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SFB Program 7: Caprice, Swimmer (premiere), The 4 T's


pherank

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I'm mentioning Program 7 a little early, because SFB posted this teaser article regarding the debut of Yuri Possokhov's Swimmer:

Composer Shinji Eshima on World Premiere of Swimmer

http://www.sfballetblog.org/2015/04/composer-shinji-eshima-on-world-premiere-of-swimmer/

I've seen the film, with Burt Lancaster, but not read the book. The film is a real oddity: it struck me as an avant-garde effort by people not normally associated with the avant-garde.

I have to add, I can't see Swimmer being appreciated back at the Bolshoi - Possokhov's artistic journey is taking him to some really interesting, and unexpected places.

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Here's a link to the original John Cheever short story, The Swimmer. posted by the Library of America.

Thanks PeggyR - yes, a good line. I sort of remember there being a number of odd ones in the film. I think Tiit Helimets will be dancing the 'Burt Lancaster' role at the opening. ;)

I'm remembering that Marvin Hamlisch did the film's soundtrack, and there's was one particularly nice piece: "Lovely Hair"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkh8Zl8RYJA

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I have to add, I can't see Swimmer being appreciated back at the Bolshoi - Possokhov's artistic journey is taking him to some really interesting, and unexpected places.

As a NYC and Seattle type, I've only seen Possokhov's Classical Symphony and Bells, so I'm wildly curious about all his character-driven pieces that I read about on this board. Since MacMillan, ballet hasn't really been in the business of meaty, twisted dramatic roles for men.

I wonder if Hallberg will be cast?

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According to the casting list (as of now, anyway), Taras Domitro will be first cast.

Oh I see now, I was going by photographs of the rehearsals, but the casting explains that the duets are separate from the main character role:

The Swimmer: Taras Domitro

Maria Kochetkova, Tiit Helimets

Lorena Feijoo, Vitor Luiz

Yuan Yuan Tan

Wei Wang, Gennadi Nedvigin, Pascal Molat

RE: Choriamb's comment - Possokhov definitely seems to prefer some emotion in his work, and contrasting psychological states, rather than a truly 'pure dance' or formalist approach to choreography. Although he isn't mentioned much in discussions of current choreographers, Possokhov has created a fair amount of strong work, imo. It's just difficult to say if any of his work has been 'iconic' - probably not. But often the ballets are quite enjoyable and engrossing. I can't remember seeing a Possokhov ballet that I thought was a dud. Here's hoping that Swimmer will be a quality work as well...

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I just got around to reading the SFBallet e-news letter for April. Here’s how Swimmer is described:

“The third ballet on this triple bill is a surprising new work by SF Ballet Choreographer in Residence, Yuri Possokhov. A stylish mediation on 1960s America, and a grand-scale theatrical romp, Possokhov’s Swimmer is inspired by John Cheever’s short story “The Swimmer.” The new work features a score by our own Shinji Eshima as well as music by Tom Waits, and boasts a wide array of 60s literature and pop-culture references.”

I make no claims to being the least bit imaginative, so I’ll just wait and see how Cheever’s bleak story is translated into a “…grand-scale theatrical romp…”

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I make no claims to being the least bit imaginative, so I’ll just wait and see how Cheever’s bleak story is translated into a “…grand-scale theatrical romp…”

;) I really wonder if Possokhov would describe any of his works as a "romp".

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I saw "Swimmer" Friday night and you could say it is indeed a romp, almost a musical, in the first scenes like How to Succeed in Business by way of La Dolce Vita.

For me the handsome multi-media visuals don’t match up in style. The first section looks like David Hockney Los Angeles with Alex Katz cut-outs, then UPA “limited animation” cartoons (early Mr Magoo) where the scenery moves and the characters don’t, then rear projection of Alfred Hitchcock. The Hopper Nighthawks quote seemed weak.

Hard to judge the dancing but Taras Domitro did an admirable job of sustaining the Swimmer throughout the ballet, perfect measures (where measures there were) in his swimming and crumpling up to the floor and upright anguishing gestures – always in character, all very clean and sharp.

But dramatically it was difficult to tell why the character goes from family man and party goer to existential swimmer – what pushes or pulls him into his man on the run life.

There are a couple of false endings, one was greated with full applause, but in a last glimpse you see the Swimmer suspended on or just behing a big empty scrim. It almost looks like projected image, but then you realize it’s real theater, not filmed. He’s very small and looks like a tadpole or salamander, or like the colophon at the end of a book.

In a way the Melancholic part in The Four Temperaments on the same program covers much of the same ground, but the razzle dazzle and Glass Pieces relentlessness of “Swimmer” did have its over the top charms.

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I saw "Swimmer" Friday night and you could say it is indeed a romp, almost a musical, in the first scenes like How to Succeed in Business by way of La Dolce Vita.

For me the handsome multi-media visuals don’t match up in style. The first section looks like David Hockney Los Angeles, then UPA “limited animation” cartoons (early Mr Magoo) where the scenery moves and the characters don’t, then rear projection of Alfred Hitchcock. The Hopper Nighthawks quote seemed weak.

Thanks much for the description, Quiggin - it doesn't sound dull, so I'm still looking forward to experiencing it myself later next week. :)

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I planned a trip to San Fran to see the Shostakovich Trilogy and Lines Ballet. I realized SFB had a different program the night of my arrival and picked up a ticket just to see some additional choreography (Tomasson & Possokhov) and dancers.

My expectations were low for the Swimmer after seeing Caprice. The choreography was nice, especially for the couples, but the set design and lighting detracted from the dancers.

I was totally surprised by Swimmer. I LOVED IT! So much so I bought another ticket to the Sunday matinee. I've never seen video and sets incorporated with dance so well. The music is amazing, very different styles for different numbers, I especially love the piece with the xylophone. The costumes are amazing as well.

Sunday I went to the lecture with the video designer. She said Yuri specifically wanted to begin with a comic feel and progress in terms of seriousness and emotion. There is definitely an evolution in the feel/emotion of the ballet, it seems like a journey.

One favorite part (I don't want to give too much away) is when there are 3 groups of five male dancers. Each individual group dances then the music builds and eventually all 15 dance together - it is magnificent. I've never seen so many high caliber male dancers in such difficult choreography.

I hope Swimmer is a hit and that we can see it again in San Fran soon.

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I was totally surprised by Swimmer. I LOVED IT!

That's good to hear, Seattle_Dancer - I'm looking forward to seeing The Swimmer this week. I hope you still get to see Shostakovich Trilogy - that would be worth your while.

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But dramatically it was difficult to tell why the character goes from family man and party goer to existential swimmer – what pushes or pulls him into his man on the run life.

In the story, which I love, he's not on the run, although by the time he finishes his journey he's troubled and humiliated, and the story has taken a fantastical turn, with the friends he encounters on his trip speaking of dark events he seems to have repressed, and time having slipped from the happy present to some dark future reality he doesn't recognize. But he embarks on his swim "across the county" in an exuberant mood.

The day was beautiful and it seemed to him that a long swim might enlarge and celebrate its beauty.

Thanks for the reports. It's hard to imagine a more surprising choice for composer than Tom Waits - not exactly a chronicler of upper-middle class suburban life in the 50's - but that makes this all the more intriguing. ETA: I see now that he wasn't the main composer. Does anyone know, is his music for the piece new?

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Thanks for the reports. It's hard to imagine a more surprising choice for composer than Tom Waits - not exactly a chronicler of upper-middle class suburban life in the 50's - but that makes this all the more intriguing. ETA: I see now that he wasn't the main composer. Does anyone know, is his music for the piece new?

The production credits in the cast sheet list "Green Grass", "If I Have to Go" and "The Ocean Doesn't Want Me Today" by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan and "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet" by Gavin Bryars. All songs were played as a recording. The original music by Shinji Eshima, however, was performed by the live orchestra.

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In the story, which I love ...

The original story, which if I remember correctly, elegantly sticks to one idea - you learn the Swimmer's story through the reactions of the people whose backyards he swims through (some from other Cheever stories, like Mrs Hammer).

The ballet starts there but becomes a pastiche of other stories. There's a even a section for Lolita and HH (Maria Kochetkova and Tiit Helimets). And a Catcher in the Rye scene.

It ends with a Jack London story of a failed sailor/writer who, after reading a stanza of a Swinburne poem to himself, swims until he swims no more – like Red Shoes, or Giselle with an even less happy ending. So it's strange that even though it's a tragedy for the Swimmer, you come out like you've just seen An American in Paris or Gigi. A kind of parody of tragedy.

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Not much interest in the 4Ts so far in this thread - one of my favorite Balanchine ballets. As a musician, I've always loved Hindemith. He knows the instruments, so his orchestrations keep each instrument doing what its good at. As a result, Hindemith is fun to play and listen to. And, given that the 4Ts was composed as a ballet for Mr. Balanchine (a 'mercy' commission by Balanchine because Hindemith had just emigrated from Germany and was unemployed), it is very unique.

I went today and saw Sarah Van Patten and Tiit Helimets. I'd seen them some years ago thought it was one of the best Balanchine performances I'd ever seen. Raw and edgy but still intimate and emotional. When I saw them today I was not disappointed. I think Ms Van Patten's interpretation was even more nuanced and informed. And Mr Helimet's partnering was clean and flawless. (Why they don't dance together more is a mystery to me.) When they danced the 4Ts in New York a few years back, Ms Van Patten was singled out for her performance. I see why. I guess dancers have favorite ballets and choreographers. But there is something special now and then when a ballet and dancer are 'made for' each other. This was made for Ms. Van Patten or she for it. If she does it again, its worth seeing.

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Not much interest in the 4Ts so far in this thread - one of my favorite Balanchine ballets. As a musician, I've always loved Hindemith. He knows the instruments, so his orchestrations keep each instrument doing what its good at. As a result, Hindemith is fun to play and listen to.

Agreed - one of my most favorite ballets too, Globetrotter. I believe you must have seen the Saturday matinee program - which I also went to. Not to belittle that effort, but the Thursday (4/16) evening program was really tremendous - nothing seemed to go wrong in any ballet, and all the dancers were operating at full intensity - all the details in place, and real emotion rather than faked. I was really impressed with how well rehearsed everyone looked on Thursday. Saturday matinee had a few bobbles in the ballets, notably Jennifer Stahl's fall in Swimmer (but we gave her a big applause at the end). The matinee felt like a real mix of A-list principals and younger dancers getting a taste of solo roles.

Swimmer is a fascinating mish-mash of themes that mostly hangs together visually. As others have mentioned, the integration of multimedia visuals and live acton is really well done, and strangely moving at times. It would be pretty difficult to describe Yuri's "storyline" - it's more like disparate scenes strung together with the water and swimming themes. Does anyone know if that is Yuri Possokhov shown in the water (projected on the screen) near the end of the ballet?

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Agreed - one of my most favorite ballets too, Globetrotter. I believe you must have seen the Saturday matinee program - which I also went to. Not to belittle that effort, but the Thursday (4/16) evening program was really tremendous - nothing seemed to go wrong in any ballet, and all the dancers were operating at full intensity - all the details in place, and real emotion rather than faked. I was really impressed with how well rehearsed everyone looked on Thursday. Saturday matinee had a few bobbles in the ballets, notably Jennifer Stahl's fall in Swimmer (but we gave her a big applause at the end). The matinee felt like a real mix of A-list principals and younger dancers getting a taste of solo roles.

Swimmer is a fascinating mish-mash of themes that mostly hangs together visually. As others have mentioned, the integration of multimedia visuals and live acton is really well done, and strangely moving at times. It would be pretty difficult to describe Yuri's "storyline" - it's more like disparate scenes strung together with the water and swimming themes. Does anyone know if that is Yuri Possokhov shown in the water (projected on the screen) near the end of the ballet?

Saw the Saturday matinee too. I love 4Ts too and wondered how others with more Balanchine watching experience felt about this performance. Agree about Van Patten and Helimets (that's a good partnership) and I thought Lonnie Weeks did well with Melancholic, although it also seemed to me that some of the rest looked a little mushy rather than clearcut and sharp.

I was all prepared to hate Swimmer but ended up liking it, although the Hollywood and Aquarium segments could be given the heave ho. The opening video was brilliant. And was there ever an odder 'odd couple' than Tom Waits and pointe shoes?

Oh yes, Caprice: [snore].

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That was a great idea to include Yuri drowning in the water.

Even though Swimmer is a hodgepodge of sites and sounds, it mostly works, and could be made even better if Yuri decides to revisit or to replace certain scenes. Home to Hollywood makes no sense, but the Home section is riveting, and there's nothing wrong with mentioning Hollywood - it just needs some more work to make the scene actually clever and original.

The catchy music from the pool party keeps going around in my head - I hope that's not an omen of some kind (he writes while staring out at the Pacific from the hotel balcony in Victoria BC).

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