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SFB Nutcracker 2010

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Casts for the first seven Nutcrackers, opening Thursday, December 9.

Opening Night 
Thursday, December 09, 2010, 7pm

Conductor: Martin West

Drosselmeyer: Damian Smith

Queen and King of the Snow: Yuan Yuan Tan, Artem Yachmennikov*

Sugar Plum Fairy: Lorena Feijoo

Grand Pas de Deux: Vanessa Zahorian, Taras Domitro


Friday, December 10, 2010, 2pm

Conductor: Martin West

Drosselmeyer: Jorge Esquivel

Queen and King of the Snow: Elana Altman, Anthony Spaulding

Sugar Plum Fairy: Frances Chung

Grand Pas de Deux: Clara Blanco, Isaac Hernandez*

Friday, December 10, 2010, 7pm

Conductor: Martin West

Drosselmeyer: Val Caniparoli

Queen and King of the Snow: Lorena Feijoo, Hansuke Yamamoto

Sugar Plum Fairy: Sofiane Sylve

Grand Pas de Deux: Sarah Van Patten, Tiit Helimets

Saturday, December 11, 2010, 2pm

Conductor: Ming Luke

Drosselmeyer: Yuri Possokhov

Queen and King of the Snow: Jennifer Stahl*, Quinn Wharton*

Sugar Plum Fairy: Maria Kochetkova

Grand Pas de Deux: Frances Chung, Jaime Garcia Castilla

Saturday, December 11, 2010, 7pm

Conductor: Martin West

Drosselmeyer: Yuri Possokhov

Queen and King of the Snow: Vanessa Zahorian, Taras Domitro

Sugar Plum Fairy: Elana Altman

Grand Pas de Deux: Sofiane Sylve*, Artem Yachmennikov*

Sunday, December 12, 2010, 2pm

Conductor: Martin West

Drosselmeyer: Ricardo Bustamante

Queen and King of the Snow: Elana Altman, Anthony Spaulding

Sugar Plum Fairy: Sarah Van Patten

Grand Pas de Deux: Yuan Yuan Tan, Vito Mazzeo*

Sunday, December 12, 2010, 7pm

Conductor: Ming Luke

Drosselmeyer: Damian Smith

Queen and King of the Snow: Maria Kochetkova*, Pascal Molat

Sugar Plum Fairy: Sofiane Sylve

Grand Pas de Deux: Lorena Feijoo, Vitor Luiz

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It’s that time again.

December 11, matinee

Interesting seat location: third row orchestra -- Christmas present to myself. Although it was fun seeing the dancers’ faces up close (and hearing their costumes, which can be surprisingly noisy), it’s really too close -- the ‘work’ is more evident: heavy breathing, perspiration, partnering stresses, hanging threads from costumes. All part of the ‘reality’ of ballet, but I don’t go to ballet for reality; if I want reality I can plonk a chair in front of my kitchen sink full of unwashed dished and watch the mold grow.

The main interest today was the prominence of members of the corps de ballet in most of the solo roles, and the debuts of corps dancers Quinn Wharton and Jennifer Stahl as the Snow King and Queen.

Wharton has never made any impression on me in the past and today did nothing to change that. To be fair, the role doesn’t give him much to do, although it has to be said that some dancers can make you think you’ve seen them ‘do’ more than they really have. Wharton hasn’t reached that point yet, but he has good material to work with -- an attractive classical line and nice, soft landings for a start.

Stahl, tall and leggy and possessor of those much-debated, six-o’clock extensions, did a nice job with an equally thankless role. Interestingly, after a couple of ear-thumping développés, she seemed to pull back a little and the extensions and arabesques went down to somewhere less stratospheric, which did a lot to enhance her naturally lovely line.

Among the rest, Isaac Hernandez and Daniel Devison stood out.

In the Spanish dance Hernandez managed to maintain his dignity while wearing what appears to be every costume designer’s idea of how Spanish men dress - sort-of bull fighter outfit with those big-brimmed hats which have the unfortunate effect of making the men look like toadstools. The non-vegetable Hernandez zipped through some stunning air turns.

As the lead Russian, Deivison nearly stopped the show with a cheeky and assured performance, along with what had to be the most astonishing display of those split jumps I’ve ever seen ( and this role is frequently performed by a soloist or principal, so I’ve seen some good ones). The last few were higher, faster, sharper than the first. He’s been on my radar for a while and he just keeps getting better. FYI the Russian dance retains the choreography by Anatole Vilzak.

Among the principals on display, it was good to see Jaime Garcia Castilla in excellent form, partnering Francis Chung. She is a great favorite, although there are times I wish she would shade her dancing more -- hit the ‘ta-da’ moments more effectively. And her allegro is broader than, for example, Kochetkova’s; I’d like a little more delicacy -- less fine cotton and more silk.

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I saw a couple of the “Nutcrackers,” this week and wish that Ingmar Bergman could be whisked down from heaven to reset the first act and ruffle up its oppressive good cheer with a some of the stagecraft of “Fanny & Alexander” or his “A Winter’s Tale.” I sometimes try to slip in a little late. And the production as a whole seems to have been trimmed in places or to have lost some interest in itself -

I agree with PeggyR about Daniel Deivison standing out with such great dash and personality in Russian, and about Isaac Hernandez being wonderful in Spanish, his arm movements particularly crisp and articulate. On Sunday he seemed to be miscast in Chinese which depends on pure speed and doesn’t need his beautiful legato phrasing - but he was very fine in his debut as the Nutcracker Prince. He puts amazing little pauses in his turns in air at junctures no one else does.

Vitor Luiz’s transformation from Nutcracker to Prince was less incisive and exuberant than last year - but everything was another level when he and Lorena Feijoo did the grand pas de deux, and Lorena was a wonderful Sugar Plum Fairy a few nights before, all her choices fascinating to watch.

Thursday’s Nutcracker Prince, Taras Domitro, was “the best.” Everything he does seems completely original as if he’s making things up as he goes along; you don’t want to miss anything - his concentration, his landings, his beautiful turns, his seeming to be floating on updrafts of air - like Kafka’s sad trapeze artist to whom food and water are brought up by ladder and who sleeps on luggage racks when he travels. Taras has been wonderful to watch since his first appearance at San Francisco in “Melancholic” - as intense and definitive as any I saw during at City Ballet - and he’s also been great in “Rubies,” “Emeralds,” and Helgi’s Tomasson’s very dark “Quattro Stagioni.” Hopefully we'll see him in “Symphony in C” this season.

And Maria Kochetkova was delightful in her short Queen of the Snow appearance, full of good humor, grace and ease. Last season she and Vitor Luiz were so generous with their balletic gifts and so light and Mozartian in Helgi Tomasson’s “Haffner Symphony” - which seems to poke fun at Balanchine “Divertimento #15” - that it rose to the level of the original influence.

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