San Francisco Ballet in SF: Nutcracker 2008
Posted 14 December 2008 - 11:22 PM
It's a strange Nutcracker in that it's so unhealthily healthy and normal. Drosselmeyer hangs out--probably to Mel Johnson's disapproval--for almost the entire thing. He continuous points out this and that. In fact everyone points out this or that to everybody else and everybody else nods. The mime/acting by the dancers is really good--you feel as if a tradition is really being passed down, it's just that the writing lacks variety or surprise.
The SF Nutcracker also seemed smaller this year, as if some of the variations in the second act had been dropped out, more war pony than war horse. The flowers in the Waltz of the Flowers are egalitarian Zinnias, and it's nice to see hot July flowers in the middle of cold December. I was disappointed to miss Taras Demitro as King of the Snow, inexplicably absent--probably shuffled up to an evening performance. (One usher told me that in the future I should check online for casting, while the other very dismissively said never, never pay attention to what's online, while unhelpfully offering no alternative source of info.)
Kristin Long and Joan Boada were very good (I always forget that she only appears at the end, like dessert-only guests at dinner parties) in the grand pas de deux. Nothing brilliant, but how completely refined and finished were each of JB's gestures. My eyes moved to Anthony Spaudling in Spanish, Erin McNulty--something Jane Russelly or Jilliana-amused about her--in French and Martyn Garside in Russian. In Chinese Garen Scribner described a miraculous bas relief carwheel that looked like a fan being snapped shut or a double needle scan on a radar clockface that you see in 1960's movies, for lack of anything else to liken it to.
Posted 15 December 2008 - 10:09 AM
I had planned to go standing room for this one just to get a look at him; glad I didn't bother (no disrespect to the rest of the cast, but they're known quantities; I'm very curious to see Domitro). Who replaced him?
I was disappointed to miss Taras Demitro as King of the Snow, inexplicably absent--probably shuffled up to an evening performance.
I've got tickets for the 17th and 26th. Oddly, if you look at the website for casting as of this writing, the lists for the 11th through 14th are still there with this at the top: "No Casting is available at this time. Please check back a few days before a performance." Well, it IS 'a few days before', where are the casts? Very annoying, despite the inevitable changes.
(One usher told me that in the future I should check online for casting, while the other very dismissively said never, never pay attention to what's online, while unhelpfully offering no alternative source of info.)
Edited to add:
Finally, casts are up through 12/21 http://www.sfballet....ets/casting.asp.
Here's the 'not to be missed' one for me:
Sunday, December 21, 2008, 2pm
Conductor: Martin West
Drosselmeyer: Damian Smith
Queen and King of the Snow: Frances Chung, Anthony Spaulding
Sugar Plum Fairy: Elana Altman
Grand Pas de Deux: Sarah Van Patten, Pierre-François Vilanoba
Chung is one of my favorite soloists; my first chance to see newly promoted soloist Spaulding somewhere besides at the back of the corps; and Van Patten is always worth seeing.
Posted 18 December 2008 - 07:09 AM
A snowflake fell, a French dancer got the twirler caught in her headdress, the GPdD foutees wandered around the stage (they were probably looking for someplace warm; it's coooooold out here). Originally I hadn't intended to comment on this routine performance, but I have to gush a little about Tina LeBlanc, who danced the Sugar Plum Fairy.
Last season she didn't show up on any of my series performances (I think she was injured part of the time), so this was my first chance to get a good look at her. Based on what I saw today, LeBlanc is the kind of dancer who makes me glad somebody invented ballet all those years ago.
She isn't ultra skinny, her extensions don't poke holes in the ceiling, she doesn't have legs up to her armpits. What she does have is that stage encompassing 'star' quality that even some of SFB's otherwise fine principals lack. And don't get me started on her superb ballon, or her open and expressive upper body (something you don't realize a lot of dancers don't have until you see somebody who does). I'm so grateful to have finally been able to experience her magic.
Posted 18 December 2008 - 06:38 PM
Here's what I wrote about opening night for the gay weekly paper, the Bay Area Reporter:
Watch out for the gay cruise ad at the bottom of the page: if cute guys in hammocks offend you, maybe don't scroll all the way down.
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