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Everything posted by PeggyR

  1. I wanted to add a few comments about the March 8, Saturday matinee cast for this program. FANCY FREE with Benjamin Stewart, James Sofranko, Ruben Martin, Sarah Van Patten, Erin McNulty, Mariellen Olson Sofranko was funny and brash and very endearing, although in the first solo, when he the hit the floor in a split, he tended to land with his feet and then slide down. He needs to watch some old movie musicals with the Nicholas Brothers. Stewart was beautifully controlled in his quieter second solo. And Martin's suave dance was wonderfully sensuous, although in the pas de deux with Van Patten, I didn't see much connection; this is a chance encounter with no future, so there has to be some immediate heat or there's not much point. One minor problem, for me anyway, is the way the costumes looked on the female dancers: women in the '40s and '50s had curves, and if they didn't, they bought them (my mother had a drawerful). On bodies that look like anorexic pencils the clothes from that period hang oddly and don't move right. Not much anybody can do about it, but I found it a little distracting here and in West Side Story Suite. And here's another movie recommendation for anyone preparing to perform Fancy Free: get in the mood by locking yourself in movie theater and watching all the musical numbers Betty Hutton and Gene Kelly ever committed to celluoid. IN THE NIGHT: Vanessa Zahorian/Garrett Anderson, Elana Altman/Tiit Helimets, Sarah Van Patten/Pierre-Francois Vilanoba I didn't read the program notes for this beforehand and just assumed the ballet was intended to be abstract, so I wasn't sure what to make of the emotional differences between the first two couples (beautifully performed by Zahorian/Anderson and Altman/Helimets). Where the first couple was discovering passion, the second had found and lost it, maybe reconnecting now and again with memories of the past. But when Van Patten and Vilanoba hit the stage, all doubts were gone: nothing abstract here; this was emotion in its most elemental form. Not having seen the ballet with different casting, I can't say if this third couple's tempestuousness was due entirely to the choreography or if Van Patten brought something special, though I suspect the latter. After being a little underwhelmed by her in Fancy Free, I was completely unprepared for the intensity of the drama she projected here. Some performers are good enough actors to get by (for example Yuan Yuan Tan's Giselle -- she's a charming live peasant, a charming crazy peasant, and a charming dead peasant, but you forgive her anything when she starts waving those endless legs and boneless arms around), but others pull something from inside that doesn't come across as 'acting' at all (I think Fonteyn was like that). I'd say most dancers fall into the former category, largely because a dancer's primary focus has to be the the technical demands; competent acting is a bonus if you can get it. But to see the of rawness Van Patten's performance...all I can say is 'wow'. My favorite moment (how to pick one?) came when she walked across the stage to Vilanoba, caressed his face, then ran her hand down his body and finally knelt before him, head down in what...submission, obedience, apology, worship? Don't know, don't care; it brought me close to tears (although if any founders of 'Ms' magazine were in the audience, I suspect they had a collective stroke!). BTW, nobody laughed at the upside down ballerina. WEST SIDE STORY SUITE I'm going to play the curmudgeon here and say that this didn't quite do it for me, and that's definitely NOT a comment on the amazing versatility displayed by these dancers. But I didn't sense the anger in 'Cool' or the humor in 'America' or the tension in the gym scene. I've never seem the stage show, only the movie (which has enough dead spots to qualify as Arlington National Cemetery, so I always fast forward straight to George Chakiris); therefore, I don't know how the dances looked on stage, but here I thought they seemed under populated and, well, 'danced'. The 'Maria' number and the rumble were, for me, the most effective, but I really could have done without 'Somewhere'. The audience went bananas at the end, so I guess I'm odd man out on this one. Having said that, my admiration is endless for performers who are willing (not to mention able) to take on something that must be pretty far outside their comfort zone; the cast performed well and it's always fun to see ballet dancers out of 'ballet' mode.
  2. sf herminator: Thanks for the review ( I have a few choice comments about rude audience members too). I'm looking forward to tomorrow's matinee; can't wait to see James Sofranko and Sarah Van Patten in Fancy Free. Cheers
  3. Sofiane Sylve will be dancing Myrtha for the opening of Giselle at San Francisco Ballet on February 16, along with Yuan Yuan Tan (Giselle), Tiit Helimets (Albrecht) and Pascal Molat (Hilarion).
  4. February 9, Saturday matinee of Program 1 Filling Station was unexpectedly funny and I hope it doesn't disappear after this season. There isn't a huge amount of dancing, but it provides a chance for the dancers get out of 'classical ballet' mode and have some fun playing over the top characters. The cast was good with Erin McNulty and David Arce funny as the Rich Girl and Boy, both drunk as lords. Nothing like a couple of sozzled ballet dancers to get the audience chuckling! 7 for Eight was well danced, particularly by Jaime Garcia Castilla (he of the amazingly flexible back) and Gennadi Nedvigin, and the Bach's music was glorious (although I think the pianist hit more than a few clinkers). But Tomasson's static choreography left me cold. As for Diamonds, Rachel Viselli and Reuben Martin performed the principal parts, and I must say I have a lot of sympathy for Ms. Viselli. Not only did she have to dance a role created for one of the icons of ballet, but this was her debut, a few days after all the raves for Sarah Van Patten's performance. I'm not familiar with Ms. Viselli's dancing, but she got through the technical difficulties well enough - a couple of missed turns - but there wasn't much dazzle or drama, and I thought her arms and hands were occasionally overly fussy. Reuben Martin looked a little strained and earthbound. The corps and soloists made a good impression. I hope a more informed commentator will have something to say about this performance; Ms. Viselli and Mr. Martin don't deserve to be ignored. Zerbinetta: Luke Willis wasn't on my cast listing either. tikititatata: Courtney Wright danced twice: the nagging wife of the golfer in Filling Station, and as one of the four soloists in Diamonds. It was fun to see her versatility in such wildly different roles.
  5. Since no one has posted yet about SFBs current season, I'll start things out, but I'm neither a writer nor a critic, so I hope someone else will expand on this. Also, I'd suggest checking the Links forum for proper reviews. February 2, Matinee Divertimento No. 15 Music: Mozart Choreography: George Balanchine Costumes: after Karinska Conductor: Martin West Principal cast: Elana Altman, Kristin Long, Sarah Van Patten, Katita Waldo, Rachel Viselli, Nicolas Blanc, Mateo Klemmayer, Hansuke Yamamoto For some reason, I've never thought of Mozart's music as being danceable; luckily, Balanchine disagreed (presumably that's why he was an artistic genius and I work for a bank). This charmer from 1956 provides ample opportunity for soloists and ensemble to shine, and generally I thought it a good fit for SFBs talented dancers, the women in particular. Only Katita Waldo in the First Variation looked uncomfortable and constricted. (I should say here that I'm a fan of hers; in December, she danced an exquisite Nutcracker GPPD. She seems like a very welcoming dancer, as if she couldn't be more delighted to have spent 10 years training and countless hours in class and rehearsal just so she could present this lovely gift to her audience. Not all performers can project that.) While she has speed, she lacks fleetness, if that makes any sense, but she was back on form in the beautiful Andante. Among the other very well danced variations, Sarah Van Patten stood out with a spontaneity that bordered on recklessness. And Nicolas Blanc in the male variation was notable for his soundless landings and some beautifully controlled pirouettes. My only serious complaint with the performance was the general sloppiness of the entrechats; even the women's supported entrechats looked ill-defined. That kind of thing is annoying in any performance, but Balanchine's choreography here doesn't easily forgive fudged details. I hope I just caught 16 dancers having a collective off day, batterie-wise. Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes Music: Virgil Thomson Choreography: Mark Morris Costumes: Santo Loquasto Pianist: Nataly'a Feygina Cast: Nicolas Blanc, Jaime Garcia Castilla, Frances Chung, Dana Genshaft, Margaret Karl, Gennadi Nedvigin, Patricia Perez, Damian Smith, Benjamin Stewart, Matthew Stewart, Katita Waldo, Vanessa Zahorian (note that there was a substitution, but a late-arriving patron in my row stomped on my foot just as the announcement was made and I didn't hear the names) This was just terrific, full of little signature moments (men carrying women draped over their shoulder, odd-ball entrances and exits). The earlier parts seemed like they would have been better served with the women dancers off-pointe, though later Morris uses more conventional ballet steps just slightly askew (e.g., releve passe - sorry, I don't have the little accent thingys - on the beat, then hold the passe an extra half beat and continue with the releves on the off beat). The last section, performed to the title song, was unexpectedly exquisite, almost reverent. Well danced by all and something I really want to see again. Firebird Music: Igor Stravinsky Choreography: Yuri Possokhov Costumes: Sandra Woodall Scenic design: Yuri Zhukov Principal cast: Firebird: Lily Rogers; Prince and Princess: Ruben Martin and Sarah Van Patten; Kaschei: Garret Anderson A very stylized, somewhat abbreviated telling of the Firebird story (according to Rachel Howard's review in the Chronicle, the Firebird suite is used instead of the full score). I gather this production has come in for something of a critical drubbing, but the audience certainly loved it and the dancers seemed to be having a high old time. The Prince and Princess are not the expected noble lovers; instead, she's a bit of a Valley Girl by way of Old Russia, and he's just a garden variety jerk. They're shallow and unlikable, and they deserve each other (I give it five years, then divorce court, lawyers involved, who gets the castle...), and while I don't like either of them, that dislike makes it all the more believable that he would dump the Firebird after she helps them escape Kaschei. Ruben Martin was appropriately caddish and Van Patten gave another superb performance. Garret Anderson, gotten up like Sid Vicious on a bad nails day, slimed around with plenty of gusto. In the title role, Lily Rogers beautifully caught the bird-like qualities of the character (without excessive arm flapping, thank heavens). She's a lovely dancer, and I was not a little astonished to discover she's still in the corps de ballet. Next Saturday, Program 1.
  6. Hello from San Francisco. Ms. Sylve is listed as a 'guest artist', so no telling how long she'll be around. Last night was the opening, and she's not shown yet on the casting (which is only up through February 5); no idea what she'll be dancing. Based on the comments here, I'm looking forward to seeing her. Peggy
  7. Hello BalletSanJoseWebmaster: As a 40+ years resident of the Bay Area, I'm ashamed to say I didn't realize San Jose still had a ballet company (I remember the San Jose/Cleveland company, but never got to see them). Although I live in Santa Rosa -- which means a 200+ mile round trip -- I'm definitely going to make an effort to get down there to attend a performance. Let's hope gas prices go down before then! Thanks for letting us know you're still there. Peggy
  8. I've seen several over the years (including a couple with Fonteyn/Nureyev), but the one that really stands out for me took place sometime in the '70s. The Royal Ballet (I think it was the full company, not some 'stars of...') had a Makarova/Dowell SL scheduled for a weekday matinee. Bought a ticket and asked for the afternoon off from work (note the order ). In the opera house lobby, there was a considerable buzz -- usually a sign someone has cancelled. My heart sank; sure enough, Dowell was injured. What had everyone abuzz was the news that Nureyev had come in specially to dance this performance. Whatever his faults, they were forgiven that afternoon. And she was absolutely glorious; I don't think I've ever seen such exquisite developes. Sometimes the audience is just 'with' the performers, no matter what, and this was one of those times. Great memory.
  9. tikititatata: I saw Courtney Wright at the 12/28 matinee performance, and you are so right: she's a lovely dancer with a beautiful line and crisp, clean technique, perfect for a Snow Queen. Does she often dance solo roles or was this a first? She's definitely someone I'll watch for during the upcoming season. Peggy
  10. zerbinetta: No, I haven't seen Luke, but I'll keep an eye out for him. Because I haven't been able to attend SFB regularly over the past several years, most of the dancers are unfamiliar to me. It's almost worth having missed out for so long just to have the fun of discovering so many new and exciting performers. Thanks for the 'heads up'! Peggy
  11. There's a lengthy discussion of SFB Nutcracker over on 'Heads Up' relating mostly to the digital broadcast of one of the performances a couple of weeks ago. Since my comments are unrelated to the broadcast, I'll post this here, but please move if it would be more appropriate on the other thread. SFB Nutcracker matinee performance on Friday, 12/28. First act: Lovely sets and costumes; the Edwardian style is much more flattering to a dancer's body than the heavy, bulky Victorian costumes so often used. Snowflakes: Always my favorite music and scene, and this production is lovely. The blizzard was a little startling, but the beautiful costumes glittered like crystal through the near whiteout conditions, although I do have to wonder how on earth the dancers were able to breathe! Plus, it's a little funny having a snow scene in snowless San Francisco! King and Queen of the Snow: Performed by Brett Bauer and Courtney Wright (both members of the corps). I believe it was mentioned on another forum that Ms. Wright is ripe for promotion to soloist, and based on what I saw here, she certainly is! She has a lovely, clean style and wonderful stage presence. Chinese: Corps member Daniel Deivison was a knockout. Russian: Soloist James Sofranko, corps member Benjamin Stewart, and apprentice Jeremy Rucker got the biggest (and richly deserved) ovation. I'm assuming Sofranko was the one in the middle, but all three danced equally well and I really couldn't tell the soloist from the apprentice. Waltz of the Flowers: Hideous costumes, boring choreography and I'm sick sick sick of that music. There, I feel better. Sugar Plum Fairy: Maria Kochetkova is someone I'm really looking forward to seeing in the future. Despite her petite size, she has that big, Russian jump, and gorgeous pirouettes, perfectly placed and controlled. Grand Pas de Deux: Katita Waldo and Mateo Klemmayer gave a warm and charming performance, although I thought those blue and gold costumes made them look like football cheerleaders.
  12. She's scheduled to dance the Snow Queen at the performance I'll be attending next Friday. I look forward to seeing her!
  13. A huge 'amen' to that. And if Father Christmas can handle another request, how about providing this new, digital age of filmed performances with some good dance directors. There must be some former dancers out there with an interest in directing. BTW I'll be seeing SFB's Nutcracker next week; no casting posted yet.
  14. Recently finished Simon Sebag Montefiore's biography of Stalin. Just finishing 'Stalin's Folly' by Constantine Pleshakov (about Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the USSR in June, 1941). Starting 'The Bookseller of Kabul' (which doesn't promise to be much more cheerful than either of the above). In the tbr pile: Julie Kavanaugh's two bios (Ashton and Nureyev); more books about the Stalin period; several about the current war in Iraq. I have a four-hour round trip daily commute, and it's too dark in the winter for reading on the way home, so I switch to audio books. Last winter was all of Jane Austen. This year it's going to be Anna Karenina.
  15. PeggyR

    Hello From Adam

    Hi Adam. How right you and Shankley are about ballet looking better in person than on TV. On the other hand, DVDs are giving us the chance to experience ballets and dancers we would otherwise never have a chance to see at all. Better than nothing, but nothing like live.
  16. A couple of seasons ago, SFB performed Wheeldon's Quaternary. The third section, Summer, was a breathtaking pdd for Muriel Maffre (now retired, unfortunately) and Yuri Possokhov. I've only seen it the one time, but it left such an impression that it has just about supplanted all the old favorites.
  17. Wow, talk about a blanket statement! Let's see: Fonteyn and Plisetskaya: big eyes, great dancers; Ulanova: little eyes, great dancer. I can't image the lack of 'big eyes' would hold anyone back from being a great anything (well, maybe lemurs would have a problem ). Personally, I love the expressiveness of large eyes, but I'd have to say 'big eyes' wouldn't be anywhere near the top of the list of qualities that make a dancer/actor/whatever 'great'.
  18. PeggyR


    Well, it seems I registered here over two years ago, and then never posted (actually, until a few months ago, forgot this site existed ). Anyway, I've been lurking for a while now and very much enjoying the civilized, intelligent discussions. I studied ballet off and on as a young child, then started seriously at around the age of 12 until the end of high school. There was never any chance I would become a pro, but my mother was kind enough to foot the bill for my daily lessons all those years just because she knew how much I loved ballet. As an (almost) senior citizen, I was lucky enough to see some of the legends when their companies toured to my hometown of Philadelphia back in the '60s - I remember the audience singing Happy Birthday to Fonteyn after Swan Lake (she must have been accustomed to this happening, but she was kind enough to act like it was the first time). And then there was the Bolshoi and Raissa Struchkova in (I think) Spring Waters, where she flings herself halfway across the stage at her partner. Naturally, the next day, before class, all the girls insisted on flinging themselves halfway across the studio at the boys. We were lucky nobody got hurt, since at that age, most of the girls were quite a bit bigger than the boys! Right now I'm living in the San Francisco Bay Area and finally have season tickets to SFB. I look forward to sharing thoughts on the upcoming season.
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