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San Francisco Ballet: City CenterFall 2008


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#16 abatt

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 01:04 PM

in the case of "Concerto Gross," the dancers were wonderful but the
choreography was not.



I thought the dancers in Concerto Grosso were fantastic, but the "choreography" looked like classroom steps for an advanced men's class at a ballet academy.

#17 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 01:45 PM

The choreography is pedestrian, but I think given its context, it does what it may have been planned to do.

Stealing from an article I wrote for Ballet Review regarding the company's last NYC appearance at Lincoln Center in '06:

There is something decorously salacious about Tomassonís Concerto Grosso, like artfully draped and partially exposed Victorian nudes that were acceptable to put in the house because they were Art. Tomasson knows his market, and right now whatever the orientation of the audience, pretty boys in unitards sell tickets. But Tomassonís dialogue with his audience isnít only with its libido. At the time of Concerto Grossoís premiere in 2003, Pascal Molat, a powerful technician with a muscular body, was new to the company. The ballet introduced him to the audience. Molat was promoted a few months later; of the other four men, Hansuke Yamamoto was promoted to soloist in 2005 and the remaining three (Garrett Anderson, Jaime Garcia Castilla and Rory Hohenstein) were all promoted to soloist this year. In 2003, Tomasson showed San Francisco a preview of what was to come and in 2006 showed New York his anointed group.



#18 Globetrotter

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 03:03 PM

I thought the dancers in Concerto Grosso were fantastic, but the "choreography" looked like classroom steps for an advanced men's class at a ballet academy.


Exactly. I told my friend that Concerto Grosso looked like the last 10 minutes of Willie Berman's class at Steps.

#19 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 08:32 AM

I thought the dancers in Concerto Grosso were fantastic, but the "choreography" looked like classroom steps for an advanced men's class at a ballet academy.


Exactly. I told my friend that Concerto Grosso looked like the last 10 minutes of Willie Berman's class at Steps.


I actually think that that's a good thing from an audience-building perspective. I deleted what I'd written about The Fifth Season because it was just plain rude (shorter version: "does Tomasson have a tin ear or what") but actually thought Concerto Grosso might serve a useful purpose as a nice little glossary of virtuoso male ballet technique that never goes over-the-top in terms of pointless pyrotechnic display, but simply shows how good men can look doing actual ballet steps. (I must confess here that my heart leapt up when I saw that Tomasson had put a gargouillade, of all things, into The Fifth Season.) Every now and and then I want someone to pass Wheeldon a note that says "Putting men in the air isn't necessarily vulgar pandering to the audience. You might try it a time or two." (Which he of course did in Commedia. But it would have been criminal not to unleash Ribinald Pronk's jump if one had the opportunity to do so.) It's a rant for another day, but I'm growing increasingly frustrated with choreographers who rely on ballet's more extreme effects to make shapes in space but who seem unwilling or unable to use its steps to move dancers through space.

#20 Natalia

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 01:48 PM

[.... Concerto Grosso ....the "choreography" looked like classroom steps for an advanced men's class at a ballet academy.


Is that so bad? Hey, I wouldn't mind watching a class on the stage if Isaac Hernandez and Diego Cruz (or Yuan Yuan Tan and Sofiane Sylve) are at the barre! Bring on the Etudes, Canto Vital, Tarantella, a Varna Competition, etc. I vote for the pure joy of virtuosic dancing any day - the sort of dancing that makes my heart sing. :blushing: Anything but the Mark Morris sort of stuff that puts me to sleep, sorry to say, although I'm sure that he has his fans and I respect them.

#21 Quiggin

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 09:49 PM

Anything but the Mark Morris sort of stuff


Actually I was once lucky enough to be able to watch a Mark Morris piece in rehearsal at SF Ballet and it was better than the real thing in performance. There were two casts at the same time, with the big black piano in the middle, and the second cast behind was going through the parts in dreamy asides or footnotes to what was happening in front. And there were mirrors all around to further complicate things into which the dancers were losing their gazes.

But dancer over the dance comes to the same thing as in acting where people say a performer is so great she or he can read the telephone book and make it sound like Shakespeare. Lots of choreography of our period, especially in San Francisco, is the telephone book--or in the case of Christopher Wheeldon perhaps C++ or Java underscript. Wheeldon is brilliant and loquacious and magpie-ish (:Macaulay), but there are precious few glimpses into the inner lives of his characters. The overwrought Hedda Gabbler of Val Caniparoli unhappily tries to make up for this lack.

All art is about transmitting something, Manet passes on Velasquez, Juan Gris brilliantly regives us Cezanne, and Balanchine refigures and refreshes Petipa. (The Mariinsky's recent performance at Zellerbach made La Bayadere look like a soucebook for Symphony in C: beats and whisking of feet in air as a group, 180 degree turns of the corps at the sides--enigmatic reversals of judgment or kinds of petulance or various airs of indifference, etc.)

My preference is for dancing that is less brilliant and less technically proficient than the celebrated dancing of the SF men (except Joao Boada whose sense of parcelling out and repackaging time is beyond reproach) and is instead transmitting something story-like (but not a really a story) that in turn has been transmitted dancer to dancer to dancer. Eglevsky (was it Eglevsky?) to D'Amboise to Gonzalo Garcia and Vadim Solomahka in the case of SF Ballet's recent Apollo.

Yes, a brittle and rambly rant, of course, I know.

#22 Natalia

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Posted 17 October 2008 - 09:24 AM

Bingo! I almost forgot about Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes by Morris, which I like a lot. Also, Gong is not bad. Morris appears to be 'nicer boy' when choreographing for ABT.

#23 abatt

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Posted 17 October 2008 - 10:09 AM

I made a return visit to City Center yesterday to see Program B for the second time. What lured me back was the Four Ts. Taras Domitro once again was absolutely incredible in the Melancholic section. The flexibility in his back is remarkable. I thought he was breathtaking in every detail. Unfortunately, I didn't particularly care for Lorena Fejoo's interpretation of Sanguanic. I thought Sarah Van Patten was much better in the role. It was good to see Sofiane Sylve one more time in Choleric, although I think she might have been better used in the Sanguine section.

#24 sz

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Posted 17 October 2008 - 11:10 AM

Bingo! I almost forgot about Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes by Morris, which I like a lot. Also, Gong is not bad. Morris appears to be 'nicer boy' when choreographing for ABT.


Morris choreographed a brilliantly fun piece, Sandpaper, for SFB a few years ago. Such an inventive and wonderful piece using a large corps. I was hoping we'd see it again this City Center season, but alas.... no.

I agree with last night's comments so far. Taras was once again beyond belief in two of the ballets presented; one was Helgi's (all males w/ many classroom-like steps), the other was (Melancholic) 4Ts. I was completely sure I had seen an angel fallen from heaven! But an angel with fire in his soul and body. This young man is a tremendous talent.

I too missed seeing Van Patten in 4Ts. Both she and Sylve are extraordinary in any ballet, especially Balanchine's. I consider myself very lucky to have seen them again last night, in any part, in any roles.

Btw, the gorgeous, dark girl in the corps, I mentioned earlier, had the night off....

#25 bart

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Posted 17 October 2008 - 06:32 PM

Has anyone seen the third program (reviewed here by Macauley in the NYTimes)?
http://www.nytimes.c...a.html?ref=arts

I'm especially interested in hearing what people thought about the very odd-sounding Caniparoli ballet based on Ibsen heroines. Macauley makes the choreographer's choice of material seem both ambitious and odd.

The treatment of the plays (“Hedda Gabler,” “A Doll’s House,” “Ghosts,” “Lady From the Sea,” “Rosmersholm”) is both reductive (each heroine sums herself up with a single expressionistic gestural motif; but why does Nora of “A Doll’s House” keep smoothing her skirts?) and inflated (each relationship is whipped up into a frenzy of partnering). You would not know from this ballet which couples end up happily and which go to their deaths together; you do know, however, that all these women go through torments, and that all these men make matters worse.

Edited to add: Helene has posted a link to Leigh Wichel's review of this program in Danceviewtimes:
http://ballettalk.in...p...c=28160&hl=

#26 DeborahB

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 02:42 PM

I saw program #3 this afternoon. I just reread Alistair Macaulay's review of this program, and with the exception of Jorma Elo's "Double Evil" which
I liked better than he did (but didn't love), and "Ibsen's House" which I disliked more than he did, I share his assessment of this program.
This is the weakest of the three programs by far, and yet the dancers continued to shine.

#27 Natalia

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Posted 19 October 2008 - 05:18 AM

Greetings. I was in NYC over the weekend and had the opportunity to catch SFB's two final programs (Programs A & C) at City Center. I have quick impressions.

Wheeldon's Within the Golden Hour is THE A-#1 hit of the run, for me and my favorite Wheeldon to date...and not just because it is set to music OTHER THAN Aarvo Part's! So lyrical and romantic, a woodland reverie for nymphs and satyrs, none as delectable as the final pdd by Tina LeBlanc (with bourees to die for) and Joan Boada. There were multiple delights in this incredible ballet, which will surely be the hit of the upcoming Kennedy Center run.

The other rather good work on view among Programs A & C -- beside the Balanchine, of course -- was Elo's Double Evil, with its tutu'ed ballerinas in outlandish positions and some very quickly-paced steps for both men and women, especially to the Phillip Glass portions...but still very pleasant.

I found Tomasson's On a Theme of Paganini to be merely a pleasant trifle, compared to the masterful Fifth Season from Program B, last week...but -- ah! -- it was my only opportunity on Saturday to admire the artistry of corps member Diego Cruz, who did not fail..and I was on Cruz Control! Ibsen's House was Tudor-Wanna-Be that went on far too long although the tall dark-haired lady dressed in all-balck (with the partner who seemed to be miming a heart attack) was a powerful performer; sorry, I do not recognize her. Fusion was a boring mess to gawd-awful music that had me longing for the door, except that I wanted to admire dancers like Feijoo, Yamamoto and, especially, the willowy and lyrical Yuan-Yuan Tan.

Among the dancers not seen during the previous weekend, the great relevation for me was pert and adorable principal Maria Kochetkova...but perhaps a tad too pert for Balanchine's Divertimento 15. Why does she constantly make googly-eyed faces? She should learn from the Kirov-Mariinsky's Evgenia Obraztsova on how to handle a beautiful face...allow the face to speak for itself.

All in all, a lovely and successful run by the San Francisco Ballet, introducing me to a plethora of talented world-class dancers.

Here's my final 'star rating' of all eight of their new ballets on view:

****** Within the Golden Hour
***** Concerto Grosso (due to the dancers, not choreography...it was AN EVENT!)
**** Fifth Season
*** Double Evil
** Paganini
* Ibsen's House
* Fusion
half-a-star Joyride

p.s. BONUS: It was fun spotting a number of famous NYC-based dancers and coaches in the audience...including Wendy Whelan sitting quietly behind me in Grand Tier, on Saturday night. One of Wheeldon's great muses, seeing a new Wheeldon ballet!

#28 Natalia

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Posted 20 October 2008 - 04:08 AM

Inadvertent double-posting on my updated report, above. Sorry.


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