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Who's seen programs 6 & 7?


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#1 Globetrotter

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Posted 09 April 2005 - 01:23 PM

I'm travelling again and will land in San Francisco next weekend. I see the new programs 6 & 7 have opened but don't see any reviews here. What's the buzz from the locals on these programs? I'm especially interested in Dybbuk. Being a Bernstein fan, I've never heard the music but know a little of the rocky relationship between Bernstein & Robbins as it was being created. Is this the original Helgi danced or one of the later dance suites Robbins created? Thanks for your views.

#2 BalletNut

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Posted 09 April 2005 - 08:34 PM

I'll be going next week. Will comment when I see it. :)

I believe they are putting on the full original Dybbuk, not one of the subsequent adaptations of it.

Has anyone been yet? Comments?

#3 BalletNut

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Posted 17 April 2005 - 12:08 AM

Well, I went to see Program 6 on 4/16/05, and here are some thoughts on each of the ballets.

Symphonic Variations (Ashton)

Tina LeBlanc, Kristin Long, Vanessa Zahorian, Damian Smith, Nicolas Blanc, Jaime Garcia Castilla

The genius of Symphonic Variations (and Ashton in general) is the subtlety of it, the way that you don't know how brilliant it is until it's over, and you realize how much you enjoyed it. I wasn't on the edge of my seat, but it's not that kind of ballet anyway. LeBlanc is quite a good Ashton dancer, and gave the kind of performance that, like the ballet itself, isn't immediately breathtaking but rather nuanced and delicate. Blanc was the only dancer that generated applause before the curtain, following a very powerful yet restrained variation. The rest of the cast was up to the technical demands of the ballet, so far as I could tell, and their expressions were more of a cool repose than out-there-ness, but, again, it isn't an out-there ballet. The choreography, and the Franck score, transitioned seamlessly from tender and lyrical to cheerful and lively, punctuated by some transient sculpturesque moments, and ending with something much quieter than a bang, but still well-defined. Of the three ballets I saw, this was my favorite. Audience response was restrained, which could mean one of two things: it's just not the kind of ballet to make you whoop and holler as an expression of appreciation; or else people thought it was boring and were giving only polite applause at the end. Half-empty or half-full? Depends who you ask.

Dybbuk (Robbins)

Pascal Molat, Sarah Van Patten

I might understand why there was such a muted reaction to the Ashton, but I'll never understand the enthusiastic huzzahs that greeted the end of Dybbuk (unless the audience was just glad that it was finally over). :yahoo: I read the program notes beforehand, I read the reviews, I read the previews and the history, and I still had only the foggiest idea what was going on in the ballet. The problem in my case wasn't, therefore, a lack of background knowledge on the subject matter, but an inability to connect the choreography with that knowledge, other than recognizing the tefillin-like elements on the men's costumes. That is, I couldn't tell from watching the ballet what exactly was supposed to be happening, how much of the ballet was indeed a distillation of the original play, and how much was Robbins making abstract dances, and how to tell the two apart if there was in fact such a distinction to be made. I found myself squinting at the cast sheet to see which movement I was watching at the moment, first as a way of trying to keep up with the action, and then as a way of figuring out how much longer it was supposed to go on. For what it's worth, the program notes by Nancy Goldner mention that while Helgi Tomasson (who danced the premiere) felt this was Robbins' best ballet, Robbins differed in his opinion (as reflected by the numerous cuts and revisions he made to this ballet in later years). Having seen it, I'm inclined to agree with Robbins rather than Tomasson, and the only explanation I can think of myself for why SFB would spend time staging and performing Dybbuk (all program notes extolling the importance of preserving "lost choreography" notwithstanding) would be in celebration of Tomasson's association with the ballet, this being his 20th anniversary as the director of the SF Ballet.

Be that as it may, the dancers mostly did their best with what they were given, particularly the male corps which was excellent as usual. Pascal Molat was expressive as the unnamed male lead (based on a dramatic character named Chanon from Ansky's play), which is more than I can say for Sarah van Patten as the bride (Leah in the play). She had pretty much the same expression on her face the whole time. Why she was cast in a role created for the expressive Patricia McBride is beyond me. I did like the hora/circle dance that opened and closed the ballet, however. At the same time, while the audience went crazy yelling "Bravo," all I could manage was, "Mneh..." :blink:

Lambarena (Caniparoli)

Tina LeBlanc, Kristin Long, Courtney Elizabeth, Megan Low, Dalene Bramer, Nicolas Blanc, Stephen Legate, Chidozie Nzerem

This ballet was obviously choreographed with the express purpose of being a crowd-pleaser, and I don't mean that as an insult. It would have pleased me a lot more, however, if the score included only African music and no Bach, because it struck me as odd to see dancers doing African-style dancing to purely classical music. Which leads me to wonder whether it's any less odd to do more or less "classical" (ballet) steps to African music. But I digress. The point is, Lambarena is probably as good a "fusion" ballet as one can reasonably expect. It would be better without the slow part toward the end where they turn on the leafy lace-pattern dim lights (they've been doing a lot of ballets with that particular lighting effect, and I'd rather they wouldn't), but I still liked it. It didn't disagree with me the way Dybbuk did, probably because it was a lot less pretentious. It isn't pretentious at all, in fact; it's just some dancers in some really gorgeous costumes (designed by Sandra Woodall) doing some interesting moves to some interesting music. The dancers all seemed to be enjoying themselves quite a bit, and LeBlanc, in the role created for Evelyn Cisneros, was at her energetic and exuberant best, while Nzerem was his powerful, athletic, muscular best, doing leaping turns that had his back parallel to the stage in midair. I must sound like a broken record, but every time I see him, I have to ask, why is he still listed as a corps dancer? (And why are Certain Other People soloists and principals, but that's neither here nor there). Blanc and Legate were also excellent, although I was puzzled by the fact that both were wearing their hair in ponytails, as I don't recall either of them as having particularly long hair. The other women were good, but would have sort of blended together if it weren't for the fact that their costumes were different colors. Did I mention how much I adore the costumes in this ballet? Gorgeous! :wub: I especially liked the finale, nice, happy, energetic, and fun. The crowd went nuts for this ballet, of course, as always. Like I said, it was designed to be a crowd pleaser, and the crowd was pleased.

If anyone else saw either of these programs, feel free to give us your reports. I'd be especially interested to hear what other people thought of Dybbuk. :beg:

#4 Helene

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Posted 17 April 2005 - 12:31 AM

Many thanks, BalletNut for your review! I saw Lamberena in Seattle this afternoon, and I really wanted to steal those dresses. They are gorgeous. And I agree with you about the Bach; I wished it had been dropped. One thing I did find distracting during the ballet was thinking intermittently that Ice Dancers' Denkova and Staviyski's "Bach to Africa" program would have been a lot more successful had they used other cuts of the music.

I wonder if the ponytails on the men were hair extensions; Wevers and Herd had them, too.

I tried to find reasonable flights to get to San Francisco for one of the two weekends of Programs 6&7, and although I would have loved to see the Ashton, I have to admit I'm glad that the flights were over-priced, because from everything I've read about Dybbuk, it sounded like seeing it would be more of duty or obligation and pretty much devoid of pleasure.

#5 Globetrotter

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Posted 17 April 2005 - 08:10 AM

I did get to see programs 6 & 7 and enjoyed both very much. I guess I was one of the people cheering Dybbuk and not because it was over. My sense of it was that it wasn't meant to be understood as a story ballet. It was as abstract as a Jasper Johns painting and I don't remember the last time I tried to figure out what one of those 'meant.' I enjoyed it as pure perception and experience.

I was truly amazed at the entire program #6. A ballet company that has Symphonic Variations, Dybbuk and Lambarena on the same program and all done well is remarkable. I saw Saturday evening's performance and was amazed to see Nicholas Blanc and Tina LeBlanc at their clean, classical best in Symphonic and then an hour later watch them tear it up in Lambarena.

I'd seen the pieces of program 7 separately over the years, so enjoyed the chance to see them together. The more I see Prism the more I like. I think this ballet will stand the test of time. Odd to say, but it has a Concerto Barocco feel about it - the three movements with the intimate second movement adagio and the powerful third.

All in all, another great two evenings at the ballet!

#6 BalletNut

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Posted 17 April 2005 - 04:56 PM

Thank you for the perspective on the programs, Globetrotter. I'm glad you enjoyed it. smile.gif

Oh, and you're welcome, Helene. I'd steal the blue dress in a heartbeat, myself. Matches my eyes. tongue.gif



#7 Helene

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Posted 24 April 2005 - 07:32 PM

Blanc and Legate were also excellent, although I was puzzled by the fact that both were wearing their hair in ponytails, as I don't recall either of them as having particularly long hair.

There was a question about the ponytails during the post-performance Q&A after today's PNB performance of Lambarena. Principal Jonathan Porretta joked about "fake hair," and Ballet Master Otto Neubert said that the ponytails were meant to represent Bach, and that only a subset of the men wore them, including the soloists in the parts where Bach's music was introduced into the score.

#8 dirac

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Posted 26 April 2005 - 05:22 PM

Can't post at length right now, but I did get to see Program 6. I took a different approach from BalletNut -- I deliberately avoided learning more than I already knew about the Dybbuk legend in order to assess the storytelling. (Globetrotter, I do see your point about abstraction and it's a good one, but my feeling was that Robbins was presenting us with a story and characters, however reduced.) The score was a characteristically blustery Bernstein offering and it seemed to overwhelm the dance, but as noted by others the audience loved it. I expect it will be back and of course I'll see it again. I tried not to be influenced by the knowledge that Robbins never stopped tinkering with it, but I fear it didn't show me much.

#9 balletdad

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Posted 27 April 2005 - 10:19 AM

Dybbuk will return next season as part of Program 4 (March 7-12) as part of an all Robbins program that will also include Glass Pieces and Afternoon of a Faun (a company premier.

I really enjoyed Dybbuk. I am not as educated a consumer as many others who post here but I could follow the basic theme of the "story" with no problem. My 12 year old daughter, who liked it very much as well, also had no problem with the story aspect. I looked at it as an abstract ballet based on a story and just enjoyed the dancing and the wonderful costumes. I look forward to seeing it again next season.

#10 dirac

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Posted 27 April 2005 - 04:45 PM

Thank you for posting, balletdad. I think you underrate yourself in the educated consumerism department, and it's nice to hear all views. :)

#11 Helene

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Posted 06 May 2005 - 09:21 PM

The Seattle Symphony kicked off its MADE IN AMERICA Festival tonight, and one of the pieces was "Suite No. 2" from Dybbuk. The music was so beautiful, that I regretted not having gone to San Francisco for Program 6, especially since it was the last chance to hear Mogrelia conduct it for the Company. (The Seattle Symphony played magnificently for conductor Christian Knapp.)

#12 balletdad

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Posted 08 May 2005 - 11:16 AM

I regretted not having gone to San Francisco for Program 6,


Well mark your calendar hockeyfan228. SF Ballet will reprise Dybbuk next season as part of their program 4, March 7 through March 12, 2006. It shares the all Robbins program with Glass Pieces and the SFB premiere of Afternoon of a Faun.

#13 Helene

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Posted 08 May 2005 - 07:25 PM

Well mark your calendar hockeyfan228.  SF Ballet will reprise Dybbuk next season as part of their program 4, March 7 through March 12, 2006.  It shares the all Robbins program with Glass Pieces and the SFB premiere of Afternoon of a Faun.

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Many thanks, balletdad! I'm looking forward to seeing all three pieces.


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