San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker December 9

12 Dec

With San Francisco Ballet’s  handsome setting,Nutcracker time brings San Francisco audiences a nostalgia trip to the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exhibition  A cast familiar with their roles made the company’s  Nutcracker opening  warm and comfortable, almost as familial as those occupying the scarlet seats.

There was Val Caniparoli, jumping with elan at appropriate moments displaying the gusto of  Her Drosselmeyer with a hand flourish here, there, with eyes steady on the mark. Ricardo Bustamonte and Pascale LeRoy as the Stahlbaum parents were socially savvy and practiced while the grandparents Jorge Esquivel and Anita Paciotti reminded us old age still harbors youthful urges plus more than a smidgeon of elan.

For dancing dolls the Jack-in-the-Box requires a extremely limber male and soloist Garen Scribner fulfilled the role’s profile with supple back bends and final split. Clara Blanco has danced the beruffled pink doll almost since joining the company; stiffness of arm, rigid torso bend, cocked foot, awkward head movement with stock rigid kisses were honed to perfection. Daniel Baker’s Nutcracker was blessed with a strong, springy jump; his jab with the flimsy sword delighted the boys at the party.

The fight scene, with the sideboard magnified to allow the toy cannon and horses to emerge, seemed particularly lively, the mice pugilistic, muscle-demonstrating. Daniel Deivison as The Mouse King was particularly grandiose, gesturing to his troops, making slit throat gestures to The Nutcracker.  Nicole Finken’s Clara guided the mousetrap towards the monarch’s leg, enabling The Nutcracker to rise from the floor, delivering the fatal thrust.  The ruler’s final moments were a paean worthy of any melodrama before he frissoned into the orchestra pit.

The snow scene was nearly a blizzard before Vanessa Zahorian danced her final finger turns supported by Davit Karapetyan, both delivering stylish performances. The corps assignment, dance in a winter’s setting, possessed none of the swoop and swirl Lew Christensen gave the scene, nature reflected in dance.

From behind the mask and tunic Gennadi Nedvigin emerged with classic simplicity, total turnout, effortless elevation and unaffected courtesy. Following intermission his account of the battle was testimony to his Bolshoi training, flowing, easily comprehended, given full measure.  You wanted to get up and cheer; in Frances Chung’s Sugar Plum Fairy he enjoyed authoritative listening.
The flowers for the waltz as well as the insects gathered to hear the story, one of the few moments where the evocation of the Conservatory of Flowers looked occupied.  Despite moving the sleigh/grandstand seating to various positions, the stage image was bare, almost uninviting, although Anatole Vilzak’s Russian variation momentarily filled the void, led by an exuberant Pascal Molat with Daniel Baker and Benjamin Stewart.

Also invigorating were the men in the Spanish variation led by Isaac Hernandez with Diego Cruz and Francisco Mungamba with the posturing Dana Genshaft and Courtney Elizabeth flipping skirt hems and fans in elegant style..

Maria Kochetkova emerged from the kiosk as the transformed Clara, diffident, wide-eyed over her sudden change in size, costume and body contour.  She made  the pas de deux with Nedvigin an exploration, acknowledging him as a guide and protector, yet an authoritative interpretation, serene and sure. Their mutual  Bolshoi schooling was an added bond, making a consistent  presentation, a grand, unaffected simplicity, aware of themselves in space, a rare, satisfying spectacle.

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