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Terry

San Francisco Ballet: "The Sleeping Beauty"

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This is the first time that I’m posting my personal impressions of a performance (it’s so difficult to find the right words to describe these performances and dancers!!!) but I had the wonderful opportunity to see two performances by the SFB -- both of them "The Sleeping Beauty" –- so I’ve given myself a try. smile.gif

First Night

Aurora: Lucia Lacarra

Prince Desire: Cyril Pierre

Bluebird: Joan Boada

Princess Florine: Kristin Long

Lilac Fairy: Muriel Maffre

Lucia Lacarra is a beautiful dancer. She possesses the most ideal physique for a ballerina -- long limbs, extremely small face, beautifully arched feet -- and can produce the most beautiful classical line. She displayed youthful charm in her portrayal of Aurora and her balances (particularly during the Rose Adagio) were well-controlled and breath-taking. While her beautifully “bent-in” knees created the most sublime lines for her arabesques and other poses, it also lead to some difficulties in her technique – her pirouettes and jetes were shaky in some areas. I also felt that her use of facial expression could be improved; she seemed to be trying a little to hard to look “sweet and cute” in the Rose Adagio, and I thought a more natural use of expressions would have added a certain freshness and ease to her portrayal of Aurora. In any case, her “Vision” Act was simply ethereal – I think Lacarra is excellent in adagios and perhaps more suited to dance them than the scenes with petit allegros/codas. As for the other dancers, Muriel Maffre had a striking stage presence; she really understood the significance of the role of the Lilac Fairy. Kristin Long made a fine Princess Florine; her variation was extremely fresh and crisp. I also cannot fail to mention Lorena Feijoo, who was a powerful “Fairy of Courage,” and Vanessa Zahorian (she danced one of the fairies, but I cannot remember which) who is an extremely charming dancer and would have been perfect to dance Aurora.

Second Night

Aurora: Tan Yuan Yuan

Prince Desire: Vadim Solomakha

Bluebird: Guennadi Nevidguine

Princess Florine: Tina LeBlanc

Lilac Fairy: Muriel Maffre

I was extremely excited to see Tan Yuan Yuan because my last performance of her dancing “La Esmeralda” pdd was fantastique, but her Aurora lacked the striking impression that she had left me when I last her. When I see Princess Aurora making her first entrance in the First Act, I expect to see a very charming, fresh, excited girl who is about to make her entrance into the social community of her castle environment. For me, Tan’s Aurora was a little too “strong” (I don’t know what words can really describe my impressions) but I just didn’t feel as if I was watching Aurora…rather, I felt as if I was watching the ballerina “Tan Yuan Yuan” simply performing a classical variation. I was a little disappointed also because she seemed a little inconfident during the Rose Adagio; she was technically unstable in many of her balances (attitudes and ecartes) as well as her pirouettes. I’m not expecting that the dancer be technically perfect during the Adagio, but when I see a principal dancer performing this role, I expect a certain degree of confidence in her portrayal of Aurora. Nevertheless, her 2nd and 3rd act proved to be much better, as I figure she has performed the 3rd act pdd quite a few times elsewhere. Muriel Maffre was, again, excellent – boy she can ACT!!! -- and Tina LeBlanc was a dynamic Princess Florine.

*If anyone else has seen the SFB, please post any comments!! I've become a great fan of this company -- it's an extremely exciting and strong company with great dancers, and it can no longer be called "regional" ! I would say that their caliber matches the level of NYCB and ABT. Actually, they might even be better, especially in their contemporary/neo-classical performances. smile.gif

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Thanks very much for that review, Terry. hope now you'll have the courage to write more of them smile.gif

Ballet Nut, did you see any of these performances?

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She possesses the most ideal physique for a ballerina -- long limbs, extremely small face, beautifully arched feet...

extremely small face?? is that ideal? sorry, small question.

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Hello Cilantro,

Thanks for reading my comments! This is really personal opinion, but I do believe that a small face is ideal for a ballerina. The reason why I think a small face is ideal is because of the importance of a dancer's physical proportion -- the head, the torso, and the limbs. She may have the longest limbs and the shortest torst, but with a big, round face, I think the dancer's physical proportion becomes a little imbalanced. Maybe she doesn't need an "extremely small face," but often times, I think a small face makes the dancer look more aesthetically pleasing. And when the dancers have to wear the classical wigs (like they do so often during the 3rd Act of Sleeping Beauty) a smaller face seems to go better with the wig. Well, this is just my opinion. smile.gif

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Nothing to apologize for there. The "mannerist" silhouette for a dancer has been fashionable even before Balanchine.

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Alexandra--I am seeing it this Saturday, and it looks like I will be watching the same cast as Terry. [Lacarra, et al].

Terry--I was wondering myself at how Yuan Yuan Tan would do with this role; although I love her dearly, I never pictured her as an Aurora. By the way, Zahorian did dance Aurora once or twice, and I imagine she did very well. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me a bit to see her be promoted next season.

I will post a mini-review as soon as I can.

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I've seen two performances of SFB's Sleeping Beauty and have very mixed views of it. My big problem with it is the choreography and staging. I don't think much of Helgi Tomasson's choreography and stage craft, even though I think he's done a wonderful job putting together excellent talent in SFB. There are several key areas where I think this production has shortcomings: 1) Sleeping Beauty is a fairy tale, but this staging has little fantasy, little whimsy, no drama and not much magic 2)he's made the fairies all but meaningless... he's added cavaliers to the fairies in the prologue (a bad move that removes focus from them and takes away their dancing time), he's added "little lilacs" which again, remove focus and dance time from the main fairies to the point that the fairies have little dance time and no personality. 3) His solo for Desiree in the second act is lame. He uses the peasant dance music for the prince, and gives him a solo that does nothing. Unfortunately, Tomasson just doesn't know how to link steps together, phrase dances, put whimsey, flash or character into his dances or add drama to steps. His dances always lack attack (I feel the same way about his Nutcracker, La Sylphide and Romeo and Juliet). These are all things Petipa was so brilliant at. When I look at an amazing choreographer like Nacho Duarto, I wish SFB could just dump their Helgi dances and globally replace them with his. (Even Michael Smuin had good stagecraft, showbiz flair and knew how to put steps together) 4) He doesn't know what to do with crowd scenes. Look at the scenes with Carabosse (called the Dark Fairy here). Nobody reacts. Everyone stands around just looking dumbfounded. The Dark Fairy's attendants(they look like crows) look like something out of a high school dance performance and, yes, completely remove focus away from this pivotal moment in the ballet. His treament of the Prince-Aurora kiss is leathal. No magic, no sex, no drama leading up to it, no magic resulting from it. Come on Helgi, this is supposed to be the moment the audience is waiting for.

Okay, SFB has wonderful, wonderful dancers. I just didn't feel they were coached very well in the classical style. Tomasson makes a big deal about how Russian this ballet is, but his principal dancers (especially the women) have little of the Russian style, nuance and flair needed to pull off these dances. Case in point, I saw both Vanessa Zahorian and Tina LeBlanc dancing Aurora. Neither dancer phrased the role very well. Neither finishes phrases before going into the next step. No puntuation to phrases. Zahorian was more charming in the role since she's so young, and it's her big break. I can see her growing into the role but I didn't think she was good in the first act. She got better as the performance wore on. LeBlanc, I don't feel, is well suited to Aurora. She's a very modern dancer, and while a strong technician, she's not terribly expressive. There was no chemistry between her and Parrish Maynard (definately one of the best dancers in the company... who looked silly in his white wig... they should dump it) I wish I could have seen Lacarra who is their best female principal. I suggest everyone watch the video of the Kirov version with Alla Sizova from 1965 to see how Aurora can be danced--she's incredible technically and can make your heart break. The big difference in quality comes the level of coaching. The SFB just didn't put in a very refined performance. And I say that even though I've loved them in many of the non-Helgi pieces I've seen them in this year. They have incredible talent in the soloists and corps. Perhaps they have too many casts, and not enough time to really grow into the work and polish it. Sleeping Beauty is one of my favorite ballets, I just wish SFB could get a great version of it.

I'm curious about other opinions out there of Tomasson's work like Prism and Turning Game. Did you think these are good ballets? Can't say I did.

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cheers,

Ralph

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Ralph -

Welcome and thanks for joining in with the really interesting commentary. One quick question (I'm on the wrong coast, so didn't see the production) Did Tomasson do more for the cavaliers in the prologue than is usually done? In various productions I've seen, they usually are there to lead the fairies out, partner them in a dance (the one with the climactic pirouettes into attitude) and have one short dance as a group.

There are more San Francisco Ballet Talkers here, and I hope they will chime in on the production!

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Leigh Witchel - dae@panix.com

Personal Page and Dance Writing

Dance as Ever

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Hi Ralph,

I agree with a lot of the points that you made. When I saw the performances, the sets and the production itself didn't strike me very much as a "fairy-tale." But this would mainly be a matter of cost, and perhaps the SFB didn't want to/couldn't spend so much on this production?(I'm only assuming here...) But even if the production itself wasn't too impressive, I agree wtih the fact that some of the dancers were excellent. I do, too, think that some of them could have been better with better coaching, but I see this so frequently in other companies as well. If they don't have the time or the opportunity to get the best coaching they can, then that would mean that the dancers would have to do more "research" (reading the original novel, watching videos, etc.) and challenge themselves on their own, which I think also accounts for a dancer's talent. This is what I think partly differentiates good dancers from bad: the amount of research and devotion that they put into their character. As Sylvie Guillem once said, the dancer has to use and try different sorts of ingredients, as if they were cooking. I'm not implying that these dancers aren't hard working, but sometimes, I do feel that some dancers are lacking in their amount of research.

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The sets and costumes were pretty (well, NOT the ugly wig they stuck on the Prince), but they weren't really matched by the style of the performing. Russian ballet is full of demi-character moves. Some of the most famous solos have a lot of folk dance in them. The fairy dances of the prologue should be brimming with personality and spice. I just didn't see any of this. I think SFB actually has plenty of dough for their productions. Their Nutcracker is fairly lavish, just the choreography and staging are flat. What I find less than satisfying about Helgi's tenture is that his productions are of a very middlebrow taste, in the city that has a lot of good dance. I think he's a good administrator, great at hiring talent, just not a good choreographer or stage director. With the roster of dancers they have, SFB could be even better with less Helgi.

------------------

cheers,

Ralph

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Well, I'm glad other people saw, and for the most part, enjoyed this performance. I suppose I did too, and will try not to write a book about it. wink.gif

So here is my "mini-review:"

Saturday Eve, March 24, 2001

As a whole I like this production. The costumes mostly are exquisite [although I do have some reservations about the Obi Wan Kenobi-esque robes worn in the Prologue.], especially in act 3. The sets are quite handsome, at least what I saw from up in nosebleed territory [aka the balcony]. My main gripe about the production is the way that the music in Act 2 was switched around, so that instead of the gong sounding as the Princess wakes up, we hear some soft violin music instead, which I found very anticlimactic.

As for the cast, Lucia Lacarra and Cyril Pierre danced the royal couple, with Muriel Maffre as the Lilac Fairy, and Roman Rykine and Katita Waldo as the Bluebird and Princess Florina. I know I'll get flamed royally for this, but, simply put, Lucia Lacarra is not my favorite dancer. I must be the only person who feels like this, as La Lacarra has garnered an almost cult-like following in SF. She is easily the most popular dancer in SFB right now, with her "perfect" body and streamlined extensions, and she knows it too. She spent the bulk of Act 1 with a big fake grin on her face, until she pricked her finger. Now I know that this is Aurora's big coming-out party, and she should be happy, but Lacarra's smile was more of a "look at me, I'm performing" smile than a smile of genuine happiness.

Fortunately, she fared better in acts 2 and 3. Her Vision Scene was appropriately ethereal, and the Wedding pas de deux was as good as any I've seen. This was due in no small part to Cyril Pierre's thoughtful partnering. It must be fun to dance that pas de deux with your real life partner. [Pierre and Lacarra are married.]

Muriel Maffre was a sublime Lilac Fairy, authoritative without being overbearing, but Anita Paciotti's Fairy of Darkness [aka Carabosse] was a bit on the campy side. The other fairies were all excellent, especially Amanda Schull and Vanessa Zahorian, as the Fairies of Generosity and Playfulness, respectively.

In Act 3, Liz Miner and Guennadi Nedviguine shone--pardon the pun--in the Jewels pas de six. Dalene Bramer and Peter Brandenhoff stole the show in the "Puss in Boots" Divertissement. Katita Waldo was a superb Princess Florina to Roman Rykine's Blueburd, even though I couldn't see his legs very clearly, except when he jumped, as his dark blue tights were very close in color to the stage.

To wrap this up, I was very impressed with the way SFB put on this production, and I look forward to seeing them again. [and again and again...]

[This message has been edited by BalletNut (edited March 26, 2001).]

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Must someone see Pierre-François Vilanoba in Desiré part, I'm waiting for information about him. He was at POB before join SFB and I would want to know how he dances now. I hope see him in SFB tour in next april especially in Otello. If someone could make me a review of him, I thank for it.

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Ralphsf, did you not think that Zahorian was "Russian" enough for The Sleeping Beauty? She was trained at the Kirov Academy. From early videos I've seen of her, she appears to have been very "Russian" when she was a student there.

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CygneDanois

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I don't think she's like a regular Balanchine prototypical American dancer (who mostly dance from the waist down), but she doesn't seem unually like a Russian one either. I always think most good Russian dancers have unusually expressive torsos, arms and backs and very clean line and phrasing. They are very well finished. That doesn't mean they're always better at dancing or better technicians. I think Zahorian has a bright future ahead of her. I would love to see her as Juliet. But there are a lot of good dancers among SFB's soloists and corp. It's a company that's really packed with talent.

------------------

cheers,

Ralph

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Ralph --

Who else do you recommend from the company?

I thought Liz Miner was charming. I'm also interested about Clara Blanco Casquette -- who I think will graduate from SFB School this year and perhaps join the company. She was a wonderful Giselle and Diana in the 1999 Prix de Lausanne. Also, are there any news about what they might be doing potentially for the next season?

Hope these aren't too many questions. smile.gif

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Hello Leigh,

When I first saw Zahorian as the Fairy of Playfulness, I thought the same too. smile.gif

A companion of mine also said the exact same thing!!! Leigh, do you also remember who competed in the Erik Bruhn competition that year from the 5 five companies?

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Here's info about the 2002 season at SFB:

[san Francisco Ballet's 2001-2002 season will include the company's first-ever productions of George Balanchine's "Jewels" and Jerome Robbins' "Dances at a Gathering" as well as world premieres by Julia Adam, Christopher Wheeldon and Yuri Possokhov.

The season, to be announced today by artistic director Helgi Tomasson, also will include revivals of what many consider the company's two most successful full-length productions, Lar Lubovitch's "Othello" and Tomasson's "Giselle." San Francisco Ballet is dancing the European premiere of "Othello" in Paris in May as part of its 2001 tour, so "we should already have it ready and beautiful for our own home season," said Tomasson, who next year also will create his 30th ballet for the company.

Ballets returning from the current season will include Hans van Manen's "Black Cake," Roland Petit's "L'Arlesienne," Nacho Duato's "Without Words," Mark Morris' "A Garden," Val Caniparoli's "Death of a Moth" and Tomasson's "Prism." Tomasson's "Silver Ladders" and Morris' "Sandpaper Ballet" will be among the revivals.

San Francisco Ballet has danced the "Rubies" section of Balanchine's "Jewels" before, but next season will be the company's first staging of the "Emeralds" and "Diamonds" that complete this unusual abstract three-act ballet.

"Dances at a Gathering," one of the masterpieces of 20th century dance, was a staple of Tomasson's own repertory at New York City Ballet, where he danced the leading role of the Man in Brown. "It was always such a joy for me to perform in Jerry's ballet," said Tomasson, who was considered one of the supreme interpreters of the Robbins style. "It will be very special for me personally to be close to it again."

In addition to New York City Ballet, the Paris Opera Ballet, the Royal Ballet Covent Garden and now San Francisco Ballet are the only other companies given the rights to "Dances at a Gathering." It will be danced at the Opera House as part of an all-Robbins evening, alongside his "Fanfare" and "Glass Pieces."

After a December run of 35 performances of "The Nutcracker," the company will dance a gala performance Jan. 30, 2002. The 69th San Francisco Ballet repertory season will begin officially with the all-Robbins celebration Feb. 5,

2002, and close with a run of "Giselle" May 3-12, 2002.

Tomasson's new production of "The Nutcracker," which had been expected for next season, "won't happen right now because we have been too busy to plan for that," he said. "Wonderfully busy, in fact, with our forthcoming appearances at the Paris Opera, Covent Garden in London and the Liceo in Barcelona. That is a lot of touring." A rumored new production of the classic "Coppelia" is, according to Tomasson, "still down the line."]

It doesn't sound like a lot of new stuff, but it will be good to see some seasoning. I'm looking forward to see what the company members come up with, since Adam and Possokhov have some real talent at choreography. Othello, to me, is the big news. The Robbins evening sounds great, but I really wish they were doing something other than Fanfare, which I think is lightweight Robbins. I see Ikolo Griffin is leaving for DTH. It's too bad. He was stuck in the corps for 7 years.

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cheers,

Ralph

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Terry -

I had an article on the Bruhn competition in the Autumn '99 issue of Dance Now.

The competitors were

National Ballet of Canada: Jhe Russell and Bei Di Sheng

Royal Danish Ballet: Gudrun Bojesen and Morten Eggert

San Francisco Ballet (as a substitute for the Royal Ballet): Zahorian and Gennadi Nedviguine

American Ballet Theatre: Marcelo Gomes. Gillian Murphy was to have competed with him, but an injury prevented her and Anna Liceica and Maya Sugano performed with him as non-competing partners.

Ralph - Othello is the big news? Oh my, we see things differently!

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Leigh Witchel - dae@panix.com

Personal Page and Dance Writing

Dance as Ever

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I also would appriciate any of you who might give some information about Pierre-François Vilanoba!

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enterachilles, as Francoise wrote in a previous post, Pierre-Francois Vilanoba used to dance with the Paris Opera Ballet. When he left, he was a "sujet", which is the third category of the company (etoiles, premiers danseurs, sujets, coryphees, quadrilles), and was considered as promising. I don't know how old he is. He is married with Rachel Rufer, who was a POB dancer too (a coryphee, I think) and danced in the corps de ballet of the SFB for a while; now I think that she is with the Grands Ballets Canadiens.

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Thank you Estelle!

I found her name among those of Grands Ballets Canadiens dancers.

I was wondering why he left POB, as Japanese ballet fans saw his brilliant dance in group performances of La Pietra a few years ago, but haven't got any news about him except he joined SFB.

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I hope message icon "!" is right one to use

in this situation...

Hello - I just woke up (just in words)I'm not Aurora but I felt like I slept for a long time. Because for last 3 to 4 months, I was so busy and I stayed away from Your site and other favorite sites (it was hard).

About Pierre F. Vilanoba, I thought he looked very handsome on stage. He was dashing, yet elegant at the same time that I was quite satisfied. This was a good surprise for me because I never was impressed by him. I was not interested him in Raymonda (last act only), never care for him in Giselle.

However, I think this time the period costums and wig did helped his images a lot.

He's firely prince and Julie Diana's soft and innocent Aurora was to me it was a nice combination. I liked their performance the best of 4 (and others in past) I saw.

I also liked Zahorian and Stephan Lage...te? (sorry, my spelling again) was another couple I thought was a good match. Zahorian was fantastic! But what shocked me was S. L...I used to said some nasty things about him

but this time, I discovered several "nice" things about him. One of thing was his timing in the last act. He was doing some sort of repeat jumps or turn ... maybe Jete en tournant in meneges(?) Anyway, it was such a fun seen a dancer and a conductor were together at that moment. Audience started to applause after 3 or 4 landing. He came across as clean and fresh young man and I thought Zahorian had almost - everything necessary as Aurora (Everybody I knew liked her).

Someone mentioned that he/she did not liked Lucia Lacarra as Aurora. I wonder this person saw Lucia doing last act of Raymonda with Vilanoba last year. Because I'm curious what this person thought about her interpretation of Raymonda.

For me, more I see her, less I like her.

It almost 4am! I'm writing a lot! I thought I just mention about Vilanoba and Larena Feijoo (with Maffre/Diana) But no, I should stop now.

Well, please excuse me for jumping in (and out) quite off timing.

~ mmp ~

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Glad you woke up! Welcome back, and thanks for posting.

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I believe it was I who said that I did not care much for La Lacarra. In response to the Raymonda question, I am sorry to report that I found her even worse in Raymonda than in Beauty. It's a little hard for me to pinpoint it exactly, but I think "too prissy" would be a decent description of why she was all wrong for the role. To be fair, I also saw her in Agon with Legate, and she wasn't half bad in that [neither was he, by the way], so maybe there's hope for her yet. ;) However, I still find her overrated and overused, often at the expense of the other, IMHO more talented, dancers at SFB.

PS. I am a "she." :)

[ 05-25-2001: Message edited by: BalletNut ]

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