Archive | August, 2011

West Wave’s Solo Night, August 15, ODC Theatre

23 Aug

Thank Joan Lazarus for selecting the solos – eight of them, not all danced by their creators. Thank Joan Lazarus also for selecting recognizable modern dance technique with many of the strengths of classical ballet.

ODC’s Theatre attracted quite a crowd for a Monday night – friends, colleagues, students to see eight essentially solo pieces, starting with Suzanne Beahrs “Dear Unica” with Molly Stinchfield’s drawings projected as she outlined the body of Julianna Monin and added embellishments to the she either spoke or had previously recorded.  Beahrs had previously attended U.C. Berkeley, which must account for her inclusion while Angela Don’s music was created along with her sound engineering responsibilities with Berkeley Repertory Theater.

Whoever Unica is , she enjoyed a detailed portrait of her strengths and abilities to be greater than the lines projected, the movements made and the sound and words employed. Overall, dancer Juliana Monin lacked the opportunity to dance with any freedom from the enveloping of crossing linear commentary.  An admirable collaboration, it left me questioning the point.

Maria Basile’s “Birthing The Ascension” with music by Thoth followed.  A nude hued costume displayed Basile’s  strong womanly  body and an unwavering technique where arm ended with a poised hand with fingers completing, extending the line or curve of her movement. A sense of the inevitable within the evanescence of dance was rarely more clearly stated.  Basile’s small body reminded one many great dancers have been far from Balanchine’s ideal,  endowed with elegant  curves and a sensuality alive and well in its disciplined expressive vehicle.

Sue Li-Jue continues to plumb aspects of her Asian heritage.  I remember seeing her explore the foot fetish of Chinese bound feet in a performance at The Asian Art Museum.  In “Not What She Seems”, Li Jue chose company member Frances Sedayao to explore alternating nonchalence, frustration and rebellion in an Asian woman’s working life, the score punctuated by the sounds of whirring sewing machines. Sedayao with her tiny physique embodied the contradictions ably.

Stacey Printz collaborated with tall  musician/performer Tommy Shepherd and a raised oblong platform for “If You Knew.” Her body sculpted in a black unitard, Printz explored the corners and edges of the board, at times raising and stretching her arms, the torso reaching across the rim of the board.  This went on a long time when it was obvious Printz would heist herself on to the black plank to continue her strong, impressive movement.  When she finally obliged us, completion seemed relatively fast.  Sans question, Printz’ work  was impressive, though what was conveyed besides prodigious control is a question.

After the intermission Erin Derstine danced “With” to a Yo-yo Ma recording of Bach’s Cello Suite #2, her back to the audience.  Whether on the floor or standing, Derstine’s  technique was laced with a sweet tenderness, which became obvious when Ben Estabrook’s film displayed the abdomen of a woman close to delivery.  After a section displaying the gentle pulse of the foetus, Derstine faced the audience, clearly in post-partum trim condition.  A few gestures of cradling appeared before she finished, making clear the linkage between Bach’s sonorous complexity and the gestation of new life.

Maurya Kerr came to Alonso King’s Lines’ Ballet following sojourns with Fort Worth and Pacific Northwest Ballets, a formed artist giving a dozen years to King’s choreography.  Now teaching in the Lines/Dominican BFA program and in Lines Ballet Training Program, she has guested locally and with Hollins University.  As a free lance choreographer, she set “Billy Tate” on Adam Peterson who responded admirably to her creation of a young man who begins
and ends like a medically identified spastic, in between demonstrating abundant control and technical vocabulary

Angela Mazziotta’s “The Last Ten” and Jazon Escultura’s “Chalk on the Sitewalk” completed the program.  Youthfulness was reflected choreographically in their somewhat diffident invention, though each possesses the requisite technique to  create appealing figures in performance.  Both are beginning seekers, earnest,  honest; a senior, I found it hard to respond to the messages they attempted.  However, they are on the path.

David H. K. Elliott gave each choreographer complementing  lighting.

Verburg, Carol, Croaked; an Edgar Rowley Cape Cod Mystery

20 Aug

San Francisco, Boom-Books, 2011, pages
ISBN: 978-0-983435-50-1

Though not much of a murder mystery buff, this evocation of contemporary Cape Cod just before the summer influx is quite captivating.  Sufficiently so that it took precedence over a dance review.  Verburg’s feeling for place, climate and an intimacy known only to long-timers in a special place is abundant and affectionate. Nothing fosters literary accomplishment more than love.

Barbara Oplinger’s  cover recommends the theme, a lean green frog almost spread eagle against a white background, its fore-webbed extremities dropping  blood.

The heroine, Lydia Vivaldi, possessor of green-streaked hair, seeking refuge from Boston, has car problems en route to the Cape, and is rescued by documentary film maker Alistair Pope.  He takes her to Leo’s Back End in Quansett, whose sous-chef, Sue, had just taken off on one of her  sporadic resignations.  Lydia is taken on as replacement; after a brief stay in a motel she is provided with a charming summer sub-let by Edgar Rowley, an author noted for his macabre mysteries.

Upon arrival, Lydia also learns that DeAnne, the one person she knew in Quansett and a former employee, was dead from a ladder fall in the studio of her current employers Caroline Penn and Carlo Song, creators of successful Broadway musicals.  Lydia, remembering DeAnne, 22, and her skills during her brief employment, suspects the police determination is quite erroneous.

Chef Dinah and Mudge, the cashier, take to Lydia, as apparently does Pope, who makes torrid advances to her, under a large tree near the frog pond near Leo’s Back End, whose menu board is noted for blatant mis-spellings.  Before Sue reappears to find her job taken, Lydia’s soups endear her to the regulars.

Enter Roosevelt Sherman, retired football star, desiring a bookstore and determined to make an offer on The Frigate which the owner cannot refuse.  As part of the bargain, he retains Wallace Hicks, Quansett native returned after some years’ absence, and mainstay of the bookstore. Hicks allows Sue to spend the night in his Airstream trailer; in the morning he wished he knew where his condoms were stowed.

Simultaneously there are robberies in some local affluent homes, drawing the focus not only of the local police, but also the state police, represented by detective Helen Wills who went to school with Dinah, Alistair Pope and Helen’s husband, Chill, who is also a state policeman

These multiple miniature universes circle around each other, intersecting, coalescing as a second murder occurs. Though not qualifying for man-of-action and macho dialogue, it distinctly flatters a reader with post G.E.D. schooling.  Buy it and be captivated yourself.

Lily Cai’s Dance Company At YBC, August 13

15 Aug

There is precious little that Lily Cai does not know or pass along to her dancers regarding postures, poses and steps considered traditional Han Chinese. She could take the Radio City Hall Rockettes through these paces; the effect probably would be as dazzling as some seen at the Olympics in Beijing.

Saturday evening she concluded her single evening performance with the premiere of “Shifting,” making major use of this encyclopedic knowledge.

First, however, Cai premiered “Connections” using two pieces by Arvo Part, utilizing six dancers who form the nucleus of her current company. Five of the dancers were seen seated sedately in a row of secretarial chairs while the sixth tossed, pushed, slung and fought with a large mauve-colored balloon behind them. If Cai meant to convey turbulence behind the mask of demure tranquility and loose white garments, she succeeded.

Gradually, the row of five began to unclasp their hands, stretch their arms and torsos, dispense with the chairs and demonstrate how flexible they were; Very is the verdict; a refreshing view of grace and total body movement neither totally Chinese nor completely Westernized is one of the secrets of Cai’s success in niche choreography. Cai also demonstrated that she has learned something about stage groupings, entrances and exits to maintain interest in the deliberate nature of Part’s music, skillfully backed by Robert Anderson’s lighting.

After a brief pause the dancers returned with globes of lighted candles interpreting the qualities of Mahler’s Symphony No. 5, fourth movement, titled “Candelas.” This selection echoes Gerald Arpino’s “Round of Angels” created shortly following the death of his musical associate James Howell. Cai selected bronze unitards for her six women where Arpino clothed his men and the single woman in ice blue.

It’s clear Cai enjoys extenuated musical phrasing, andante and legato giving her
opportunities to display her dancers’ grace and capacity to sustain poses. There were striking touches suggesting the Chinese as influenced by the imperial connection with Tibetan Buddhism.

Following intermission “Shifting” has its premiere to Gang Situ’s arrangement of traditional music. The choreography included almost everything except the ribbon dances, but the red handkerchief and a fan were constants from the masked beginning to their return at the finale, complete with flowing robes, swaying bodies and tiny steps, suggesting bound feet.

At a consistent clip the dancers cocked shoulders, heads, feet and utilized various sized fans, tripping along merrily. We were spared barrel turns, but certainly saw the gamut of Chinese feminine cliches from the willowy to the pert and saucy.

For surface diversion and disciplined charm, Cai’s company cannot be faulted, but even the clash of percussion in Cantonese opera failed to produce something close to that tradition.

After two decades, Lily Cai still skirts an obvious possible hit: a Chinese folk tale or fairy story. The absence of men in her company may be the clue; few who match her technical demands can enjoy the luxury of intermittent performances.

Wright Project and LabayenDance/SF at Dance Mission

11 Aug

At one of the Mission District’s busiest corners, Dance Mission is run by the intrepid Krissy Kiefer, and hosts a wide variety of dance events, including some special ones coming to San Francisco during the S.F. International Dance Festival.

Reflecting the economy Jaime Lee Wright and Enrico Labayen shared a program presented August 5-7, three parts of which were premieres. I saw the offerings August 6, and came away impressed by the earnestness of the dancers, if not exactly enchanted or believing in what I witnessed.

A successful businessman with definite academic credentials, Wright experienced an epiphany after twenty years in business. He has since staked out his activity at the San Francisco Dance Center on Seventh near Market and explored every dance form he can fit into his schedule.

His choreography demonstrates his shopping mall inclusiveness with clear touches of classical ballet training in his dancers. I am not familiar with his musical sources, but felt its surge over-powering to his four dancers. No translation provided for what seemed like Afro-Brazilian based lyrics by Yousou N’Dour utilized for Nanette Ada.  The coherence suffered because it seemed virtually impossible to edit; the initial impressions remained strong, and short.

Tangerine Dream provided the musical setting for Divine Journey, “A Ballet in Six Movements Following the Journey of an Archangel-in-Training.” A tallish blonde in white, Linnea Snyderman, arrived to be divested of her white feathers by four dancers, who then startled her with Urban Life before she witnessed A Woman’s Gift with Alyson Abriel Salomon, i.e. mimed motherhood. Temptation found Snyderman squared off against Leda Pennell, swooning and nearly capitulating to erotic movements until she began to reject the advances. The Rat Maze, section five, followed before the denouement in section six, Ascension; here Snyderman reconnected with her wings, perhaps realizing an Archangel cannot have it both ways.

Mr. Wright’s premise was a noble one, again to a lengthy score defying editing. Except for the Temptation section, the emotions and personal connections seemed generalized and lacking in focus.

Following intermission, Danzon by Victor Talledos to the music of Arturo Marquez featured four dancers with Diana Mateo, a tall and regal woman, as the central figure. In full diaphanous white skirts to a symphonic treatment of Latin music the quartet circled, whirled, inflected their torsos to the sounds, holding and manipulating their skirts with skill and charm.

Labayen selected parts of music by Ramallah Underground, Aleksandra Vrebalov and Alemu Aga for what he titled Flood Plain Series #3-6., with evocative lighting by Jose Maria Francos, effectively suggesting the twilight zone of low-lying terrain easily inundated by periodic deluges.

Using Diana Mateo as alternately a goddess and mother figure ranged against Victor Talledos, a struggle between the maternal and incipient patriarchy seemed to play itself out in the involved contact between these two principals, suggesting, veering towards sexual contact but never quite consummating the attraction. The two were ably seconded by Leda Pennell and three other dancers, Karen Meyers, Caitlin Max Perna and Alyson Abriel Salomon

A First at Stern Grove, San Francisco

3 Aug

San Francisco Ballet danced at Stern Grove July 31, and the weather, though grey and overcast,  didn’t pull its usual pakiput off and on. New corps members, apprentices and San Francisco Ballet School trainees  led off the program with two ballets, Andante Sostemuto, choreographed by J. Francisco Martinez and Timepiece by Myles Thatcher, a member of San Francisco Ballet’s corps de ballet.

Andante Sostenuto, set to Franz Schubert’s Piano Sonata No. 21, displayed
Elizabeth Powell, Lacey Escobar and Shion Yuasa’s capacity for length of leg and sustained developpes and arabesques.  Supported by Francisco Mungamba, Trygve Campston and Henry Sidford, the choreographer went overboard in his zeal to display the women supported with their crotches displayed front and center,  buns being carried in fetal positions or jack-knifed postures held aloft. Andante and legato tempi can be better used.

A wholly different mood greeted the audience with Myles Thatcher’s  Timepiece. Switching from full skirts to revealing tunics and tights with syncopated rhythms and jazzy accents, nine dancers strutted, preened, darting and breaking momentum to Thatcher’s exploration of what spending time can mean. An effective variation was assigned to Francisco Mungamba, a slender, recent corps de ballet member moving with liquid assurance, halting with equal ease.

Following the Intermission Helgi Tomasson’s 7 for Eight to the strain of Johan Sebastian Bach featured William McGraw at the piano and harpsichord. Maria Kotchetkova, and Ruben Martin Cintas filled the first movement;  her elegant attack  seemed to ask, ‘Do you love me?”  Vanessa Zahorian and Gennadi Nedvigin sparked the 2nd movement, two classicists who each enjoyed one of the early Erik Bruhn citations in Canada. Dores Andre, Elizabeth Miner, Joan Boada wove the third movement followed by a brilliant pairing of Jaime Garcia Castilla and Gennadi Nedvigin.  Joan Boada postured through the fifth movement with the harpsichord encouraging Boada’s accents. Kochetkova and Martin Cintas returned for the sixth movement, affirming their initial appearance, before all eight dancers polished off the seventh momvement.

The program concluded with one of George Balanchine’s eternal sparklers, Georges Bizet’s Symphony in C., Lorena Feijoo with Victor Luiz in the first movement, port de bras en haut, the numerous low jetes together, composed, sensuality lurking around their abundant correctness. Sofiane Sylve with Vito Mazzeo encompassed the second movement.  Sylve could be seen at intermission marking her movements, bundled against the chill, tiara in place; like the other company members swathed in leggings and sweat shirt.  Sylve rarely overstates or prolongs a movement, so that the beauty of her dancing is that elusive element, “Did I really see that?”  And you know you did.  She was partnered by Vito Mazzeo, recently elevated to principal status.

Frances Chung with Isaac Hernandez romped through the third movement, a long-remembered experience when San Francisco Ballet first performed it at the Alcazar Theatre March 12, 1961 with Fiona Fuerstner and Michael Smuin, bursting with energy.  Chung and Hernandez are more polished, but just as ebullient. The finale featured corps de ballet members Nicole Chiapponi with Lonnie Weeks before everyone flooded the stage for the finale.    Martin West, principal conductor, kept the energy and timing consistent.

Tomasson’s programming enjoys high percentages in adroitness and ability to read an audience. To this he has added this special segment of the coming tier of dancers, and what mutual thrill it is likely to be- that is, if the weather in not pakiput as they say in the Philippines.

Should this seem unusually sketchy, I was not perched at the press table, but amidst baseball hats,a ski cap to which a shawl was added in the midst of a series of dazzling pirouettes and the nearly constant movement along a central pathway.  That’s a public performance for you.


West Wave Dance Festival, July 30

2 Aug

This two-choreographer program by Tina Kay Bohnstedt and Vikto Kabanaiev
was unusual fare for much seen at West Wave Festivals.  The two choreographers come from unusually distinguished training and professional experience. It very much showed,  providing a satisfying ninety minutes of excellent dancing.  Bohnstedt had one work in each half of the program, Kabanaiev two.

Bohnstedt trained at the Heinz Pohl Academy in Bavaria and spent the first
eight years of her professional career as a  Bavarian State Opera Ballet principal before personal interests brought her to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1998. She joined Diablo Ballet in Walnut Creek, gracing it for a dozen seasons until an injury in 2011 required major surgery.  In 2007 she turned towards choreography, already having taught in the Diablo Ballet Outreach program, out of which she developed a Grand Prix finalist.  This September she becomes Houston Ballet’s  ballet mistress, where I trust she will be duly cherished.

A twin, Viktor Kabanaiev completed his ballet training at the Vaganova Institute during the last years of the Soviet Regime along with his brother Nikolai who now teaches at the Kirov Academy in Washington.  He has choreographed some 40 ballets for companies throughout the United States and some 60 for Youth America Grand Prix aspirants, with his works having been performed in Eastern and Western Europe as well as Japan.  He currently teaches in the Professional Program of Daly City’s Westlake School for the Performing Arts.

Two different sounds from Arvo Part were selected by Kabanaiev and Bohnstedt
followed by his solo to Jean Sibelius before intermission. To Part’s sedate  legato, Lauren Denney and Jennifer Bummer stretched, bent, postured, at times upending themselves aided by knee pads under the virginal white romantic length tutus attached to tunics heavily reinforced in the rib cage.  Given the stretches, lunges and knee  traveling, such precaution was well taken.  The movements’ anomaly vis-a-vis costumes was augmented by unpredictable black outs and spots over the stage.  Both dancers, as most others until the final number, danced in soft shoes. Denney and Bummer’s port de bras were beautiful and well phrased.

In 2010 to Part’s intense strings, Bohnstedt created Just Another Day for Jenna McClintock and David Fonnegra, who reprised the striking pas de deux of tension, empathy, argument and understanding in a relationship, ending in a dead heat.  The artists’ riveted  dancing illuminated  the ebb, flow and turbulence brilliantly.

Irene Liu, trained by Kabanaiev and Bohnstedt, danced Left Unsaid, set to Sibelius music.  Dressed in brown tunic and shorts, making it difficult to decide whether she was  fantasizing or remembering, her portrait of physical yearning and tactile evocation of a missing figure was convincing.

Following intermission, Fonnegra was joined by Darren Devaney in Bohnstedt’s
male duet to My Way, here to Frank Sinatra’s vocals.  Well matched in size,
Devaney’s beginning grand developpe a la seconde was a beauty, complimenting Fonnegra’s tighter, more dynamic attack.  Their execution was harmonious, given brief rehearsal time.

Kabanaiev’s Series of Unrelated Events utilized seven advanced dance students from Orange County Ballet Theatre, led by Dmitri and Jennifer Kulev. Their training has given their students  unusual aplomb and technical security.  The piece was crafted to give each several moments, displaying Sam Zaldivar and Marshall Whiteley as male principals in the making. Combining serious exposition with deliberate pratfalls, Kabanaiev’s humor made an adroit finale.

Diablo Ballet’s 2011-2012 Season

2 Aug

Val Caniparoli is providing Diablo Ballet with a world premiere titled A Phoenix Story for its opening 2011-2012 season at Dean Lesher Center for the Arts, November 18-19. Set to a two-cello composition by  Elena Kats- Chernin, originally from Uzbekistan and now living in Australia, the theme revolves around the Chinese theme of Yin and Yang, balance and imbalance.  Robert De La Rose will costume.

The program will also include a contemporary interpretation of Michel Fokine’s Le Spectre de la Rose, Dominic Walsh choreographing, who also designed the set and costumes. Washington Ballet’s Septime Weber’s Fluctuating Hemlines will complete the program.

Diablo Ballet will return to Shadowlands for its second and third programs.
March 2 and 3 will see the Bay Area premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s duet from Mercurial Manoeuvers and a new work from K. T. Nelson of ODC.
Former San Francisco ballet principal Joanna Berman will stage the Wheeldon

May 4-5 Diablo will stage a new work by David Fonnegra and K. T. Nelson’s Escaping Game.

Alas, Diablo Ballet is losing one of its shining contributors: Tina Kay Bohnstedt, who has been inspiring its seasons since 1998.  She assumes the position of ballet mistress at Houston Ballet September 13.  Her artistry will be sorely missed, not just with Diablo, but amongst the balletomanes who have traveled to Walnut Creek to see her dance so memorably and a Terpsichore in Balanchine’s Apollo long to remember.