Serious ballet, comedy and sex rarely mix, but they do in San Diego Ballet's upcoming performance, "Eternally Bad," opening April 1 at the San Diego Museum of Art. The show celebrates the original bad girls -- ancient goddesses.
Javier Velasco, "Eternally Bad" choreographer and San Diego Ballet co-artistic director, based the show on underground comedy writer Trina Robbins' book of the same name. In her book, Robbins details the mythology behind 24 goddesses from around the world.
"The only thing they have in common is this darker side of feminine power," Velasco said. "The point (Robbins) makes is that when feminism got the idea of the goddess into pop culture, to make her acceptable, they took away her not so nice elements."
Velasco, with the show, restores those elements. The Japanese goddess Uzume invents the strip tease to lure the sun goddess out of a cave. Inanna, a power-hungry Sumerian goddess of the heavens, gets her grandfather drunk to steal his wisdom. Greek goddess Circe has a knack for turning men into swine. An American Indian bear-woman eats all the women in a village in order to sleep with all the men. From Isis to Jezebel and Kali to Artemis, these women are not afraid to use their powers of seduction and destruction to get what they want.
Still, Velasco said Robbins' book is presented in a humorous, contemporary way, comparing the frank discussion of sex and power to a conversation between Carrie and Miranda of "Sex in the City." Velasco brings that flavor to the world premiere show. "Swan Lake" this ain't. "Eternally Bad" is sassy, sexy and, perhaps most surprisingly, funny.
It's also an opportunity for the San Diego Ballet ensemble to stretch themselves as dancers, and for audiences to expand their perceptions of ballet.
"San Diego Ballet does lots of different things -- we do the classics, but we also do more experimental things," said Velasco. "But what you generally don't think of doing at a dance concert is laughing out loud, like you would at a comedy. But why not? So that's what this is -- it's a chance for dancers to work with comedy. It's a chance to enlarge the audience's idea of what a dance concert can be. And it's a chance to work with lots of totally different material."
The performance mixes ballet with visual art and spoken word, using projected slides and local actors who join the dancers onstage. The music, too, is diverse, ranging from the classical to a track called "I'm the Toughest Girl Alive" from local blues singer and bad girl Candye Kane.
"Eternally Bad" is not a serious show, but it does have serious topics, Velasco said. Some of the themes are intended for mature audiences, and San Diego Ballet recommends audience members be at least 16 years of age.
"We're doing a show that deals with gender and sex, so there is lot of eye candy," Velasco said. "But the show is not rated R. There's no foul language, nothing like that going on."
Discussion forums will be held following the performances. Pat Washington, a former assistant professor in the women's studies department at San Diego State University, will be on hand for the sessions, along with San Diego Ballet dancers and Velasco. A guest from the theater company Mo'olelo Performance Art will moderate.
"We're saying, go on this trip with us, and when it's done, hopefully you've been excited and entertained through the process," Velasco said. "But hopefully it's given you something to think about too."
PROGRAM: "Eternally Bad," conceived and choreographed by Javier Velasco
Organization: San Diego Ballet
Tickets: $18 for San Diego Museum of Art members, $20 for nonmembers, $10 for students
Dates: April 1-3
Show times: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday
Location: James S. Copley Auditorium at the San Diego Museum of Art, Balboa Park
More information: (619) 294-7378, www.sandiegoballet.org