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Program 6 & 7 Impressions

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Sorry for such a late reply; my internet isn't working (and actually I've begged a friend to let me use her internet!)

I saw Program 6 on April 12 (Elemental Brubeck, Concordia, Symphony in C). It was magnificent! This was my first time to see these pieces and this company and was truly pleased with everything.

Costumes fit the dances well with bright colors and flowy dresses for Brubeck, cool purple and blue leotards w/ bare legs for Concordia, and gorgeous white tutus and black unitards for Sym. in C.

Soloist Rory Hohenstein in Brubeck was brilliant technically in his fire engine red unitard. His sissones and jumps were sharp and clean. Katita Waldo and Ruben Martin were just lovely. In her orange dress she melted away with such grace. The audience really responded well to them. The corps had a lot of strong energy running across stage in their dresses. A lot of positive remarks made on this ballet.

In the more contemporary Concordia, the dancers' leg muscles were put out on focus. But as lovely as they were, the dancing was all that mattered. The choreography was very creative. This is why I can't wait after a week after I've seen a ballet - I actually can't remember anything from it. It wasn't bad at all - I just enjoyed it for that moment and then it left. Well, the world premiere was the night before the 12th, so that made it more exciting. I don't have the program on hand, but the choreographer seemed very interesting. (maybe I'll edit to post a quote from him if my internet cooperates)

And the much beloved Symphony in C was spectacular with clean movements. Tina LeBlanc just sparkled with her cute face, though smaller in height than the other dancers. Also, Yuan Yuan Tan was pleasing with gorgeous long lines and enrapturing eyes. All of the men excelled in their grande allegro. The pas de deux of the 2nd movement was cherishable and sweet. Tan was right on her turns and no one seemed out of place. In the more jumpy 3rd movement, all of the grande jetes had flight and lightness. Suspension in the air made it seem effortless though I know how tough it is on those dancers! Kristin Long was also very sweet and had clean technique.

I really liked it when the 4 soloists danced together. It was sublime to see which dancer excelled in which piece and movement. They all brought something unique to the stage. I also like it when the corps members lined the border of the stage to make a box around the soloists. But I felt this warm, comforting feeling when all of the corps and soloists were on stage at the same time. It was marvelous to see them in unison. Their jumps were all together: The woman who staged it would tell the dancers to 'bounce out of fifth' in order for them to be together. And, yes, they were spot on!

Bizet's music was wonderful and I could really picture this ballet being called the Crystal Palace. With the white tutus and tiaras, everything was glamorous from head to toe.

A quote from the program said how brilliant the complexity of this ballet is with 3 ballets going on at once - one for the corps, one for the soloists, and one for the principals. Sym. in C is truly a magnificent piece.

Overall, everything was just brilliant. The arms of the dancers were held and lengthened. The choreography throughout was great as was all of the staging. I would definitely see this company again. Well done by the San Francisco Ballet.

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Have you read Rachel Howard’s review in SFChronicle re: the midseason slump? She captured my sentiments precisely. I really appreciated her honest critique. I must add that the slump doesn't refer to the dancing, it's more on piece selection/programs as a whole.


While her review was about Program 6 (On Common Ground, Night, Rodeo), I found it applicable to Program 7 as well (Elemental Brubeck, Concordia, Symphony in C). Rodeo is a fun, crowd-pleasing piece to end a program, so I won’t comment on it; it suits SFB well, I think. And I’ll skip Symphony in C... but the world premiers were absolutely ghastly :dunno: though please feel free to disagree. In order of personal preference (and I didn’t see multiple casts) here are my thoughts:

Night – I remember being excited about this when it premiered years ago, but couldn’t remember much from it. This year, I liked it fine thanks to Tina LeBlanc who was absolutely stunning and beautiful; I love classical dancers who are just as technically superb in contemporary pieces. The remaining cast I saw was an inexperienced group (mostly corps, as opposed to the world premier when most roles were headed by veteran soloists and principals) and the group’s dancing needed a lot more work and polish. I love Tina.

Elemental Brubeck -- Thanks artist for your comments on Rory Hohenstein in Brubeck; I wanted to see him, but couldn’t make it to his shows. This is a very “American” piece by Lubovitch, just flowy and dancy though not a complex piece. I see why audience members tend to eat this up, but for me, Brubeck went on a little too long. The dancers looked very comfortable and great, especially Gonzalo Garcia, Matthew Stewart, Rory, and Frances Chung.

Concordia -- was rather disappointing. It was well danced and poorly choreographed. By this far into the season, I’m tired of contemporary pieces like this if it doesn’t offer something unique or new (like Eden/Eden). The classical/contemporary juxtaposition was too literal. But... after seeing Tomasson’s premier, this piece is bearable.

On Common Ground -- I felt bad for the dancers in this piece. The choreography is not at all captivating and I question the motivation behind this piece. Perhaps I should read the program notes. This piece shall be awarded the worst Tomasson piece and the worst of the season. Yes, that bad. He picked some top principal dancers for this piece (Tina, Lorena, Davit; I didn’t see Joan) who are always interesting to watch, and Tina drew me in slightly with her dancing in a duet with Ruben, but otherwise it was a painful experience. Costume and scenic designs by Woodall were questionable as well, but perhaps it matched the piece.

I wish I could be more positive...

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My review of Concordia will be in a forthcoming issue of Dance Now, so I'll skip over that (short version - mixed. I thought it derivative.)

Elemental Brubeck - I've seen and reviewed this in NYC. It's harmless. SFB looks better in it than Lubovitch's assembled group in NYC. The red man's part was made on Garcia; it didn't look as good on Hohenstein.

Symphony in C - Friday night was indifferent, Sun matinee better. I have questions about how SFB is staging Balanchine right now. They seem to be putting it with the same slapdash air that NYCB has on bad days, but they can't get away with it (whether NYCB can is another story, but at least they perform the stuff every day). Sarah van Patten came so close in the second movement, but a balance went awry and she never totally recovered. Yuan Yuan Tan did a very nice job in the same role. Not one of the ballerinas in either cast could do the turn in the finale.

On Common Ground - I didn't hate it. He's a fluent choreographer, and a tasteful one (too tasteful, actually) but I wish I understood why Tomasson choreographed beyond someone told him there had to be a new ballet this season. This is not only his problem; I feel the same way a lot of the time with Martins as well.

Night - My first time seeing Julia Adam's work. I enjoyed it. It's a good counterpoint to the rest of the repertory. Tina LeBlanc was unsurprisingly engaging and I liked the theatricality of the work. Loved the bed-ruffle costumes of Benjamin Pierce.

Rodeo - What's not to like? van Patten was affecting, Garret Anderson did a fine job as the wrangler.

Interestingly, I enjoy programs at SFB more as a whole than in parts. Even if an individual ballet is weak, the program locks them together so that one holds up another artistically and the evening is a coherent whole. It's one of the strengths of the company.

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... I have questions about how SFB is staging Balanchine right now. They seem to be putting it with the same slapdash air that NYCB has on bad days, but they can't get away with it (whether NYCB can is another story, but at least they perform the stuff every day).

I agree with Leigh. I wondered what would happen when SF Ballet lost Balanchine dancers Gloria Govrin (SF Ballet School co-director) and Sandy Jennings (Ballet Mistress) at the same time. There seems to be a definite swerve in style away from Balanchine and towards POB and The Royal. I miss the crackle of a well-staged and well-performed Balanchine ballet. Where does one go these days to find it?

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I miss the crackle of a well-staged and well-performed Balanchine ballet. Where does one go these days to find it?
Seattle, Phoenix, and from bart's descriptions, Miami/Ft. Lauderdale/West Palm Beach.

Many would argue Paris, based on POB's Jewels. I haven't seen the Kirov dance Balanchine yet.

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There seems to be a definite swerve in style away from Balanchine and towards POB and The Royal.

I would have said one of the more major European contemporary ballet companies rather than an institutional one like POB/Royal but I think you can argue your point.

I miss the crackle of a well-staged and well-performed Balanchine ballet. Where does one go these days to find it?

Well, I've seen most of the companies mentioned. . .and I'd say. . .New York. NYCB may have its bad days and you can't just buy a ticket blindly to any performance but, it's still the place to see the Balanchine repertory.

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We saw Program 7 and found Elemental Brubeck and Concordia strong, well-danced but after a while we noted fidgetting by the SF audience (this was a Saturday matinee.) Maybe went on too long? We don't often get to the city by the bay so we were entranced by all the new faces and talent. I personally loved the Brubeck piece the best of the program because of well, the music, and the colors and the pairings. Concordia I think I need to see again as I felt mixed about it.

Then on came Symphony in C and the audience seemed to sit up. We had a chance to see Tina LeBlanc, who is a favorite and danced beautifully. She is tiny but really dances big and this was a good thing for my petite dancer to see and grasp. At the start of the program they announced a change and Sarah van Patten was replaced with Yuan Yuan Tan. We were looking forward to Ms. van Patten but wow, we got very lucky to see Yuan Yuan Tan do the 'Farrell' segment. She was/is simply gorgeous and demonstrated the power of holding those balances (was so glad my young dancer got to see these done so well and why there is such an impact in holding that balance and really using all of the music.) Frances Chung seemed like she was shot out of a cannon,full of energy and light. What happiness she projects. I would LOVE to see more of her. She was in Brubeck piece which had to have taken up a lot of energy but there she was doing the most athletic segment in Symphony in C. I'll have what she's having!

All in all we loved our visit to SF and really enjoyed the SFB. Since someone commented on the 'slapdash' air, I will comment that I thought PNB's Symphony in C of seasons past was sharper and I think it's because of the corps. I remember the audience in Seattle just being wowed. PNB's was clean, sharp and infused with energy in the corps, even when they are holding those positions. SFB's lacked that edge. I think the Principals we saw with SFB's C were very tight. Sounds like we got lucky. Unlike a poster above, all the ballerinas at the matinee did the final turns successfully, but I really couldn't take my eyes off Ms. Tan. Dd thought she had an astere look about her but was impressed by her untouchable technique. We both agree she looks like she's not an earthly being. SFB has so many great dancers in the company, we have to visit more often.

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