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SFB 2021 Digital Season


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5 hours ago, canbelto said:

Overall a bit disappointed with the latest streaming program. I didn't feel the works were as strong as the other programs.

I have to agree, but that might have something to do with my preference for comfort food nowadays. The program needed a barn-burner of some kind.

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With Program 5, we've been here before (two of the pieces were streamed during the Spring 2020 shutdown).

I had somewhat forgotten how good both Tan and Helimets, Zahorian and Nedvigin looked in 7 for Eight [recorded in 2016]. I have a feeling that the most important thing Tomasson learned from Balanchine about choreography was "make the dancers look good". Create steps that work for those dancers and bring out their best attributes. That's not necessarily a popular approach theses days. Many modern choreographers are pushing dancers to do more than they thought possible - more is better. And there is certainly a place for that when it comes to developing an art form, but then the audience sometimes gets treated to dancers performing steps that are particularly awkward for them. We don't deal with that here. As always with Tomasson, there's nothing obnoxious to point to - everything is quite civilized. The steps and execution very clean and nicely articulated. But that also means there isn't going to be as much to jump up and shout about. Maybe that was the point in programming 7 for Eight - there is still something to be said for simple craft and elegance. With a few twists added in for good measure.

Always nice to see Lonnie Weeks perform - great lines and wonderful angularities. His movement quality here reminded me of what I like about Jahna Frantziskonis. And great to see exemplary footage of Gennadi Nedvigin and Taras Domitro (now performing as a principal guest artist back East).

Many of us were looking forward to the debut of Cathy Marston's Mrs. Robinson, but alas, it was not to be. Instead we get a repeat showing of Snowblind.

Marston's Snowblind continues to hold up for me overall. The last section is quite harrowing, and is reminding me now of Japanese Butoh dance. It may have more to do with the expressions worn, particularly on SVP's pale face. A Dance of Darkness and ultimately, Compassion, is very much present.

This original cast of principals continues to impress in their roles. Everyone is believable and manages to get beyond the "I'm just acting/pretending" guise that so many dancers resort to, not being trained actors, or even dramatic talents in so many cases.

This time around I payed more attention to the Snowblind music. Marston deals with a similar situation to Danielle Rowe's in her Wooden Dimes (Program 3) - she's choreographing to very cinematic, atmospheric music (by Amy Beach)  - not true dance music, and I have to wonder how much that shaped her creative decisions. With Marston I get the feeling that she simply plowed straight ahead with her vision, while Rowe may have been more impeded by by the orchestral score rather than inspired (whether she knew it or not). That's just an impression I have.

Snowblind sticks to the darker and more dour side of life, so there's not much uplift to be had. So not for everyone - maybe not even best for "the whole family". But it still impresses me with its emotional intensity. I've seen at least two of the casts live, maybe three(?), and the SFB dancers all performed the roles admirably and effectively. There were no dud performances of this work that I witnessed - either on stage or in the video stream.

Dawson's Anima Animus continues to hold up for me as well, and is an important document of a particular SFB era and roster. A quintessential SFB performance of a contemporary ballet. A quintessential Sofiane Sylve performance (and arguably representative of Kochetkova's approach to experimental works as well). For me this piece is representative of many of the contemporary works SFB have been performing in the last 10 years or so - by choreographers like Forsythe, Elo, certain Wheeldon, Thatcher, Zanella, Peck, van Manen, Scarlett, even some of Possokhov. For someone not used to the company and wanting to know what SFB is capable of in a modern abstract ballet, this would be a good place to start.

Edited by pherank
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I've seen her as Odette-Odile, so I understand what you mean, PeggyR.  It is curious how she can deliver a devastatingly emotional portrayal in The Little Mermaid and RAkU but then is cold in other works.  I was disappointed in her Giselle; though it was danced beautifully from a technical standpoint, there was nothing human projected. I still want to see her Odette again because of her purity. 

 From the digital performances this season, I am eager to see Sasha Mukhamedov dance next year, as she has a lush way of moving and a charming personality, and is very musical.  Hopefully, she will recover fully for what we want to a full season for the company next year.  

I watched the program 5 earlier this evening and was delighted to see Domitro, Nedvegin,  and Zajorian in Seven for Eight.  

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On 4/23/2021 at 9:44 PM, Josette said:

I've seen her as Odette-Odile, so I understand what you mean, PeggyR.  It is curious how she can deliver a devastatingly emotional portrayal in The Little Mermaid and RAkU but then is cold in other works.  I was disappointed in her Giselle; though it was danced beautifully from a technical standpoint, there was nothing human projected. I still want to see her Odette again because of her purity. 

[We're talking about Yuan Yuan Tan here. :) ]  Agree, especially about her Giselle.  On the other hand, I have never seen any dancer who could convey that quality of being absolutely weightless in Act 2 so well.  I think Helimets was her partner when I saw it and he's a superb partner, which helps a lot.  Did you see her in Onegin?  I was expecting the usual chilly beauty, but she left me in shreds.  Just a stunningly emotional and beautiful performance - completely unexpected.  And that's my problem with Sasha De Sola:  she's a beautiful dancer in every way, except that she rarely surprises me:  I know exactly what I'm going to see.  Having said that, I liked her sassiness in ColorForms.

I liked Mukhamedov too - definitely looking forward to O/O, Myrtha and Lilac Fairy - although I found her broken wrists and prominent index finger a little distracting (both were absolute no nos when I was studying ballet).

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5 hours ago, PeggyR said:

I liked Mukhamedov too - definitely looking forward to O/O, Myrtha and Lilac Fairy - although I found her broken wrists and prominent index finger a little distracting (both were absolute no nos when I was studying ballet).

Basic ballet techniques often differ from what choreographers are trying to achieve in particular ballets. Emeralds features quite a lot of drooping wrist stylizations. Pretty much every single interpretation I've seen - from the Russians, the French, the Brits, the Americans, features 'softened' wrists rather than a stiff, angular aesthetic in the arms/port do bras. Here that's intentional, even if, say, the Russians find it particularly easy to 'break' the wrist.  ;)  I agree that the raised index finger is a bit distracting, but I'm not sure she does that all the time. Can you remember if she was using that affectation in A Midsummer Night's Dream?

It' difficult to even find any Emeralds photos that feature aligned hand/arm/fingers.
 

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fc-emeralds-ana-turazashvili-solo_1000.j

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On 4/25/2021 at 9:21 AM, PeggyR said:

although I found her broken wrists and prominent index finger a little distracting (both were absolute no nos when I was studying ballet).

Yes, the hands of female ballet dancers today are frequently horrendous and would have some of my teachers spinning in their graves. I'm particularly distressed by the normalization of they might have called "washer-woman hands": leading with the elbows and letting the fingers droop, with no attempt to support the pinky and outer edge of the hand. ("It feels lovely, but it looks absolutely terrible.")

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Mukhamedov's hands always look like you described, and they make it nearly impossible for me to enjoy her dancing.

On 4/25/2021 at 2:34 PM, pherank said:

It' difficult to even find any Emeralds photos that feature aligned hand/arm/fingers.

The "Emeralds" photos aren't the best guide because those dancers are in motion, and the photos can't reflect where the dancers' hands ultimately end up. Although Turazashvili in the final photo is mannered in the extreme, and her hands always look bad. 

Classical arms certainly aren't angular. Quite the contrary.

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1 hour ago, volcanohunter said:

The "Emeralds" photos aren't the best guide because those dancers are in motion, and the photos can't reflect where the dancers' hands ultimately end up.

Still photos can be deceitful, sure. But I don't think this is a conspiracy of photographers.

My point was that "drooping" hands is now a feature of Emeralds performances (in all female roles) so not an issue with particular dancers. It's something like flowers drooping slightly at the stem. Verdy was less fussy and mannered in her approach to the 1st Solo Variation, but today's répétiteurs and dancers are taking the roles into a different direction. But like it or not, it isn't the job of a soloist to imitate Violette Verdy - they're supposed to make the role their own.

Edited by pherank
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Farrell was never regarded as a classicist. Many critics, especially abroad, did object to her "exaggerations." Presumably many audiences felt the same way. I didn't "get" Farrell until I was about 16 (when she hit me like a ton of bricks). Prior to that I only saw her deviations. 

But most dancers aren't great geniuses like Farrell, and that makes their distortions a lot more difficult to tolerate.

Edited by volcanohunter
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2 hours ago, pherank said:

My point was that "drooping" hands is now a feature of Emeralds performances (in all female roles) ... they're supposed to make the role their own.

If "droopy" Emeralds are now a norm, I'd hardly call that dancers making the roles their own.

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I really appreciate these informative posts from pherank and volcanohunter, with photos attached. For the nonprofessional such as myself, this is very helpful in thinking about what to look for and putting it into context. Thanks much!

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23 minutes ago, volcanohunter said:

If "droopy" Emeralds are now a norm, I'd hardly call that dancers making the roles their own.

Dancing a role obviously involves a lot more than the hands though - granted, hands can be particularly expressive so they are a major part of a dancer's "toolkit". You've said you can't enjoy Mukhamedov's dancing because you don't like how she uses her hands. Seems like an awful lot is going to be ignored over an issue with one portion of the body, or personality.

Regarding drooping hands in Emeralds specifically:
When does a step or gesture become an affectation? When does an affectation become the accepted step or gesture? (shrug)

I can pretty much guarantee that if dancers are still performing Balanchine ballets in 50 years, the  roles will look considerably different from today's versions.

Edited by pherank
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Dancers do make dropped wrists part of their style in Emeralds. Like it or not it's become part of the ballet's idiom, a bit like the jutting hips have become a part of Concerto Barocco.

Violette Verdy:

tumblr_o417q5Fz4m1s28ej9o1_400.png

Roberta Marquez:

dm-emeralds-roberta-marquez-kick_1000.jp

Evgenia Obraztsova:

src_evgenia_obraztsova_14_Emeralds_026_p

Tiler Peck:

28JEWELS1-superJumbo.jpg

 

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39 minutes ago, pherank said:

You've said you can't enjoy Mukhamedov's dancing because you don't like how she uses her hands. Seems like an awful lot is going to be ignored over an issue with one portion of the body, or personality.

No, the problem is that the distraction is so great that I can't see any other part of her.

Think of it the other way around, I remember an American dancer named Andrea Boardman. She had really bad feet. The thing is, I never noticed it until I watched the film of Edouard Lock's Amelia. Lock's choreography is largely stationary, with women being spun back and forth on pointe, and on film, of course, there are lots of close ups, and when I first saw it I couldn't get over how unattractive her feet were: these large, inflexible boats. But I'd seen her dance many times before, and I never realized this. I mean, I saw her in Symphony in C, for crying out loud, and I never noticed, because she made everthing else about her so expressive and beautiful. By strength of personality she compelled the audience to watch her from the waist up. So no, one flawed portion of the body isn't necessarily decisive if a dancer compensates for it.

 

Edited by volcanohunter
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Posted (edited)

Posted today, May 21, 2021 -

Misa Kuranaga:
"Today was the last day in the studio for the 2020-2021 season @sfballet During this unique situation, we have found a new way to love and appreciate each other."

https://www.instagram.com/p/CPJq6Lfn8Nk/

Natasha Sheehan:
"today is the last day of the 2020/2021 @sfballet season and still trying to wrap my head around it. here’s to hoping things will feel more normal when we start back in the summer"

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

Edited by pherank
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2021 SF Ballet Audience Engagement Post Season Survey
"Thank you for joining San Francisco Ballet this season for one or many Audience Engagement events! We hope you had fun, learned something new, and deepened your enjoyment of ballet.

After a most unusual year, we want your feedback so we can learn how to serve you best and make decisions for the 2022 Season. Please let us know your thoughts. Your answers can be anonymous."

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1p0OJvnbTSPUk-mUWHp1XjtvQ8jrhfdZ7po8ZOXvinWk/viewform?edit_requested=true

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