 2015. Photo by Angelica Ekeke


In a small gallery in Potrero Hill, Code & Canvas, more than 300 residents, artists, and activists wait to connect via Skype to Omar Garcia. Garcia is the colleague of 43 college students who disappeared on their way to a protest against a mayoral candidate in Guerrero, Mexico. A projector reflects Garcia’s image on a white wall. There are technical difficulties, but organizers resolve the problem and Garcia begins to speak.

He tells the audience about the hard atmosphere that exists in Mexico; specifically, in Iguala, Guerrero.

“The family members and we, the students, believe our peers are alive,” Garcia says in Spanish. “We are basing this on the inconsistencies of the investigation that the PGR (Office of General Prosecutor) has shown,” he adds.

Bay Area artists, who come from different backgrounds, primarily from different countries of Latin America, are raising money to send to the families of the 43. The money will help fund an independent investigation of their disappearance, requested by the parents. Although 3,800 miles separate activists in San Francisco and in Guerrero, they have one thing in common with the people of Mexico: They want justice against what they believe is a corrupt government with the drug cartels.

On Sept. 26, 43 male students from Raul Isidro Burgos Rural Teacher’s College in Ayotzinapa were kidnapped by police and turned over to Guerreros Unidos (United Warriors), a criminal organization in Iguala, Guerrero.

According to a press conference held on January 27 by Tomas Zeron de Lucio, head of the criminal investigation agency and Jesus Murillo Murillo, Mexico’s general attorney, the PGR had detained 99 suspects related to the case. Murillo stated that the 43 students were killed and burned by drug traffickers from Guerreros Unidos. Students’ parents challenged the report due to lack of evidence. The evidence presented in the conference relied mainly on the drug traffickers’ confessions. The Mexican government has only been able to identify the body of one of the 43 missing students.

Activists in Mexico and around the world have demanded that the Mexican government provide concrete evidence of the case. They are also calling for the indictment of politicians who were allegedly involved in the disappearance.

Bay Area artists that include painters, musicians, and dancers organized an event called From Ayotzinapa to San Francisco – We are 43. Artists created their artwork inspired by each of the 43 students. The paintings in the exhibit are part of a silent auction.

Chelitz Lopez is one of the organizers of the event.

“We started this effort with the idea of bringing together the community around this cause, showing the students’ families and the Mexican people that we would not forget these disappearances or ignore the daily injustices that continue to occur, and to raise a little bit of money to support the families who have not been able to rest for more than four months now,” Lopez wrote in a Facebook post for the event.

Axel Herrera, an alumnus of SF State’s music department, created a three part song called “Heart Beat” dedicated to one of the missing students, Jorge Alvarez Navia.

“Definitely justice is a topic that it is important to all of us,” he says in Spanish.” The case of the student-teachers is a case mainly related to social justice, and is an example of criminality of a government that acts in a way that it is very arrogant and with a lot of impunity.”

Herrera says that the three sections of the song is united by the beat of his drum that represents the beat of a heart and the hope that the students are still alive.

Jose Cruz, one of the artists who helped to promote the event, explained that the idea of organizing the exhibit was inspired by a similar event held in Mexico City where 43 Mexican illustrators painted the faces of the 43 using different techniques and shared their portraits on social media with the hashtag #IlustradoresConAyotzinapa (Illustrators with Ayotzinapa) as a way of remember them.

Ramiro Garcia is one of the three persons from the audience that makes a comment to Garcia via Skype. He has tears in his eyes and speaks with a broken voice.

“I’m glad you have not been one of the students who disappeared,” he says in Spanish.

The SF State Spanish Department will hold an event called Remembering the 43 Students in Ayotzinapa Mexico on April 18 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event plans to gather panelists that will present literary essays, poems, music and art in order to raise awareness for the ongoing issue.

“Haters Gonna Hate” at Cafe Royale


A spacious two-story bar with a pool table, paintings on the walls and a small stage in one corner, showcases a free comedy show called “Haters Gonna Hate” every second Wednesday of the month at Cafe Royale.

Josef Anolin, Chris Riggins, Mimi Vilmenay and Kaseem Bentley are the “resident haters” that perform permanently in the show. They also invite other guest comics to participate in a different theme every night. Black History Month and Valentine’s Day are the themes of this night.

Anolin started the show about two years ago as a way to create a space where local Bay Area comics could perform. The small stage creates an intimate atmosphere where comics can receive immediate feedback from the audience.

Mimi Vilmenay, resident hater, was raised in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. In her nine-minute performance, she talks about some of the stereotypes that Americans have about Haitians and what Black History Month means to her.

“Hey what’s up guys!” Vilmenay says. “Happy Black History month… real talk, you guys. Black History Month is really fuckin’ important to me because guess what? I’m Haitian, you guys. What!?”

According to Vilmenay, nobody believes she is of Haitian descent because she looks white.

“Elephant in the room — I’m not really black you guys,” she confesses. “I’m white, but I feel black. My dad raised me to be a proud black woman. When I was about 11 years old, every day my dad said to me when he dropped me off at school: ‘Never forget that you are black.’”

Brittany White came to the the show for the first time and didn’t regret it.

“I laughed at least once in each comics’ performance” she said. “They each have their own individual moment.”

The next show will be held at Cafe Royale on March 11. The theme will be Saint Patrick’s day.

‘We Were Here,’ a documentary about SF’s AIDs crisis

The documentary We Were Here was screened at the Koret Auditorium as a part of the World AIDS Education and Community Day at De Young Museum on Nov. 30.

The film revisits the early days of the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco during the ’80s.

In the process of making the film, director David Weissman explained that he wanted to interview people who have lived through these years. He wanted to share their stories.

We Were Here focuses on the stories of five individuals. Ed Wolf activist; Paul Boneberg; executive director of the GLBT Historical Society; Eileen Glutzer who was a nurse at that time; Daniel Goldstein, artist; and Guy Clark florist, who lived in San Francisco prior to the epidemic. Each one shares their personal experiences going through these tough years.

Weissman never imagined he would make a documentary about AIDS.

The idea of making the film was suggested by a former boyfriend who heard Weissman speak so much about the epidemic and who had not lived through that time.

Weissman said that even though the documentary focuses on San Francisco, putting a thirty-year history in an hour and half was a challenging process.

We Were Here officially premiered in San Francisco at The Castro Theatre in 2011. The film gained tremendous success and was aired the following year on Independent Lens on PBS. Since then, the film has been used in universities and schools.

“I hope what the movie does is remind those of us who were there and also people who weren’t there how young we were and how unprepared anyone could it been for something like this,” said Weissman. “It was such a completely unprecedented situation, and all of us came in this with our own baggage, with our own immaturity, with our own pre-existing experiences of lost and fear of death.”

The screening was followed by a conversation with some of the interviewees that appear in the film.

“Around AIDS, art was a way particularly for me to deal with my situation, my loss,” said Goldstein who is HIV positive, “It was a meditation for me, but there was also a way that I could show other people what I’ve been through.”

Foodelicious at SF State

Tired of eating at the same place everyday? Do you want to try something new, but have no idea where to begin to look? Here are the five food venues that generate the most revenue at SF State. The list is based on a survey conducted by the Cesar Chavez Student Center in October 2013 and includes responses from three thousand five hundred and ninty students. The study also revealed that students use the Student Center mostly for the food venues. The dishes I chose are my personal favorite items. Take a look! You might discover your new favorite place.


1. Ike’s Place

Dish: Barry B Sandwich

Ingredients: Turkey, bacon, Swiss cheese, lettuce and tomato, on Dutch crunch bread.

Price: $ 8.98

(Airha Dominguez/ Xpress Magazine)
The Barry B sandwich from Ike’s. (Airha Dominguez/ Xpress Magazine)

Veggies are super fresh. Good flavor of the turkey with the crunchy Dutch bread. The bacon adds a salty flavor.


2. Taqueria Girasol

Dish: El Cabo

Ingredients: Rice, beans, choice of meat, pico de gallo salsa, cheese and cream.

Price: $6.25

 (Airha Dominguez/ Xpress Magazine)
The El Cabo,  a burrito made with rice, beans, pico de gallo, you choice of meat, cheese, and sour cream. (Airha Dominguez/ Xpress Magazine)

Large burrito. Meat is bland. Rice and refried beans are flavorful. You can choose between green or red salsa if you want to add a little bit of spicy flavor.


3. Natural Sensations

Dish: Beagle H

Ingredients: Avocado, feta, cheese, pesto and tomato, choice of bread.

Price: $3.45

(Airha Dominguez/ Xrpress Magazine)
The Bagle H made with avocado, feta, cheese, pesto, and tomato. (Airha Dominguez/ Xrpress Magazine)

The taste of the pesto combined with the avocado and feta cheese on a wheat bread is tasty. Tomatoes are fresh daily. You can choose the bread.


4. Gold Coast Grill & Catering

Dish: Freshman Burger Combo

Ingredients: ½ lb. of Fed beef served on toasted sesame bun with the fixes: mayo, lettuce, tomato, onions and pickles. It is also served with your choice of: French fries, Cole slaw or spring mix salad with balsamic dressing.

Price: $8.75

The Freshmen Burger: a delicious steak burger made with mayo, lettuce, tomato, onions and pickles.  (Airha Dominguez/ Xpress Magazine)
The Freshmen Burger: a delicious steak burger made with mayo, lettuce, tomato, onions and pickles. (Airha Dominguez/ Xpress Magazine)

The piece of the steak is juicy. The hamburger is a good size. I could not finish it all, so I saved half of the hamburger for the rest of the day.


5. Café 101

Dish: Vegan maple donut

Ingredients: maple and chocolate glaze.

Price: $1.25

A vegan maple donut from Cafe 101. (Airha Dominguez/ Xpress Magazine)
A vegan maple donut from Cafe 101. (Airha Dominguez/ Xpress Magazine)

It was the perfect size, not to big, not too small. The chocolate glaze and the maple flavor make the perfect combination. The taste is sweet, but not too cloying.



Runway show celebrates women and their acheivements


Yemeni Mendez struts down the runway for the Women Center's second annual runway show.
Yesenia Mendez struts down the runway for the Women Center’s second annual runway show.

With a pink flower in her hair, Yesenia Mendez struts down a runway barefoot in a long floral dress, showcasing her free-spirited personality. The biology major and African-American studies minor is one of the forty students participating in SF State’s second annual runway show.

It was far from your typical runway show since models were given the opportunity to control how they were presented. Each one wrote a biography about themselves, which was read during their walk. They even selected their own runway song.

Mendez  wore a beautiful, traditional dress,  but what grabs the audience’s attention is her confidence when she slowly walks down the stage with a big smile on her face.

Instead of wearing clothing made by designers, the models chose their own outfits, ones representing their inner beauty. The event, which was organized by the Women’s Center, celebrated the diverse women of SF State and their achievements. More than two hundred-students showed up at Jack Adams Hall to honor them.

“In my bio, I wrote that I want to be a doctor and travel around the world to assist people,” Mendez said. “I feel this is something that has to be really acknowledge because not a lot of people know what you are doing and what your goals are.”

  • (From left) Women's Center assistant director, Hanna Wodaje, and director, Shani Winston, get ready to present the models for their organization's 2nd annual Runway Show on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. (Lorisa Salvatin/ Xpress Magazine)

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  • (From left) Women's Center assistant director, Hanna Wodaje, and director, Shani Winston, get ready to present the models for their organization's 2nd annual Runway Show on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. (Lorisa Salvatin/ Xpress Magazine)
  • Francine Shakir poses at the end of the runway. (Lorisa Salvatin/ Xpress Magazine)
  • Sharlana Turner strikes a pose in her angel outfit at the end of the runway. Each model got to showcase an outfit that represented their culture, their career path, or their personality. (Lorisa Salvatin/ Xpress Magazine)
  • With glass in hand, Toni Harry makes her last walk with her fellow models up and down the runway. (Lorisa Salvatin/ Xpress Magazine)
  • Joanna DeVilla glides down the runway. (Lorisa Salvatin/ Xpress Magazine)

Shani Winston, director of the Women’s Center, was the one who came up with the idea. 

“The women here are representing their goals, their career path, what are they doing in life,” Winston, said.

For the first time two staff members participated in the event.

Francine Shakir, Culture and Arts Director at the Richard Oakes Multicultural Center at SF State, saw this runway show as an opportunity to empower women.

“I think it is very important that women’s voices are heard in a public forum,” Shakir said. “Often times, women who are in settings that are dominated by men for example, classrooms, don’t feel their voices are heard.”

The runway show was followed with a salsa party with music by the SFSU Afro-Cuban Ensemble.


Chicago Review: All that jazz

A line of sultry female dancers in thin black tights and skimpy costumes sing and dance in wooden chairs for the “Cell Block Tango” a song that narrates how these murderesses finish in jail. The performance is one of the twenty-two performances of Chicago the musical that closed its U.S. tour at Orpheum Theater in San Francisco.

Perfectly toned singers and talented musicians bring to life the musical that takes place in Chicago during the 1920s. Terra C. MacLeod portrays Velma Kelly, a cabaret dancer who killed her husband when she found out he cheated on her. Bianca Marroquin portrays Roxie Hart a chorus girl who killed her lover. Hart like Kelly envision fame and fortune. Now that they are in jail together sentenced to death row for murder, they compete of who would be the most popular on the papers.

Marroquin sings with a powerful voice and acts with natural charisma. Her dialogues include jokes that keep the audience engage in the development of the story.

In this version, sets are minimal and lighting is used to create different scenarios. The jazz band plays on the stage during the entire performance.

The grand finale is Kelly and Hart’s moment of fame. After they got out of jail and became old news, they choreographed an act together for their big return. In this last part of the play, you would imagine them wearing glamours costumes. Instead, they wear black dresses with a black cardigan, silver shoes, hat, and cane. They look elegant, but their costumes do not look like they are from the 1920s.

When you hear Chicago the Broadway Musical, you imagine a big production with cabaret lights, shiny costumes, and a variety of sets. It may also bring to mind the Academy Award winning film with Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renée Zellweger, and Richard Gere. In the last scene of the movie, Jones and Zellweger wear stunning silver costumes classic of the 1920s.

Producers may want to differentiate the movie from the play by focusing more on the story and music, but a little bit of visual spark would create a more attractive performance.

Shania Winston, SF State student, who has seen the movie many times, said she would like to see more dancing in the play.

“I don’t feel they chose singers and dancers, they just chose singers,” Shania said, referring to the producers of the musical. “I think is great to have a good voice, but the whole point of this play is to have dancers because that’s everything they want to do they want to be a star, they want to be dancers.”

‘Swan Lake’: A modern retelling of a classic love story

A preview of The Australian Ballet’s Swan Lake by Calperformances.

An elegant set combined with minimalistic props, dramatic lighting, and superb dance techniques make the Australian Ballet’s version of “Swan Lake” a stunning performance. The company performed last Sunday at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley as a part of its 2014 United States tour.

Choreographer Graeme Murphy retells Tchaikovsky’s classic story based on the love triangle between Princess Diana, Prince Charles, and Camilla. In this contemporary version, Odette (Diana) marries Prince Siegfried (Charles). After the wedding, she realizes her husband is in love with a baroness. Odette becomes so distressed that she is taken to a mental institution after she starts imagining swan-like maidens.

Throughout the three-hour ballet, dancers moved effortlessly, leaping and gliding through the air. Their pointe shoes carefully touched the floor as they gracefully twirled across the stage. Dancers donned long skirts with layers of tulle instead of the typical ballerina tutus.

Principal dancer Madeleine Eastoe, who portrays Odette, danced the four acts with passion and precision. When Principal dancer Kevin Jackson, who plays Prince Siegfried, lifts her, it was as if she was a feather floating in the air. Everything seemed so natural. Modern and classical ballet movements were combined to present a fresh and creative choreography.

“It was amazing — their technique and expression,” says Maya Bloemhaird, a dance student at Berkeley’s Ballet Theater. Bloemhaird, who has seen other productions of “Swan Lake,” says she has never seen a production like this. She praised the Australian ballet’s dancers for their rhythmic movements.“They are really focused on shaping the feet and how they are using their arms.”

Zrinka Jancic, a UC Berkeley student, was touched by Principal dancer Eastoe’s emotionally expressive performance.

“I found myself crying,” says Jancic. “I don’t find myself doing that easily.”