pherank

SFB 2017 Season Program 4: Balanchine

35 posts in this topic

Just to get things started - I came across this statement in a review of Svetlana Lunkina's Canada All-Star Ballet Gala

"Also making a huge impression was San Francisco Ballet's Sofiane Sylve and Carlo Di Lanno, a real-life couple who danced with exquisite control and palpable feeling the "Diamonds" pas de deux from Balanchine's full-length Jewels ballet. Earlier in the evening, the dancers had paired together to perform an excerpt from Ashton's Cinderella, a full-length extolling the crystalline clarity of the English school. They were one of the evening's big discoveries."

I think it's pretty likely that this "big discovery" partnership is going to be the opening night cast for Diamonds. Or it will be Sylve and Helimets (as they were shown rehearsing together on World Ballet Day). Chung mentioned online that she would not be appearing in Program 4, which is a shame, but SVP and Kochetkova are rehearsing for Diamonds. But what about the Stravinsky Violin Concerto cast? I've heard/seen nothing. Prodigal Son is also a mystery at present. It would be great if Karapetyan could perform as the PS in his last season. I'd like to see Joseph Walsh with Sylve or Jen Stahl as the Siren.

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I've seen Sylve, Zahorian, Yuan Yuan Tan, and Van Patten in Diamonds (also Julia Diana years ago).  We know that Sasha de Sola was rehearsing Diamonds, but with Kochetkova also doing it, that means five ballerinas for  Diamonds, which seems unlikely.  I've seen Vanessa in Violin Concerto.  I'm seeing the Balanchine matinee on March 18 - a break from going to Ratmanksy/ABT's Whipped Cream in O.C.

 

Glad to hear that Sylve and Di Lanno were impressive at the Canada All-Star Ballet Gala. She is world-class.

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25 minutes ago, Josette said:

Glad to hear that Sylve and Di Lanno were impressive at the Canada All-Star Ballet Gala. She is world-class.

 

She was very impressive, although I have to admit that audience response was relatively muted, partly because she elected to perform two adagio pieces (which didn't have the instant recognizability of a "White Swan" or "Dying Swan"), partly because there was a large contingent of National Ballet of Canada dancers present, and they cheered on fellow company members very noisily, thus making response to the other pieces seem comparatively quieter, and also because some people don't "get" Sylve, which I remember being discussed on this board before. I heard some of this myself, which prompted a full-throated acclamation of Sylve's artistry from me!

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Sylve is the Queen of dancers.  

 

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To be sure, these special gala audiences are not always the most knowledgeable about ballet. But obviously it's a mixed crowd.

I imagine Sylve can be intimidating for some audience members who are more use to cheering on young dancers with nerves, giving it their best shot - that sort of thing, and here is this WOMAN, completely composed and immersed within the choreography without bobbles, stumbles, wavering, anything. Powerful, but clean, crisp and elegant. And she doesn't dance with a lot of "attitude": she's not trying to be in-your-face, and overwhelm the steps with "personality". Sometimes it's like watching a Shaolin monk dispatch opponents - quickly, and noiselessly.  ;)

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Casting for the first two nights is up on the website:

 

March 7:

STRAVINSKY VIOLIN CONCERTO

Aria I: Sarah Van Patten

Aria I: Luke Ingham*

Aria II: Yuan Yuan Tan

Aria II: Tiit Helimets

PRODIGAL SON

Son: Joseph Walsh*

Siren: Sofiane Sylve*

DIAMONDS

Principal Cast: Vanessa Zahorian

Principal Cast: Carlo Di Lanno

 

March 9:

STRAVINSKY VIOLIN CONCERTO

Aria I: Sofiane Sylve

Aria I: Aaron Robison

Aria II: Vanessa Zahorian

Aria II: Carlo Di Lanno*

PRODIGAL SON

Son: Angelo Greco*

Siren: Jennifer Stahl

DIAMONDS

Principal Cast: Maria Kochetkova*

Principal Cast: Joseph Walsh*

 

Also, Maria Kotchetkova says this is her only performance of Diamonds: 

 

 

Finally, full disclosure: I recently accepted a role at SFB in Audience Engagement and Education, so will be doing less speculation on this site, but will try to pop in now and then to answer questions as I can! And if anyone has thoughts on SFB's audience education initiatives, please feel free to reach out!

 

 

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I'd love to see Wei Wang as the prodigal son. 

 

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13 hours ago, apollosmuse said:
Finally, full disclosure: I recently accepted a role at SFB in Audience Engagement and Education, so will be doing less speculation on this site, but will try to pop in now and then to answer questions as I can! And if anyone has thoughts on SFB's audience education initiatives, please feel free to reach out!

 

 

That's sounds very exciting, Apollomuse - congratulations. I'm guessing that means you are organizing the adult ballet classes (Ballet 101, 201, etc.)? And the POV lectures?

 

I do have one request: that the 2017 Pointes of View Lectures and Meet the Artist Interviews podcasts be posted. Having those appear only at the end of a season (or after) isn't really that helpful, and I'm going to guess that SFB website visits go way down in the off season time. Better to strike while the iron is hot.

 

3 hours ago, Josette said:

I'd love to see Wei Wang as the prodigal son. 

 

 

It could be he's going to be part of Program 5 instead. We shall see...

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13 hours ago, apollosmuse said:

PRODIGAL SON

Son: Angelo Greco*

Siren: Jennifer Stahl

 

Interesting casting. There's no * by Stahl's name. When did she perform this role in the past?

 

And congrats on the new job, @apollosmuse! Perhaps you can bring back the SFB blog? I miss the behind-the-scenes posts from the dancers. Those added a personal touch that seemed balanced and lively!

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Thanks @PeggyTulle and @pherank! I will be organizing the Meet the Artist, Pointes of View, Ballet 101s etc, alongside longtime adult education coordinator Cecelia Beam, as well as working on a variety of other new projects. Podcasts are high on my list of to-dos, but there likely won't be any changes there until next season--but stay tuned! I have some big ideas for those. And the blog does still exist under "Articles" in the SFB website's "Explore" tab: https://www.sfballet.org/explore/articles-videos. Posts right now are a bit more educational rather than "behind-the-scenes" but there are some dancer blogs from the fall if you scroll back!

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Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, apollosmuse said:

Thanks @PeggyTulle and @pherank! I will be organizing the Meet the Artist, Pointes of View, Ballet 101s etc, alongside longtime adult education coordinator Cecelia Beam, as well as working on a variety of other new projects. Podcasts are high on my list of to-dos, but there likely won't be any changes there until next season--but stay tuned! I have some big ideas for those. And the blog does still exist under "Articles" in the SFB website's "Explore" tab: https://www.sfballet.org/explore/articles-videos. Posts right now are a bit more educational rather than "behind-the-scenes" but there are some dancer blogs from the fall if you scroll back!

 

Just some food for thought:

The website menu link reads "articles", which isn't much of a draw. I don't think the term actually conveys all that is necessary, if there will be blog entries and informative blurbs, and videos samples.

I'm not really certain which were dancer blog entries originally, but that brings up a technical issue with the page - I'm forced to constantly click "Load More" to see another couple of entries, and it would be nice to have a menu system that could display sub-categories (so users can jump right to a listing of blog entries, or ballet education articles, etc.. The end result of all the clicking is one long unorganized list. The faster the user can get to a particular kind of information, the happier they are likely to be.

 

I used to make my living as a web interface designer and developer, so I'm particularly sensitive about these things, I realize. I used to keep telling people that they needed their website to be viewable on smart devices too, but now that everyone has made the change, most websites suffer from a different set of navigation issues. We've gone from one extreme to another. The new SFB website experience has its issues (not surprising for anything newly developed). The NYCB website uses the term "Discover" for this type of content. That works for me. And their menu link is simply "MENU" rather than a (for many) cryptic stack icon. Not really your area of concern, I know.  ;)

Edited by pherank

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They were probably on stage when the television crew happened to be in the auditorium. You can see that the Vestnik Toronto crew spent some time getting sounds bites in the dressing rooms, and they also filmed a longer Russian-language interview with Ruslan Skvortsov. Lunkina has appeared on the program more than once, so I doubt she feels cheated.

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Esteban Hernandez is dancing the title role in The Prodigal Son in the Saturday matinee! 

 

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Posted (edited)

On 3/9/2017 at 5:02 PM, Josette said:

Esteban Hernandez is dancing the title role in The Prodigal Son in the Saturday matinee! 

 

 Toi toi toi Esteban!

Josette, you will get to see the opening cast for Stravinsky Violin Concerto, too - it should be great.

 

I was able to see the opening two shows of Program 4.

For me, the must see was the Stravinsky Violin Concerto, and SFB delivered two strong performances with excellent casts. A plus to these two performances is that they both featured Vanessa Zahorian, in principal roles, and I realized by the 2nd night that I would probably not get to see her dance again before her career ends this spring. Zahorian is dancing with much joy and enthusiasm right now, so now's the time to see her. The Stravinsky Violin Concerto casts were:

Tuesday, March 7
Yuan Yuan Tan, Tiit Helimets
Sarah Van Patten, Luke Ingham

Wednesday, March 8
Sofiane Sylve, Carlo Di Lanno
Vanessa Zahorian, Aaron Robison

I just read the two available reviews for these shows, and I saw things pretty similarly to Allan Ulrich.

S.F. Ballet has the know-how to know how to do Balanchine
http://www.sfchronicle.com/performance/article/S-F-Ballet-has-the-know-how-to-know-how-to-do-10986431.php

San Francisco Ballet – Stravinsky Violin Concerto, Prodigal Son, Diamonds – By Claudia Bauer
http://dancetabs.com/2017/03/san-francisco-ballet-stravinsky-violin-concerto-prodigal-son-diamonds-san-francisco/

Like Ulrich, I found that the dancers "seemed almost hungry for this repertoire", and were completely immersed in their roles, which is what an audience wants to see.

Claudia Bauer noted Yuan Yuan's prominent liquid quality in Stravinsky Violin Concerto:
"Tiit Helimets partnered Yuan Yuan Tan in Aria II. Her extreme flexibility would seem to be an asset in such an acrobatic ballet; but combined with her boneless lyricism, it blurred the lines between positions."

I wasn't as bothered by this, and found her to be (as usual) fascinating to watch. There's always going to be that argument of whether a dancer is a proper "Balanchine dancer". But there are going to be times when it's worth seeing what an excellent artist can do with a role. YYT is still incredibly limber in the "twilight" years of her career, and I didn't get the sense that she was deliberately altering anything so much as being herself, and moving her limbs the way they need to move. Sarah Van Patten was moving like maternity leave never happened - it's almost uncanny how little her physique and energy level has changed. Not for one moment did she appear out-of-sorts, or missing her inner groove. Helimets and Ingham both danced and partnered well, and they were a pretty good pairing visually on the stage. On the second night (Wednesday) Carlo Di Lanno and Aaron Robison were physically more contrastive.

Prodigal Son is an intense workout for the male lead, and the Siren is a conspicuous part for the female lead (and only female dancer, as I recall). Joseph Walsh was emotionally and physically up to the task on Tuesday night, though I got the impression that he didn't spend the usual amount of time dragging himself across the stage with the wooden staff. I want to say that he seemed to use the staff very briefly before leaving it on the stage beside the fence/table prop, and that produced a lag in the action. That was my impression, but someone else may have seen things more clearly/differently. Sofiane Sylve was apparently dancing the Siren role for the first time(!), which surprises me. Her movements were, naturally, well executed. I expected her to be a bit more imperious and threatening than she actually played it this first time out. I think I wanted to see more Preying Mantis from her. Perhaps, she was just concentrating on being in the right place at the right time, and will need more opportunities to find her approach for this role.

I was excited to see Angelo Greco dance the PS - he was at times explosive, and performed an admirable Villella/Baryshnikov leap at the beginning of the ballet. Greco's technical abilities are jaw dropping at times. His 'acting' was generally believable and appropriate - he gets the primitive energy of the ballet. Where he briefly got into trouble was during the scary lifts - the first in which the PS must lift the Siren (Jennifer Stahl) with his neck, and later push her up while she is seated on his head. Talk about potentially dangerous. From my position, I could see him straining mightily when she sat on his head. Concussions anyone? Greco is a fairly short man (though thankfully not skinny), and Stahl is one of the taller female dancers, so the mismatch in sizes does make a difference with that type of stunt. I should say that Jennifer Stahl was very good in her turn as the Siren, but again, I wanted to see something a bit more threatening. Overall, both performances of PS were intense fun. Walsh strikes me as a dancer that needs to get his head around a role to be able to flesh it out properly, while Greco seems more a creature of pure movement, and not likely to over-think a role. Both are likely to succeed in this role given more time and opportunities.

Diamonds also went well in general, both nights. Tuesday, Vanessa Zahorian was completely in her element - she's just lovely - there's no better word for it, and I kept thinking how much Di Lanno's partnering has improved in his short time at SFB. His movements were very quick and precise in relation to Zahorian (and the music was at a fast tempo). He has great lines, and uses his arms and hands particularly well. The unexpected misstep came during his solo turn - of all places - I recall that he went off balance during the first set of turns, and then possibly didn't complete the usual number of turns in the next movement and seemed to finish ahead of the music. Perhaps it was nerves, or dizziness, it was hard to know, because he then went back to being his best self. Wednesday night was the first and only performance of Kochetkova (with Walsh as her partner) in Diamonds. Masha is always very well prepared for any role, and her attention to detail is appreciated. Maybe the film of Suzanne Farrell dancing the PDD with Martins has permanently marked me, but I still like to see a long-limbed woman in the lead, as certain arabesques and slow walks on pointe steps just look better to me with that kind of physique. But Masha is the consummate, caring professional, and its still a treat to see a dancer putting 100% into a role. Walsh is very personable on stage - easy to root for, often smiling, and makes an elegant, steady partner. It was an excellent first outing for the two of them. One of the critics mentioned the Corps not being precise or clean enough. What I notice is how crowded and congested the stage looks, and that alone has to make it hard for the Corps dancers to get a sense of what's happening about them. The WMOH stage just looks too small for the Diamonds finale. Maybe I'm wrong, but the film of the POB dancing Diamonds at the Garnier looked less cramped, and that serves the finale better. I would like to hear back if anyone knows what the dimensions of the Garnier stage are.

For the first night, I had purchased a side box seat, just to finally see what that view was like. Well, the view from the boxes is indeed very good (in terms of distance and height from the stage), but if one is in a side box a certain portion of the stage is hidden from view (but you get to see into the wings of the opposite side of the stage, if that means anything). Fortunately, since I sat on the opposite side of the auditorium in the orchestra ring section for the Wednesday night performance, I was able to see what I missed the first time. Prodigal Son and Diamonds both require a central viewpoint to be able to see everything clearly. The downside of the box seats are the "seats" - these are vintage wooden chairs, with fairly uncomfortable seat cushions. They can be moved like any chair to get a better angle on the proceedings, which is a good thing, but I wouldn't call them ergonomic or comfortable. That was a bit of a disappointment. The people in the center boxes are paying a lot of money but they're sitting on the same 'historic' chairs. Maybe they should demand Herman Miller Aeron chairs instead.  :)

There were two other men sharing the box that I was in. The first was a senior citizen named Clarence, who was a major Kochetkova fan. Clarence had been an usher at the Opera House for many years, and has known a number of the dancers over the years. His proudest moment seemed to be the time that he was walking through the Performance Arts parking lot and someone tapped him on the shoulder, and said, "Hello Clarence!" and it was Masha - she had recognized him and remembered his name(!). He told me about the time he had extra tickets to the Opera and took Clara Blanco and Madison Keesler. As it turned out, the other 'box mate' was the husband of violinist Cordula Merks who was playing lead violin on Stravinsky Violin Concerto. Clarence plied him (Mike Gamburg) with many questions, and I overheard that the couple was from Seattle. Today I looked for Merks information online, and she is Assistant Concertmaster with the Seattle Symphony, and her husband, Mike Gamburg, is contrabassoonist with the Seattle Symphony. Btw, Merks received a loud ovation for her playing.

A couple of other impressions -

The lighting seemed unnecessarily harsh for Stravinsky and Diamonds, though there is a more subdued lighting employed for PS (thank you!). The lights were so bright during Diamonds that reflected light from the many bejeweled and sequined(?) costumes were glaring off the Opera House walls. Which brings me to the subject of the Diamonds costumes - on loan from National Ballet of Canada - I don't love them. All the glittery additions struck me as being too chintzy looking, and they just don't seem authentically elegant as the Karinska originals were. Too much of a knock off feel to these. I'll probably be the only viewer who thinks that though.

 

Totally last minute FREE deal: I have a printable PDF ticket for tonight's performance - PM me if interested. Orchestra A 10 - a pretty nice seat.

 

 

Edited by pherank

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What a wonderful description, pherank. Thank you!  

 

BTW, I have also met Clarence. He is very friendly and loves to talk about the dancers, most of whom know him by name.    

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5 minutes ago, Josette said:

What a wonderful description, pherank. Thank you!  

 

BTW, I have also met Clarence. He is very friendly and loves to talk about the dancers, most of whom know him by name.    

 

;) I got the impression that it probably wasn't so strange that Masha remembered him - I think he's probably been able to talk to her at length a few times. Who knows? May Clarence have many more years of ballet-going.

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pherank; Clarence introduced me after a show (the night that Davit proposed to Vanessa) to Lorena Feijoo and Vitor Luiz, who were both utterly charming.  I run into the dancers fairly often in the afternoon before performances.    

 

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20 minutes ago, Josette said:

pherank; Clarence introduced me after a show (the night that Davit proposed to Vanessa) to Lorena Feijoo and Vitor Luiz, who were both utterly charming.  I run into the dancers fairly often in the afternoon before performances.    

 

 

I wish had been able to hang around more, to talk with some of the dancers. Thursday afternoon as I was walking by the WMOH, I looked up and saw Joseph Walsh walking towards me, he smiled at me and nodded, so I greeted him and told him I appreciated his performance. And Sofiane Sylve walked past me as I was asking a question of one of the security guards (where was the nearest post office?), but it wasn't an opportunity to chat. I was feeling too sick on Thursday though, to stay for the Program 5 opening as I originally intended. Some times, things just don't work out. I'm thankful to have seen the Balanchine performances, and to have seen Zahorian one last time. How sad that is. And no Karapetyan appearances so far, which is really, really sad -  he can't even go out with a glorious last season. May the gods grant him a few good shows.

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I also hope for Karapetyan's return this season. I have tickets to two performances of the program including Within the Golden Hour, my favorite Wheeldon ballet, and the Myles Thatcher new work, which should feature Vanessa. I am seeing two performances so that I will be sure to have another Vanessa performance before the end of the season. I would fly up to see Cinderella if I knew Vanessa and Davit were dancing the leads.  

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Just checked casting and Davit Karapetyan is dancing Diamonds tonight with Yuan Yuan Tan!  Hallelujah!

 

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18 minutes ago, Josette said:

Just checked casting and Davit Karapetyan is dancing Diamonds tonight with Yuan Yuan Tan!  Hallelujah!

 

 

OK theater gods - make this go well!

Merde, Davit. Merde, YYT.

 

I would think Davit would want to be part of Swan Lake and Cinderella - those are high profile shows.

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On 2017-03-02 at 3:48 AM, apollosmuse said:

Finally, full disclosure: I recently accepted a role at SFB in Audience Engagement and Education, so will be doing less speculation on this site, but will try to pop in now and then to answer questions as I can! And if anyone has thoughts on SFB's audience education initiatives, please feel free to reach out!

 

 

 

Congratulations.  I echo what other posters have said about the website. My suggestion would be that under the "Explore Ballet" tab, the "Programs" heading be changed to "Events", since "programs" can be ambiguous. House programs? And I agree that "Explore Ballet" doesn't immediately suggest things like pre-performance talks.

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Posted (edited)

pherank, thank you very much for a such articulate and comprehensive review of the Balanchine program.  It was so much joy and pleasure to read your observations expressed with such respect to the dancers.  I also appreciated your input regarding the side box seats as I always wondered what the view from over there might be. Now I know better not to splurge. 

 

In response to your questions about the stage dimensions at WMOH--it appears to be smaller than the Garnier stage.  I  was at the Garnier this January for the performance of "Impressing the Czar" by Dresden Semperoper Ballet and it struck me how huge that stage was. It easily accommodated over 40 dancers for the the final act when the dancers were stomping and jumping in a large circle and it didn't look even remotely overcrowded. But I don't have the numbers to prove my impressions about the largeness of the Garnier. The WMOH stage is reported as being 52 feet wide. 

 

I saw Davit Karapetyan in "Diamonds" last night and felt like he must have had a substantial reason for why he decided to retire this year. He was a bit shaky at times and there were a cuple of partnering difficulties but he still showed the most beautiful, deepest plies and had a noble carriage.

Edited by Dreamer

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