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Tomasson Announces 2018 Festival of New Works

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pherank   

"Many of the choreographers featured in the festival will be familiar names to SF Ballet audiences—Edwaard Liang, Trey McIntyre, Justin Peck, Arthur Pita, Stanton Welch, Christopher Wheeldon, and our Resident Choreographer Yuri Possokhov. We are also welcoming several choreographers who are new to SF Ballet—David Dawson, Alonzo King, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Cathy Marston, and Dwight Rhoden. It’s a tremendous group of artists, and I eagerly anticipate seeing what each of them will create for us."

 

https://www.sfballet.org/2018festival

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miliosr   

Cathy Marston's name is the one that excites me the most. Nice to see her getting opportunities.

 

As for many of the other names, there's not a lot new under the Sun.

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pherank   

I'll share some of the feedback to SFB on Instagram:

 

"Very exciting. Please include more women choreographers next time, though!"


"Not a very balanced programme... it's 2017 #morewonderfulwomenplease"

"FINALLY A BALLET BY ALONZO KING FOR SFBALLET. WAY OVERDUE. TOO BAD AFTER MINE AND SO MANY OTHER DANCERS TIME. BUT SO PLEASED TO SEE HIS NAME ON THE LIST AND EXCITED FOR THE COMPANY TO EXPERIENCE WORKING WITH HIM FINALLY."

"Only two females? Ugh."

"2 women out of 12 choreographers? Shameful..."

 

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

Granted, tempers are short right now, so I'm not surprised by these opinions. But assuming there can only be 12 ballets (budget and time-wise), who should be replaced, and by whom? And can you defend your choice?

 

Yuri is the resident choreographer for SFB, so he's sort of a given to take part. But for that reason, he could demure and choose to create on a different company in 2018 to open a space for a guest choreographer. A festival with only 1 or 2 female choreographers places even more pressure on the women (than the men) to produce significant work. If the ballets turn out badly, or are simply dull/predictable, the women won't be able to shrug it off as easily as, say, Christopher Wheeldon. I'm inclined to give at least 2 more women a shot at this, but I concede that I don't have any particular favorites that I really need to see creating a ballet for the festival. I would like to hear some suggestions from people who are more knowledgeable.

 

I can guess that the last thing Tomasson wants to deal with is politics, but arts and aesthetics always make some commentary on society and politics, even if it is subtle commentary.

 

 

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miliosr   
1 hour ago, pherank said:

Granted, tempers are short right now, so I'm not surprised by these opinions. But assuming there can only be 12 ballets (budget and time-wise), who should be replaced, and by whom? And can you defend your choice?

 

I'm inclined to give at least 2 more women a shot at this, but I concede that I don't have any particular favorites that I really need to see creating a ballet for the festival. I would like to hear some suggestions from people who are more knowledgeable.

 

I can guess that the last thing Tomasson wants to deal with is politics, but arts and aesthetics always make some commentary on society and politics, even if it is subtle commentary.

 

 

We don't know who may have been approached and declined but, assuming that Lopez Ochoa and Marston were the only two women asked, why not Melissa Barak (Barak Ballet, ex-Los Angeles Ballet, ex-New York City Ballet) or Gemma Bond (ABT), who has made a number of pieces for New York Theatre Ballet? Or how about Crystal PIte, who made the very well received Seasons' Canon for the Paris Opera Ballet this past Fall. Speaking of the Opera, the etoile Marie-Agnes Gillot made a piece for the Paris troupe several seasons ago. It wasn't a success but who knows? Maybe a change of scenery and a change of troupes might have resulted in something wonderful.

 

Those are just four women who came to my mind immediately. So, there were -- and are -- other options.

 

As to who I would get rid of: Liang (minor work), Peck (overworking/overexposed), Welch (minor work) and Wheeldon ("Yes Virginia, another Christopher Wheeldon ballet.")

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sandik   

I don't want to juggle the "who should we cut" list, but I did think the mix of freelancers and company-based choreographers was interesting.

 

As far as women are concerned, a few thoughts.  As Miliosr says above, we don't know who they may have asked only to be declined, but I wouldn't be surprised if Pite was in that situation --she's booked pretty solid.  I don't know as much about the professional life of Melissa Barak or Gemma Bond, but again, it may be a scheduling thing.  Ditto for Jessica Lang, who is having a big surge in her career right now.  I don't know Cathy Marston's work -- it looks like she's mostly been working in Europe, so this is a chance to see a new approach.  I do know Lopez Ochoa's work, and I think she's an excellent choice.

 

And speaking as someone who spends most of her time on the West Coast, even if Peck and Wheeldon are familiar and prolific in other places, they may make something truly specific when they're not on home turf -- I can certainly see why Tomasson would invite them.

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Quiggin   

Agree with pherank about Yuri Possokhov – he does a new piece every year (a premiere this Thursday), plus recently a full length ballet (Lermontov Hero of Our Time) for Bolshoi. And not exactly in a new direction.

 

But I don't think it's about politics regarding the number of women choreographers (not) included. It simply should reflect the world outside the cloistered windows of 455 Franklin Street. The Museum of Modern Art recently last year did a survey of contemporary painting called Forever Now and, without the curator having to sweat it, half the artists were women.

 

miliosr -

 

Quote

As to who I would get rid of: Liang (minor work), Peck (overworking/overexposed), Welch (minor work) and Wheeldon ("Yes Virginia, another Christopher Wheeldon ballet.")

 

Yes. 

 

[I took this part out because I thought it was too negative but I see pherank cited it. It was something to the effect that while San Francisco is socially very progressive, we are fairly conservative in the arts ("the San Francisco Paradox" according to architects). No great contemporary buildings, no artists in the Whitney Biennial, no great art shows since the Philip Guston retrospective of 1980.  So we're in a bit of a cultural bubble. In dance we don't have uptown vs downtown, ABT vs NYCB to give us an idea of the range of possibilities. A rigorously conceived New Works program could help, but this one, while well intentioned, doesn't look as though it will wake up the sleepy kingdom.]

Edited by Quiggin

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Drew   

The festival sounds like it could be very fun--I hope it features some fantastic new works.  I do care about the development and support of women choreographers (especially in a ballet idiom) though I am sure there are mind-boggling variables when you are putting together a festival.

 

From where I sit, I only get a narrow view of the larger ballet/dance world myself...but thought I would throw another name in the mix of women choreographers who have worked with ballet companies: Helen Pickett. She is more 'contemporary' than classical (as are a number of those mentioned above and being included in the festival) but has done a number of works for Atlanta Ballet set on pointe. The one I saw I liked at least as well--even rather better--than the work I've seen by a couple of the choreographers mentioned above.


Atlanta Ballet has long regularly featured women choreographers in its repertory (admittedly not always the most classically based repertory in the world), including their own ballerina/choreographer Tara Lee -- and this year will be premiering a work by Gemma Bond.

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pherank   

Great feedback from everyone, and I agree with many of the suggestions. I asked the question precisely to force people to play A.D. - there is no escaping the difficult choices, even if you expand the list somewhat  (but this isn't going to be a Stravinsky Festival with 30-odd ballets).

 

Miliosr: I agree that Liang's work doesn't tend to be 'significant', but he is significant to the Asian ballet scene (and I believe is good friends with Yuan Yuan Tan who is one of the most revered Asian dancers ). Not inviting Wheeldon would be odd given his strong relationship with Tomasson and the SFB dancers (e.g., he's largely responsible for Kochetkova being in SF). Peck is getting to be overexposed, and yet I would definitely like to see him create another piece on the SFB dancers. It's almost like there needs to be two festivals - one can be "New Works" and feature bigger rep choreographers, and one can be "Emerging Artists" to feature 'promising' or overlooked choreographers (and this group could feature a predominant number of women looking for more exposure).

 

I agree with Quiggin's assertion about SF being in a bubble. Partly that's a response to the bubbles around New York and New England. Anything west of the Ohio river remains the cultural "wild west".  ;)  It's difficult to be taken seriously in the arts, so usually it's just better to do the work, and not worry endlessly about one's 'reputation'.

SF, Vancouver, and Los Angeles are all important gateways to Asian culture, but the east coast is oblivious to these developments. (The new administration will definitely hinder that relationship anyway.)

Edited by pherank

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sandik   
5 hours ago, Drew said:

From where I sit, I only get a narrow view of the larger ballet/dance world myself...but thought I would throw another name in the mix of women choreographers who have worked with ballet companies: Helen Pickett. She is more 'contemporary' than classical (as are a number of those mentioned above and being included in the festival) but has done a number of works for Atlanta Ballet set on pointe. The one I saw I liked at least as well--even rather better--than the work I've seen by a couple of the choreographers mentioned above.

 

She's got a couple of works in the Oregon Ballet Theater repertory.

 

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miliosr   
10 hours ago, pherank said:

It's almost like there needs to be two festivals - one can be "New Works" and feature bigger rep choreographers, and one can be "Emerging Artists" to feature 'promising' or overlooked choreographers (and this group could feature a predominant number of women looking for more exposure).

I would agree. A festival based around choreographers who have never worked at the San Francisco Ballet might have been a tremendously invigorating concept. As it is, the feeling left by this hodgepodge of names (some of whom we've already seen the limit of what they can do, including Wheeldon) is one of lassitude. This will land hard but I don't know that Helgi Tomasson, after 31 years in the saddle at the San Francisco Ballet, has much connectivity to choreographers who are bubbling under. Say what you will about Benjamin Millepied and his wayward tenure at the Paris Opera Ballet (and I often do) but I do think he has his ear much closer to the ground.

 

One name that came to mind after I posted my list of female choreographers yesterday: Lucinda Childs. Reading the reviews from her recent career retrospective at the Joyce in December, I was struck by how many reviewers mentioned the ballet-like upper body carriage of her dancers, as if she had backed into a form of primitive ballet from postmodern everyday movement. Pairing such unlikely collaborators as Childs and the San Francisco Ballet might have produced fascinating results.

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sandik   
6 hours ago, miliosr said:

One name that came to mind after I posted my list of female choreographers yesterday: Lucinda Childs. Reading the reviews from her recent career retrospective at the Joyce in December, I was struck by how many reviewers mentioned the ballet-like upper body carriage of her dancers, as if she had backed into a form of primitive ballet from postmodern everyday movement. Pairing such unlikely collaborators as Childs and the San Francisco Ballet might have produced fascinating results.

 

Both Childs and Karole Armitage are post-modern choreographers with an affinity for a ballet body and have created works that take advantage of that kind of virtuosity.

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pherank   
12 hours ago, miliosr said:

Say what you will about Benjamin Millepied and his wayward tenure at the Paris Opera Ballet (and I often do) but I do think he has his ear much closer to the ground.

 

 

That reminds me - the one glaring omission from the festival would be Millepied. Why have him create a dance for the gala, but not have any follow-up commission?

 

The inclusion of Stanton Welch seems like a gentlemanly way to say, "sorry for taking your dancers away from you." But is he more deserving of the opportunity than other struggling choreographers?

Edited by pherank

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miliosr   
On ‎1‎/‎25‎/‎2017 at 7:04 PM, pherank said:

 

The inclusion of Stanton Welch seems like a gentlemanly way to say, "sorry for taking your dancers away from you." But is he more deserving of the opportunity than other struggling choreographers?

Another way to look at is that those dancers (Ingham, Robison, Strongin, Walsh) who decamped from Houston to San Francisco had taken the measure of the Houston repertory (Welch's own work and his programming choices) and realized there were greener pastures elsewhere.

 

In any event, your point is well taken -- I doubt we're going to see a big breakthrough from him at this last date.

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This Festival was mentioned at a Q&A session after a PNB performance this week (Dawson, Lang, Forsythe).  A comment was made that SFB was attempting to schedule these 12 works in such a way that an out-of-towner, like me, could travel to SF and pack all 12 ballets into several days (less than a week I'm hoping).  I know SFB is used to mounting more than one ballet program in a week, so they are capable of at least that.

 

Does anyone know if it's going to be possible to see all 12 ballets without having to be in SF for the entire period (or nearly the entire period) from 4/20 thru 5/6/18??

Edited by SandyMcKean

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pherank   
8 hours ago, SandyMcKean said:

This Festival was mentioned at a Q&A session after a PNB performance this week (Dawson, Lang, Forsythe).  A comment was made that SFB was attempting to schedule these 12 works in such a way that an out-of-towner, like me, could travel to SF and pack all 12 ballets into several days (less than a week I'm hoping).  I know SFB is used to mounting more than one ballet program in a week, so they are capable of at least that.

 

Does anyone know if it's going to be possible to see all 12 ballets without having to be in SF for the entire period (or nearly the entire period) from 4/20 thru 5/6/18??

 

That sounds exhausting. ;) But I admire your ambition.

I was never much of a film festival person either  it's too much for my brain to take in all at once.

 

Thinking about the numbers - it seems pretty obvious that we are talking about small scale works, and what we might see is a lot of PDD and PDT oriented pieces. Which could be a great chance to see the younger dancers dancing soloist parts.

If there was an average of, say, 6 dancers, per ballet, 12 works would require 72 dancers. So there's a question of how many appearances the dancers will be able to make in the festival. As of today, there are approximately 69 dancers in the company. But 3 more will be gone at the end of the season. And the number of injured dancers is always changing - we can't really guess about that for next year. It's going to be very busy for SFB.

Edited by pherank

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pherank,

 

For reasons I don't fully understand myself, I seem to have an inexhaustible appetite for seeing ballet for hours on end.  Since I moved 2 hours north of Seattle, I now confine myself to PNB's 1st weekend (since I must stay at friends etc in Seattle).  So to see multiple casts, I simply go to all 3 shows that weekend.  This means I sit there for 3 shows in a little over 24 hours.  On that Saturday, I am in McCaw Hall from about 11:30am to nearly midnight (with sojourns for food etc).  A couple of years ago, on a lark, I even went both weekends and saw all 7 shows in a row.  Believe me (as our faux-Pres often says), I can take it :D:wink:.  I also have a brother in Marin I will visit while there.

 

From what I can gather, SFB is planning 4 shows of 3 ballets each.  Sounds like I will either have to miss a few, or contrary to the comment I heard at the Q&A, one will have to be there quite a few days to catch all 12 ballets.

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pherank   
18 minutes ago, SandyMcKean said:

pherank,

 

For reasons I don't fully understand myself, I seem to have an inexhaustible appetite for seeing ballet for hours on end.  Since I moved 2 hours north of Seattle, I now confine myself to PNB's 1st weekend (since I must stay at friends etc in Seattle).  So to see multiple casts, I simply go to all 3 shows that weekend.  This means I sit there for 3 shows in a little over 24 hours.  On that Saturday, I am in McCaw Hall from about 11:30am to nearly midnight (with sojourns for food etc).  A couple of years ago, on a lark, I even went both weekends and saw all 7 shows in a row.  Believe me (as our faux-Pres often says), I can take it :D:wink:.  I also have a brother in Marin I will visit while there.

 

From what I can gather, SFB is planning 4 shows of 3 ballets each.  Sounds like I will either have to miss a few, or contrary to the comment I heard at the Q&A, one will have to be there quite a few days to catch all 12 ballets.

 

It's good you have family that you can stay with - the hotel, transportation and restaurant charges are immense these days. It's been "bumming me out".

It would definitely be easier on the dancers to spread things out a bit - this will be at the end of the season too, so some of them may be banged up.

I'm starting to wonder if the rest of the season is likely to be repeats of ballets that the dancers (and audience) already know.

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Tomasson just reported by e-mail that they will announce their 2017-18 season on Thursday, April 13 on their web page.

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pherank   

As reported by California, there's a general announcement for the 2018 season now that mentions, "This festival, which replaces traditional Programs 7 and 8 on the schedule, consists of four programs: A (April 20-May 6, 2018), B (April 21-May 4), C (April 24-May 5) and D (April 26-May 5). Each features three debut works, still to be announced."

So it looks like there is some overlap of these programs. I didn't see a mention of a new Possokhov ballet this time around - looks like Myles Thatcher will take his place.

Edited by pherank

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Looking at the actual schedule it seems I can see all 12 new works if I stay in the SF area for a week (4/20 thru 4/26 inclusive).  Not quite a long weekend, but close enough for me to make it happen.  I've informed my brother in San Anselmo to expect my wife and I as guests for that week :wink::D.

 

It will be real fun for me to go to SF's Civic Center and enter the War Memorial Opera House once again.  I grew up in Marin and started my 50+ year love affair as a ballet spectator in 1964 while attending UC Berkeley.  As it happened, I latched onto what was called in those days an "usher ticket" from the student center.  This ticket allowed a student to see a performance at the opera house for free if they came early to usher.  I thought I was going to hear a symphony:crying:.  I didn't even know it was going to be ballet.....my first ever!  Well, thanks to my lucky stars, the 1st piece was Balanchine's Serenade.  When the curtain opened to that iconic tableau of 17 women basking in the moonlight I was stunned by the beauty.  By the time the music and all those feet hit first position, I was in love.......a love that has never diminished in all this time.  What a treat to go back to where it all started for me!!

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dirac   
Quote

 

Cathy Marston's name is the one that excites me the most. Nice to see her getting opportunities.

 

As for many of the other names, there's not a lot new under the Sun.

 

 

Agreed.

 

Given Alonzo King’s roots in the area, it’s good to see him on the list.

 

With regard to female choreographers – no, 2 out of 12 is not adequate. I hope they tried harder. That said, how about developing someone in-house? We know it’s harder for female dancers to find the time, among other obstacles, but is Tomasson doing anything to encourage them?

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pherank   
53 minutes ago, dirac said:

 

With regard to female choreographers – no, 2 out of 12 is not adequate. I hope they tried harder. That said, how about developing someone in-house? We know it’s harder for female dancers to find the time, among other obstacles, but is Tomasson doing anything to encourage them?

 

 

Totally unknown. I'm sure the idea of having a choreography workshop at SFB has been bandied about, but I doubt there's resources to really make that happen. Need another big donor. ;)

 

I don't get the sense that there's any organized approach to developing choreographers (female or male) at SFB. I think Myles Thatcher is a 'happy accident' for the company. When he won one of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative awards - studying with Alexei Ratmansky - then things were really able to develop for Thatcher. This article tells a bit about how he got started in all of this:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sean-martinfield/myles-thatcher-profile-of_b_5440878.html

 

Rolex article about Thatcher and Ratmansky as protege and mentor:

https://medium.com/mentor-protégé/reinventing-old-ideas-of-classical-dance-60480179b0d6

 

All budding choreographers should have mentors (preferably more than one). I would like to see opportunities for young choreographers to work together too, creating longer works as team.

 

 

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My brother, who has season tickets to SFB, just sent me a graphic of the April and May 2018 calendar that shows specifically how the 12 New Works programs are distributed across the performance dates at the end of April and the beginning of May 2018.  (They label the 4 performances of 3 ballets each as: A, B, C, D.)

 

As it turns out, SFB is packing performances into nearly every available date.  Looking at this chart of dates, I can see several ways to see all 12 works in 4 consecutive days........indeed, there is even a way to see all 12 works in 3 days (4/27, 4/28, 4/29).  So the rumor I heard at PNB is true after all.....one can see all 12 works in a long weekend!

 

SFB New Works.jpg

 

 

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pherank   

Returning to the discussion about choreographic training at SFB - this has just appeared in a SFB subscribers email -

 

Blake Johnston Profiled in the San Francisco Chronicle
SF Ballet School Choreographic Trainee Blake Johnston was featured in the San Francisco Chronicle discussing her new work Filamentous, created for SF Ballet School's 2017 Student Showcase.

 

And here's the linked article:

SF Ballet School student takes turn as dance maker

By Claudia Bauer

http://www.sfchronicle.com/performance/article/SF-Ballet-School-student-takes-turn-as-dance-maker-11177051.php

 

Choreographic Trainee Blake Johnston, is, wait for it - a young woman.  ;)

This of course begs the question(s): how does one become a choreographic trainee at SFB, and how many spots are there for interested parties? [The article does explain how this happened for Johnston, but it doesn't sound like a planned out program at this point.]

Edited by pherank

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