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#1 PeggyR

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Posted 23 January 2013 - 07:53 PM

Opening night cast for Program 1 2013 season:
[size=5]Program 1 - 2013 Season[/size]


PROGRAM 1: OPENING NIGHT
Tuesday, January 29 – 8:00PM
Repertory and Casting


SUITE EN BLANC
Choreographer: Serge Lifar
Composer: Édouard Lalo
Conductor: Martin West

Vanessa Zahorian*, Tiit Helimets*, Shane Wuerthner*
Sasha De Sola*
Frances Chung*, Myles Thatcher*, Hansuke Yamamoto*, Daniel-Deivison Oliveira*, Steven Morse*
Sarah Van Patten*
Davit Karapetyan*
Yuan Yuan Tan*, Vito Mazzeo*
Maria Kochetkova*


IN THE NIGHT
Choreographer: Jerome Robbins
Composer: Frédéric Chopin
Conductor: Martin West
Piano: Roy Bogas

Vanessa Zahorian, Ruben Martin Cintas
Sofiane Sylve, Tiit Helimets
Lorena Feijoo, Pierre-François Vilanoba


BORDERLANDS
Choreographer: Wayne McGregor
Composer: Joel Cadbury and Paul Stoney
Conductor: Martin West

Mariah Kochetkova*, Jaime Garcia Castilla*
Sarah Van Patten*, Pascal Molat*
Frances Chung*, Carlos Quenedit*
Sofiane Sylve*, Vito Mazzeo*
Koto Ishihara*, Lonnie Weeks*
Elizabeth Powell*, Francisco Mungamba*

*Denotes premiere in role
In the event of injury or illness, casting is subject to change



#2 pherank

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 01:31 PM

I was able to see opening night, and the first 2 programs the 2nd night (I was feeling too run down to stay for the electronica score of Borderlands a second time).

This was my first time seeing the complete Suite en Blanc ballet, and it was fairly entertaining as a whole, but it struck me as having a great deal of marshmallow fluff and visual 'silence' in the middle sections. I enjoyed the opening and the finale (music too, which was new to me), but found the middle sections to be rather listless, and not nearly as clever or captivating as descriptions made out. But again, the overall impression is that it is a very NICE ballet. I'd be happy to have someone technically experienced to explain the import of some of the dance sections.

Robbin's In the Night was well executed both nights. Lorena Feijoo got the plumb role as part of the 3rd couple on opening night - and danced with great drama as expected. But Sarah Van Patten, dancing the same role on the 2nd night, was just sharp as a knife - a truly great performance, and the audience gave her the big applause she rightly deserved. Applause on opening night was generally big and warm throughout - it was just good to be seeing the company again doing what they do so well.

McGregor's new Borderlands ballet was certainly very interesting and the SF company has the dancers to really pull off this kind of modernist dance. I applaud McGregor's explorations into a new dance language - it doesn't happen to be quite my cup of tea as he favors particular kinds of movements that don't speak to me, yet. And I always have trouble with canned electronica music thundering from the P.A. system. I just get a headache. I consider myself to be a music person, and this musical composition didn't strike me as being particularly interesting, original, danceable or helpful to the choreography.
The big surprise for me here was the inclusion of Elizabeth Powell who is new to the Corps de Ballet (and SF Ballet fans will know her as Clara from the Nutcracker DVD). Well, Powell has grown up (mostly) and, it seems quite a coup to have been chosen to be part of the world-premiere cast for Borderlands (12 dancers who dance each night of the program, no rotations). I was left wanting to see more from her, and I do understand why McGregor would have selected her to be in his piece: she has the right feel and the technical abilities to be able to pull this piece off along with Kochetkova, Sarah Van Patten, Sofiane Sylve, etc. That rather floored me. I like her deportment in general (she was also part of the Corps in Suite en Blanc), but she definitely has the moves and flexibility for a McGregor ballet.

I also wanted to mention that I stayed at the Inn at the Opera, which was recommended in one of the pinned SF Ballet threads, and if you're a balletomane, or stalker (kidding!), that is the place to be. The Inn is literally next door to the SF Ballet building and student dance center, and about 50 yards from the stage door at War Memorial and another 50 yards to the side entrance to get into the building. So you will see a lot of the dancers and administrators when you are out on the street. (There is also the Sage Cafe on the other side of the block which is frequented by everyone in that area.) The first morning I was there the first person I saw on the sidewalk walking towards me was Davit Karapetyan. Later to be followed by Lorena Feijoo walking with Helgi Tomasson (she was agitated about something, and talking excitedly, and Helgi was typically unfazed (or nonplussed!) looking). And I saw both Karapetyan and Tomasson on the street the next day too), as well as Corps members drifting in and out of the theatre. As a side note, while I was sitting in at the edge of the orchestra seating, a striking woman appeared next to me out of the exit curtains, gazed about for her seat/friends/associates and then walked off, and it popped into my head that she was the woman in a video I had watched the previous night about Suite en Blanc:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIsSRxE42LM

And that would be Maina Gielgud. The next day I bumped into her at the elevator in the Inn at the Opera (it is a tight squeeze getting in and out of the elevetor as it is an old building, so the person getting in and the persons getting out have to literally squeeze by one another - a bit comical). And on the 3rd day as I was leaving to check out - there she was in the elevator again, so I asked her if she was the stager for Suite en Blanc, and she replied yes, and we exchanged some pleasantries about how well things had gone, and how diverse the company is in its abilities.

#3 PeggyR

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 04:44 PM

[font=Arial][size=4]Opening night, 1/29/13[/size][/font]

[font=Arial][size=4]Suite en blanc struck me as prettily old fashioned with, as Pherank says, a good bit of fluff. But pretty fluff, with Sasha De Sola a standout for her femininity and assured technique in the Serenade. [/size][/font]

[font=Arial][size=4]Something of a disappointment was Sarah Van Patten’s Cigarette. I’ve been watching -- repeatedly, because it’s so wonderful -- the YouTube video of Agnes Letestu’s performance of this variation. Van Patten was good and she gave a nice emphasis to the toe taps, but she lacked Letestu’s gracefully wafting arms, pliant back, and general air of chic sophistication.[/size][/font]

[font=Arial][size=4]In The Night marked a welcome return to the ballet season of Lorena Feijoo as half of the third couple (although I doubt if La Feijoo is ever ‘half’ of anything). I’d forgotten what a dramatic jolt she can provide, and provide it she did, and then some.[/size][/font]

[font=Arial][size=4]As to Borderlands, Wayne McGregor’s world premiere, I made the mistake of attending the pre-performance interview with him and three of his collaborators. Unfortunately, McGregor is intelligent, articulate, funny and charming, and now I feel guilty for not being a bigger fan of his work. Oh well.[/size][/font]

[font=Arial][size=4]Borderlands I found to be interesting mainly for it’s almost Pilobolus-like use of bodies to create shapes or seemingly multi-limbed creatures; otherwise it evokes Chroma with its boxy set (gray this time), and nondescript top-and-trunks costumes (gray this time). Color was provided by the lighting design and the electronic score - or maybe soundscape would be a better word; huge, beautiful washes of sound that pretty much ran out of steam by the end, and that surely would be improved by losing the tinkly electronic piano mishmash in the middle.[/size][/font]

[font=Arial][size=4]During the Q&A, McGregor and the others spoke at length about the ballet being inspired by the work of artist Josef Albers. I make no pretensions of knowing anything about art in general or Albers in particular, but based on McGregor’s comments and some internet research, I can say that at least some of that inspiration was visible to my highly uneducated eye: particularly the dancers placed at the corners of the gray box, forming a box within the box. It would be interesting to hear how well others, with more knowledge about these things, felt the ‘inspiration’ was executed.[/size][/font]

[font=Arial][size=4]The choreography, aside from the multi-limbed creatures, tended to look much like other McGregor choreography: rippling bodies, much aimless running around, and extreme extensions (Sofiane Sylve executed what may have been ballet’s first 240 degree développé). It seems odd that a modern or contemporary choreographer working without the restrictions imposed by classical ballet technique can’t seem to come up with a more varied movement palette. I do predict, however, some stunning still photos, when they start showing up.[/size][/font]

[font=Arial][size=4]With the performers dressed alike, it was sometimes difficult to tell who was who, but if I matched the correct face to the correct body (not always easy with the various intertwinings going on), Frances Chung stood out. I think I like her in this kind of thing more than in strictly classical roles; she was terrific in Forsythe’s “...in the middle, somewhat elevated...”, among other contemporary ballets, and she seemed very at home in this. [/size][/font]

[font=Arial][size=4]I’m attending tomorrow’s matinee, where I’m glad to see a lot of soloist and corp de ballet dancers in major roles. Always good to see the next generation as they develop.[/size][/font]

#4 pherank

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 11:00 PM

[font=Arial][size=4]Something of a disappointment was Sarah Van Patten’s Cigarette. I’ve been watching -- repeatedly, because it’s so wonderful -- the YouTube video of Agnes Letestu’s performance of this variation. Van Patten was good and she gave a nice emphasis to the toe taps, but she lacked Letestu’s gracefully wafting arms, pliant back, and general air of chic sophistication.[/size][/font]


I recall that Van Patten was subbing for Zahorian in "Cigarette" (not sure why, since Zahorian danced more than once that night, and then danced "Cigarette" the following night), but as I don't remember the performance standing out in any particular way, you are probably right. Letestu is a great French-school dancer - I don't think Americans appreciate her as much as she deserves to be.

[font=Arial][size=4]Borderlands I found to be interesting mainly for it’s almost Pilobolus-like use of bodies to create shapes or seemingly multi-limbed creatures; otherwise it evokes Chroma with its boxy set (gray this time), and nondescript top-and-trunks costumes (gray this time). Color was provided by the lighting design and the electronic score - or maybe soundscape would be a better word; huge, beautiful washes of sound that pretty much ran out of steam by the end, and that surely would be improved by losing the tinkly electronic piano mishmash in the middle.[/size][/font]

[font=Arial][size=4]During the Q&A, McGregor and the others spoke at length about the ballet being inspired by the work of artist Josef Albers. I make no pretensions of knowing anything about art in general or Albers in particular, but based on McGregor’s comments and some internet research, I can say that at least some of that inspiration was visible to my highly uneducated eye: particularly the dancers placed at the corners of the gray box, forming a box within the box. It would be interesting to hear how well others, with more knowledge about these things, felt the ‘inspiration’ was executed.[/size][/font]

[font=Arial][size=4]The choreography, aside from the multi-limbed creatures, tended to look much like other McGregor choreography: rippling bodies, much aimless running around, and extreme extensions (Sofiane Sylve executed what may have been ballet’s first 240 degree développé). It seems odd that a modern or contemporary choreographer working without the restrictions imposed by classical ballet technique can’t seem to come up with a more varied movement palette. I do predict, however, some stunning still photos, when they start showing up.[/size][/font]

[font=Arial][size=4]With the performers dressed alike, it was sometimes difficult to tell who was who, but if I matched the correct face to the correct body (not always easy with the various intertwinings going on), Frances Chung stood out. I think I like her in this kind of thing more than in strictly classical roles; she was terrific in Forsythe’s “...in the middle, somewhat elevated...”, among other contemporary ballets, and she seemed very at home in this. [/size][/font]


I'm with you here - I know the work of Joseph Albers - his writings on color theory and perception are classic, and I can't say that I was reminded of Albers while watching Borderlands. Why wasn't the connection made more obvious? I don't think there would have been anything wrong with presenting a take-off on his iconic color blocks style in the set and costumes:

Posted Image

But McGregor went his own way, and that's fine, if you make it work. The "rippling bodies and extreme extensions" that you mention, and the sameness of costume, have gotten to be repetitious for me rather than a whole new novel in a new language. Interestingly, for all the quirkiness in the dancer's motions, McGregor's approach seems to strip the dancers of any individual personality in favor a mass of undulations.

I don't, however, think that it was a mistake for you to hear the choreographer speak on his work - that adds another dimension to the piece that it certainly needed. For me: one dimension was still missing.

#5 PeggyR

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Posted 05 February 2013 - 06:50 AM

At the Saturday matinee, it was interesting to see what a second cast can bring to a work like Borderlands. Little star power here and no 240 degree extensions. What we got was some serious personality in the guise of soloists Daniel Deivison-Oliveira and Dores Andre in one of the later pas de deux. I don’t remember who performed this one on opening night, but whoever it was, they made virtually no impression compared to these two. Deivison-Oliveira and Andre turned it into a Forsythe-like push-pull battle of the sexes, ferocious, no holds barred (literally), very exciting. Fascinating to see how an infusion of personality can bring so much to otherwise nothing-special choreography.

Also interesting was the recovery of a bad fall at the end of one of the Suite en Blanc variations. A young corps dancer who has frequently been given soloist parts: she fell, hard, right at the end – I think it was meant to be a scratch pirouette, ending (standing) with arms outstretched to the front. When she went down, you could see she was thinking about getting up, but there simply wasn’t time as the music was coming to an end. Instead, she stayed put, rearranged her legs and did the outstretched arms, all as if it were meant to be that way. Maybe someone in the wings was telling her to stay down, but regardless, it was a nice save. What broke my heart was her face when the company took their bow at the end. Everyone else was smiling but you could see she was in tears. I hope she got plenty of positive reinforcement backstage. (She was in Borderlands and looked fine; I doubt it anyone could dance that with an injury, so fortunately, no apparent damage done.)

#6 pherank

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Posted 05 February 2013 - 07:40 PM

At the Saturday matinee, it was interesting to see what a second cast can bring to a work like Borderlands. Little star power here and no 240 degree extensions. What we got was some serious personality in the guise of soloists Daniel Deivison-Oliveira and Dores Andre in one of the later pas de deux. I don’t remember who performed this one on opening night, but whoever it was, they made virtually no impression compared to these two. Deivison-Oliveira and Andre turned it into a Forsythe-like push-pull battle of the sexes, ferocious, no holds barred (literally), very exciting. Fascinating to see how an infusion of personality can bring so much to otherwise nothing-special choreography.

Also interesting was the recovery of a bad fall at the end of one of the Suite en Blanc variations. A young corps dancer who has frequently been given soloist parts: she fell, hard, right at the end – I think it was meant to be a scratch pirouette, ending (standing) with arms outstretched to the front. When she went down, you could see she was thinking about getting up, but there simply wasn’t time as the music was coming to an end. Instead, she stayed put, rearranged her legs and did the outstretched arms, all as if it were meant to be that way. Maybe someone in the wings was telling her to stay down, but regardless, it was a nice save. What broke my heart was her face when the company took their bow at the end. Everyone else was smiling but you could see she was in tears. I hope she got plenty of positive reinforcement backstage. (She was in Borderlands and looked fine; I doubt it anyone could dance that with an injury, so fortunately, no apparent damage done.)


That's the great thing about going more than once, and sitting in different areas of the theatre - you may see completely different things each time. It really is difficult, or impossible, to take in all details when there's a lot of ensemble dancing involved. I can't say I caught many details within either Suite en Blanc or Borderlands - I had to focus on particular dancers, or the general look of things, but so much gets missed.

Regarding the fallen dancer - it sounds like she did exactly the right thing. And, she was able to 'get back on the horse' and ride again, so good for her. I am curious which Corps dancer it was - Wan Ting Zhao? She was slated to be in both performances that day.

#7 Helene

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 02:17 PM

Thank you for the reports on SFB! I wish I could get down to see this marvelous company more often.

#8 pherank

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 05:30 PM

Thank you for the reports on SFB! I wish I could get down to see this marvelous company more often.


Helene, if you do decide to go, you should try for this performance:

Save the Date!
SF Ballet's Cinderella Opening Night Ball
Friday, May 3, 2013

http://clicks.skem1....allonMay32013-A


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