San Francisco Ballet: City CenterFall 2008
Posted 10 October 2008 - 08:41 PM
San Francisco Ballet's City Center season began with an ideal curtain-raiser, Mr. B's Divertimento No. 15. Theme was Taras Domitro and Ruben Martin, with Variations, in order, danced by Elizabeth Miner, Frances Chung, Rachel Viselli, Vanessa Zahorian, Gennadi Nedvigin and Tina LeBlanc. As would be expected, having seen this company a couple of summers ago at Lincoln Center, these dancers and the corps were ready and able. There were some high points, and none higher than Ms. Viselli's radiant third variation. It is one where the dancer smiles, and she did, but in a way that should be studied by many a NYCB ballerina. For her smile changed, always the right choice, varying in a completely natural way, as much within the music as Mr. B's steps, which in themselves were beautifully phrased and amplified by the ballerina. Very much artistry (facial and emotional expression) appropriate to Mr. B, from the steps, but understanding that steps are not just for the feet. Gennadi Nedvigin's solo variation was a model of musicality. At Lincoln Center his classicism stood out, not a virtuoso, but with noble style. He was so connected with the music (very ably conducted by Martin West) tonight that the steps seemed inevitable, much as does Mozart's music. Tina LeBlanc was full of light dancing the major variation. Later the third duet was raised above the norm by Ms. Viselli (no smiles here, this dancer just seems to know Mr. B) and Mr. Nedvigin. The same could be said for the grand duet, for him and Ms. LeBlanc. Overall, a very harmonious, company-oriented performance. Not the new wildly daring sort of dancing that has recently come out of the blue at NYCB (please, Mr. B, keep up this magical influence from on high!), but really an impressively whole performance by San Francisco Ballet.
Next came Christopher Wheeldon's Within the Golden Hour. Having just seen his City Center season, I tended to focus on the dancers rather than the choreography. This was our first look at the major new ballerina Maria Kochetkova. The first of the three main PdD's was for Katita Waldo and Damian Smith, but it was pretty much standard Wheeldon. He didn't seem at full creative strength for the third either, though it was not difficult to keep one's eyes glued on brilliant Mashusha Kochetkova, neatly partnered by Joan Boada. Still, we NY'ers can only dream of a Kochetkova/Sylve Giselle/Myrtha. Lucky San Francisco... But there was a PdD between these two, danced by Sarah van Patten and Pierre-Francois Vilanoba, and for me Mr. Wheeldon hit the bulls-eye. The dance and music gave an Eastern effect, erotic and sweet, yet bitter-sweet too, a kind of feeling one might get from an early Satyajit Ray movie. It began like it would be too "Wheeldon" with the woman on the floor being manipulated by the man, but sustained emotional depth soon took control as they weaved an endless strand of dance together. Then he was on the floor, she en pointe between his feet, and he partnered her by holding her ankle as she slowly bent and flowed, with perfect control, till all that was left was to raise her parallel above his body and gently bring her down. Stunningly beautiful and the audience responded accordingly. Mr. Wheeldon can do finales, and this ballet's with 14 dancers swaying side to side among each other brought the house down.
The last ballet didn't stand a chance after this. Yuri Possokhov's Fusion was star-studded. But the obvious lead dancer was Yuan Yuan Tan, as if an angel on a private cloud, almost seeming to be dancing for herself alone, unreal yet for that all the more real. A gift of beauty to end an impressive first night.
From mid-mezzanine the big bucks seats ahead and mid-mezzanine itself looked very full, with just a few seats sold behind.
Posted 13 October 2008 - 04:52 AM
October 12, 2008 - 3 p.m.
After two days of the mixed blessings of the Suzanne Farrell Ballet in my hometown, it was welcome relief to hop on the Amtrak for an afternoon of world-class ballet in New York, at the City Center Theater, with another SFB...this time, the San Francisco Ballet, dancing its 'Program B' (the stars are my ratings):
****The Fifth Season (Tomasson/Jenkins, 2006) - Lorena Feijoo/Joan Boada, Nutnaree Pipit-Suksun/Tiit Helimets, Sofiane Sylve/Igor Popov and ensemble.
A fabulous ballet to gorgeous music, with tasteful silvery-blue unitards and mood-enhancing lighting and panel-paintings. It was a real treat to see Sylve once again, tearing throgh the Tango section with her explosive jetes. Also fab to see the SFB's newest principal, the wide-eyed-and-gorgeous ex-Kirov soloist, Ivan Popov. However, the greatest kudos of this ballet are reserved for Pipit-Suksun and Helimets, for their lyrically melting Largo, which had everybody around me in center-Orchestra section sighing in delight. As the leading pair, the fabulous Cubans, Feijoo and Boada, did not disappoint...it's just that the others were that more impressive. This seems to be a Golden Era for the SFB, with so many exceptional dancers at all ranks.
*****Concerto Grosso (Tomasson/Geminiani, 2003)
The briefest ballet on view -- 10 minutes -- was Da Hit of the day, thanks to its five incredible interpreters: Gennadi Nevigin as lead, with Diego Cruz, Daniel Deivison, Taras Domingo & Isaac Hernandez. WOW! WOW! WOW! This ballet MUST be added to the Orange Co. and DC tours in November, as it is 100% guaranteed to drive those audiences bananas with joy. A Canto Vital for the new millenium! It is hard to say who, among the five incredible soloists, was the best, as each one drove the audience to a volley of 'bravos' and 'woo-hoos'. From the leader in red, Nedviguin, with his impossibly quick 'cockscrew pirouettes' on a dime...to Isaac Hernandez' (dark blue) high back cabrioles and smooth turns in both directions...to Taras Domitro's (pale grey) finesse, line, balance...to Daniel Deivison (green) explosive jetes renverses....to the real humdinger among these men: an amazing brown-haired lad in teal, Diego Cruz, with textbook-perfect, high double tours. Bravi Tutti!!!! I was exhausted...and ready for an encore, if possible. This ballet alone was well worth the 3-hour Amtrak ride in both directions, in one day.
* intermission *
half-a-star: Joyride (Morris/Adams, 2008) - Martin Garside, Dana Genshaft, Ruben Martin, Elizabeth Miner, Pascal Molat, James Sofranko, Jennifer Stahl and Sarah Van Patten
Where was the "joy" in Joyride? This ballet is a pretentious load of crock with one very cool visual image that got old after about 5 minutes: the eight dancers wear gold or silver spandex bodysuits with little LED screens on their chests, displaying constantly-changing digital numbers. Perpetual motion to a bombastic Adams score. Nothing beautiful, nothing touching, nothing that does justice to a fine group of dancers. There were glimmers of talent among the bombast, especially a sassy blonde in silver, Elizabeth Miner; tall redheaded Sarah Van Patten as the leading girl in gold; and her ultra-handsome partner, Pascal Molat, who we would get to better assess and love in the last ballet on view, Four Ts. Sad, sad waste of fabulous dancers' talents. By the time that the final freeze-tableau came about, I could hear a couple of snores among my neighbors. Time just went on and on and on....zzzzzz.....
* intermission *
**** Four Temperaments (Balanchine/Hindemith, 1946)
Theme 1 - Lily Rogers/Daniel Deivison
Theme 2 - Jennifer Stahl/Brett Bauer
Theme 3 - Dana Genshaft/Mateo Klemmayer
Melancholic - Pascal Molat
Sanguinic - Vanessa Zahorian/Joan Boada
Phlegmatic - Damian Smith...and four out-of-this-world corps ladies...best ever!
Choleric - Elana Altman
Where to begin on Four Ts by the SFB? It was without a doubt the best performance of this ballet that I've seen, live or on film...NYCB, Kirov, DTHarlem, Miami, you name 'em. The SFB rendition is so clear, so crystaline, so pure and spot-on. Everything that Nancy Goldner writes about this ballet in her insightful book, Balanchine Variations , was presented on the stage of the City Center yesterday afternoon - clear as a bell and a total delight. It also included some extraordinary performances -- namely Molat's Melancholic, Altman's sharp Choleric and -- surprise! -- four flirty-perfect corps ladies 'teasing' Smith's Phlegmatic, collectively brining back memories of the NYCB 1970s corps gal, Nina Fedorova, who was a standout in this quartet. [For the record - SFB's FabFour are Ludmilla Campos, Courtney Clarkson, Kristina Lind and Mariellen Olson, according to the Playbill...assuming no substitutes.] There was a volley of 'bravos' at the end of this ballet, with partial standing-o in my section. A spirited ending to a nearly-perfect program.
I am looking forward to seeing the other two programs next weekend. Diego Cruz and the rest of the amazing dancers of the San Francisco Ballet are absolutely worth another ride on the ol' Amtrak.
p.s. - For all of you who, like me, follow the trends in up-and-coming-dancers around the world much like sports fans follow rookies on teams...San Francisco's Diego Cruz very much resembles the Stuttgart Ballet's current male star, Friedeman Vogel, in both looks and style. In other words, Cruz could be the Toast of Tokyo (and beyond), someday.
Posted 13 October 2008 - 08:37 AM
best that that NYCB has done, both in the recent past, and further back (I only go back 30 years). Pascal Molat was the one exception -- he was truly superb. I also attended Friday night and found this the more outstanding program. The men in SFB are in a class of their own: the best I have seen in one company in
a long time. The women, however, in my opinion -- and with a few exceptions (especially Yuan Yuan Tan who is most breathtaking) -- are not
as stunning (witness the clunky soloists in one section of yesterday's 4 T's). I am also looking forward to program #3.
Posted 13 October 2008 - 11:01 AM
Each of the three lead couples was certainly entertaining. Lorena Feijoo (Joan Boada) danced with sizzling virtuosity, and if I agree with Natalia that they placed third, that is no disrespect to them, just a measure of the others' exceptional dancing. And, in part, surely a measure of my joy in seeing Sofiane Sylve back in NYC. She just came out on that stage with a knowing confidence and smile that said "New Yorkers, I still own you!" And what a contrast/match with Ivan Popov: has any of her NYCB partners ever displayed her better? Just before she left the stage: that wiggling of her left leg from the knee, ahhhh, that's our sexy Sofiane! Immediately following came the perfection of Feijoo/Boada's Romance. Then back came high-flying La Sylve in Tango. I'm not sure whether she was turning three boys into men, or melting three men into boys. But that is the "La" in Sylve...
Nutnaree Pipit-Suksun followed in Largo, with Tiit Helimets. She was a major "discovery" during that Lincoln Center summer, and I've been kind of surprised to not read glowing reviews flowing out of San Francisco since. Well, that lyrical magic is still there. And at the end, secure in her perfect partner's arms, the music stretching, breathing, sighing up her body and through her melting arms.... Technical perfection, overpowering charisma, the ineffable. Three ballerinas, suggesting San Francisco Ballet isn't only men.
Tomasson's Concerto Grosso was only men. To me, Isaac Hernandez, the 18-year old from Mexico, was the story. There seems to be some "Bolshoi" power there, a kind of Spartak potential.
I usually like Mark Morris, but just could not get involved in Joyride, that just seemed a frenetic ride to nowhere. However, Mr. Macaulay of the Times liked it toward the end, by which time I'd faded out.
David Briskin conducted Mr. B's The Four Temperaments. While I was very disappointed at not getting to see two of my favorite San Francisco ballerinas (they danced Saturday night's 4 T's) Sarah van Patten and Sofiane Sylve, this still turned out to be the highlight of Program B. The choreography, of course, but also the quality of the company. Pascal Molat justly drew a prolonged and loud response from the audience for his intense Melancholic. And quality continued through Vanessa Zahorian/Joan Boada's Sanquinic and Damian Smith's Phlegmatic. I was sure to be let down by Sofiane Sylve's absence from Choleric. But Elena Altman defied the odds, came on with great authority, full amplitude, and delivered a powerful lead into the ballet's ultimately grand finale. While I missed the freedom of NYCB's Corps, this was a truly fine performance.
Posted 13 October 2008 - 12:25 PM
Reiter saw the Oct. 10 program -- the same one that drb talks aobut above, and Macaulay in the Times.
There seems to be quite a lot of disagreement about the Wheeldon. Anyone else want to weigh in on this?
Posted 13 October 2008 - 05:23 PM
But it seemed to be disconcertingly and distractingly packed with quotes from Balanchine. In one place there was Apollo and Orpheus, in another a quote from Somnabula with the ballerina fluttered back out on point as she would in Somnabula, while the man was rolling on all fours quoting Bart Cook in Stravinksy Violin Concerto. The ending seemed to be a reference to the 4 Ts tomato red ending except the group was smaller--they were planted at the center of the stage and their movement was limited to a back and forth of upper bodies.
I found it all brilliant--like a jabbery whiz-kid with a cigar out of Gaddis or somewhere--but in doing this, it preempts or masks the dancers vulnerability to each other and the music (which is already pretty prickly).
As far as the real Four Temperaments and San Francisco's Balanchines in general, I find Alastair Macaulay's comment about SFB lack of "attack and momentum" and their "demureness and containment" to be key. They need a Stanley Williams spiritual advisor somewhere in the background.
In case they haven't been posted lately, here are some links to clips and short documentaries on New Yorks, and interviews with Wheeldon and Mark Morris.
KQED Spark documentaries (part 2 & 3 are still working)
Posted 14 October 2008 - 07:24 AM
Posted 14 October 2008 - 09:50 AM
Sofiane Sylve, as always, was very impressive in 4Ts (Choleric). Strong, solid, tall, gorgeous, big with movement quality, she dominates the stage whenever she enters. She is missed sorely at NYCB, and I wonder if SFB will be enough for her, as there seems to be no male-match partner there yet at SFB.
Sarah Van Patten was also excellent in 4Ts Sanguinic with sharp attack and a hypnotic presence. She danced a sexy, sensuous part in Golden Hour too. Van Patten is fair, beautiful, strong, a more delicate version of a Sylve-type dancer. Fine technique is only the beginning in enjoying these two womanly dancers. And to see them both in the same ballet (4Ts), dancing next to each other, was a huge delight.
Of the many fine men at SFB, I was completely thrilled with the debut of Taras Domitro in Melancholic of 4Ts. A young, very flexible, wirey, long-limbed man, he was so daring and full of passion for this role. Not one step was done safely without full extreme. Domitro has some rough edges to smooth, but I am so happy I'll be seeing him again in 4Ts on the 16th. This time, I might just skip the other three ballets preceding 4Ts though..... especially Morris' not-at-all Joyride. What poor programing. I'm sure many in the audience left before the best (4Ts) arrived, just because it was really getting boring/repetitive....
Divert #15, on opening night was a bit of a disappointment too for me, except for Ruben Martin who was a handsome presence with sexy, elegant, musically-sensitive, manly-full movements. But Divert is about women and they were just ok, a nice dress rehearsal for the most part... They all danced very well, but not beautifully.
There was one girl in the corps of Divert, who has danced in nearly everything I've seen so far including Wheeldon's Golden Hour. Dark, petite, very pretty. I wish I knew her name, as I had a hard time taking my eyes off of her. Very musical, gorgeously feminine, as well as strong in whatever speed or technique was required. I hope she's learning lots of soloist parts.
Posted 14 October 2008 - 12:56 PM
After seeing Sarah Van Patten and Tiit Helimits do Diamonds in the spring, I was looking forward to see them do Sanguinic. I thought they were terrific, and the 4Ts was the highlight of the evening for me. Sofiane Sylvie was great - and with amazing presence. She grabbed my attention the whole time she was on stage.
My biggest surprise of the evening was the performance of the orchestra. I don't know who they are (or perhaps they are contracted for this run only?) but they were together, in tune, and musical. I wasn't expecting to hear much for the 4Ts - it's a tough piece - but they gave a first-rate performance. I'm glad Martin West, San Francisco Ballet music director was conducting so he could push his home team a little harder.
I'm sorry I won't get to see the other programs in New York. I was hoping to see New Yorker's reactions to the new Jorma Elo piece. It was much more controversial than the Wheeldon or Morris pieces at its premiere in San Francisco - it almost caused fistfights in Jardiniere afterwards.
Posted 14 October 2008 - 02:06 PM
Posted 14 October 2008 - 06:42 PM
Thanks for all the reviews. It's always interesting to hear what the rest of the world thinks about my 'home team'.
Posted 15 October 2008 - 05:14 AM
Posted 15 October 2008 - 07:56 AM
Ah but what dancers we saw! To heck with the choreography!!! How can one separate the Dancer from The Dance? Concerto Grosso as performed by those five SFB virtuosi guys IS a five-star ballet. The audience around me, going bananas as they cheered, seemed to agree. I'm only sorry that I can't be in NY tomorrow night, to see the final performance of the piece on this tour.
Posted 15 October 2008 - 11:12 AM
In a perfect world they are both on the same level. However, as in the case of "Concerto Gross," the dancers were wonderful but the
choreography was not.
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