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SFB at City Center, 10/10/02

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Last night was a bit of a disappointment at SFB. I don't know if the dreadfully slow tempi in Paquita were due to Makarova's staging, or Neal Stullberg's inattentive conducting, but I swear continents move faster than some of those diagonals. The overly ornate costumes (the pas de trois dancers looked like dancing Hostess cupcakes) didn't help either.

Most of the girls looked dutiful and in a bit over their heads. Not inspiring at all. Kristin Long had a few nice moments in a ferocious jumping solo, but I still don't see what the fuss is over Yuan Yuan Tan (she didn't do much for me in Etudes last time they were here, either). She's pretty, has a beautiful line, and is dull as watching paint dry. I got the feeling that the upcoming fouettes were weighing on her mind -- she seemed much freer once past them (and she did a creditable job with them), but then again, by that point the ballet's just about over. I did like Katitia Waldo in the pas de trois -- she's got a bit more spunk than most of these bland girls. The two men -- Vadim Solomakha with Tan, and Guennadi Nedviguine in the pas de trois (with Waldo and Vanessa Zahorian, who was tolerable), were beautiful. I loved Nedviguine's beats (we got to see a lot of them as he did a killer solo with a lot of sisonne battus a la seconde in a circle around the stage) and Solomakha's big, easy and soft jumps. The men in this company are sensational, and seem to share a lot of the qualities I loved so much in Helgi's dancing -- grace, calm, clarity -- but the women look, well, flat. It's like a company of Helgis with no Patties.

Julia Adam's Night had some cute and clever moments, but ended up dragging badly by the end. Lots of clever floor work, and work with dancers streched about inside fabric. Rather ikky costumes by Benjamin Pierce (who also, it seems, danced the lead), too reminiscent of the infamous feather pants from Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake. The piece seemed to be a dream of sorts imagined, quite often with wit, by Vanessa Zahorian. I wouldn't run to see it again, but I wouldn't run away from it. Hans van Manen's Solo, to fiesty Bach violin solos has three wonderful and different men skittering about the stage in cascades of witty variations. I've always liked Van Manen's work, and it was nice to see some again, after too many years. There was an intersting contrast between the weighty and sculptural Peter Brandenhoff, the lanky Stephen Legate (with the best surfer haircut the company), and the diminutive Nedviguine, who proved to be a stunningly natural turner, and seemed to be tremendously enjoying himself. As did all the guys, and the audience as well.

Would the same could be said about Rubies, which proved to be even a bigger disappointment than Paquita. Flat, flat, flat. It seemed that many of the choreography's details and fine bits were missing, from both the leads and the corps. The dancers looked to be masking uncertainty under a kind of overly flashy stage brio which their often fuzzy dancing didn't support. I also wondered if the City Center stage was simply too small for Rubies, or that it had been under-rehearsed. It didn't look high-voltage, just busy and cluttered. The leads followed SFB's familiar pattern: Gonzalo Garcia, short and fiesty in a Villella-ish mode, soared through his solos with winning bouyancy and irony, while Kristin Long looked game, but outmatched, and unable to imbue the role with anything more than a bit of soubrettish spunk. Which is not what it's all about. The pallid Muriel Maffre had the line for the Patricia Neary role, but not the strength or authority. I imagine at one time she'd have killed in this role, but not last night.

It was a sad evening -- after Tuesday and Wednesday I thought SFB was clearly in the same league with NYCB and ABT, but after such letdowns with the two "biggies" they brought, it's clear they have a ways yet to go. I do think Helgi can clearly has put together a more-interesting repertory than either Martins or McKenzie (not counting the many Balanchine and Robbins ballets which Martins inherited).

Speaking of which, le toute NYCB was in attendence, and someone should tell Peter Martins that it's rude to take one's seat after the ballet's already started, especially when one is sitting in the very front of the balcony.

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Hey, he's Peter Martins. One of the perks of power, I suppose.

Very sorry to hear this about the Paquita. Hope it improves by next season. Also sorry to hear that Maffre was off form. It's true she's not as strong as in days gone by, but she can still make everyone sit and stay on command on a good night.

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Thanks for that review:( - I'm just hoping it was an off night, or that I'll see it differently during Sunday's matinee.

I actually decided not to read your post Manhattnik - once I hit the cupcakes part and scanned down to read that you'd seen "Rubies" too. :eek: Here's hoping for better performances to come!

Sunday night I'll come back and read your whole review. ;)

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Toward the end of "Night", at Thursday's performance, I actually

thought of Manhattnik's motto: 'Every dance is too long . . .",

not realizing he was also in the audience. However, I loved that

ballet -- such a relief after the heavy, ponderous 'Paquita'.

Unlike M, I would run to see 'Night' again. And I would run even

faster to see any SFB performance with Vanessa Zahorian and

Guennadi Nedviguine. They had wit (GN outstandingly in"Solo")

verve, and an aeronautical lightness that seemed terribly

scarce in "Paquita".

Ed Bock

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I didn't see Miss Tan perform Paquita 10/10 but I did see her perform Chi-Lin 10/11. I too thought she had a beautiful line, and

also a wonderful clean technique. She is obviously a young dancer with great natural ability and probably in time will grow to be a dancer we all will want to see.

I found the comment "... (she) is as dull as watching paint dry"

to be particularly unkind. I thought we had agreed here to comment as if the performer's mother was within earshot. As a mother I hope I never hear that about my young dancers no matter how untalented they may end up.

When we get to the point that neophytes don't want to read our reviews for fear we will spoil their Sunday afternoon then perhaps we have gone too far.

There comes a time when honest opinion and personal taste flips its pointe shoe over the line in the sand.

We are among friends here so to speak but we still have to be careful what escapes the gates of our teeth.

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Reviewing a seasoned professional dancer with a major company is not the same as reviewing a 16 year old in her first solo role....and I know that this dancer has received a variety of reviews in her career. She has been with SFB since 1995, joined as a soloist.

I thought she did a beautiful Giselle in 1999? 2000? when she was in Washington. I liked her less in Bugaku the next time around, but still she brought a beautiful delicacy and line to the role.... the Paquita ballerina role is neither of these. Very different.

In any case, this was not written for a published review, it as one person's informal impression *once.* Liking a particular dancer in a particular role on a particular night varies tremendously-----that is the beauty of the artistic experience: it is infinitely variable. :)

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Manhattnik, that little spitfire!

Perhaps M would reveal, here and now, if

he is a little spitfire, a medium-size spitfire,

or a greeeaaat big spitfire -- so that I have

a better chance of overhearing him the next

time we are in the same audience. (His comments

might be more bland if he assumes his remarks

were being overheard by the _father_ of a dancer!

But I dearly hope not.)

Several years ago, M and I were both in the audience

watching Ananashvilli take curtain calls at the Met

when a hefty gentleman, shouting loud 'Bravoi's heaved

large bouguets at her. In the old Ballet newsgroup,

the experienced M enlightened us about ABT bouquet-

throwing protocol.

I now put a similar query to him: at last Thursday's

SFB performance that is the subject of this thread,

who were those men shouting loud 'Bravos' from

the rear of the Grand Tier at every oipportunity,

deserved or undeserved? Were they local relatives

of the dancers or semi-pros like the man who threw

the bouquets at Ananashvilli? Or, perhaps, minority


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"But Mrs. Herrera, when I said 'tin ear,' I meant it most respectfully -- just think, she can go out in the rain and they won't rust! Now, would you please put the gun down?"

I remember seeing Yuan Yuan Tan dance the lead in Etudes during SFB's last visit here a few years ago, and my reaction was much the same. She's got a strong technique, beautiful line, and no pizzaz at all. There's a reason why they call this stuff bravura; it's as much about the ballerina's attitude as her technique. You can't be larger than life if you never push your limits, and occasionally throw caution to the winds (or at least look that way). Compare the Kirov video of Olga Chenchikova in Paquita to a performance like Tan's. Chenchikova was sloppy as hell compared to Tan, but you knew she got to wear the fanciest tutu because she was the toughest and most fearless kid on the block. Tan gets to wear hers because she looks pretty.

I also saw the program with Chi-Lin, and I never quite know what to make of such modern-day ethnic pastiches. I always cringe at the beginning of Bugaku, but get swept away in the genius of cold and erotic duet. (I'll bet Tan would be great in Bugaku -- she has the sang froid for it.) Chi-Lin was just an embarassingly kitschy bit of Chinoiserie, particularly disappointing after Tomasson's beautiful and clever Chaconne for Piano and Two Dancers, for the sensationaly sprightly Kristin Long and the godlike Yuri Possokhov (has he ever danced Apollo, I wonder?). But I'm digressing. Watching Chi-Lin (and knowing I'd be seeing Turandot at the Met the next night [Andrea Gruber isn't quite the fat lady Jane Eaglen is, but you certainly know when she's singing!]), I wondered about the rights and wrongs of an artist attempting to play with the styles and fragrance of another culture's art forms. Think what you will of Robbins' Watermill (which I love) or Bugaku (which I also love), they're at least attempts get a bit beyond the surface of another culture's art forms (although it's interesting that each uses a veneer of Orientalia as a smokescreen for some rather fierce erotica). Chi-Lin just seemed vapid, with a few hand gestures and the like grafted onto ferociously ordinary, thouch certainly pretty, choreography, and I kept on imagining I was hearing echos from that more forthright bit of kitsch playing a few blocks away -- "you travel there IN a TROLLEY, IN a TROLLEY all the way...."

Ed, I was sitting upstairs in the cheap seats, so I don't recall any mad bravoers. Honestly, by the middle of Rubies I was just thinking about the exits. And a gentleman doesn't spit, he expectorates.

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A respectful differing:

Chenchikova is not "sloppy as hell compared to" ANYBODY.

Much as I hate to disappoint you all, the reference to "spitfires" was not originally directed at Manhattnik. I know, I know, it's a disappointment......in M's case it is more like a long, controlled rumble of thunder on the horizon and then, KABOOM!!!!

Well, I guess I will have to wait til SFB gets down to KenCen later this year to see what we see and I am not going to be too discouraged any longer about missing "Paquita."

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I have to agree with you on Chenchikova, Juliet. If she seemed sloppy, it must have been because she was dancing with no sleep on a sprained ankle, knee and back, with the flu! (My first Chenchikova performance was "Swan Lake" and I can't remember ever seeing such fouettes.)

Also, thank you for your remark about Manhattnik and spitfires :) I wasn't calling M a spitfire, just suggesting a permissible retort to someone who posted one's favorite dancer was dull!

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Sunday 3pm

My entourage cast their votes for "Night" as the diamond in the rough of yesterday's matinee. Vanessa Zahorian was excellent...and her supporting dancers did a good job, as well. It was interesting to have seen her first in "Paquita" - cupcakes and all ;) - where she caught my eye right away. I wish she had been the lead in Paquita.

"Solo" was entertaining to me, my offspring and husband thought it was kind of boring.....It reminded me of the kind of thing one might see at the end of a good summer program.

Having never seen "Rubies" - :eek: before, it's impossible for me to know what it is supposed to look like. The costumes were great and I thought Kristin Long danced well, though poor Yuri Possokhov looked exhausted... I really wish I had seen it performed before...the role that Ms. Maffre danced seemed at odds with the rest of the performance - and I found it/her to be disturbing.

The one thing that struck me most in watching the performance was how young and healthy the dancers appeared to be! :cool:

P.S. For those of us who didn't "hate" Center Stage, it was quite fun to see Amanda Schull!

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oooooooooh it's such fun to read y'all.....

I wish i'd been there to see how it went, and to compare how they look at City Center with how they look at the Opera House...

I do wish you all had gotten to see Tina le Blanc do Night..... it was made on her, and it's hard for me to imagine Ms Zahorian replacing her, though Zahorian is fearless and fleet.... Tina is REALLY SHORT, and Ben Pierce is REALLY TALL, and hte chemistry between them was fascinating (esp since he can be mighty bland, still, in Night he was kind of like Conrad ludlow in Barocco, the avocado in the salad, and he really made le Blanc soar)......

But Night IS too long.....

Every time we've seen hte Paquita pas de deux, it's looked so stuffy.... despite Feijoo and Solomakha, who're both very fine dancers, they look awful in those costumes, which are the color of something you don't want to drink -- you should have seen them in Dances at Gathering, or him as the prince in Swan Lake, dreamy, soft, floating, ardent, poetic --

in re Tan -- when she first appeared here ( she was REALLY young then) her show-stopper stopped the show -- it was Esmeralda, and she actually got lost in Italian fouettes -- just LOST -- and the audience didn't care at all, she was electrifying, in a huge bravura wire-drawn-but-made-of-steel kind of way, and hte audience totally forgot hemselves and shriekd and howled and bowed down......

but she had this Russian-Chinese training that's fine in all that stuff where you're so exposed and it's total placement anxiety but you almost never move, and we all wondered if she'd be able to do Balanchine, and then she came out as the secod violin in Barocco and was wonderful, esp in the finale, she really danced.....

She can indeed be really dull; she made almost no effect in Rubies; worse in diamonds, she hit all her lines but never danced; but in Dances at a Gathering she was awesome, esp in that dark scary Scherzo towards the end, she was like a thunderbolt -- I mean it, i saw it -- we all did, if there's terror in the music, she can be sublime....

I'd have to add that she made a character out of Desdemona that I didn't see in othe performances of the role -- she has -- maybe from her training, or maybe from hte qualities the Soviets adn hte Chinese value in heroines, an ability to portray a tragic HEROINE, someone who's going to die for her beliefs but she's not wrong and might does not make right and she's not just pitiful; I don't want to belabor this, but in fact there are NOT many actresses today who can play Desdemona in the play as a heroine rather than as a lovely weakling/ fool, but Tan had some heroic stuff to her....

People here complain about Kristin Long in Rubies, though I love her almost all the time.... RG, I wonder what you thought? She's not Patty, who was inscrutable, that smile could have meant what it seemed to but maybe not -- I never saw Patty do it, except on video, but i actually think Ms Long is radiant in a similar kind of way -- the bodies are for sure as different as can be, Patty wasn't very turned-out nor creamy in her action, but her timing was so preposterously right, WHO CARED? Long is rounded; secondly, her feet, though they are incredibly strong, she can melt up and down through them like butter; and 3) she's so rotated it's a joy.... and HER timing is so wonderfully right, I love the way she dances Rubies, but it's her own way of hearing hte music, and she has a sweeter, less Broadway-Baby relationship to her partner -- and Gonzalo Garcia has less of the rascal to his stage-personality than Villella......

Years ago, when Maffre first danced the tall girl in Rubies, she often failed to prepare her pirouettes without terror -- she literally couldn't get her feet into place and plie fast enough without turning in noticeably, and though she never wiped out in those turns, it was an ordeal for us as well as for her; but she mastered that long ago, and has commanded the stage in that role for years, building her performance towards the penchee exit, which she did with tremendous brass (if you didn't like her grand plies in second position, I don't know what to say; she spread her knees sideways and offered her thighs like park benches, it was simultaneously irreproachable and shocking)....

SHe DOES tend to dance Balanchine bad-girls as if she were Mme de Pompadour..... who was quite a bad girl, if I've heard right; if hte manners aren't quite jazz-age, still, I'd bet Mr. Combs would be impressed.

........Hmmmmmm.. I've gone on and on, gotten kind of carried away.... and I realize I wich I could talk with manhatnik half the night and find out what you all are used to in Rubies -- I know, al lot of what I 've HEARD has been complaints about Rubies, esp how wrong wrong wrong wat's her name was; was Long an improvement on ...... tracy, Margaret Tracy? on would like to know..... That's just for starters.....

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