Posted 21 March 2004 - 09:35 AM
First I'd like to defend Ann Murphy. As a writer myself, I find her a colleague I really admire. She has integrity and guts and really loves dance. I always finding her thoughtful and stimulating and deeply concerned with what the dancers are doing, how they're doing it, and why, and whether it's a worthy goal they're aiming at. She tends to bring the kind of mind associated more with modern dance -- rigorous, edgy -- to the theater than a ballet-mind -- and indeed, it's about modern dancers that she's illuminated me the most, the kind who do unpleasant things for good reasons. But I think in this particular case she's seized on an extremely important point about SFB – the singing body -- and talked about it in a lot of detail. It's a company full of dancers with a phenomenal ability to make transitions through positions -- you see the lines, but you also see the sweep and flow of movement.
My temperament is very different from hers. I might not have picked the particular examples she did -- though I myself DO go on about Tina leBlanc. I wouldn't have used the same similes and metaphors to describe their qualities -- and sometimes I don't agree with her. But I find her really stimulating and interesting and likely to be seeing something I missed.
If she’d been writing an essay for an English class, she might have been supposed to work her thesis harder, and stick to dancers who’ve come up through the company – and here have BEEN some, such as Elizabeth Loscavio – and Julie Diana, who started out in the corps and got her first chances as the White Cat and such-like, and for whom Tomasson may be thought to have gotten such odd ballets as “The Invitation” (which Lynn Seymour herself coached Diana in, and in which Diana was sensational – and it was indeed a preparation for her Juliet in Tomasson’s Romeo and Juliet, in which she was simply astounding….. But I only say this to agree with Murphy and bring in other examples to back her up.)
It IS true that fantastic dancers have not been coming out of SFB School like they did 10 years ago. It’s hard to say why – it didn’t look like there was that much talent at the school shows there for a while, no matter what the teachers could do. I think that's turning around, and there are some very fine dancers in the upper classes right now, but there was certainly a dull patch after Jennifer Blake and Chidozie Nzerem graduated. Tomasson's probably been going afield to get dancers because the likes of Elizabeth Loscavio aren't growing on our trees right now.
But I repeat, it DOES look like he's bringing dancers along -- Sarah van Patten got maybe too much of a rush at first, but he cooled it with her, and it looks like that’s paying off BIG-time-- her dancing so far this year has been remarkable. She was astounding, no less, in Le Quattro Stagione. She came in from the Royal Danish Ballet, yes, but she’s young, and wasn’t a star there, and just came in as a soloist here.
Among the dancers I see coming along are Elizabeth Miner, who’s getting some large featured roles (and was spectacular as Cupid in Don Quixote, indeed was spectacular as Cupid in Con Amore several years ago; Tomasson used her in his new 7 for Eight, and she was beautiful in it). But the women are not as hot as the men in the company – lovely as Joanna Mednick has been this year, I don’t see her jumping levels to ballerina – whereas I can see a LOT of the men in big starring roles – James Sofranko, Pablo Piantino, Garrett Anderson, Hansuke Yamomto have already done outstanding work in featured roles, just totally taken the stage and made us love them.
But whether any of them could have danced Melancholic like Nicholas Blanc (new French soloist) did Saturday night – well, I’d love to see it. But the way he took a pique arabesque, fouetted half- around to face that leg, then fell backwards out of it, and from THERE flipped himself over like a garden rake lying on its side, was a miracle of strength and co-ordination we just won't see very often.