PeggyR

SFB 2014 Program 8

33 posts in this topic

The dancers on Program 8 put on a great effort but they seemed to be dancing as independent agents and you didn’t see the visual overtones. Did no one look at the Balanchine Celebration tape of the straight-forward, no-nonsense performances of Peter Boal and Arch Higgins? Of Daniel Duell at the the 1982 Stravinsky festival? Or even the recent Dutch Ballet clips? Or try to borrow back some of the Agon rigor they had in Shostakovich Trilogy?

Brahms/Schoenberg was on the other hand quite lovely. It had less of the strangeness and eerieness that the City Ballet production of 2004 had, but was nonetheless a very satisfying end-of-season work to see. I liked the third movement best. I think it’s the four colors of costumes – pinks for the corps and pink and red for the demis, red for the ballerina and a contrasting petro blue for the ballerino – that do it for me. Dores Andre and Joan Boada were in great form, and brought off nicely the odd recto/verso figures the ballerina makes as she’s lifted overhead.

Quiggin, that "Agon" sounds horribly disappointing.

I saw Agon with both Yuan-Yuan Tan (May 3rd), and Sofiane Sylve (May 6th), and both performances were a mixed bag of high points and muddled interpretations. Sylve is better with Balanchine than most of the other SFB dancers, and she didn't disappoint, but her PDD partner Tiit Helimets wasn't, imo, executing movements as well as I expect him to do. I also noticed that his jumps that evening seemed to lack his usual spring (and he wasn't the only male danseur that night who seemed to lack real energy). It occured to me, with Kochetkova being absent from one expected performance, and Messmer not appearing in two ballets, and SVP also withdrawing, that the end of season aches and pains must be taking their toll on the company. Dores Andre seemed to be the go-to-replacement. I'm just not as excited about watching Andre as I am about seeing Messmer. When I saw Program 7 on Sunday, I wasn't particularly interested in seeing Suite en Blanc again, but I was really surprised at how much better the execution of this ballet was from last season - the dancers really had fun with their parts and showed true 'elan' in this perfromance. SFB appears to need more time with Agon - to echo Quiggin's comments the company needs to order a stack of "Balanchine in Montreal" DVDs and force everyone to take Volume 2 home with them. And study, study...

The B-S Quartet was 'lovely' both nights (the costumes are a fun part of the experience), but I don't happen to be a real fan of that Balanchine work - for me, the choreography is unusually repetitive for Balanchine, and simply isn't as clever or inspired as some 20 other Balanchine ballets that they could be dancing. But that's just my view.

Robbins' Glass Pieces was generally well executed and the orchestra played particularly well, but, that's all the Philip Glass I need to hear this year. Funny thing, Scarlett's Hummingbird (Program 7) uses Philip Glass's muisc as well. ;)

The audience responded well to the Glass Pieces performance - it's a good closer - I would have been less excited to end with BSQ.

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Quiggin, that "Agon" sounds horribly disappointing.

Actually, Helene, it wasn't. It's true that the ensemble was not tight and that the timing was less than impeccable, but there were two surprisingly good performances as well as one unsurprisingly marvelous one. Gennadi Nedvigin, whom I like but who is not a Balanchine dancer, acquitted himself more than honorably in the first pas de trois--his flexed feet were witty and quite extreme--and Yuan Yuan Tan, whom I wouldn't necessarily have thought would be ideal for Agon pas de deux, was excellent in it--with an erotic overtone both subtle and unmistakable. She did not *act*--she gave us that coloring through her dancing, and it was fascinating. Sofiane Sylve was also terrific in the pas de deux.

Frances Chung, who is lapidary in everything, was brilliant in the second pas de trois--only ballerina I've ever seen equal it was Maria Calegari (Hayden was before my time)...Her arms in the variation were phenomenal, as was her balance in the first section. The woman I went with, an ex-dancer who is new to SFB, was floored to learn that Chung is quite petite and slight--'but she occupies so much space and dances so BIG!' Exactly.

Sylve was good in Glass Pieces, too. Corps was exceptional in it. NYCB ends with this sometimes as well--I think Brahms would have been a far better ending. (At NYCB Brahms is always the last ballet.)

Brahms was a mixed bag. Froustey, who actually dances the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux very respectably, was very good in the first movement as was Carlos Quenedit; I like Dores Andre's dancing tremendously but think she is completely miscast in a part made on Gloria Govrin and designed to be of HUGE AMPLITUDE. Andre is a smallish, graceful, vivacious dancer good in adagio and allegro but this part is supposed to eat the stage and it was quite unremarkable. From an earlier post, I gather that perhaps Simone Messmer was scheduled for the solo part in the first movement and was unable to dance? Tiit Helimets' partnering was strong in the *lethal* Intermezzo (any danseur doing this role should get a Purple Heart) and Tan looked good but they seemed rushed, hectic, and lacking in repose. It seemed strenuous, which is the opposite of Patricia McBride. Chung was lovely in the Andante, and Sylve and van Patten both danced with enormous style and scale in the Rondo. van Patten nailed EVERY multiple supported pirouette the night I saw her and her last one, in which she appeared to do about two or three more than she had planned and finished smack on the beat, brought a wonderful slightly surprised grin from her.

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I saw the opening cast and loved "Agon." Pascal Molat brought out elements in the choreography and music that were new and unique. He danced with great understanding, as always. Frances Chung took me by surprise as I did not anticipate liking her in the second pas de deux, but she was musical, varied the repetitious elements in her solo- she never fails to surprise me. I had the great fortune of seeing Sofiane Sylve in the pas de deux with Tiit Helimets. As far as the group not being In perfect sync, this isn't "Swan Lake" Act 2 and it didn't bother me at all. It's a group of individuals, after all. I'd never seen all of B-S Quartet. What I remember most now, 10 days after the performance, is Julia Rowe as of the three demi-soloists in the second movement. I couldn't take my eyes off her, including when Kochetkova was on stage. Rowe dances with her whole being, nothing is compartmentalized. She has a true, beautiful dance movement. (I actually ran into her today when going into the theatre and had the chance to tell her how beautiful her dancing was.) in the fourth movement, Sarah Van Patten was an adorable minx, flirting with Davit Karapetyan, and the audience ate it up. As for "Glass Pieces," I love the music, the concept, the choreography, and thought the dancers did an excellent job. Yuan Yuan Tan and Damien Smith were superb, but no surprise there. I went out of the theatre elated, as there had been enough good dancing and some extraordinary dancing.

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As far as the group not being In perfect sync, this isn't "Swan Lake" Act 2 and it didn't bother me at all. It's a group of individuals, after all...

Actually I did care that Agon would come off well as a whole ballet, with all its interlocking parts and “visual overtones” intact – rather than being a series of good performances for company members. There are many other ballets for that.

Agon is the one major Balanchine work done in a year at San Francisco Ballet and for the year to come, until Four Temperaments at end of next season. Last spring Symphony in Three Movements – with both its casts, Yuan Yuan Tan & Vito Mazzeo; Sarah van Patten & Carlos Quenedit – was a brilliant success. It too had very difficult counts – as did Shostakovich Trilogy... Some ballets like Agon are important to keep alive for their idea content, the dancers almost invisible within them.

I know this is a minor quibble within the San Francisco Ballet Company topic heading and the comings and going of dancers (of which I'm as much interested as anyone), but the condition of the Balanchine ballets themselves might be of broader interest – somewhere.

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I apologize if I wasn't clear: I did think that "Agon" went very well as a whole.

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As far as the group not being In perfect sync, this isn't "Swan Lake" Act 2 and it didn't bother me at all. It's a group of individuals, after all...

Actually I did care that Agon would come off well as a whole ballet, with all its interlocking parts and “visual overtones” intact – rather than being a series of good performances for company members. There are many other ballets for that.

Agon is the one major Balanchine work done in a year at San Francisco Ballet and for the year to come, until Four Temperaments at end of next season. Last spring Symphony in Three Movements – with both its casts, Yuan Yuan Tan & Vito Mazzeo; Sarah van Patten & Carlos Quenedit – was a brilliant success. It too had very difficult counts – as did Shostakovich Trilogy... Some ballets like Agon are important to keep alive for their idea content, the dancers almost invisible within them.

I know this is a minor quibble within the San Francisco Ballet Company topic heading and the comings and going of dancers (of which I'm as much interested as anyone), but the condition of the Balanchine ballets themselves might be of broader interest – somewhere.

Your point is well taken, Quiggin. I found the 2 performances/casts that I saw engrossing, but there were a significant number of "lost in translation" moments. When the opening male Pas de quatre is not well synced I find myself displeased and waiting to be won over. Sylve's and Tan's performances redeemed things for me (and for different reasons), and certain dancers like Hansuke Yamamoto and Molat had many good moments (again though for different reasons). I think I had less of a problem with the Corps and lower-rank dancers who, "just did the steps", than the principals who have a tendency to want to interpret, or add flavor: sometimes it would work for me (Tan comes to mind) but mostly the deviations would make the Balanchine choreography less distinct, less sharp, the constant state of tension, the precariousness, I expect from Agon was dropped a number of times.

It's worth pointing out that it's all a matter of what we compare with - SFB can perform Agon, and the orchestra can play Agon, better than 95% of the companies out there, but is it performed in the manner that the masters intended it? (I've got to include Stravinsky given his close involvement with the project) That is another issue. Those of us who greatly admire Balanchine's work, long for a return to the original approach and aesthetic, but I concede it will never really come again.

Note that Serenade will be in Program 1 in 2015 - and I eagerly await that time. ;)

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Quiggin, I didn't see that Symphony in 3, but heard great reports. I agree with you about the paucity of Balanchine (which is an upsetting new trend at SFB) and you are absolutely right about the ideas in a ballet like Agon.

That said, there was NO dancing in the Agon performance I saw which involved the dancers 'interpreting' in any way. Tan's, Chung's, and Nedvigin's dancing was well within the range of classic Balanchine style, and although personal and interesting was never mannered, contrived, or attempting to impose the dancers' own schticks. I see this sort of dancing constantly from Kochetkova, which is one reason I try to avoid her performances if humanly possible. I saw this sort of horrific infliction of personal schtick (in this case, accompanied by an embarrassingly inadequate technique) during the hellish years when Heather Watts was given every principal role in the NYCB rep to slaughter at her whim. Speaking of other Agons, I don't know how many you've seen recently, but other than Pacific Northwest Ballet's this is about as good as they get now. NYCB's current Agon, like most of the rest of their repertoire, bears no resemblance to the great ballet of which you spoke quite eloquently.

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jsmu, I liked Sylve in this production of Agon – she was excellent; it’s always interesting to see just where she’ll break a phrase in two or suture two phrases together. She seemed a little less cooly vulnerable or walking on a the edge of a precipice than Darcey Bussell, a non-Balanchine dancer, did at City Ballet in 2004. I also liked the Miami production I saw in Berkeley not too long ago with Jeremy Cox and Deanna Seay and Jennifer Kronenberg – it was smaller in scale and had softer contours than City Ballet’s, but Cox in the coda of the first pas was intensely locked into his character, very memorably staring straight out into the empty darkness all the time. And way back were Peter Boal, Wendy Whelan, Arch Higgins and Nicolai Hubbe in the Agon that I saw in 1993. The recent Dutch National Ballet clips on YouTube (now gone) of the two men in the bransle simple were a good example of well-done layered patterns and off-time timings (so I will have to disagree with you, pherank, about the 95% number).

Frances Chung on Tuesday was also very good (she was also fine in Raymonda iii last year), though I sometimes feel she leaves the stage just a little too soon and I haven’t had time to completely take in everthing she’s done. Tiit Helimets improved between the dress rehearsal Thursday and Tuesday night, less tenuous, less blank, and he did hit some parts towards the end right on – the little off-side stomping dance steps almost onto the invisible fourth wall between the audience and the stage. I felt Pascal Molat was trying to intrepret but couldn't find his character or the tone of the part, and I didn’t get to see the other cast, as Wednesday night’s performance was cancelled. In general I guess I was also not able to give passes I might otherwise for the once a year Balanchine event from a company that has a reputation for doing Balanchine well (and often).

I was not a great fan of Heather Watts either, especially in Bagaku which she seemed to own. The 1990’s were supposed to be an off-period at City Ballet, but I always did look forward to seeing Maria Calegari, Roma Sosenko, Wendy Whelan, Kyra Nichols, Jeffrey Edwards, Damian Woetzel, Boal, Hubbe, Higgins, wonderful Symphonys in C, Emeralds, Liebeslieders, etc.

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