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SFB 2017 Season Program 4: Balanchine


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Thanks for that report, Dreamer. I know that the Garnier is unusual in that there is extra room available to 'expand' it's size - especially the depth of the stage. [That allows for the impressive Défilé du ballet, each year]. But I think the Garnier stage is quite wide too ( or can be made to be wider). As you may know already, Balanchine specifically choreographed Diamonds for a large Corps finale that could be accommodated on their new stage in New York - made to at least match the size of the Mariinsky Theater stage he remembered from his youth.

I think I had the same impression when I saw PNB perform Diamonds a few years ago: that the stage appeared awfully crowded with couples, and the geometry of the design gets lost under those conditions.

About Davit: I'm so glad to hear that he made an appearance on the stage. That's the first step, but he'll need more opportunities to get his "sea legs", or stage legs, for that matter. He had mentioned online that he was dealing with a back injury, and those can be among the worst types of sports injuries. Some people never come back from a back injury because they can be chronic, and it affects everything about how the body moves and balances itself, as well as the ability to lift weighted objects. That means partnering skills suffer badly. No lifts - no ballet career. The golfer Tiger Woods has been sidelined for a number of years now with chronic back issues, and it is unlikely that he will ever return to his old form. It does seem that some therapies are more helpful than others though. Sara Mearns was out with a back problem, but she's been able to return, and basically look as good as ever. So it just depends.

It seems to me that the proscenium of the venerable WMOH was not well designed in relation to the theater boxes. it just doesn't make sense that the sides of the proscenium block a portion of the stage from view - if you are seated on the side. Presumably they were only thinking in terms of opera presentations when the WMOH was built (but even some of those require a lot of stage to work with). If you do try the box seats, I recommend the "D" section (or "W" on the opposite side) - that one is still on the side, but far enough in towards the center boxes that they really don't lose much of the side of the stage. Subscription package ticket holders get a discount on seats, so if you don't have a subscription - make a friend. Or meet Clarence, maybe he can help.  ;)

Edited by pherank
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Hi everyone, 

 

I was also at last night's program. Overall I loved it - it made me immediately want to get tickets for next Thursday's performance. The first piece was electrifying and reinforced everything that is exciting about Balanchine. I have to confess, I am not a Vanessa fan. I wish I was! Sofiane was beautiful and pulled off some tricky choreography. Aaron Robison danced with incredible energy, and was a delight to watch. Except: his hair is quite long, and was not gelled down, so it was honestly a little distracting. His high energy and bright smile contrasted with Carlo di Lanno's style, almost to the point of oddity. I have never seen two people dance the same choreography so COMPLETELY differently.

 

Angelo Greco was fantastic as the prodigal son. I love watching him dance - he was excellent in Frankenstein as well. I agree with the poster above who wrote that Jen Stahl could use a little more fierceness.

 

In Diamonds, Yuan Yuan Tan was lovely. Every movement is a complete picture. Davit, I thought, also did a really nice job considering these were his first performances in a while. He had some gorgeous tour en l'air. There were a few distracting corps members, unfortunately, who pulled the eye from the fantastic overwhelm of the full company on stage.

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17 minutes ago, hernando's hideaway said:

Hi everyone, 

 

I was also at last night's program. Overall I loved it - it made me immediately want to get tickets for next Thursday's performance. The first piece was electrifying and reinforced everything that is exciting about Balanchine. I have to confess, I am not a Vanessa fan. I wish I was! Sofiane was beautiful and pulled off some tricky choreography. Aaron Robison danced with incredible energy, and was a delight to watch. Except: his hair is quite long, and was not gelled down, so it was honestly a little distracting. His high energy and bright smile contrasted with Carlo di Lanno's style, almost to the point of oddity. I have never seen two people dance the same choreography so COMPLETELY differently.

 

Angelo Greco was fantastic as the prodigal son. I love watching him dance - he was excellent in Frankenstein as well. I agree with the poster above who wrote that Jen Stahl could use a little more fierceness.

 

In Diamonds, Yuan Yuan Tan was lovely. Every movement is a complete picture. Davit, I thought, also did a really nice job considering these were his first performances in a while. He had some gorgeous tour en l'air. There were a few distracting corps members, unfortunately, who pulled the eye from the fantastic overwhelm of the full company on stage.

 

Stravinsky Violin Concerto was great both nights that I went - it was indeed "electrifying and reinforced everything that is exciting about Balanchine". Zahorian is very refined in classical pieces, but she often surprises me in contemporary ballets - like Kochetkova, she gets all the details right. But she's not flamboyant at all, and so doesn't stand out as much as some. Sofiane is more of a commanding presence - that's just her energy. She could become a really great Siren (I'm just surprised she never danced the role at NYCB). If SFB is doing Balanchine, then you want to go on a night when Sofiane is in the cast.

 

I had noticed the same thing about the Robison/Di Lanno pairing in SVC: their physiques/ their "lines" are different enough for it to be distracting when they are dancing similar steps side-by-side. Robison is always going to look more virile and powerful in his movements, while Di Lanno is becoming a danseur noble, much like Tiit Helimets.

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I forgot to mention this earlier - in the SFB version of Prodigal Son, there are two points in the ballet when a character moves his/her hands with a kind of flicking motion that would essentially be a precursor to the hand flicks of the 'Three Fates' in La Valse. I happen to love the dance of the Three Fates so my eye was immediately drawn to that motion. I'm sure the Siren performed these flicks, but I'm not sure if it was also the Father who does this briefly as his 3 children are bowed to the floor before him. I went back and looked at the well-known "Choreography by Balanchine" version with Baryshnikov and von Aroldingen, but I'm not even noticing these same movements. I'll have to watch more carefully, but, if this is something presumably taught by the stager (Richard Tanner), what version of the PS does it originate from?

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1 hour ago, sf_herminator said:

Davit posted this to Instgram:  https://www.instagram.com/p/BRhHt4llIh7/?taken-by=davitkarapetyan

 

Welcome back Davit!!! 

 

If only it was for a few more years!

 

Funnily enough, Kochetkova IS dancing Diamonds again, but not in SF - she's dancing with Tyler Angle at the London Coliseum in a Russian-themed gala program.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BRhQRuNBd0P/?taken-by=balletrusse

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WanTing Zhao (also a demi-soloist in “Diamonds”) was excellent on Saturday evening in “Prodigal Son” and made all the figurations work. The only one that didn’t was her command of the sail boat – where Sofiane Sylve made a larger – and more imperious – figure.  And excellent was Esteban Hernandez whose acting skills and stage presence were perfect – no holes anywhere in his performance, never out of character. Just maybe at times a touch too innocent looking.

 

Karapetyan was fine and partnered Sarah Van Patten beautifully in “Diamonds”– they brought off the slow movement best of the couples I saw this season. There were details in Van Patten’s performance I hadn’t noticed for a long time – like the strange feather-ruffling of her hands over her face and along the back of her head. (At times she looked uncannily like Sarah Means.)

 

I didn’t mind the differences between lanky and lumpy Aaron Robison and princely Carlo Di Lanno in the “Stravinsky Violin Concerto”. They were similar to the differences between Bart Cook (or Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux) and Peter Martins in the original. And the character of the two arias are pretty different anyway, one romantic and the other comic-existential, like that of a Buster Keaton film.

 

But what a ballet! A compendium of all of Balanchine’s choice ideas and tricks. It’s like a page of Euclid or a Sol LeWitt wall drawing used as a dance score. 

 

The dancing is full of corkscrews, quarter arcs, double lines, double verticals, S-turns, zig zag landings, serif-like wrist and heel work. The dancers tap out rhythms with their toes, drag their heels, describe circles around each other, skate across the stage in arabesques, make asymmetrical cats leaps. Stravinsky on his part constructed the music on a hollow “passport” chord that skittishly moves through a baroque structure of toccata, two arias, and capriccio.

 

The Aria I ballerina (Sylve) flutters by as if riding a bicycle backwards. The Aria I man (Robison, perfectly cast) does goofy propeller-armed, wiggle hip walks. She makes a circle in a rolling backbend like a cylindrical millstone and he follows in a larger half circle, his arms the handles of the crank. She follows the rungs of a ladder downwards with her hands and he follows those of another ladder upwards. They swim into the “waves” of each others’ arms, trying to weave themselves together and trying to extricate themselves at the same time.

 

In Aria II Vanessa Zahorian helped me really notice how strange the gypsy/tango “duplex” steps were that Balanchine devised – half on flat foot and half en pointe, each at a different level. The Aria women wear pink toe shoes with black tights strapped over, and little skirts they discard for the slow movements. Some parts of “Violin Concerto” seem like a bare-boned, 70s minimalist version of Liebeslieder Walzes. 

 

*

PS adendum:

 

There’s a wonderful show of Matisse paintings that just opened at the SF modern art museum (you can really see the sections of the paintings where he scratches heavily into the paint or dry-brushes down to the canvas) –  and watching “Prodigal Son” I tried to imagine what it would look like if Matisse had done the costumes and sets, as Diaghilev originally intended (Prokofiev talks about this in his Diary). What a different ballet Matisse’s “Prodigal Son” would have been. Instead of the somber stained glass window sets Georges Rouault delivered, everything would have been bright colored and sharp edged, leafy and patterned-over. Somewhere between the costumes and sets for “Chant du Rossignol” (where Matisse first devised his cut-out technique) and those simpler ones he did for Massine and Markova in 1940. 

 

Interestingly, Prokofiev goes on to note that he originally wanted the Siren to be a shadowy "aquarelle" being "seen through the eyes of an innocent youth." Diaghilev argued against that saying there'd then be no reason for forgiveness by the father. And of course Prokofiev ended up hating Balanchine’s choreography (Prokofiev's wife Ptashka: "What is bad is not just that they show their bottoms, but they do it at the wrong time”). Stravinsky later told Prokofiev that he himself never would have dared do a biblical subject for the Diaghilev company, that choosing to do so was Prokofiev’s fatal mistake.

Edited by Quiggin
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2 hours ago, Quiggin said:

 

WanTing Zhao (also a demi-soloist in “Diamonds”) was excellent on Saturday evening in “Prodigal Son” and made all the figurations work. The only one that didn’t was her command of the sail boat – where Sofiane Sylve made a larger – and more imperious – figure.  And excellent was Esteban Hernandez whose acting skills and stage presence were perfect – no holes anywhere in his performance, never out of character. Just maybe at times a touch too innocent looking.

 

Karapetyan was fine and partnered Sarah Van Patten beautifully in “Diamonds”– they brought off the slow movement best of the couples I saw this season. There were details in Van Patten’s performance I hadn’t noticed for a long time – like the strange feather-ruffling of her hands over her face and along the back of her head. (At times she looked uncannily like Sarah Means.)

 

I didn’t mind the differences between lanky and lumpy Aaron Robison and princely Carlo Di Lanno in the “Stravinsky Violin Concerto”. They were similar to the differences between Bart Cook (or Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux) and Peter Martins in the original. And the character of the two arias are pretty different anyway, one romantic and the other comic-existential, like that of a Buster Keaton film.

 

But what a ballet! A compendium of all of Balanchine’s choice ideas and tricks. It’s like a page of Euclid or a Sol LeWitt wall drawing used as a dance score. 

 

The dancing is full of corkscrews, quarter arcs, double lines, double verticals, S-turns, zig zag landings, serif-like wrist and heel work. The dancers tap out rhythms with their toes, drag their heels, describe circles around each other, skate across the stage in arabesques, make asymmetrical cats leaps. Stravinsky on his part constructed the music on a hollow “passport” chord that skittishly moves through a baroque structure of toccata, two arias, and capriccio.

 

The Aria I ballerina (Sylve) flutters by as if riding a bicycle backwards. The Aria I man (Robison, perfectly cast) does goofy propeller-armed, wiggle hip walks. She makes a circle in a rolling backbend like a cylindrical millstone and he follows in a larger half circle, his arms the handles of the crank. She follows the rungs of a ladder downwards with her hands and he follows those of another ladder upwards. They swim into the “waves” of each others’ arms, trying to weave themselves together and trying to extricate themselves at the same time.

 

In Aria II Vanessa Zahorian helped me really notice how strange the gypsy/tango “duplex” steps were that Balanchine devised – half on flat foot and half en pointe, each at a different level. The Aria women wear pink toe shoes with black tights strapped over, and little skirts they discard for the slow movements. Some parts of “Violin Concerto” seem like a bare-boned, 70s minimalist version of Liebeslieder Walzes. 

 

*

PS adendum:

 

There’s a wonderful show of Matisse paintings that just opened at the SF modern art museum (you can really see the sections of the paintings where he scratches heavily into the paint or dry-brushes down to the canvas) –  and watching “Prodigal Son” I tried to imagine what it would look like if Matisse had done the costumes and sets, as Diaghilev originally intended (Prokofiev talks about this in his Diary). What a different ballet Matisse’s “Prodigal Son” would have been. Instead of the somber stained glass window sets Georges Rouault delivered, everything would have been bright colored and sharp edged, leafy and patterned-over. Somewhere between the costumes and sets for “Chant du Rossignol” (where Matisse first devised his cut-out technique) and those simpler ones he did for Massine and Markova in 1940. 

 

Interestingly, Prokofiev goes on to note that he originally wanted the Siren to be a shadowy "aquarelle" being "seen through the eyes of an innocent youth." Diaghilev argued against that saying there'd then be no reason for forgiveness by the father. And of course Prokofiev ended up hating Balanchine’s choreography (Prokofiev's wife Ptashka: "What is bad is not just that they show their bottoms, but they do it at the wrong time”). Stravinsky later told Prokofiev that he himself never would have dared do a biblical subject for the Diaghilev company, that choosing to do so was Prokofiev’s fatal mistake.

 

Very nice write-up, Quiggin, thanks. I wonder what Ptashka considered the "right time to show your bottom"?

 

Like you, I was probably most affected by the brilliance of the Stravinsky Violin Concerto (both casts the two first nights were excellent). But it was a great program, period. Definitely worth seeing more than once, with different casts.

With all the personnel changes happening at this time, it does feel good to be able to say that I once saw Yuan Yuan Tan, Sarah Van Patten, Luke Ingham, Tiit Helimets, Sofiane Sylve, Vanessa Zahorian, Aaron Robison and Carlo Di Lanno all dance Stravinsky Violin Concerto.

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