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SFB Nutcracker 2019 - 75th Anniversary

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5 hours ago, Josette said:

It was my first look at Misa Kuranaga, who is a gem!

I saw Kuranaga at last year’s Gala and completely agree:  she is a gem, and she seems to fit right into the SFB company style.   (As much as I admired the beauty of Ana Sophia Scheller’s dancing, I never saw the energy and vivacity that characterizes SFB.)  According to some of Kuranaga’s Instagram posts, she’s rehearsing Cinderella; I definitely plan on seeing that.

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Frances Chung:
Last Nutcracker ✔️
4 months postpartum
Only possible because of Joseph Walsh and Felipe Diaz

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I attended both opening night and Sunday’s closing matinee performance and was delighted by the energy of the latter – maybe it was like horses sensing they’re close to home/dinner and picking up the pace. (Or is that cows?) The Opera House had a full house; I think there was some hugely popular 11th hour promo (that made picking up will-call tickets a perfect nightmare but we won't go there...). Lots of fun dancers to see in solo roles: Jahna F and Wei Wang rocked as Queen and King of Snow. Agree with PeggyR’s comment that Jahna dances big, and really looked at home in the role; great upper body presentation throughout. She nailed her final pirouette—four rotations and a clean finish. And Wei Wang has those big leaps, those clean, quiet finishes.

Jennifer Stahl danced SPF and she was a delight to watch. I don’t think I’ve seen her dance that role before (she’s one of my favorite Snow Queens although YY and Carlo on opening night were predictably stunning). It seems each year Jennifer S refines her style, and this year she had a subdued refinement that reminded me of Sofiane in the SPF role. A late change swapped Elizabeth Powell for Swane Messaoudi in Arabian, and she did wonderfully. I’m thinking I’ve never before seen her in a soloist role; anyone else see her dancing this? Gorgeous extensions and arches, she easily maintained the mystique the role requires. Even though she was stepping in on short notice, she worked well with the two males, Sean Bennett and Alexander Reneff-Olson. Bennett was Dr. Stahlbaum in Act I and really stood out, in a good way. I didn’t realize he was so tall. He made a great Dr. Stahlbaum. 

I was very much looking forward to seeing Benjamin Freemantle as the Nutcracker Prince and he did not disappoint. He’s still young, green, (some landings could have been softer) but that always makes it that much more of a thrill to watch. He's got the important stuff: the instinct and the technique (not to mention the talent) for big roles. What I find particularly appealing about him is this enthusiasm and good will that flow from him. (One gets this feeling watching Angelo Greco too.) He and Sasha -- I guess now we have to add “de Sola” since now there are two Sashas -- seemed to work very well together. They both had this youthful enthusiasm that, combined, seemed to make this the happiest (bad description) grand pas de deux I’ve seen performed. Better put, they seemed, as characters, to take delight in it all. The energy, from the audience, the orchestra, the stage, seemed to keep building throughout the grand pas de deux, as the two danced without any visible hiccups/bumps. It was hard to believe it all was at the end of a 30-performance (?) run. Benjamin just gave and gave, and Sasha skipped the single fouetté business in the coda in order to go with all doubles, just tearing through them in perfect form, and you got the sense she could keep going. The audience just went wild at the end. 

In Spanish, I really enjoyed seeing Carmela Mayo and Natasha Sheehan. Although the guys certainly deserve a shout-out (Daniel Deivison-Oliveira, Davide Occhipinti, Jacob Seltzer), my eyes are always drawn to the females dancing here, and those two were really fun to watch. Oh, and in Act 1, Joshua Jack Price threw in an aerial flip/walkover during his solo as the harlequin/jack-in-the-box, which I don’t think I’ve seen a dancer do before. It was very cool, and as surefooted and soundless as the rest of his dancing. Nice.

No new Waltz of the Flowers costumes in sight; that was indeed a strange little blip last year, reading the news in the Chronicle and then, nada. Oh well. I've made my peace with those costumes, and the icky-colored French costumes.

Great show, both times, but I think I would have to say I enjoyed the second one more. (My review for opening night is at Bachtrack, but I'm thinking I'm not supposed to post links here, so I won't, but links can be found at The Classical Girl.)

On a somber note, and this might have already been discussed elsewhere, but Allan Ulrich passed away this past July, and I, for one, will forever miss his elegant, eloquent reviews. Not that I always agreed with what he said, but it amazed me, the poetry and insight he’d put into a 350-word review. As someone who writes about dance (always a work in progress), I've been studying his reviews, his words, over the past 10 years, and just marveling at how interesting they were to read, how much they said about the art form. I will sorely miss his presence in the dance world. 

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3 hours ago, Terez said:

I attended both opening night and Sunday’s closing matinee performance and was delighted by the energy of the latter...

We all appreciate the post-performance write-ups!

Good of you to mention Ulrich - he always gave a darn, and expressed himself well, and that's what came through for me. There is a thread about his passing here:
https://balletalert.invisionzone.com/topic/44928-allan-ulrich-has-died/?tab=comments#comment-417529

Thanks for the mentions of Frantziskonis, Powell and Sheehan - I like to follow their progress. I'm pretty sure Powell has danced Arabian before in the past couple of years (as well as the other Nutcracker divertissement roles for women, and the Act 1 Ballerina Doll). Your question makes me wish there was an online database of the roles danced by SFB members. It just occurred to me the other day - Ulrik Birkkjaer must be nursing an injury, or did he dance in the first half of the Nutcracker run? I don't remember seeing his name in the castings.

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Willam Christensen’s 1944 Nutcracker
https://sfballet.blog/2019/willam-christensens-1944-nutcracker/

Related: America's First Snow Queen
https://sfballet.blog/2019/americas-first-snow-queen/

Nutcracker Close Up
https://sfballet.blog/2019/nutcracker-close-up/

Quote

“Costumes have to tell you in a moment what that person is feeling, what they’re going through—what changes are happening,” said Costume Designer Martin Pakledinaz, when accepting a Tony Award for his designs for Broadway’s

Thoroughly Modern Millie. Pakledinaz designed the costumes for Helgi Tomasson’s Nutcracker in 2004, and added beautiful detail to each garment. Why trouble with something that may never get noticed? Even if the audience can’t see the details, the costumes help a new set of dancers get into character each year. Below are close-up details from Nutcracker costumes, followed by dancers wearing them onstage.

Edited by pherank

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6 hours ago, pherank said:

I enjoyed the "Nutcracker Close Up" article, Pherank; I've never seen that one before. Elizabeth Mateer looks gorgeous in Arabian; that would have been a fun performance to see. BTW, I was referring to Swane Messaoudi when I queried whether others had seen her perform it. She was a sub for Lizzie P, whom I saw perform it last year (beautifully, of course). Hope it was just a minor issue that took Lizzie P off the cast list for Sunday afternoon.

Thank you, too, for posting the link to the discussion about Allan Ulrich's passing. That was nice to read. There doesn't seem to be a reviewer currently who can match his artfulness. But there you have it -- just like dancers moving on, so do the reviewers.

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