Archive | April, 2012

Don Quixote Finale for 2012 San Francisco Ballet’s 2012 Season

30 Apr

From the matadors’ tights to the popsicle-hued dresses on the women’s knee- length dresses, Martin Pakledinaz stepped up the cheerful revival of the Tomasson-Possokhov version of the Petipa-Gorsky romp, loosely based on Cervantes’ Spanish novel, Don Quixote. This ballet version, premiering in 2003, received its new production premiere April 27 as SFB’s finale for the 2012 season.  The audience loved every bravura second of it; from the looks of it, so did the company and conductor Martin West.

Well they might.  Jim Sohm made an auspicious debut as the befuddled Don with Pascal Molat reprising his magnificent reading of Sancho Panza, ever ready to ogle and fondle senoritas, purloin sausage and filch ham.  Right from the beginning Sohm’s eyes conveyed the Don’s slender grasp of earthy reality, holding his imbalance of gallantry and fantasy throughout.

Where the Royal Danish production was soft-hued distinction, Pakledinaz selected a strong emphasis on sun-baked, semi-psychedelic colors, primarily for the toreadors, finishing  with the traditional black squashed-like hat. Black braid generously attached  provided the dash necessary to convey these Hispanic cultural peacocks..

Pierre-Francois Vilanoba led the pack; flanked by a condor-eyed Sarah Van Patten as Mercedes; he gave us an elegant matador,  perhaps influenced by his Galician surname. The pair kept the tension alive with  brief sideline forays.

Gamache, the well-heeled, aging fop Kitri’s father wanted to see married to his daughter, introduced Myles Thatcher to the role, his hobbling interpretation in lavender-toned satins and plumes a nod to Damian Smith’s 2003-2004 over-the-top movement.  Ricardo Bustamonte  conveyed the sharp-eyed tavern keeper father with Anita Paciotti as a mother pre-occupied with tending and tidying up the situation.  And there was that smart, swift moment when Kitri dehatted and dewigged her senior suitor.

Casting Vanessa Zahorian with Joan Boada as Kitri and Basilio initially seemed  anomalous, but any question was rapidly dispelled. Despite a slight imbalance  at Act One’s ending,  Boada was suitably clean, precise,  his elevation reminding us of  phenomenal bravura capacities.

Except for traveling double fouettes in the wedding pas de deux, Zahorian was spot on throughout, balances firm and just long enough to register to the eye if not to linger, her port de bras appropriate, height and thrust of her developpes notable. Her excellence is achieved by a no-nonsense technical approach rendered impressive by her musical phrasing.

The Dryad scene allowed the presence of San Francisco Ballet School students as did  the brief pantomime in the Gypsy camp where Don Quixote tilted with the windmill and Hansuke Yamamoto danced nimbly as the Gypsy chief. Sofiane Sylve and Clara Blanco graced the Dryad scene, Sylve the definitive queen with her deliberate attack, Blanco as Cupid darting nimbly across the boards with her impeccable port de bras.

Added to this production was a 26 year old white horse for Don Quixote and a donkey for Sancho Panza, later utilized for Gamache.  When Gamache dismounted on the left side of his borrowed animal, it made visual the double entendre.

What was not to revel in?

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A Dancing Season for Cal Performances, 2012-2013

25 Apr

April 24 Cal Performances formally announced its 2012-2013 season which starts September 30 with the National Circus of China September 15-16.  Knowing a smidge about training for the performance arts in the PRC, the ensemble has had its share of dance training.

Cal Performances Free for All is scheduled for Sunday September 30 and will include Lily Cai’s  and Chitresh Das’ Dance Companies, Eth-Noh-Tec and Gamelan Sekar Jaya, as well as UCB’s Dance Department.

October 10-12 The Maryinsky Ballet and Orchestra will present Konstantin Sergeyev’s reconstruction of the Marius Petipa-Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky Swan Lake. [Good luck with the stage size!]

With choreography by Lucinda Childs, Robert Wilson and Philip Glass present Einstein on the Beach October 26-28, a West Coast Premiere.

The veteran act of Mummenschanz appears at Zellerbach Hall November 23-24.

December 14-23 The Mark Morris Dance Group will appear in The Hard Nut.

The 2013 dance offerings start January 26-27 with the Joffrey Ballet, featuring The Age of Innocence (2008) with choreography by Edwaard Liang, Christopher Wheeldon’s take on Arvo Part’s After the Rain (2005) amd Kurt Jooss’ iconic anti-war ballet from 1932 The Green Table.

February 1-2 Hubbard Street Dance Chicago was appear with Too Beaucoup (2011) choreographed by Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar; Little Moral Jump (2012) with choreography by Alejandro Cerrudo and a very mixed score and as yet unnamed work by Alonzo King.

February 3 Kodo brings their Taiko ensemble to Zellerbach and their dance-like attack on the traditional Japanese drum.

Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca follow on February 8.

Trisha  Brown Dance Company dances a one-night stand March 15.

The dates for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will be April 23-26.

May 3-5 Les 7 Doigts de la Main Circus, Canada’s nouveau cirque troupe  brings its production of PSY.

May 10-11 Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg will bring Boris Eifman’s 2011 production of Rodin for its West Coast premiere.

If you aren’t already breathless, the 2012-2013 season dance component will complete itself with Bejart Ballet Lausanne May 15-16 with two programs: May 15 Bolero (1961) Bejart’s take on the Maurice Ravel music and Figures of Thought (2011) with music by Zakir Hussain and choreography by Alonzo King.   May 16 will be devoted to Bejart’s 1959 production of  Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and Bejart’s Le marteau sans maitre (1973) to Pierre Boulez music.

I count these  events as fifteen.  Whew!  and Hooray!!!

Oh, if you consider Mark Morris as dance figure though in the guise of music director, he will bring the Ojai Festival north to Zellerbach June 11-13.

Other fascinating artists will appear, principally musicians.  Visit Cal Performances’ Website.

Eastern Odyssey, a film by Quinn Wharton

20 Apr

This mostly interesting film received its visual premiere Monday night, April 16, at the Vogue Theatre, Sacramento Street near Presidio in San Francisco;  it covers the two performance appearance June 2011 in Tiit Helimets’ native Estonia with a company he assembled from San Francisco Ballet, Ballet San Jose and Milwaukee Ballet. The presentation was facilitated by Deborah du Bouwy, the force behind the dance documentary series, Words on Dance.

Obviously a work of dedication and affection, it suffers from some technical difficulties and the filmmaker’s “inside” view; he’s a member of San Francisco Ballet. It does emphasize Helimets narrating how his dream received its chance to be realized and commenting on his necessary shift in focus from  self- centered artist to leader responsible for the direction and execution of the ensemble’s brief tour.

One of the most obvious problems was the use of white print for explanatory passages; fine when the background was sufficiently dark, but maddening when light or pastel shades tended to wash out the text.  Another was the uneven nature of the musical score when the sound frequently overwhelmed the visuals, instead of underscoring the action.  This is something  a better sound mix can adjust.

Almost before we see Tiit Helimets interviewed about the genesis of the project we are confronted with backstage images which ultimately seem to have nothing to do with the tour. Wharton later mentioned he had been influenced by some catchy commercials.  We listen to Helimets’ describing the genesis of the film and are introduced to the dancers and the four supporting players. Besides Helimets, the San Francisco dancers were Frances Chung, Nicole Cioppini,  Daniel Deivison-Oliveira,  Sasha de Sola, James Sofranko, Sarah Van Patten; Ballet San Jose dancers Jeremy Kovitch and Alexsandra Meijer; from Milwaukee Ballet  Julianne Kepley and Joshua Reynolds.  Val Caniparoli was the choreographer; his ballet Ibsen Suite was part of the repertoire.  Katita Waldo was ballet mistress, Dan McGary company manager, Jane Green stage manager, Michael Leslie physical therapist.  The entire roster was clearly and nicely identified.

From what I glimpsed Balanchine’s Apollo, Tarantella, and Le Corsaire were on the repertory roster in addition to Ibsen Suite; what else was rehearsed or performed was not easily determined, nor did we enjoy strains of the appropriate music. The program sequence, presumably the same in both cities where the ensemble performed, was not clarified, footage shifting forward and back in kaleidoscopic fashion.

It might have been a salient addition to include more of Helimets as Apollo with his three Muses;  if the role switches actually occurred this needed  to be clear.

Pre-performance rituals, makeup, toe shoe lineup, hair arrangement , warm up, along with muscular mishaps helped to create the atmosphere of tension caused by the unexpected. Helimets’ cool under fire was nicely depicted, as well as his incredibly straight back and pointed feet.

The initial rehearsal venue, one of the major studios of Ballet San Jose, could have been identified.   The Amsterdam airport was prominent as the transfer point for the plane to Tallin, Estonia, part of the most engaging footage in the documentary.  Wharton lingered on this transition, catching qualities of the dancers admirably. Understandably, clinking of beer glasses played their role, and one or two clowning sequences of the ensemble on narrow cobblestone streets.

In the Q & A following the showing, presided over by Garen Scribner, Katita Waldo gave observations which could have been touched upon in the film. (She’s a woman for all seasons.) One was the quality of Tallin’s historic center as one of Europe’s  best preserved medieval cities.  The other involved the differing operation of a small ensemble from a large company relating to costume maintenance.

Tiit Helimets provided valuable information when he disclosed using San Francisco Ballet tour organization format as a model: information, tour guide, ticketing, etc. Inclusion of this information would be salient; in one or two instances we got  a glimpse but no explanation.

Wharton mentioned his problem with the cost of music rights with popular songs used in the documentary’s current form.  The music supplied by his friend seemed far more adequate than the distracting tunes several decibels too loud.

Whether or not Wharton decides to revise the current documentary, carved out of seventy hours of videotape, Eastern Odyssey is an admirable first effort. A lot  depends on where he wishes to take his footage. Seeking an outsider’s view and plotting out his editing with the aid or a story board, will advance   Wharton’s  admirable dance doumcentary debut considerably.

S.F. Performances Announces 2012-2013 Season

18 Apr

San Francisco Performances’ 2012-2013 season, its 33rd, was announced April 17 by President Ruth A. Felt, starting  October 4, 2012 and running through May 28, 2013.  It will feature Hilary Hahn, Anne-Sophie Mutter and Midori, celebrate Philip Glass’ 75th birthday and host a special series on the life and influence of Robert Schumann.  It will include pianists, string quartets, and vocalists.

Of most importance to dance lovers, are the three dance presentations, representing a marvelous range of styles and interests.  The English contemporary dance company of Russell Maliphant will appear October 132 and 14 at Novellus Theatre, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

April 16, the enchanting Shantala Shivalingappa will return to Herbst Theatre with a program choreographed in collaboration with Pina Bausch, Ushio Amagatsu of Sankai Juku and Savitry Nair.

May 1-5 at the Novellus Theatre the Paul Taylor Company will return for its every-other season appearance under S.F. Performances’ auspices.  The three program repertoire will include  a yet unnamed premiere from the 2012 or 2013 season, the 2011 works Gossamer Gallants and The Uncommitted in their West Coast Premieres, along with the 1987 Kith and Kin, never seen on the West Coast.

The programs will include  Book of Beasts, 1971; Last Look, 1985; Company B, 1991; Cascade, 1999;  Spring Rounds, 2005.

San Francisco Ballet’s Program VII, April 12

14 Apr

The San Francisco Opera House wasn’t quite  full for the opening of San Francisco Ballet’s all-Balanchine program, next to last for the spring 2012 season. Part can be attributed to several days of rain and the reported 750 flashes of lightning hitting the San Francisco Bay Area.  It also might also be attributed to the choice of Mr. B.’s invention, “Divertimento #15,” “Scotch Symphony,” and “Four Temperaments,” none new to the company’s repertoire.

Divertimento No. 15 was last seen at Stern Grove where casting included Lorena Feijoo, Nicolas Blanc and Tina Le Blanc, pleasant and civilized in that sylvan setting.  Despite W.A. Mozart’s music, it seemed to drag.  Part of the problem was the “after Karinska” costumes.  Trying to evoke that era’s elaborate panniers in women’s costumes, tiny blue bows appeared twice on the chest,  the tutu  itself approximating elaborate lace and embellishments.  The women’s heads sported an off center  circles of brilliants equally at home with Chanel or Vionnet.

To that very intricate, delicate music, Balanchine managed to keep the eye engaged with visual shifts in small ensembles. The five women shared the three men, Taras Domitro and Hansuke Yamamoto, in sequence or in combination, along with  Gennadi Nedvigin, the latter briefly a center piece of a trio with two women. In one duet Vanessa Zahorian gestured, then moved quickly aside so Nedvigin’s sautes could be seen; the two had shared  prizes in the 1999 Erik Bruhn competition.

Frances Chung and Sasha De Sola also danced with distinction.

Like Divertimento and Four Temperaments, Felix Mendelsohn’s Scotch Symphony is no stranger to SFB’s repertoire;  I disremember who danced it.  But I saw it danced at New York City’s Civic Center when the three principal roles were created by Maria Tallchief, Andre Eglevsky with Patricia Wilde as the stand alone third.  Not a stellar creation, Balanchine  created it to compliment the Scots when the company appeared at the Edinburgh Festival.

Tallchief’s interpretation was marked by a certain astringency; both physical heft and weight were featured in the Eglevsky and Wilde assignments.  Equally swift, Yuan Yuan Tan danced with nuance; her softness more than compensated for Tallchief’s qualities. It is an excellent role for her and Tan made the most of it, thanks to her astonishing line and lightness.

Karapetyan did well by the slight drama of the Sylph’s  barred  by the kilted men and in partnering, but he did not seem comfortable; his costume lacked the dash the kilted corps men enjoyed. Courtney Elizabeth’s rendering was crisp and engaging, if Wilde’s amplitude was absent.  It reminded me, however, just how innovative Balanchine was in his use of solo female bravura.

Hindemith’s The Four Temperaments has seen some worthy interpreters amongst San Francisco Ballet dancers. In  the Theme section with three couples, Nutnaree Piput-Suksun and Anthony Spaulding added to the memory bank, their gravity, and phrasing soothing and full.  Taras Domitro, debuting in Melancholic, seemed too slight for the downward pull of that mood.  When Sarah Van Patten and Tiit Helimets danced the Sanguinic variation, one felt his physical size would have lent itself to Domitro’s assignment.

Vito Mazzeo, new to the Phlegmatic, was another improbable piece of casting.  Technically correct, his slender height seemed an impossible vehicle for such retarded  behavior.

Sofiane Sylve, spot on,  energized the stage in Choleric, leading the ensemble into those final thrusts of the arms, forward movements with the thrusting hips. The ballet has long since been denuded of the Seligmann costumes in favor of practice clothes, helping to energize the program’s finale.

Meeting a Familiar Dancer: Chidozie Nzerem

13 Apr

At San Francisco Ballet’s Program Seven opener April 12 I almost ran into Chidozie Nzerem, a former corps de ballet member who also had the distinction of having started his  career in dance through the Dance Education Outreach Program at San Francisco Ballet School.  He moved into the regular classes at the School, becoming a company apprentice in 1995 and a regular member of the company in 1996.

Paul Parish described him as a classical dancer on a heroic scale, and I can remember how his deportment in classical repertoire was invariably noble.  He was so imbued with his training that it took a while for him to loosen up for the special qualities of Val Caniparoli’s Lamberena.  but when he got used to fusing  his training to African movement, he was exciting to watch.

It’s hard to believe he left the San Francisco Ballet some six years ago, first to travel before coming back and appearing in outside gigs.  Then he disappeared from view until Rita Felciano showed me a picture from a European dance periodical where he looked every inch a leading male dancer in the Dusseldorf- based Deutsche Ballett au Rhein.

Chidozie’s reason for being in the audience was based on the death of his mother in mid-March.  I asked him how long he had been in Dusseldorf and he said “five years.”  A further question or two elicited the information that when he started auditioning for companies, “I got six offers, one of them from Monte Carlo.  But I settled on Dusseldorf, and now I am learning Germany.  It was a good choice.”

Despite the sad reason for his presence at the Opera House, I could only think, “Lucky Dusseldorf.”