Posted 29 July 2006 - 09:47 AM
I left the opening night gala with very mixed feelings about what Iíd seen and after 2 nights of Sylvia (the first 2) I still have mixed feelings.
Imagine my surprise when I read Rockwellís review in the NY Times and found myself agreeing with him about the opening & closing pieces. I love Vertiginous Thrill and I enjoyed the SFB dancers in it but having seen the Kirov perform it a month ago I have to say that this performance just wasnít on the same level. While I can believe that the SFBís off center and exaggeratedly flung movement was more in line with the choreographers intent than the Kirovís more classical approach the technical skill, speed & elan that the Kirov brought to it just wasnít apparent here. True, the Kirov dancers are among the best in the world and some may find the comparison unfair but when your advance publicity heralds you as the best ballet company in North America I think it not only invites comparison to the best in the world, it demands it.
I also love Robbinsí Glass Pieces and was really looking forward to seeing the 3rd movement - but I found it flat and was stunned at how a piece that I recall primarily for itís relentless pulsating energy could feel so low energy...
Interesting that Yuan Yaun Tan provided me with both highlights and lowlights of the evening - I really disliked her in the Swan Lake pas de deux. I donít know if what we saw was her interpretation or Tomassonís but one of them needs to write both ďOdette is not a birdĒ and ďSwan Lake is Petipa/Ivanov, not Balanchine/EifmanĒ at least 1000 times. The jutting elbows, angular arms and bird head shakes just didnít cut it for me.
Then, after deciding that she was not a dancer I was going to like very much she totally won me over in Fifth Season, I thought her line and phrasing were gorgeous here, and this was my favorite of the new choreography I saw at the gala, I found the rest fairly forgettable.
Nutnaree Pipit-Suksun was very impressive, I would love to see more of her. I also really enjoyed Tina LeBlanc in the Harlequinade pdd.
On opening night Pascal Molat was my favorite of the men who, again, I thought were a mixed bag. Helimets, Smith, Martin all looked like very elegant ďdancers nobleĒ and wonderful partners but I donít recall being impressed with their technical abilities. The virtuoso dancers like Boada and Garcia were impressive, but I found them a little sloppy and lacking in refinement. I know itís unfair to form such strong opinions on the basis of so little exposure (and my opinions of Garcia & Molat kind of reversed after seeing each of them in Sylvia), but thatís the only perspective the gala program offered.
Sylvia - Wednesday Tan/Garcia/Possokhov/Castilla & Thursday Miner/Molat/Vilanoba/Sofranko
Well, first things first. San Francisco Ballet does style itself as a ballet company, and as a ballet this just didnít cut it for me. The beautiful score is intact but IMO the costumes, scenery and most especially the choreography compares very unfavorably to the Ashton version. I see there have been lots of people, both in the audience and on this board who disagree with me but to my eye for most of evening it just looked like Morris took modern dance choreography and stuck point shoes on the women. And the women were far the worse for it. Much of what he created for the men looked ok but for most of the evening the women looked awkward and ugainly. I donít care if the steps are hard to master (they looked hard), I found it ugly. I had no problem with the gender bending, the overt sexual references or the near nudity but those dryads in the beginning just looked like pelicans on pointe, and anyone who objected to Wheeldonís ballerinas bending over in Evenfall should see the way Morris has these dancers sticking their butts out here.
That said, though I didnít really like this Sylvia I didnít hate it either and taken as a dance drama (or comedy) rather than a ballet the piece had itís pleasures. I liked the use of the swing in the first and second acts and thought the 3rd act pdd was very inventive in itís use of the veil to restate Sylviaís character transformations and her relation to Aminta. I liked itís subsequent change into a scarf and the reference to La Bayadere. I liked the ending to their pdd with the exuberant swings and high five symbolism and I loved (yes, loved) Amintaís 3rd act solo. This was a beautiful, musical, inventive variation - too bad the rest of the choreography wasnít at this level.
Having a generally negative reaction and then liking aspects of the 3rd act so much is what made me decide to see it a second time. While Tan is a far more technically accomplished dancer than Miner I didnít like her interpretation as much. She seemed very tomboyish and almost peevish ( I seem to recall a lot of head shaking & foot stomping) as opposed to Minerís more expansive, Amazonian take on the role. Yet Minerís line & technical skills didnít impress. Like drb, seeing Miner made me wonder what Mearns would look like in the role. Maybe itís just the blond beauty connection but somehow longing for Mearnís gorgeous line and musicality while watching Miner isnít exactly a ringing endorsement of her interpretation.
I hadnít been overly impressed with Garcia at the Gala but I liked him very much as Aminta (I had seen Rasta Thomas in the Brubeck solo recently so perhaps Garcia was the victim of another unfavorable comparison at the gala). His dancing in Sylvia was very elegant and his solos both virtuosic and refined. Molat, who I loved at the gala struck me as being a little more rustic in his characterization and also a bit less elegant in his dancing, though also enjoyable.
The houses have been very full, though not completely sold out. The curious thing is that the audience seems very different from the typical NYCB or ABT crowd. Morris devotees, perhaps?