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Program 4 & 5 Impressions

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I saw Program 4 on Wednesday night. Briefly:

Spring Rounds should be retired. Dull, dull, dull.

Chi Lin still holds up, and though they dispensed with the fireworks at the end, I don't think they were missed. There was already about one too many things going on up there. Yuan Yuan was lovely. Mesmerizing. And Davit Karapatyen as the Dragon ... WOW. We Wednesday nighters haven't seen much of him. He is delicious!

Eden/Eden was interresting because it was something different, and the dancers were really pushing themselves. But it became boring after a while, with much the same thing going on and on and on. It's message was very unsubtle and repeated endlessly. It was sort of fun to watch, but I think it was way too long.

Here's hoping that next week's program includes pieces where the dancers actually wear tights. I'm sick to death of bare legs.

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Program 5, 17 March 2007


As far as SFB is concerned, it's almost a shibboleth to say anything negative about Mark Morris, but I'm sorry to report that I didn't like this ballet. It was short enough that there was no need for an intermission between it and the next ballet, but it still felt over-long. Choreographically, it's in a category with Taylor's Spring Rounds and any other flowy, fusiony modern ballet where there are few if any identifiable principal roles, every corps dancer gets their own little solo, and which invariably end with everyone dancing in joyous, upbeat circles in their gauzy, hand-dyed costumes. Not bad the first time you see something like that, but a couple of seasons of this stuff and it gets tiresome. And the music was sort of awful. Sorry, but that's my reaction.

Carousel (A Dance)

Much, much better than Pacific. Wheeldon is an actual ballet choreographer, unlike Morris, and it shows. I've been a little iffy about whether he's the true heir to Balanchine's legacy, and I still am, but I liked this ballet a lot more than I'd liked his other works. Dana Genshaft was sweet and innocent in the MacMillan-esque central pas de deux, and the corps dancers, particularly the women, particularly Pauli Magierek and Jennifer Stahl, seemed to enjoy themselves immensely. Holly Hynes' costumes were also quite nice.

The Fifth Season

If Pacific belongs to the same category as Spring Rounds, then The Fifth Season belongs to the same category as The Tuning Game (also Tomasson), and any other unitard-clad ballet by the Sons of Balanchine to atonal music. Parts of it were still enjoyable, however, especially the finale. Tiit Helimets, Katita Waldo, Yuan Yuan Tan, and Sarah Van Patten were in fine form in this piece.

Fancy Free

I really, really wanted to like this ballet, and this performance, and I did, but not as much as I should have. Perhaps it was my own fatigue from the other three ballets, but it didn't seem like the three sailors and one of the passers-by (Vanessa Zahorian, in the purple costume) had as much energy as they should have. A pity, because the ballet obviously requires energy, boundless energy, even in the slow parts. Erin McNulty (passer-by with the purse) had it, as did Elana Altman and, strangely enough, the bartender (Quinn Wharton). I'm not saying the sailors (Garrett Anderson, Gonzalo Garcia, and Pascal Molat) didn't dance well, because they did. What was missing was the machismo and almost-hyperactivity that make this a great ballet. Without it, it becomes a show in gymnastics with the flavor of a watery Popeye cartoon. Just saying.

(By the way, thank you, Talespinner, for posting about Program 4. :dry: I hope other people post about these programs, too. )

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Program 4

Eden/Eden is very complex and stimulating, and made me want to see it several more times. There is a lot going on in this piece -- visually, vocally, musically, choreographically -- and in your head, but what makes this multimedia piece appealing as an audience is that the different components do not overwhelm our senses and do not take away from what's presented and how we perceive them. Wayne McGregor is quite a genius. I was so intrigued by this piece initially for its conceptual motivation (cloning), and was struck by McGregor's approach to presenting this debate through imagery, dialogue and his distinct movements, while really allowing us to form our own opinions.

The choreography itself is so curious... very demanding and challenging... sometimes grotesque-looking... the intensity is the exact opposite of those slow, adagios in classical ballets. (I think Muriel Maffre described E/E's movements as "raw" and "primitive" in the program notes.) SFB dancers looked truly amazing in this piece, and I have never been this pumped after seeing a piece; it really is a good combination of creativity and dance ability.

I love McGregor's vast use of space -- E/E opens with nothing on stage except for a dancer (the journeying woman) under conical lighting, which reminded me of a specimen under examination on a microscope stage. The lighting in the beginning continues to be circular and outlines the boundary for the "process"/dancing to take place. Each dancer/couple is introduced "from the earth" (Ossola's words from program notes) and appears in the back, elevator-style and joins the gathering of dancers. They are all uniform, wearing nude shorts/leotards and hats, and I had little ability to tell people apart! I think it was Pascal and Dana, the second couple to take the stage, who looked great in their beginning part. Later, when the stage is used more square, there is a men's section, first a duet (Jaime and Rory, I think) which kicks butt, and then a trio of Jaime, Rory and Pascal(?) that's absolutely fabulous. A lot of times, I couldn't really tell Rory and Pascal apart, as they both looked similarly striking (and their habits weren't as noticeable). This section starts to add more dancers to the stage, and there is a moment where they line up in the middle and do wave-like, repetitive phrases that weave them in and out of the line. It's a slight reach, but I can't help but think metaphase of DNA replication (or maybe metaphase-II for cloning?!) at this imagery (and it happens in the middle of the piece, brilliant!), and more than ever, I was reminded of how much the dancers and their limbs *in these costumes* represent the "X" looking chromosomes.

The only disapproval I had with E/E was copying Jiri Kylian's idea of mannequin bodices appearing from above and hovering over dancers lying flat on the ground. McGregor of course distinguished his usage by having the clones remove their individualizing garments off of the bodices and onto their own, which is quite interesting.

Later, I liked the use of the foreground/background switches where he has three women in front of a black scrim, and a trio dancing in the back. While the spoken text with procedural information on cloning and DNA synthesis (from the opera Three Tales) reminds me of science videos, there are also few everyday conversations included, giving a more human experience to counter the mechanic, machine-like existence (there is a lot of human/machine juxtaposition). Jaime's narrative solo that comes towards the end of the piece is spectacular, as he is very fluid, but especially for his captivating expressions -- the pauses and phrasing of the movements are stunning. I can see why the creator would cast him here! I always marvel at Jaime's beautiful dancing and prefer him in strictly classical pieces; but he really surprised me with his versatility in this piece. I was ecstatic to see him move McGregor-style. I enjoyed every ounce of the dancing with the cast of Muriel/Gonzalo, Dana/Pascal, Katita/Rory, Jaime/Hayley/Moises.

After all the chaos of cloned and individualized dancing, they disappear one by one, and we are again left with the lone journeying woman. I was really creeped out at the end when I first saw it, the vast space that you're left with after so much stimulation makes you aware and vulnerable of the possibilities and repercussions of cloning. I love the depth and the complexity of this piece, and the freedom McGregor gives us in its interpretation, how we perceive it in bits and as a whole. I look forward to more of his works, and quite possibly on SFB.

What an interesting man, check out his podcast:


I also liked the title of Mary Ellen Hunt's review in Contra Costa Times: Ugly is beautiful in 'Eden/Eden' :)

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Program 5 (I agree with much of BalletNut's review above)

I generally like Morris' works, but Pacific is not his best and SFB dancers don't look good in it. This piece should get rid of the pointe shoes and be all-out modern, as triplets should be done on flat/bare. I especially don't like the arms, as when the women have clock-like straight arms in diagonal as they traverse en pointe since they look stiff and awkward. Those parts would have more flexibility/mobility/expansion if the dancers are not on pointe.

Rory Hohenstein was the only one who rocked this piece. There are a few repeated phrases that can look awkward: 1) this "strike a G" pose where they slide with their legs in second, plie, and jerk into a "side bend contraction" with the bottom elbow bent, 2) the hopping a la seconde sequence with this ronde jambe en l'aire that ends with a side neck jerk before turning, and 3) the recurring bent elbowed arms in front of your face. Rory has the right amount of natural stiffness in his upper body that makes 1, 2, and other flowy movements (undulating upper body and arm that accompany low developes) look so comfortable and fitting on him. He really made the G phrase interesting to watch. I'm glad he was the lead blue skirt man.

Carousel is a fine piece that looks good on SFB. This would also make a good gala piece, as it did for NYCB (program notes).

I'm not crazy about 5th Season, though I was pleasantly surprised at two things now that I see it a second time--that Tomasson doesn't overuse the corp and is consistent in assigning the music to certain groups/couples (his tendencies in full production ballets). I saw the same cast as last year on 3/17 (sat eve) and it was exactly as I'd remembered: mediocre and nothing to get excited about. The only take home message was that YuanYuan, partnered by Tiit, really milks her movements in the Largo and made me realize how much she has mastered the art of making Tomasson's choreography look interesting. She makes you watch her. My major annoyance with this piece is the Tango--this is possibly the most UNSEXY tango I have ever experienced. Don't get me wrong, I usually don't care for things to be sexy, but a tango MUST be sexy, sultry. Both the choreography and dancing (of two recently promoted principals...) need work.

Then I saw a slightly different cast (Lorena/Davit in place of Katita/Gonzalo) on 3/21 and went ga-ga! Now THEY were HOT. They were so intense from the opening number, I couldn't take my eyes off them. They exude such intensity and emotion, it was fun to watch, and their dancing made the (one drastic) lighting (cued at a dramatic musical phrase as the opening couple blast off stage) quite effective. They had such great chemistry and partnership in their duet as well. Lorena and Davit make a great pair b/c they are both technically solid and equally expressive.

Fancy Free is a fun piece to end the night. All three casts (Pascal/Garrett/Gonzalo; BenS/Rory/Ruben; MattS/James/Davit) had their good moments. I hope SFB adds it to their regular repertoire so the dancers can develop it more.

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