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Program 1 & 2 Impressions


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#1 BalletNut

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Posted 30 January 2007 - 09:49 PM

Post your impressions of Programs 1 and 2 in this thread. :(

#2 art076

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Posted 01 February 2007 - 10:09 AM

Casting is up for the first week of performances:
http://www.sfballet....ets/casting.asp

I'll be going the second weekend (2/10 & 11)... the casting looks excellent!

#3 WindFlyer

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 12:17 PM

Going tonight (program 2)... will try to post impressions as soon as I can (though it may take a few days).

#4 BalletNut

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 12:24 PM

As am I...and I will also do my best to post about what I saw.

#5 Helene

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 05:54 PM

Friday, 2 February-Program 1

Lesson #1: Never go to see a ballet set to accordian music when you are jet-lagged.

From what I saw of Aunis, the ballet that followed Divertimento No. 15 in the first half of the program, three men -- Garrett Anderson, Rory Hohenstein, and James Sofranko -- described as "working class" in the program and dressed identically, dance together and in canon to traditional Atlantic Coast music by Maurice Pacher. According to the program notes, "Since the men dance identical movement in canon form, their personal interpretations of their roles is key." Apart from a bit of writhing on the floor in the opening and closing of the ballet, there was little movement to suggest the vast range of strains in the music, from Irish-sounding lilts to what became American folk music to identifiably French country music. For me, the only really compelling piece of the choreography was in the middle, when the three men in succession, melted from a standing position straight down to an almost kneeling one.

I'm hoping this work looks better when I've had a little more sleep.

Divertimento No. 15 opened the program, and, sadly, the orchestral problems noted in today's reviews of Opening Night were not fixed by last night's performance. However, during the double string -- violin and viola -- cadenza, I had just been thinking that it was being performed with more clarity than I remembered hearing in the past, when one of the two went out of tune momentarily. (Kind of like when Dick Button notes that a skater is going strong, which by definition dooms him/her to a fall within seconds.)

I was sitting in the Balcony Circle, and I will never do this again when this ballet is programmed: it is too steep an angle for the dancing to breathe. From my perch, the corps seemed a bit eager to jump out of the gate with full energy -- I've noticed this in PNB performances, too, because these are special roles for the dancers, not the eighth ballet in four days -- and I think the ballet needs a little more champagne sparkle and elegance. (Better overeagerness than watch-glancing, though.) However, after what seemed like a tight set of variations, with the exception of Frances Chung in Hayden's role and Tina LeBlanc in Wilde's -- she danced with a softness that I rarely seen in this role -- the eight corps members were truly the stars in the Minuet, which they danced with expansiveness. Maureen Choi was a standout among them.

The Principals rode the wave, more or less, in the Andante section. Again Frances Chung was a standout; except for one minor miscalculation, it was a masterful performance of legato and line. It was wonderful to see a tall, long-legged dancer, Rachel Viselli, in Diana Adams' role: while shorter or more evenly proportioned dancers have danced it superbly, it's wonderful to see more of Balanchine's original conception. Watching Vanessa Zahorian in Leclerq's role made it clear what a wonderful time Balanchine must have been having with Leclerq's quirky style.

Among the men, Ruben Martin gave the most satisfying performance, one of elegance and ease. Davit Karapetyan, the Principal man, was a bit square, and Hansuke Yamamoto danced his theme variations a bit too much in competition mode, which didn't fit the schema.

By the Finale, the performance had jelled to a rousing ending.

The second half of the program was William Forsythe's Artifact Suite. I had seen the first part, set to Bach and a crashing fire curtain with Pacific Northwest Ballet, but I had never seen the second. Unlike the hooded creature in the PNB version, the Single Female Figure, Elana Altman, in a plain leotard, appeared more active, and in the second part, she has a prominent role. According to the program, in Part I there were men partnering Muriel Maffre and Lorena Feijoo -- Pierre-Francois Vilanoba and Pascal Molat -- and I was vaguely aware of two men in goldish body suits, but the ballet belonged to the women. It was rending to tear my eye's from one to concentrate on the other, each dancing with super-human energy and focus.

There's a certain narrative happening in Part 1, about individualism and absorbtion into the collective, and I suppose Part 2 indicates that this process produces ballet dancers. But what ballet dancers: set to music by Eva Crossman-Hecht, who at her best sounds like Shostakovich and at her worst sounds like a George Winston version of Phillip Glass, they did extended phrases of movement and gesture of remarkable beauty. A love song to ballet from Forsythe, perhaps?

#6 BalletNut

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 11:05 PM

Some notes on Program 2, 3rd February 2007:

Blue Rose opened the evening's performances. Like so many of Helgi Tomasson's ballets, this one was pleasant enough, not boring, and well-danced. That said, it was rather an unexceptional piece of choreography, which seemed to blend together at times. This wasn't the fault of the performers (Tina LeBlanc, Lorena Feijoo, Vanessa Zahorian, Pascal Molat, Pierre-Francois Vilanoba, and Nicolas Blanc), who danced with spirit and energy. The music was well-performed as well by Natalya Feygina and Roy Malan.

David Bintley's The Dance House was the second ballet of the evening. It struck me as one of those ballets that one suspects has a deeper meaning, but I was unable to figure out what it was, other than a tribute to a dancer who died of AIDS. The dancing itself was commendable. Gonzalo Garcia gave a wonderful rendition of the choreography, as did Kristin Long and Gennadi Nedvigin (did I miss something, or is he spelling his name differently nowadays?). I also got my first look at Molly Smolen in this piece, and was not disappointed. She's a compact dancer with muscular, shapely legs who might be quite interesting in the classics. The corps looked very well-rehearsed as well.

The disappointment of the evening for me was the world premiere of Possokhov's Firebird. Call me a snob, but I really do prefer the Fokine version. Tiit Helimets, however, was quite good in this; he's a very powerful dancer, and it was nice to see him in something that involved more than simply partnering a ballerina (which he also does quite well). Yuan Yuan Tan in the title role was rather odd, but it's just as likely that that was the choreography and Sandra Woodall costume involving a bright orange wig and sequined unitard with a silk tail. Rachel Viselli's princess wasn't a weeping captive like Fokine's princess, but much more girlish and playful. Pascal Molat's Kaschei was, weirdly enough, more birdlike than Tan. The corps, again, looked very well-rehearsed, and the orchestra under Martin West sounded wonderful. Perhaps I would have liked this Firebird more if I hadn't seen the Fokine first.

#7 art076

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Posted 04 February 2007 - 12:48 AM

Thanks for your review, BalletNut! Can you describe what Possokhov's Firebird is like, and how it differs from the Fokine version? Is it an entirely new concept, or does it tell essentially the same story?

#8 BalletNut

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Posted 04 February 2007 - 01:14 AM

art076, it tells the same story as the Fokine, but where the Fokine version is almost reminiscent of a 19th century story ballet, this one looks more fusion-y. Case in point: Fokine's Firebird wears a tutu, with her hair in a bun; Possokhov's wears a sequined unitard with a long orange wig. That about sums up the difference right there.

Hope that helps.

#9 Globetrotter

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Posted 04 February 2007 - 04:28 PM

I was able to see SF Ballet last week and saw Program 1, second cast, last Wednesday (I'm in NY and looking forward to this Wednesday when I see Serenade, Dyybuk and Symphony in C).

Divertimento #15 was touch and go. Lorena Fejoo - who I have never though of as a 'Balanchine' dancer - did a fine job. Lots of sparkle and energy. Elena Altman and Sarah Van Patten were both wonderful - Elena taking up space in glorious chunks and Sarah continuing to impress with her musicality and legato. (Ms Van Patten, by the way, can no longer be called a 'big girl.' However she did it, she chiseled a dramatic new instrument from her girlish body. Good things are sure to happen for her soon.)

I found Molly an intelligent and articulate dancer let down by her heavy look. She is so close to being a really good dancer. I hope I see her do what she is surely capable of. On the other hand, Nutnaree was not good. She has legs and feet but not much more. I wonder what others see in her. Poor Mr. Vilanoba had to clean and jerk her for each lift in addition to his yeoman's efforts to keep her upright during their partnering. If I remember my choreography correctly, she did a unique version of the solo – either revised by her on stage or for her by Ms Bourne (who set the ballet). Either way, I don’t think we saw too much Balanchine from her that evening. IMHO, she has unbelievable facility and a great smile, but is a few years away from dancing, the breathless San Francisco critics notwithstanding.

I had a great time during Aunis. Good, toe-tapping music and enthusiastic, athletic, well-crafted dancing. Aunis may not go down as a milestone in dance history, but it will certainly serve as an excellent example of populist dancing for the theater. When we hope for a wider audience for dance, Aunis is one answer we should consider. I thought Mr. Sofranko (despite his failing suspenders) was tremendous: energy, technique and acting. He is another dancer to whom good things are sure to happen.

I missed Artifact Suite last year and I am sorry I did. After so many nights at the ballet of 'neo-classical' or modern or whatever ballets, I was rocked out of my seat. William Forsythe continues to make ballets that challenge contemporary choreographers. With the choreography of Forsythe, do I need to see another Blue Rose or 7 for 8?

I’m reminded of the words of Charles Ives about music at the turn of the century. He worried about the French “Sound Bath” that lulled us into musical compliance. In response, he made music that required one to ‘stand up like a man’ (his words). We should support choreographers like Forsythe who make us stand up and pay attention. Art , and Dance, is not supposed to be comfortable.

#10 Globetrotter

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Posted 04 February 2007 - 04:41 PM


Some notes on Program 2, 3rd February 2007:

The disappointment of the evening for me was the world premiere of Possokhov's Firebird. Call me a snob, but I really do prefer the Fokine version. Tiit Helimets, however, was quite good in this; he's a very powerful dancer, and it was nice to see him in something that involved more than simply partnering a ballerina (which he also does quite well). Yuan Yuan Tan in the title role was rather odd, but it's just as likely that that was the choreography and Sandra Woodall costume involving a bright orange wig and sequined unitard with a silk tail. Rachel Viselli's princess wasn't a weeping captive like Fokine's princess, but much more girlish and playful. Pascal Molat's Kaschei was, weirdly enough, more birdlike than Tan. The corps, again, looked very well-rehearsed, and the orchestra under Martin West sounded wonderful. Perhaps I would have liked this Firebird more if I hadn't seen the Fokine first.


I wandered into a Firebird rehearsal last week (invited by a subscriber) and saw Lily Rogers as Firebird and Sarah Van Patten as Princess. You might have an entirely different perspective of the ballet if you were to see these two. Lily has streaks of unbelievable brillance (but needs to piece them together). Sarah continues to provide deep, emotional dancing. Lilly and Sarah provide the dramatic outer edges of a pallet within which the rest of the Firebird is danced.

#11 sf_herminator

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Posted 06 February 2007 - 11:31 PM

I saw Program 1 last Wednesday, but am only posting my thoughts just now.

Divertiment No. 15 - I love the music, but what more can be said of Ballanchine? It was what you expect from him. I liked it, but not one of my all time favorites.

Aunis - It was interesting to see this cast (Garrett Anderson, Rory Hohenstein, James Sofranko) and compare to the Gala cast (Nicolas Blanc, Pascal Molat, Pierre Francois Villanova). I enjoyed the energy they had onstage. I'm glad Garrett and Rory have been promoted and hope that the same will come true for James.

Artifact Suite - I can watch this piece over and over again. Sitting in the audience (for the first 2 pieces, I was standing in the back. Someone was kind enough to offer an extra ticket because a companion left early) I was struck again by the reaction to the 'fire curtain'. I just assumed that everyone had read or heard about it already, but it was kind of funny that there was still some commotion about it. The corps was fabulous, especially in the second half. I read one review which stated the corps danced as if their lives depended on it and I agree. I feel there is such an urgency watching this piece. I hope to see it one more time during this run. It will also be interesting to see when it will be brought back again.

#12 sf_herminator

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Posted 06 February 2007 - 11:33 PM

I just saw Program 2 tonight and wanted to post my thoughts:

Blue Rose - When I first saw it last year, I thought it was pleasant but nothing more. Seeing it tonight, it was better than I remembered but still nothing more than a pleasant little piece.

The Dance House - Gonzalo Garcia as the central figure was great. I also liked Katita Waldo and Pierre Francois Villanova in the second pas de deux. However, I think I need to view it again to really form an opinion.

Firebird - It was worth the wait. Yuri has another hit on his hands. I loved Pascal Molat as Kaschei and Yuan Yuan Tan as the Firebird. Tiit Helimets as the Prince partnered both Tan and Rachel Viselli (the Princess) well. What impressed me most was the male corps as the Monsters with Kaschei. There was one great sequence when the Firebird was encircled by the monsters. As the Firebird was leaping about in the circle, the monsters did a wave around her. This is the best description I can give, but you really need to see it. I also liked the 'slow motion' running sequence when Kaschei was chasing the Prince.

I plan to see the other casts this week: Elana Altman will be the Firebird on Friday. Lily Rogers dances the Firebird on Wednesday and Sunday.

#13 BalletNut

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Posted 10 February 2007 - 11:17 PM

10 February 2007, Program 1

A few notes about this performance:

Divertimento #15: This was technically well-danced, but something was missing. It seemed that the dancers were performing this out of duty more than out of enjoyment. I wish they'd had the enthusiasm for Balanchine that I do, but instead they tended to treat this, as they do many "classical" ballets, like brussels sprouts: it's good for you, but they'd rather eat/dance something else. On the topic of food, Sandra Woodall's redesign of the costumes produced tutus that resembled wedding cakes.

Aunis: It's a cute ballet that had the audience in giggles a few times. The accordion music sounded fine at the beginning, but got old after a while. The steps reminded me of the "klezmer" section of Magrittomania (Possokhov), which of course was choreographed later. Overall an energetic and spirited performance, but the choreography became a bit repetitive after a while, as did the score.

Artifact Suite: Half of this ballet I liked, half I disliked. I was not terribly impressed with the Bach section, where the fire curtain slams into the stage at odd intervals. I felt that part was gimmicky, and the puke-yellow costumes in the first half did not help matters. Nevertheless, there was a fine performance from Muriel Maffre bending her limbs every which way. The second half was helped by different costumes, and energy from the corps that I wish I'd seen in Divertimento. I was especially fond of the finale. Pauli Magierek was a standout in the ensemble.


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