City Ballet of San Diego to dance ‘Without Bounds’ in outdoor UC San Diego appearance

Ariana Gonzalez of City Ballet of San Diego.
(Courtesy of Jaroslav Richters)

The season-opening production will feature new works by City Ballet resident choreographers Elizabeth Wistrich and Geoffrey Gonzalez and by company dancer Brian Heil.


City Ballet’s 31st season begins with a countdown: five productions, four different venues, three programs that feature world premieres, two family presentations and lots of firsts, starting with this weekend’s “Without Bounds.”

Presented outdoors at UC San Diego’s new Epstein Family Amphitheater, “Without Bounds” includes original works by City Ballet resident choreographers Elizabeth Wistrich and Geoffrey Gonzalez and by company dancer Brian Heil.

Outdoor summer performances produce a different energy.

City Ballet’s dancers are often exhilarated by expressing their artistry on a stage exposed to summer breezes and evening light. The vibe is more relaxed and the tickets tend to be less expensive than they are for traditional ballet productions.

“I like performing outdoors,” said Gonzalez, the husband of ballerina Ariana Gonzalez and son-in-law to Steven and Elizabeth Wistrich, City Ballet’s co-founders. “It gives an entirely different feel to a performance and all of the choreographers for this show considered that.”

The setting inspired City Ballet’s dancemakers to blend their movement ideas with the impact of nature’s daily spectacle.

The starting showtime is 8 p.m., just as the sun bathes the landscape with its fading, gilded light.

“I was thinking about that being kind of interesting and it’s how the piece began to come together for me,” said Gonzalez, who titled his work, “Forever Sunset.”

Seven dancers wearing brightly colored costumes will dance to the stirring Adagio in G Minor, attributed to Baroque-era composer Tomaso Albinoni.

Gonzalez didn’t consider “what the piece would be like sentimentally” until the 13-year-old Labrador retriever he shares with his wife, Ariana, passed away the day before he started constructing the dance.

Additionally, his mom, who lives in Arizona, was going through a health crisis.

“My mom has been on chemotherapy for the past two months,” he shared.

“She is doing OK and has a decent prognosis. But I was in a state of shock with how aging happens and how life goes by. With my dog dying and my mom being sick, I was thinking that it was a time of sunsets — a time that I never wanted to end. I introduced how I felt into the movement and the relationship between the dancers on stage.”

The setting sun and the rising moon gave company dancer Brian Heil movement ideas, too.

In the past, he has choreographed for City Ballet’s advanced students and he was thrilled to get the opportunity to set work on professional company dancers.

He said that he strove to create a piece that “flows and feels good in a dancer’s body.”

Heil’s work, titled “Moonlit,” is accompanied by a dynamic piece of music by Dmitri Shostakovich, his favorite composer.

The dance is inspired by the waxing and waning of moon cycles, with music that gets brighter and more elaborate before diminishing.

“I love music that catches you off guard,” Heil said. “It’s challenging because the tempos shift from fast to slow and everything in between. It’s constantly changing rhythms.”

Seven ballerinas will perform the work in nude-colored costumes.

“I wanted to be simple with the costumes,” Heil explained. “I wanted them to flow and move with the dancers and not detract from what they are putting out there on stage.”

Wistrich said her contemporary ballet titled “Aubade I & II” is a work that “lends itself to the outdoors” and evokes a “Midsummer Night’s Dream feel.”

The term “aubade” is often used in poetry or music when referring to the moment at dawn when lovers part. The movement will be accompanied by an Erik Satie composition and it includes a sensual pas de deux performed by Ariana Gonzalez and Iago Breschi.

“It’s like ‘Romeo and Juliet’ but contemporary and very romantic,” Wistrich said.

“I adore the music and it came easy because of the cooperation and input of the dancers, who are always willing to go above and beyond.”

The season for the ballet company based in Pacific Beach continues in the fall with “Balanchine Extravaganza,” a concert on Nov. 4-5 at the Balboa Theatre followed by “The Nutcracker,” accompanied by the City Ballet Orchestra at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido, on Dec. 21-23.

In 2024, season highlights include “An American in Paris,” which also features a Christopher Wheeldon ballet at two venues: March 16-17 at the Balboa Theatre downtown and March 27 at California Center for the Arts, Escondido.

“Carmina Burana,” a popular production last performed in 2019 at the Spreckels Theatre, returns on May 4-5, 2024, with the City Ballet Orchestra accompanied by the Pacific Coast Chorale at California Center for the Arts, Escondido, a North County venue with free parking that is serving to expand the San Diego-based company’s audience.

“I am most excited to bring ‘Carmina Burana’ to Escondido,” Gonzalez added. “And to make the same impact that was felt on the Spreckels Theatre stage.”

City Ballet of San Diego: ‘Without Bounds’

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Where: Epstein Family Amphitheater, UC San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla

Tickets: $39 and $59

Phone: (858) 272-8663


Seat cushions and blankets permitted, cashless food and drink available, closest parking is the Gilman Parking Structure.

Luttrell is a freelance writer.