All About Cal Performances

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Discovering Cal Performances

Cal Performances is a presenter of arts at UC Berkeley. Each season, Cal Performances brings about 75 of the best dance, music, and theater performances right to our doorstep, with discounted tickets for students. I like to think of them as the Carnegie Hall of campus!

In addition, Cal Performances offers several opportunities for students to connect these shows to their campus experience. They host several post-performance Student Receptions each season, which allow students to meet with fellow art lovers on campus while enjoying free refreshments. Further, their new Illuminations program connects the arts to major research themes students may be learning about by pairing select performances with faculty panels and events.

Jeremy Geffen, the Executive & Artistic Director of Cal Performances, shared his thoughts on the value Cal Performances offers the UC Berkeley community:

“As a performing arts presenter on the bustling and rigorous UC Berkeley campus, Cal Performances provides unique opportunities for respite, for joy, for community building. In addition to supporting wellbeing on campus, Cal Performances provides UC Berkeley students, staff, and faculty—some of the brightest minds of the present and future—the opportunity to engage in dialogue with the greatest artistic thinkers of our time to collaboratively build a rich, multifaceted understanding of the world around us. Not only do the arts help us to understand the world, but their emotional power allows us a direct pathway for understanding ourselves and empathizing with others.”

Student Musical Activities – For students interested in participating in performing arts themselves, Cal Performances has a department for Student Musical Activities, called SMA. SMA includes The University of California Marching Band, UC Choral Ensembles, and UC Jazz Ensembles. Learn more about SMA.

Work-Study – Students can also get involved in Cal Performances by applying to one of their many job opportunities, including working as cashiers, ushers, and technicians. Positions are available for both work-study and non work-study students.

Kristin Chenoweth Concert

Photo courtesy of Cal Performances. Kristin Chenoweth promo shot for the ‘For the Girls Concert’

One of the most exciting shows put on by Cal Performances this season included Kristin Chenoweth’s “For the Girls” Tour performed at Zellerbach Hall. Our social media interns, junior Jolie Abdelmalk and sophomore Rico Bolos, were able to attend this concert. Jolie shared a bit about her experience at the show:

“As soon as I learned I would have the opportunity to see Kristin Chenoweth in concert, I began to prepare myself to be awestruck, but I didn’t anticipate how truly speechless I would be during and after the show. Her vocal range and agility surpassed my already high expectations, and I found myself turning to my friend and co-worker, Rico, with my jaw dropped in incredulity numerous times throughout the show. Her high notes were as clear as glass, and the emotion she evoked could be felt sweeping throughout Zellerbach Hall. The most memorable moment of her concert had to have been hearing Chenoweth sing “Popular” from Wicked; her voice sounded as if it had jumped straight out of the Original Broadway Cast Recording from 2003. The “For the Girls” concert was amazing, and an experience that I won’t easily forget.”


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Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo

Photo by Brittany Hosea-Small. Trocks dancer Kevin Garcia gets into drag to prepare for the show.

I also had the opportunity to watch a show with Cal Performances at the end of January. I went with fellow social media team member, junior Lena Ho, to see the Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, or the Trocks, at Zellerbach Hall. Like Jolie, I was super excited to see this show because I adore ballet. I absolutely love watching live performances and had been wanting to go to a Cal Performances show since coming to UC Berkeley. But I was even more excited when I learned that the Trocks were an all-male drag ballet company that combined classical ballet with a comedic twist. This was something exciting and new I’d never heard of before, and honestly I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

At the show, I was struck by how welcoming and helpful the Cal Performances staff was. Each person made an effort to create a classy, inviting atmosphere that really elevated the whole experience. It was also great to see such a diverse audience of not only students but the greater Berkeley community coming together in support of the arts.

Photo by Brittany Hosea-Small. Trocks dancers perform the opening of Swan Lake.

The performance itself blew me away. They performed three acts of ballet classics including Swan Lake and Paquita. The athleticism and grace of the dancers was captivating and was skillfully mixed with just the perfect amount of humor. They invited the audience to laugh and cheer, making us feel as though we were a part of the performance. The whole experience was simply phenomenal, and I can’t wait to go back for another show.


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Watch a Show!

There are still plenty of shows to experience with Cal Performances this spring, including ones by the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, and Drum Tao. Students can take advantage of steep discounts like 50% off all performances. If you’re a frequent visitor, consider purchasing a flex pass, which will give you bundled discounts to 4, 6, or 8 performances. Additionally, their Golden Bear Circle program reserves some of the best seats in the house for select performances to students at the price of only $10. These tickets are sold on a first-come first serve basis, so be sure to join their email club for the latest updates.

Through the spectacular performances they bring to campus and the programs they provide, Cal Performances goes above and beyond to engage the Berkeley community in the arts. I look forward to the opportunity to attend their future events.


Rachel Holmes is a second year at UC Berkeley majoring in Media Studies. Cover image by Rachel Holmes.

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