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SFB "L'Arlésienne," "Continuum," "Death of a

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I always feel good after seeing a mixed bill with an Innovative New Work. It's like voting -- not too much fun at the time, and you're not sure how much good it does in the long run, but you come away full of virtue and public spiritedness. Well, not to sound like a reactionary old fud, but last night's program seemed like Let's Flex Our Feet and Lie on the Floor in the Fetal Position night at San Francisco Ballet. I thought L'Arlésienne improved from last season, but not so much as to make me like it very much. Vadim Solomakha assumed the fetal role for this one; he was very good in a role which mainly requires the hero to wander around with the distracted air of one who has seen something in his soup. Julie Diana was very touching as the hapless fiancée, and more secure than Lacarra in the performance of hers I saw.

Wheeldon's "Continuum." Um. I am impressed with Wheeldon's ability to create striking shapes and patterns with the dancers. I'm not fond of Ligeti's music, but I freely admit that could just be my problem. I was somewhat disappointed, however, that Wheeldon's choreography didn't do more to take my mind off it. I hate to lob that word "derivative" out there again, but there it is. I kept thinking, "Oh, that's from Third Theme, Four Ts"; "That's so Stravinsky Violin Concerto"; "That's from Calcium Light Night! or is it Ecstatic Orange, I can't quite remember from the PBS show, such a long time ago." I'm sure someone whose viewing is more extensive than mine could have could have spotted plenty more. It was a genuine distraction, I fear. And those configurations that were un-Balanchine seemed to shout, "Look how the dancers are rolling on the floor! Balanchine wouldn't do that, would he?" Well, no, he wouldn't. Don't get me wrong, it's an interesting piece, the dancers looked swell in it, and in further viewings I'm sure I'll see more than I have so far.

I remember a photograph I have in a book somewhere of The Clash. The four of them are striking flagrantly rock-starry postures, and Joe Strummer's caption read something like, "We gonna POSE! We gonna POSE! We gonna POSE till the house comes down!" or something like that. I got the same feeling watching Continuum; lots of interesting poses and shapes, but much less in the way of phrasing and flow, if that's not too vague.

"Death of a Moth": I can't...I just can't.

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Thank you dirac! I love the Flex Our Feet and Lie on the Floor in the Fetal Position Night. Wish I'd thought of that. Maybe we could shorten it to Fetal Flex Night -- there are more and more of those evenings turning up.

Just a few words on the Moth. How did the Moth die? And who was the choreographer?

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Does "Death of a moth" have something to do with Virginia Woolf's essay? (I have read it long ago and have a very unprecise memory of its content, but it's hard to imagine a ballet based on it... Actually, Woolf wouldn't be exactly the easiest author to adapt for ballet plots. Except perhaps "Orlando"?)

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The program does indeed mention Woolf and also Barbara Kingsolver, two rather disparate influences, and the general theme of of desperation-and-death does fall in line with the essay, although my recollection of it is probably even vaguer than yours. (I think Woolf used the definite article in her own title.)

I can't think of a less adaptable author to ballet, unless it's James Joyce, or H. G. Wells. I believe we had a thread about Least Suitable Adaptations some time ago. Maybe Ashton could have made a "Between the Acts" along the lines of "Enigma Variations" but that's all I can imagine.

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It was also "let's have another pas de deux night...

Death of a Moth is , like, 5 pas de deux, with a passage or two for corps boys-- very hard dancing, too -- intricate, lots of plastique, and lots of well, flailing in hte pas de deux -- though Ginastera's music CALLS for this.... It's music that's very hard to take, it's so nervous and distraught..... But Nicole Starbuck was fabulous....

Continuum is mostly pas de deux as well...... and too many promenades......

there's an interesting passage where Julie Diana does a solo to hte same music she just did a pas de deux to, with the wonderful Damian Smith..... (both dances, if I remember right, ended up in the fetal position on the floor, but what you were asked to notice was how she placed the palms of her hands on things).

Kristen Long got to be happy, and she was beautiful. In fact, they all gave swell performances.

They wear dark green leotards and belts (pink tights). I actually really liked the piece, though A) a dance friend said she did virtually all those exercises in a "lets' see what we can do in a Balanchine idiom" class THarp taught 20 years ago in New yOrk (including hte solo to the same music you'd just done a duet to)..... and B) Alonzo King's "Alkan," of 5 years ago or so, maybe 8, was very like "Continuum" and really more intersting -- set to resonant, stark, haunting piano music (by ALkan) and exploring a neo-classical idiom, with stranger and more intersting solos -- I remember a dancer running across the floor on pointe, shaking her legs in front of her like they were snakes -- her body was hanging back, her legs were out in front of her behaving in the strangest way, adn she was doing all this BY HERSELF -- it was Derbra Rose, uterly fantastic...... Nora Heber (who's 6 feet tall, nearabouts, on flat) was freaky-beautiful, with miles and miles of legs in a supported adage that floated in a haunting eerie sort of way, very edgy..... black leotards and belts, pink tights....

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PS --

I was there a different night from DIrac -- who all did you see in Continuum? Did anybody stand out for you? Just curious....

A big difference was that hte night I was there Pierre-Francois Villanoba danced in l'Arlesienne. Estelle, you asked about him earlier -- this was in fact his comeback from an injury -- to his foot, I believe -- he hurt himself on hte European tour, just after Sept 11.....

He was superb in hte role..... I wonder if it takes maybe a Frenchman to put Petit across; he and Lacarra were VERY tuned in to he VERY peculiar style of the piece, which is simultaneously very classical (my mother who was from New Orleans would have used the wrod "faisandee" have I spelt it right -- to describe the over-refined pointes and hte pathos) and at the same time markedly CHARACTER -- using turn-in, and peasant poses stolen from Les Noces -- but hte two principals were deeply in character and made hte idiom make sense in a way that when I saw Solomakha in it last year, I didn't find him convincing.....

The boy has got to be haunted by the girl from Arles who never appears, except insofar as her presence haunts HIM -- and Villanoba was -- well, he was carefulin hard steps, like hte double tour to grand plie -- he waited quite a while before descending into htat plie -- but MOS of hte time, he was really phrasing htings , distorting hte shapes of classic steps, and adapting hte timing, to show hte psychological states.. I was totally with him, and I think Estelle, you'd have been proud of him.....

Solomakha, by the way, was completely convincing in Dances at a Gathering, as the boy in Green -- he was kind of like Lensky in Onegin -- in the poem, not the ballet -- ardent, young, soulful, sweet, poetic -- very complex pirouettes were just rhapsodies of feeling..... so was Yuri Possokhov, as hte boy in purple- -- RObbins was born Rabinovitch or -witz or something like that, Russians understand him.... Petit is a different idiom.....

Solomakha is wonderful most of hte time, as hte prince in Sleeping Beauty; in Swan Lake, he's soulful as Nureyev....

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Dirac, yes, I think it was "The death of the moth" (well, for me it was "La mort de la phalène" anyway... :D Well, perhaps "Flush", about the love story between Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett, could be a nice pretext for a ballet, but I don't think one could reflect the fact that the story is seen through a dog's eyes!)

Paul, I didn't have many opportunities to see Vilanoba dance when he was in Paris (as most soloists of his generation, he was a bit "blocked" by principals of the previous generation), but from what I read about him it's really the POB's loss. Probably he had had more opportunities to work with Petit (who staged quite a lot of his works for the POB in the last decade); also Lacarra started her career in Petit's company, so it must be a rather natural idiom for them. Most Petit works depend a lot on the interpretation, they can look wonderful with the right dancers, and just hollow or camp else.

But "faisandée" is such a strange word to use for a dance- I see what you mean, but in general in French it is used for meat which is getting partly rotten, so that doesn't exactly evoke pleasant images! ;)

By the way, "L'Arlésienne" has become a proverbial expression in French: it just means a woman from Arles (a Provencal city not very far from Marseille, mostly known for its Roman monuments and because Van Gogh lived there), but there are expressions like "jouer l'Arlésienne" or "jouer les Arlésiennes" which mean "not to appear", "to remain hidden", and also "c'est comme l'Arlésienne, on en parle beaucoup mais on ne le voit jamais" (it's like the Arlesienne, it is spoken about a lot but never seen). I'm pretty sure that most people who use that expression have no idea that it comes from Alphonse Daudet's book "Lettres de mon Moulin".

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