PeggyR

SFB 2014: Program 3

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Partial list of casts for Program 3. Note Denis Matvienko guesting with Kochetkova in Kingdom of the Shades. Any opinions about him?

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 20—8PM—OPENING NIGHT

THE KINGDOM OF THE SHADES FROM LA BAYADERE, ACT II

Choreographer: Natalia Makarova after Marius Petipa
Composer: Ludwig Minkus with orchestration by John Lanchbery
Conductor: Martin West

Yuan Yuan Tan, Davit Karapetyan*
Mathilde Froustey, Simone Messmer, Frances Chung*

INTERMISSION

GHOSTS

Choreographer: Christopher Wheeldon
Composer: C.F. Kip Winger
Conductor: Martin West

Maria Kochetkova, Vitor Luiz
Sofiane Sylve, Tiit Helimets, Shane Wuerthner

INTERMISSION

FIREBIRD

Choreographer: Yuri Possokhov
Composer: Igor Stravinsky
Conductor: Martin West

Kaschei: Pascal Molat
Firebird: Sarah Van Patten
Prince: Tiit Helimets
Princess: Sasha De Sola

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 22—2PM

THE KINGDOM OF THE SHADES FROM LA BAYADERE, ACT II

Choreographer: Natalia Makarova after Petipa
Composer: Ludwig Minkus with orchestration by John Lanchbery
Conductor: Martin West

Frances Chung, Vitor Luiz
Mathilde Froustey, Dores Andre*, Sasha De Sola*

INTERMISSION

GHOSTS

Choreographer: Christopher Wheeldon
Composer: C.F. Kip Winger
Conductor: Martin West

Maria Kochetkova, Vitor Luiz
Lorena Feijoo, Ruben Martin Cintas, Gaetano Amico

INTERMISSION

FIREBIRD

Choreographer: Yuri Possokhov
Composer: Igor Stravinsky
Conductor: Martin West

Kaschei: Daniel Deivison-Oliveira

Firebird: Simone Messmer*
Prince: Ruben Martin Cintas
Princess: Dores Andre*

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 22—8PM

THE KINGDOM OF THE SHADES FROM LA BAYADERE, ACT II

Choreographer: Natalia Makarova after Petipa
Composer: Ludwig Minkus with orchestration by John Lanchbery
Conductor: Martin West

Maria Kochetkova*, Denis Matvienko+
Mathilde Froustey, Simone Messmer, Frances Chung

INTERMISSION

GHOSTS

Choreographer: Christopher Wheeldon
Composer: C.F. Kip Winger
Conductor: Martin West

Yuan Yuan Tan, Damian Smith
Sofiane Sylve, Tiit Helimets, Shane Wuerthner

INTERMISSION

FIREBIRD

Choreographer: Yuri Possokhov
Composer: Igor Stravinsky
Conductor: Martin West

Kaschei: Pascal Molat
Firebird: Yuan Yuan Tan
Prince: Tiit Helimets
Princess: Sasha De Sola

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 25—8PM

THE KINGDOM OF THE SHADES FROM LA BAYADERE, ACT II

Choreographer: Natalia Makarova after Petipa
Composer: Ludwig Minkus with orchestration by John Lanchbery
Conductor: Martin West

Maria Kochetkova, Denis Matvienko+
Mathilde Froustey, Simone Messmer, Frances Chung

INTERMISSION

GHOSTS

Choreographer: Christopher Wheeldon
Composer: C.F. Kip Winger
Conductor: Martin West

Yuan Yuan Tan, Damian Smith
Sofiane Sylve, Tiit Helimets, Shane Wuerthner

INTERMISSION

FIREBIRD

Choreographer: Yuri Possokhov
Composer: Igor Stravinsky
Conductor: Martin West

Kaschei: Pascal Molat
Firebird: Yuan Yuan Tan
Prince: Tiit Helimets
Princess: Sasha De Sola

In the event of injury or illness, casting is subject to change

*Denotes dancer premiere in ballet
+Guest artist

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Simone Messmer gets her first 'principal' role, in The Firebird - very nice.

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Simone Messmer gets her first 'principal' role, in The Firebird - very nice.

I'm seeing her at the Saturday matinee. Based on what I've seen so far, it seems like a good role for her.

Also looking forward to seeing Froustey as the first shade, but I'd interested to see her as Nikiya, too.

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Simone Messmer gets her first 'principal' role, in The Firebird - very nice.

I'm seeing her at the Saturday matinee. Based on what I've seen so far, it seems like a good role for her.

Also looking forward to seeing Froustey as the first shade, but I'd interested to see her as Nikiya, too.

I'm going to be seeing the Tuesday night show with Denis Matvinko - I wanted to see Yuan Yuan as the Firebird, and Froustey in Bayadere. Should be fun. ;)

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Simone Messmer gets her first 'principal' role, in The Firebird - very nice.

I'm seeing her at the Saturday matinee. Based on what I've seen so far, it seems like a good role for her.

Also looking forward to seeing Froustey as the first shade, but I'd interested to see her as Nikiya, too.

I'm going to be seeing the Tuesday night show with Denis Matvinko - I wanted to see Yuan Yuan as the Firebird, and Froustey in Bayadere. Should be fun. ;)

I'd like to hear what you think about Matvienko. It seems a little odd bringing in a guest artist when SFB is slightly top heavy with male principals.

Here's his bio from the Mariinsky website where he's listed as a 'guest soloist'.

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I'd like to hear what you think about Matvienko. It seems a little odd bringing in a guest artist when SFB is slightly top heavy with male principals.

I think Tomasson is just trying to find ways to keep things exciting, and get seats sold that would otherwise not fill up entirely. If they can get a number of these guest appearances happening throughout the season, I think it WILL boost sales. Cojocaru must have brought some additional people to her performances with Hamburg Ballet (I wasn't there myself).

I will try to write up my impressions once I've returned home...


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Having seen Matvienko, it seems an odd decision (to me) to bring him and cast him over the SF male dancers. He's fine, but If there has to be a guest, why not Issac Hernandez, former SF soloist who joined the Dutch National Ballet 1 1/2 years ago and was just promoted principal? Hernandez has matured into a more musical dancer, has more height to his jumps, has better line, and is a more finished dancer than Matvienko. Oh well ....

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I found the Matvienko to be a head-scratcher as well. It can't be good for morale among the male dancers. I've always felt sorry for the ABT soloists and principals who lose out to the constant guest artists. I thought the SFB dancers' AGMA contract prohibited that sort of thing, besides.

I am delighted, however, to see Damian Smith paired up with YY for Ghosts on the Sat pm performance, which I'll be attending. I was afraid he might finish up this last year of his with my missing out each time. (I don't go frequently enough to catch multiple performances/programs - don't you hate it when one season, you seem to catch the same dancer over and over, and miss out on 1 or 2 over and over?!) The same goes for Mathilde Froustey; there's no guarantee she'll be around longer than this season. Have only seen her via YouTube, but I've heard great things. Crossing fingers that there's no 11th hour casting change.

Sure to be a great show, regardless. Pherank, I'll enjoy hearing your impressions back here, when you get the chance.

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Program 3, February 22, 2 pm

Kingdom of the Shades from La Bayadere (Makarova staging)

Negatives: Too many wobbles and too many half-completed arabesques down the ramp; too many poorly maintained balances after the ramp; a Nikiya (Frances Chung) who, aside from missing the third pirouette with the scarf, danced with technical security but without delicacy or flavor.

Positives: An ardent Solor (Vitor Luiz) who relied on clean, musical dancing instead of tricks, and three charming Shades (Froustey/André/de Sola).

It surprised me that the corps was so off-kilter. I saw them in four Giselle performances at the beginning of the season and they very good. But in the Shades scene there was no sense of breathing together, or of the corps as a coherent whole, and if the corps can’t provide that, the ballet fails.

Ghosts (Wheeldon)

I haven’t seen that many Wheeldon ballets, but aside from Within the Golden Hour, the ones I have seen left me somewhat underwhelmed. Ghosts still underwhelms, but this time I appreciated his response to the attractive music (C.F. Kip Winger), and Wheeldon’s sometimes striking images - prone bodies creating patterns that translate into interesting movement patterns.

As usual, Sofiane Sylve left little room on stage for anyone else. She’s such an enveloping performer, you can almost feel the air move when she moves.

Firebird (Possokhov)

I know a lot of people don’t like this version (the woman sitting next to me flounced out at the intermission before Firebird started assuring me she would never sit through ‘that mess’ again). Being something of a mess myself, I rather like it.

Possokhov’s take provides some comic moments (the in-place chase, Koschei’s affection for his egg), and he turns the Princess (Dores André, adorable as usual) into a diva who shoves her girlfriends to the floor when she doesn’t get her way, and the Prince (Rubén Martín Cintas, likable as usual) into a bit of a lady killer, both of them redeemed by their mutual affection.

The performances were all fine, with a standout turn by Daniel Deivison-Oliveira as Koschei. Deivison-Oliveira has a wonderfully expressive upper body and he can act and he’s funny; he pretty much stole the show.

The main interest, of course, was Simone Messmer’s debut as the Firebird. Her performance reinforced my initial impression of her dancing as plush and luxurious, with big, generous movements - not on the scale of Sylve, but she may get there. Her upper body and long arms are very beautiful, and she threw off some gorgeous, on-a-dime fouettés: she’s definitely giving me an Odette/Odile vibe.

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Program 3, February 22, 2 pm

Firebird (Possokhov)

I know a lot of people don’t like this version (the woman sitting next to me flounced out at the intermission before Firebird started assuring me she would never sit through ‘that mess’ again). Being something of a mess myself, I rather like it.....

Thanks for the Sunday morning giggle. I like Possokhov's Classical Symphony and wish PNB would bring more of his works to Seattle.

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Program 3, February 22, 2 pm

Firebird (Possokhov)

I know a lot of people don’t like this version (the woman sitting next to me flounced out at the intermission before Firebird started assuring me she would never sit through ‘that mess’ again). Being something of a mess myself, I rather like it.....

Thanks for the Sunday morning giggle. I like Possokhov's Classical Symphony and wish PNB would bring more of his works to Seattle.

Me too. Pretty much every version of Firebird I'm familiar with has some aspect that is subject to chaos -- I'm always interested in seeing how choreographers deal with the challenge.

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I enjoyed reading PeggyR's commentary - I just saw two preformances of Program 3. Matvienko danced Tuesday night in La Bayadere (with Masha), and my first thought watching his performance, was, well of course! he actually KNOWS THIS BALLET. I'm not sure if Masha even danced in Bayadere back in her early Bolshoi days (and it wouldn't have been Nikiya). This was a start, but the company doesn't dance Bayadere as if it were in their blood (not a suprise). The Corps especially needs more time with this choreography (and I'm hoping the school uses the Shades entrance in their future classes). It was clear just how difficult the entrance of the shades is to a modern ballet company. Both nights it looked like Elizabeth Powell was the lead shade on the ramp. And above the waist, and in arabesque she looks lovely - great extension and port de bras. A natural sense for placement of the head, wrist and hand, elbows, everything. A powerful looking arabesque - but her balance leg was often visibly working hard, especially while on the ramp. And then she was followed by Corps dancers who didn't have her dramatic arabesque, and were wobbly as well, so we didn't get the sense of the Corps moving absolutely as one, in a serpentine ritual - as Peggy mentioned, it should be almost like breathing: the lungs moving in and out in an unwavering rhythm. It just doesn't work to allow Corps members to move in individual manners for this ballet - they've got to look the same, as cells in one large creature. At least this is the only time I've seen the SFB Corps look a bit out-of-wack: they are often fantastic in other demanding ballets.

Makarova sat on the aisle of the row I was in on Tuesday night, but she left after Bayadere - perhaps to scold someone. ;)

Davit Karapetyn was easily as good as Matvienko the 2nd night (I guess he had to stand up for the SFB men!). Great performance, that one. And Froustey dancing in trio with Chung and Messmer (Sola and Messmer on Wednesday night) was everything I could ask for.

I have to get off the hotel computer ;) but I'll just add for now that the Firebird was quite enjoyable, and not at all a "mess" to my eye - I found it structurally easy to follow. Possokhov is not a 'deep' choreographer, but he does know how to entertain his audience. More on these things later...

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In Franklin Stevens "Dance as Life" he talks about ABT when Makarova first set the Shades scene on them, and there were many wobbles.

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I was the second corps Shade when dancing for the National Ballet of Canada. On the ramp - and in some theatres you have a double ramp (this means you climb a sort of ladder off stage and wait on a dark platform before you get into place for your first arabesque) - you have a bright light shining right in your range of vision when facing into the wings and it is hard not to be blinded by that light surrounded by the dark stage and wings. If you get spots in your eyes, you will be have a rough time seeing anything. All the rehearsing in the rehearsal room and on stage without that lighting cannot help you deal with that stark light in your eyes surrounded by black everywhere else. The whole entrance of arabesques going into the beautiful adagio by the corps requires an adagio technique which is not stressed in class or other ballets. It is a beautiful ballet to dance, and hard and on the legs and breath for the corps because of the sustained control of the adagio followed by the following waltz where the three soloists come on stage. I am flying into SF to see tomorrow night's show.

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In Franklin Stevens "Dance as Life" he talks about ABT when Makarova first set the Shades scene on them, and there were many wobbles.

It's a start, that's what we can say. The audience was very appreciative both nights - I wouldn't say it was unsuccessful at all. The soloist parts were all well danced. One thing though: I was expecting the ballet to begin with Solor smoking his opium pipe on the divan, but SFB/Makarova simply begin with the shades coming down the ramp. To me that provides little context for what we are about to see.

OK, so regarding Possokhov's The Firebird, I could stand to see better choreography for the Firebird character: more avian/alien in characterization, and less of a 'love interest' (failed) for Ivan. There are comedic bits which are mostly successful (depending on the mimetic talents of the dancer) and punctuate the action well. Sarah Van Patten was an effective Firebird (no suprise there) on Tuesday night, but she isn't given enough to do, imo. Jennifer Stahl danced the part on Wednesday night and was close in capability to Van Patten, though I think VP is a more poignant character dancer, and more exotic (which comes in handy here) in her characterisations. I should mention that the audience gave Stahl very warm applause that night. Grace Shibley from Oregon Ballet danced the "Princess" role that same night, and I have to say she is a keeper. I enjoyed her interpretation even more than Sasha De Sola's from the previous night. I don't remember details, only that she had a certain unique, arresting quality to her movements, something like Messmer's.

Christoper Wheeldon's Ghosts was also on the program, and I had the usual confused reaction to this Wheeldon ballet: some beautiful moments mixed together with mostly odd, unlovely explorative movements and I'm left wondering what was intended by it all. And yet another 'sculpture' suspended above the stage (because they just needed a post modern 3 masted schooner shipwreck thingy in that place). And the sculpture is moved in-between 'acts' to signal a new section of the ballet. Just 'cause. And I've seen that in a couple other Wheeldon ballets and just wondered what that really added. Sofiane Sylve and Yuan Yuan Tan were both exquisite on their night. And Feijoo and Kochetkova were both strong as well. The SFB dancers plainly love doing Wheeldon ballets, and that certainly makes a difference to the presentation, but I still run hot and cold with Wheeldon's choreography (in the same piece). And what did any of it have to do with Ghosts? Very, very little.

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I was the second corps Shade when dancing for the National Ballet of Canada. On the ramp - and in some theatres you have a double ramp (this means you climb a sort of ladder off stage and wait on a dark platform before you get into place for your first arabesque) - you have a bright light shining right in your range of vision when facing into the wings and it is hard not to be blinded by that light surrounded by the dark stage and wings. If you get spots in your eyes, you will be have a rough time seeing anything. All the rehearsing in the rehearsal room and on stage without that lighting cannot help you deal with that stark light in your eyes surrounded by black everywhere else. The whole entrance of arabesques going into the beautiful adagio by the corps requires an adagio technique which is not stressed in class or other ballets. It is a beautiful ballet to dance, and hard and on the legs and breath for the corps because of the sustained control of the adagio followed by the following waltz where the three soloists come on stage. I am flying into SF to see tomorrow night's show.

Great information - I'd like to hear what you think about the staging and lighting used for SFB (how it compares). It looks like you will see a really good cast for The Firebird (Tan, Helimets and De Sola). I think that was the original cast for Tuesday night, but things got changed around. I had really wanted to see Yuan Yuan as the Firebird. As she is nearing the end of her career (hopefully a few more years), now is the time to see her: one of the most elegant, ethereal dancers of her generation.

Messmer is dancing the Firebird role on Sunday - wish I could be there. ;)

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I'm really curious as to how Yuan Yuan Tan did as Nikiya - she has talked about how much she idolizes Makarova and how stressful the opening night of 'Shades' was. She also danced the White Swan recently in a gala tribute to Makarova at Lincoln Center (upon Makarova's personal invitation) so I assume they must have worked very closely on 'Shades' together.

I had also hoped that Froustey would be cast as Nikiya, but unfortunately she was only assigned the first shade solo variation. Perhaps I shouldn't be, though; in the clips I've seen online of 'La Bayadere's' second act, the solo shades seem to have more to do technically than Nikiya.

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Josette: It's interesting to hear from the other side of the footlights; thanks for your input. Although I criticized the corps, it's only because they have already set the bar high with their beautiful performances of Giselle, so I was disappointed. It's good for the company to dance something like this that doesn't sit as easily on them: I'm sure they learned a lot that will carry over into other ballets.

I had hoped to see Froustey as Nikiya too, although at a guess, maybe she's more of a Gamzatti. I certainly wanted to see her in something more than one 90 second variation!

I'm going tonight for Kochetkova/Matvienko in The Shades, plus the bonus of Feijoo, who should bring something interesting to Ghosts, and Tan in Firebird.

OK, back to work.

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After seeing the Kingdom of the Shades on Friday, 2/28, I have to say that the corps de ballet fully redeemed itself: All arabesques made it off the floor, although they were still somewhat uneven in height; balances were good both on and off the ramp; a much more coherent performance. Well done!

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After seeing the Kingdom of the Shades on Friday, 2/28, I have to say that the corps de ballet fully redeemed itself: All arabesques made it off the floor, although they were still somewhat uneven in height; balances were good both on and off the ramp; a much more coherent performance. Well done!

I can corroborate this PeggyR - thanks to United Airlines canceling their flights on Friday, due to the “big storm”, I went to the ballet again on Friday night. It was that or go to the movies on Van Ness, and that seemed depressing to me somehow, so back to the ballet…

The Corps looked to have gotten past their case of the nerves from earlier in the week. I’ve been thinking though that the ballet master should simply insist that all arabesques be done to a height that everyone can reach, rather than allow those with particularly good extension, or technique, do one thing, and everyone else follow their own individual path. It really is best to just get the Corp to look as one.

It looked like Elizabeth Powell did lead the Shades down the ramp again on Friday, but I haven’t been able to get confirmation of that - I didn’t have opera glasses with me this week. I would think that she would be thoroughly exhausted after 3 nights of La Bayadere, plus dancing as one of the “Little Princesses" in The Firebird on these same nights, and in-between, dancing as one of the leads in McGregor’s Borderlands, and also Ratmansky’s From Foreign Lands. But I believe I saw her leave with some of her cohorts to party after the show (they were definitely dressed to go out). Oh, to be 18 years old again!

What made it all worthwhile for me was seeing Yuan Yuan Tan dance the Firebird role, finally. And she was simply great. The SFB preview video of Possokhov’s Firebird, with Tan, is pretty tame looking compared to what was presented Friday night. Her performance added much needed depth and detail to the part - she gets those little things right, and she struck me as more “lively” and even “sassy” (which is a word I never thought I would use for Tan) than even Van Patten in her Tuesday night performance. At curtain call, apparently many other people were equally impressed, because there was this fantastic roar from the crowd (especially in the upper tiers) when Tan came running out - it sounded like a soccer match. I haven’t experienced that reaction much at the War Memorial. I also wanted to mention that Tiit Helimets was again great as “Ivan” - he seems to take real delight in the role and the fact that he looks like he’s having a blast really resonates with the audience. The best Kaschei at SFB remains Pascal Molat, though James Sofranko was still entertaining - he just didn’t have that larger-than-life characterization I think the part requires. Kaschei needs to command the stage, except for when the Firebird appears - then it's a jousting match.

The only real disappointment for me was the absence of Froustey and Messmer from La Bayadere (and apparently Froustey is already back in Paris rehearsing for their upcoming Tokyo performances). The Froustey/Chung/Messmer trio was something to be seen, and of course left me wanting to see a lot more from Froustey and Messmer…

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“It looked like Elizabeth Powell did lead the Shades down the ramp again on Friday, but I haven’t been able to get confirmation of that…”

Did you go to the Meet the Artist interview with soloist Luke Ingham before the performance? The interviewer asked him to talk about The Shades scene, he said something about how glad he was he didn’t have to go first down that ramp and do 38 arabesques, and then he said, ‘Poor Lizzie…’, so it might be her.

“At curtain call, apparently many other people were equally impressed, because there was this fantastic roar from the crowd (especially in the upper tiers) when Tan came running out - it sounded like a soccer match.”

That’s not an unusual reaction to either Tan or Zahorian. Be sure you never make even the mildest of negative comments about either of them: you’ll never hear the end of it.

I liked Tan’s Firebird too. Very exotic and fragile in contrast to Messmer’s more full-blooded character: and egret compared to an eagle.

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Did you go to the Meet the Artist interview with soloist Luke Ingham before the performance? The interviewer asked him to talk about The Shades scene, he said something about how glad he was he didn’t have to go first down that ramp and do 38 arabesques, and then he said, ‘Poor Lizzie…’, so it might be her.

I only caught the last few minutes of it - I literally decided at the last minute to follow the crowds over to the War Memorial and see what the box office had available in seating.

In Makarova's version, the arabesques are done on the same leg the whole way. The POB Corps switches back and forth between sides, which is probably more difficult to control, but it would be less tiring for the lead Shades. I've had my eye on Powell - to me, she seems like a natural, and Tomasson definitely seems to be fast-tracking her, and she keeps eating up the challenges. I hope she does develop into a full-time soloist - it is an exciting thing to watch a dancer 'grow up' and become 'somebody'.

I liked Tan’s Firebird too. Very exotic and fragile in contrast to Messmer’s more full-blooded character: and egret compared to an eagle.

I very much wanted to see Messmer in the role, but I couldn't deal with another couple of days in SF - too expensive, and I had work to get back for. I already think she's a great addition to the company. Last year, it was looking like the female principals were overworked, but now it seems more like a wealth of options - Zahorian is out, and were still not seeing enough of Froustey and Messmer!

Matvienko was also staying at the Inn at the Opera, and there was an older, blonde, well-dressed Russian woman with him. I wasn't sure who she might be, but I happened to speak with her for a while while we were waiting for our rides to the airport (her ride turned out to be Matvienko with a Cadillac). She wondered what I though about Bayadere specifically. Afterwards, I was wondering - was that Makarova? But at the Tuesday night performance, Makarova was wearing her usual silk scarf, wrapped around her head - it was clearly her. So I don't know who I was speaking to, but I'm curious to know.

EDIT: I've since realized that I WAS speaking to Markova - Duh! Her apperance has of course changed over the years, and this is how she looks now:

AP120428038521.jpg

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Pherank and Peggy, just gobbled up all your comments! I have become such a review hound, especially of performances I've seen. Your comments, both of you, had me nodding over and over again, although I attended the Sat 2/22 8p performance. Agreed on the inconsistency of the Shades descending in arabesque, agreed on the deliciousness of Froustey-Chung-Messmer solos, agreed on Ghosts feeling underwhelming, and very agreed, Pherank, with your comments on Firebird. I blogged about my experience at The Classical Girl and I'm astonished at how similar our comments are (YY being "sassy" - yes! Tiit Helimets looking great and having fun and the audience eating it up. Etc.) I'm especially enjoying that the two of you were able to see multiple performances and can offer such comprehensive detail about different casts. They took Damian Smith off the cast for my night - dammit! And they took out Sofiane Sylve and replaced her with Feijoo, which disappointed me too. I think it contributed to my not warming to Ghosts. No complaints about Feijoo, just no "wow" moments, like watching YY. I also think the order was skewed, and they should have opened with Ghosts.

Interesting, Pherank, your comments about Powell. I love watching who's getting cast and being fast-tracked. I hadn't noticed that happening to her, but now I'll be all ears and eyes there. I noticed Helgi's using Nicole Ciapponi a lot, and after she'd been pulled from the roster in July, only to be returned to it in Aug. I'd wondered if the first Shade was Julia Rowe, as she strikes me as someone with big soloist potential (no surprise - she did it in Oregon). I must say, Powell (if she was indeed the 1st one) looked just gorgeous. Too bad the others couldn't strike the same line, but I would agree with the comment that it needed to be "all as one" mentality there, and she should have been told "less is more" on her arabesque. But, wow, Powell does seem to have a soloist's demeanor.

Why aren't we seeing Clara Bianco or Dana Genshaft this season? (Or am I just not there the nights they were performing?) Helgi is certainly giving Dores Andre and Sasha de Sola a good deal of stage time this season. And they both seem to be rising to the challenge.

There are certainly exciting things going on there on the War Memorial stage, with Froustey, Messmer, Rowe and Shibley new on board. Will be very interesting to see how things pan out for all of them in the future. (The burning question: will Froustey stay?)

Really enjoying reading this thread - thanks so much, all of you, for sharing your comments.

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I meant to ask - why is Vanessa Z out? Injury? Pregnancy? Any ideas for how long? She's so reliably lovely when she dances.

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Always so interesting to read all the comments! I was at the Friday night program 3 on February 28. I thought the corps did fine work - that adagio is going to be somewhat more difficult for a group of diversely trained dancers to breathe together, get the line of their individual gazes together while using peripheral vision to keep in perfect lines, etc. I was sitting in the second row and it was indeed the lovely Elizabeth Powell who had the honor-responsibility of leading the Shades out on to the stage. There were discrepancies in the arabesque heights (second Shade's arabesque was only 90 degrees en fendu, which is strange because when you tilt forward into an arabesque allongé, your arabesque leg should naturally go up beyond 90 degrees) but it went very well. I did not care for the principals - effortful, tense, a display of working hard; not only lacking spirituality from the female principal but there was no classical ease that is needed for this role to make it beautiful.

For me, the highlight of the evening was Yuan Yuan Tan as the Firebird. (Also enjoyed Tiit Helimets very much.) What an exquisite dancer she is- refined, pure and uncluttered technique, utterly graceful, beautiful port de bras, no mugging, honest. She is a dream.

I am back in SF on March 13 and 14 to see Cinderella. I was hoping that Vanessa Zahorian would be on stage again, but, as was reported here a few weeks ago, she injured herself (a broken toe) when she danced the Diana and Acteon pas de deux at the gala, although she finished the performance. This was reported in one of the SF papers.

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