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SFB 2020 - Program 3 DANCE INNOVATIONS


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Program 3 features the long-awaited return of Edwaard Liang's The Infinite Ocean, which was part of 2018's Unbound.  Trey McIntyre's second piece for SFB will premiere - The Big Hunger is set to Prokofiev's Piano Concerto #2.  The program will close with an encore of Harald Lander's Etudes - an homage to ballet class (at least that's how I see it....).  The program will open on Thursday 2/13.  Casting has been posted for opening night:  

Thu, Feb 13 at 7:30 PM 
THE INFINITE OCEAN
COMPOSER: OLIVER DAVIS
CHOREOGRAPHER: EDWAARD LIANG
CONDUCTOR: MARTIN WEST
VIOLIN: CORDULA MERKS
SOFIANE SYLVE, TIIT HELIMETS
YUAN YUAN TAN, CARLO DI LANNO
INTERMISSION
THE BIG HUNGER WORLD PREMIERE
COMPOSER: SERGEI PROKOFIEV
CHOREOGRAPHER: TREY MCINTYRE
CONDUCTOR: MARTIN WEST
PIANIST: YEKWON SUNWOO
DORES ANDRÉ, BENJAMIN FREEMANTLE
JENNIFER STAHL, LUKE INGHAM
ESTEBAN HERNANDEZ, WEI WANG
INTERMISSION
ETUDES
COMPOSER: KNUDÅGE RIISAGER, AFTER CARL CZERNY
CHOREOGRAPHER: HARALD LANDER
CONDUCTOR: MARTIN WEST
SASHA DE SOLA
TOUR: ANGELO GRECO
MAZURKA: JOSEPH WALSH
PDD MAN: CARLO DI LANNO
†Denotes debut in current production
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3 hours ago, pherank said:

The interesting bit is that Sofiane is dancing Infinite Ocean rather than Etudes on opening night. No one dances Etudes like Sylve, but I can guess that she's ready to move on.  😉

I will have to check but if memory serves me right, Sasha was in opening night Etudes.  Additionally, The Infinite Ocean was created on Sofiane/Tiit & YY/Vitor so it makes sense she would dance opening night in that piece.

Edited by sf_herminator
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24 minutes ago, sf_herminator said:

I will have to check but if memory serves me right, Sasha was in opening night Etudes.  Additionally, The Infinite Ocean was created on Sofiane/Tiit & YY/Vitor so it makes sense she would Dance opening night.

Yes, I think you're right about that, but Sylve taught the master class for Etudes. I think I saw all the casts last time and Sylve was clearly "the master", imo. But anyway, good casting for that program.

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Casting for Saturday's performances now up: https://www.sfballet.org/tickets/casting/

We finally get to see Sasha Mukhamedov!!!

Sat, Feb 15 at 2:00 pm
THE INFINITE OCEAN
Composer: Oliver Davis
Choreographer: Edwaard Liang
Conductor: Martin West
Violin: Cordula Merks
Dores André, Luke Ingham
Wona Park, Steven Morse
INTERMISSION
THE BIG HUNGER WORLD PREMIERE
Composer: Sergei Prokofiev
Choreographer: Trey McIntyre
Conductor: Martin West
Pianist: Yekwon Sunwoo
Sasha De Sola, Max Cauthorn
Sasha Mukhamedov, Steven Morse
Cavan Conley, Lonnie Weeks
INTERMISSION
ETUDES
Composer: Knudåge Riisager, after Carl Czerny
Choreographer: Harald Lander
Conductor: Martin West
Mathilde Froustey
Benjamin Freemantle, Wei Wang
Tiit Helimets
Sat, Feb 15 at 8:00 pm
THE INFINITE OCEAN
Composer: Oliver Davis
Choreographer: Edwaard Liang
Conductor: Martin West
Violin: Cordula Merks
Sofiane Sylve, Tiit Helimets
Yuan Yuan Tan, Carlo Di Lanno
INTERMISSION
THE BIG HUNGER WORLD PREMIERE
Composer: Sergei Prokofiev
Choreographer: Trey McIntyre
Conductor: Martin West
Pianist: Yekwon Sunwoo
Dores André, Benjamin Freemantle
Jennifer Stahl, Luke Ingham
Esteban Hernandez, Wei Wang
INTERMISSION
ETUDES
Composer: Knudåge Riisager, after Carl Czerny
Choreographer: Harald Lander
Conductor: Martin West
Sasha De Sola
Angelo Greco, Joseph Walsh
Carlo Di Lanno
†Denotes debut in current production
Edited by sf_herminator
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Tue, Feb 18 at 7:30 pm

THE INFINITE OCEAN
Composer: Oliver Davis
Choreographer: Edwaard Liang
Conductor: Martin West
Violin: Cordula Merks
Sofiane Sylve, Tiit Helimets
Yuan Yuan Tan, Carlo Di Lanno

 
INTERMISSION

 
THE BIG HUNGER WORLD PREMIERE
Composer: Sergei Prokofiev
Choreographer: Trey McIntyre
Conductor: Martin West
Pianist: Yekwon Sunwoo
Dores André, Benjamin Freemantle
Jennifer Stahl, Luke Ingham
Esteban Hernandez, Wei Wang

 
INTERMISSION

 
ETUDES
Composer: Knudåge Riisager, after Carl Czerny
Choreographer: Harald Lander
Conductor: Martin West
Misa Kuranaga
Esteban Hernandez, Max Cauthorn
Cavan Conley

 

Wed, Feb 19 at 7:30 pm

THE INFINITE OCEAN
Composer: Oliver Davis
Choreographer: Edwaard Liang
Conductor: Ming Luke
Violin: Cordula Merks
Dores André, Luke Ingham
Wona Park, Steven Morse

 
INTERMISSION

 
THE BIG HUNGER WORLD PREMIERE
Composer: Sergei Prokofiev
Choreographer: Trey McIntyre
Conductor: Martin West
Pianist: Yekwon Sunwoo
Sasha De Sola, Max Cauthorn
Sasha Mukhamedov, Steven Morse
Cavan Conley, Lonnie Weeks

 
INTERMISSION

 
ETUDES
Composer: Knudåge Riisager, after Carl Czerny
Choreographer: Harald Lander
Conductor: Martin West
Mathilde Froustey
Benjamin Freemantle, Wei Wang
Tiit Helimets

 

Edited by pherank
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Enjoyed Program Three, the Harald Lander Etudes much more than I thought I would and Misa Kuranaga especially whom I now look forward to seeing in everything. Etudes seems to be a ballet exercise book like one of Bach's where two or more "rounds" of a particular exercise work in counterpoint with each other and make the other more complex. It's never-ending but in a wonderful way. And though not as highly developed as Symphony in C and with more dry wit, the finale (“broad leaps”) with all the dancers assembled on stage was quite thrilling. Esteban Hernandez and Max Cauthorn were the two sweetly self-effacing ringleaders acting as demi / locus points for everything else to pivot around.

The new Trey McIntyre piece The Big Hunger was an odd mixture of American plain-spokeness and European expressionism. The story of the characters in sharp pink blunt-cut wigs seemed to be a follow-up report on the lives of the goons from The Prodigal Son. Diaghilev himself was quite taken with the earlier version of Prokofiev's Concerto #2 and wanted to use it as a basis of a ballet, with a Pan-like character who was "gently grotesque and mocking." But in the end it turned out too difficult to match a story to. I liked McIntyre's third pas with Cavan Conley and Lonnie Weeks best and could have seen more variations. It was the most direct and satisfying of the three and where the expressionist dressings were least important. The partners were like the two minor characters who often appear in the backgrounds of Kafka novels.

The Edwaard Liang work Infinite Ocean was an audience favorite, but I couldn't find my way to a basic structure underneath and to a clear vocabulary of building blocks. It seemed overly ornamented, with too much "spinach" as German modernist architects used to  say, bits of generic this and that and not enough air between.

My own bias I suppose is for “arte povera” ballets of simple movements in more and more complex combinations – like the plain-spoken parts of McIntyre works or the basic floor plan of the witty Etudes. 

Edited by Quiggin
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From the Wikipedia entry on Etudes, Harald Lander: 

"The order of the various sections of the ballet, as recorded by the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Gennady Rozhdestvensky in 1997."

An order not necessarily that of the current SFB production. According to Horst Koegler, its dates are 1948, revised in 1951: "The whole ballet is propelled by an irresistible escalation of technical difficulties, with a pas de deux a la La Sylphide interrrupting its drive."

 Overture (exercises at the barre)
Tendus, Grands battements, fondus and frappes
Ronds de jambe
Silhouetter-au milieu
Adagio
Port de Bras et pas de badin
Mirror Dance
Ensemble
Romantic Pas de deux
Sortie
Conclusion
Pirouettes
Releves
Piques et grands pirouettes
Solo for the Prima Ballerina
Coda
Small Leaps
Mazurka
Tarantella
Broad Leaps (Finale) 

Edited by Quiggin
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Thanks for posting your thoughts on Program 3, Quiggin. I like your description of the McIntyre as "an odd mixture of American plain-spokeness and European expressionism". That may work for most of his projects.

Etudes is an example of a ballet that somehow manages to be greater than the sum of the parts. And so it hasn't gone away.

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I have seen two performances of Program 3 - opening night on Thursday 2/13 and Tuesday 2/18.  I really enjoyed this program - but will admit the new Trey McIntyre will not be loved by everyone.

Opening this program was the return of Edwaard Liang's The Infinite Ocean.  This premiered during 2018's Unbound Festival and was definitely one of my favorite upon first viewing.  Seeing it again this year does not change my opinion.  The music is an original composition by British composer Oliver Davis and is choreographed on two principal couples and four corps couples.  There is debate on which Pas de Deux is better - Sofiane Sylve & Tiit Helimets in the second section of the piece or Yuan Yuan Tan & Carlo DiLanno in the fifth section.  The same couples danced on both nights.

The World Premiere of Trey McIntyre's The Big Hunger was the second piece, which was choreographed to Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 2.  It's a grand piece of music - and I thought the choreography matched very well.  There are three principal couples - the first two are male/female and the last couple is male/male.  There are also a corps of eight men.  The costuming - or more specifically the wigs - will certainly cause some debate.  My thought - in putting wigs on the corps men and the second and third couples (with the first couple also donning wigs in the last section when they return to the piece), Trey was playing with gender roles/gender identity.  But the wigs can be a bit distracting.  The male corps come onstage in the first section donning bright pink pageboy wigs.  The second couple enters in the second section in the same wigs.  When the third couple comes appears, they are donning blue/green wigs.  Additionally, they are wearing long trench coats - which when they are spinning around look more like dresses.  I won't say anymore - I think anyone's interpretation should be their own and I don't want to influence anyone's view.  But I do know some people were not fans and others loved it.  In Thursday's cast, the couples were Dores Andre/Benjamin Freemantle, Jennifer Stahl/Luke Ingham, and Esteban Hernandez/Wei Wang.  In tonight's cast, the couples were Sasha DeSola/Max Cauthorn, Sasha Mukhamedov/Steven Morse, and Cavan Conley/Lonnie Weeks.  I am looking forward to seeing this again - to really focus on the choreography.

Harald Lander's Etudes closed the program. Etudes returned last year after an absence of 20 years and was happy to see it return this year.  Etudes (in my opinion) celebrates ballet - specifically the movement.  Watching it tonight, I love how it builds from starting at the barre, moving to the floor, a beautiful romantic section, and the spins/jumps/leaps of the last section.  Sasha DeSola was the lead ballerina on Thursday, dancing with Angelo Greco, Joseph Walsh, and Carlo DiLanno.  Tonight is was Misa Kuranaga with Esteban Hernandez, Max Cauthorn, and Cavan Conley.  I really loved watching Misa tonight.  

A bit of a rant now (similar to my rant of the polite applause on Sunday at Sandpaper Ballet):  First, there were some people behind me who were laughing at various points during Etudes.  OK, the music (orchestrations of piano exercises) is a curious choices.  But in the context of the piece it makes sense.  The movements the dancers are executing are not easy - although they make it look easy.  I could not understand why anyone would be laughing.  Second, I saw three or four people walk out.  OK, I understand walking out on William Forsythe, whether it is the 'Table Dance' (One Flat Thing, Reproduced)Pas/Parts 2016, or the first half of Artifact Suite with the fire curtain slamming down.  Since Etudes celebrates ballet movement, maybe it's not the most exciting piece.  But when you have a world class company performing these moves in unison and (at various times) at great speed, how can anyone walk out???  Lastly, I have been taking ballet now for about 4 years - watching Etudes tonight really made me appreciate the opportunity to take class and recognize some of the moves performed as moves I do in class (tendu, plie, cou-de-pied, passe, rond de jambe, etc). (OK, end of rant).

But one more thought:  If Program 2 had not been modified, the sequencing of both programs would have been the same.  Opening with a piece from Unbound, middle piece to a piano concerto, and a large ensemble piece to close.

Edited by sf_herminator
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Thanks so much for the detailed reports, sf_herminator. Lots of great information there!

I want to mention that forum member Terez posted a review of Program 3 on Bachtrak.com for anyone interested in reading more on this subject...

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Wow - great evening, overall.

I'm not in love with Infinite Ocean - the first pas de deux in particular felt overly full of showy lifts (I really hate crotch-in-face lifts), and one of the male group dances had some clapping and overly frilly movement that didn't make much sense to me in the context of the ballet.  I'm not sure I fully understood the narrative of the ballet.  The ending felt very Swan Lake/Odette suicide to me, I'm not sure if that was intentional.  

Nevertheless, I always feel like I win a lottery ticket when I see Yuan Yuan Tan.  Her pas de deux was beautiful, the whole audience seemed very moved by it.  She's used so judiciously these days that I feel so lucky when I get to see her.  I really, really hope she doesn't retire anytime soon.

 

I was a huge fan of The Big Hunger.  I think SF Ballet performs McIntyre's movement super well, Ben Freemantle in particular.  I think McIntyre choreographs male movement really well.  Highlight for me was the duo of Wang and Hernandez.  I'll confess I didn't fully understand the sets or costumes, but I think McIntyre's choreography always brings a nice weirdness and levity to SF Ballet programs.  Jennifer Stahl's pas with the plain leotard and the bob wig reminded me of Sylvie Guillem in In the Middle Somewhat Elevated.  Lots of funny movements interspersed throughout, with serious moments too.  I hope he continues to choreograph more for SF Ballet.

 

Etudes was the highlight of the night for me.  When I've seen it in the past, I felt it was a bit dated to me, but tonight I didn't feel that way at all!  It was by far the best I've seen it performed.  Sasha de Sola must have nerves of steel, she didn't have a single bobble the entire performance, and she projected warmth and confidence throughout.  I've found some of the male solos to feel a bit bland in the past, but I thought Joseph Walsh and Angelo Greco brought a lot of personality to the choreography.  Whole corps looked really good too.  

Oddly, Angelo Greco didn't come out at the end for bows - I hope he wasn't injured!!!  I didn't notice anything off in his dancing. 

 

Edited by Phrenchphry11
typos
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57 minutes ago, Phrenchphry11 said:

Oddly, Angelo Greco didn't come out at the end for bows - I hope he wasn't injured!!!  I didn't notice anything off in his dancing.

Great report, Phrenchphry11.

It's not a good sign that Greco didn't appear, but hopefully it was something minor. He's dancing constantly which is risky, but I think he insists on it. But since SFB is down 2 male principals someone is going to get overworked until that situation changes.

Edited by pherank
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Misa Kuranaga celebrates the end of this toughest(?) section of the 2020 programming:

"Congratulations to everyone in @sfballet for getting through a tough 2 programs back to back. You are my inspiration"

https://www.instagram.com/p/B87jSx-HDs7/


And Benjamin Freemantle says, "When you get one show, no tech on stage, and a partner switch, you sometimes just gotta laugh and be happy you got through it. Thank you so much to everyone who helped me with my debut in Etudes as the “Tour Man”, especially @weiwangofficial @misakuranaga and @feldiazinsane. Couldn’t of done this without all of you. 2 years ago I would of never thought of myself as a “Classical Ballet Dancer” I was the contemporary kid who could move. This year is just starting to show me what I can do and what I am actually capable of. I can’t wait to tackle bigger ballets and I feel privileged to be doing it at @sfballet "

https://www.instagram.com/p/B87lU3Kgcsz/

 

 

Edited by pherank
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On 2/19/2020 at 12:07 AM, pherank said:

Thanks so much for the detailed reports, sf_herminator. Lots of great information there!

I want to mention that forum member Terez posted a review of Program 3 on Bachtrak.com for anyone interested in reading more on this subject...

Thanks for the shout-out about my review, Pherank. I am utterly buried in other stuff and dismayed that I'm not finding the opportunity to offer my comments about the production, because this is my favorite place to come and chat and listen about what others have to say. At least I can enjoy the latter, a week after the fact!  Love reading what others have to say.

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I attended the last two shows, Friday evening and Sunday matinee.  Stupid me wrote all my comments at the airport Sunday evening but didn't hit send yet - so the all got lost after I turned my phone back off airplane mode when I landed in Seattle.  :(

One of my comments was about Benjamin Freemantle.  On Sunday he danced The Big Hunger with Dores Andre and then right after was one of the lead men in the White section of Etudes.  That is an awful lot to do back to back.  In The Big Hunger, not only is it a lot of stage time, but I was also struck by these flying leaps/jumps Dores made and BF had to catch a flying human!  Both BF and Wei Wang had some bobbling at the end of a la seconde turn sequences, I chalk this up to the overuse of them and the company being down two principal men, I don't believe that is normal for them.  One of the men, I think it was BF had a super long petite allegro with beats in every step.  It is extremely difficult choreography and has to be so precise, I didn't realize this was his Etudes debut (with no tech) until I read the comments above.

Some other company members looked tired on Sunday compared to Saturday evening and Friday evening.  It must be so difficult for everyone to present alternating programs for two weeks - including stage crew and orchestra.

I went to the Sunday Meet the Artist with Kimberly Marie Olivier.  She had an interesting metaphor for their/rep schedule.  In ths summer they learn their next season rep then she said you have to "pack it away like summer clothes".  Then they tour in the fall and then of course Nutcracker.  Then at the beginning of the calendar year they have to "unpack their summer clothes".

One of the reasons I came down this weekend was to revisit The Infinite Ocean.  Unbound was a lot to watch, and I only saw each program once.  Edwaard Liang is creating a world premiere for PNB with an original Oliver Davis composition, it will be in the Rep 6 program.  PNB also dance Bacchus last year, which is to Oliver Davis music as well.  This weekend I could hear the similarities in the music.  I especially loved all the pas de deux and there was a bit where Jahna F had the spotlight within the group which I appreciated since she is still missed at PNB.  I lucked out and had the orchestra B2 seat, so I could see the beautiful Mark Zappone costumes which are different than the other most recent creations from him (less fabric helped me enjoy the coral motif and sequins).

My favorite dancing in The Big Hunger was all the pas de deux by BF and DA.  I found all the pink wigs distracting.  There was a lot of interesting choreography, but the piece didn't leave me uplifted, and my favorite ballets do that for me.  The big star for me was the pianist, Yekwon Sunwoo, such a difficult piece by such a young person.  I read in the program notes even Prokofiev was nervous to play it, it is so difficult.  I wish he and the piano were on the stage, it looked like there was room stage right.  At least I got to see him in the pit on Sunday, although I was not on the keyboard side.

Now that I have two recent trips I will make my updates on the "Places to Stay" thread.  I had surgery yesterday so have a lot of downtime at home.

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