1)I do shoot RAW, never said I didn't. Card 2, for backup, is JPEG.
2) So now I need to get all that red out in PP. I'll never make that mistake again.
3) Re; "expose to the scene" manually. How would you do that? I thought I was doing that with spot metering & manual ISO)
4) Re AF: I have been using ONLY the 35 mm f/1.8 in the theater. Even that seemed to hunt for focus in low light. (Unless, as noted below, I was confusing the freeze with buffer dump.) The reference to the 55-200 (set to 85) was for using it ONLY to check out the frame size that the 85 would give me, to decide whether to get that prime out a zoom. Stan appears to believe that the 85 would be OK.
5) About using flash for AF: I do have an SB 600. i think the problem won't be with the art director (it's a she) But the dancers don't like flash. They say it distracts them. Isn't the manual focus dot in the viewfinder accurate on the D7000? If it is not, this might account for an apparent lack of sharpness. (Unless that is apparent glare from oversaturation.) If it is, if find that the dancers operate mostly in the same foreground plane, and this is very little refocussing. A few weeks ago, at the prior performances, even the 35 mm f/1.8 was freezing, so i assumed it was a "no focus" lock. i have not had that since I started focusing manually. I was able to isolate that freeze that from freeze due to buffer dumping. (I also keep my bursts very short now, also I use a SanDisk 95 MB/s card.)
5a) Is there such a thing a oversaturation glare (halo?)
5b)However, I do not understand "so its much better patterned near IR AF assist light is engaged".
6) About noise (where all this started): unlike a few months ago, this time I tried to push the ISO down to just above the LO signal, ass the scene lighting varied (as I said), so there is much less underexposure. in fact, as I said, this time it looks like there is mostly overexposure. But i may be confusing that with saturation (as I said. As to noise from cropping, i suppose there will be a difference between the underexposed shots and the overexposed shots. That is to be seen.
7) Depth of field: looking at the recent proofs, I could see that the line of dancers at the back of the stage was out of focus (desirable), while the featured group was (relatively) in focus --although, as i say, the apparent lack of sharpness bothers me. Could that be an oversaturation halo?
8) Amateurs v. pros: I see exactly what Stan means. yes, most of the locals are obviously working hard, although the best of those around 18, who have been at it since age five or so, like my niece, are quite smooth. One remarkable element is the art director's sister. She is over sixty, and her body and performance look better than the 18-year olds. And relatively effortless. I don't know if she ever was a pro. (I'll ask.) But her face looks her age! it is strange. Her body looks 17. On the other hand, she often dances with the art director's husband. I think he is 60 around looks it. Wobbly. But still trying. In contrast to him (on physical condition: One of the boys (around 18-20, was warming up with (to me perfect front/back and side/side splits on the floor. & Kicks. I said: if that leg were any looser, it would fly off!)
9) Re Rockwell: I fully agree with what you said. I had learned some time ago to take what he says with several grains of salt about picture taking, as he frequently takes really inconsistent positions, some of which tries to explain away with (true) clarifications, and others, he just changed his mind. Especially a lot of his points are BAD for sports. BUT the saturation issue trapped me, exacerbated by the new D7000 WB option. As you say, I should (have) quit reading Rockwell on picture taking.
10) I do this for free. I think I can buy the 85G w/o much marital discord. (Balances the iPad I just gave my wife.) More might be an issue. I see a lot about that from the amateurs on DP review forums.
11) I really do appreciate all the time that you both are putting in to educate me! I think we have just about talked this out (if you have time to respond to the above.)