Archive | May, 2012

Nureyev Exhibit at Fine Arts Museum, San Francisco

24 May

The summer issue of “Fine Arts,” the member magazine for the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, announces a forthcoming exhibit titled:”Rudolf Nureyev: A Life in Dance” to open October 6 at the De Young Museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

The announcement reads the exhibit “will showcase more than 80 costumes and 50 photographs from the dancer’s personal collection, entrusted to the Centre national du costume de scene in Moulins, France, by the Rudolf Nureyev Foundation, and will incorporate key loans from active ballet companies.”

The announcement further states “Nureyev loved sumptuous shows and was particular about his costumes, often imposing changes and improvements.  The costumes on view expose the wear and tear of daily use, bearing witness to the lives and bodies of Nureyev and his partners Margot Fonteyn, Noella Pontois, and so many others.

“The exhibition illustrates a life devoted entirely to dance and highlights ballets danced for choreographed by Nureyev…. Each ballet is displayed in a dramatic installation that emphasizes its spellbinding theatricality.”

Since CAL Performances will be presenting the Maryinsky Ballet October 10-12, it might well be exciting for the visiting dancers as well as the host of local balletomanes who witnessed Nureyev’s San Francisco appearances as well as dance lovers fascinated by the man and his legends.

SFIAF’s Final Afternoon, May 20

23 May

Attending San Francisco International Arts Festival’s final afternoon, May 20, I found myself seated beside Val Caniparoli, choreographer and one of San Francisco Ballet’s principal character dancers, who had just finished his cameo as a tavern keeper where Basilio and Kitri manage to trick
Kitri’s father into blessing their union.  Also recently completed was “Incantations,”  a successful choreographic assignment with the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, where Rory Hohenstein, one-time San Francisco Ballet soloist was singled out for his contribution to Caniparoli’s premiere.

When questioned, Val mentioned his take on “Lady of the Camillas,”danced to Chopin’s music, is being revived next season with Tulsa’s Ballet, Ballet West, and Boston Ballet is considering mounting it again.  It has yet to be seen here  in its entirety, although Diablo Ballet has mounted a pas
de deux from it with the gifted Tina Kay Bohnstedt in the title role.  Val also answered my query  about “Lambarena” productions, a cool thirty around the globe.  Smuin Ballet has danced “Swipe” during its spring season.

This late matinee program presented Susanna Leinonen’s Company, here just two, in “Chinese Objects,” originally created for the Royal Swedish Ballet in 2005.  The middle offering, by Cid Pearlman, a faculty member at U.C., Santa Cruz, was titled “This is what we do in Winter,” with five participants, composition by Jonathan Segel.  “Mine is Yours,” the final third,was a quartet, one male and three young dancers, to an original score by Daniel Berkman, choreographed by Robert Dekkers, his ensemble titled Post Ballet.

Elina Hayrynen and Natasha Lommi, wearing off white costumes by Erika Turenen appeared in Hanna Kayhko’s lighting like a cross between Xian tomb soldiers and puppets, aided  by distinct stiffness in correct port de bras. When they did reach in response to Kasperi Laine’s score, it was full, stretched to the finger tips While moving in soft shoes, the ballet schooling
was evident, the combination accented by the ghostly aspects of the lighting.  A short piece, “Chinese Objects”  was cogently rendered by well- trained, interesting dancers, making me want to see Leinonen’s ensemble return or her work produced on a local company.

“This is what we do in Winter” featured three girls and two fellows with all the round-robin that implies,  dancing to country music at the beginning and to similar sounds at the protracted end.  Sections implied lesbian and homosexual explorations, changing  heterosexual efforts, with a fair share of lifting and shoving as a group, sort of Sociology 101 episodes.  A distinct contrast to the prior pas de deux, virtually none of the quintet danced full out in gesture or in movement, but executed their moves in clumps. Lew Christensen once credited Michel Fokine with teaching him that dancing happens in the transitions.  “This is what we do in Winter” was bare of such nuance.

“Mine is Yours” was enhanced by striking cross lighting by David Robertson displaying Domenico Luciano arched like a withdrawn sculpture stage right;  Ashley Flaner, Raychel Weiner and Hiromi Yamazaki like three young fillies occupied mid-stage left, dressed in stretched tunics, one n red.  The filly analogy was enhanced  by paw-like hands throughout.

Costume designer Susan Roemer clad Luciano in a transparent skirt beautfully draped, his bare sculpture-like torso available to admire. Luciano, seen here recently with Diablo Ballet, partnered all three dancers in the course of the ballet.

While Marines Memorial is not a decent stage for dance, orchestra seating lacking any form of slope, SFIAF placed most of its events in one venue with a lounge across the street and closer to the Powell cable car line.  The all over-town approach when two programs follow each other in rapid succession can be difficult.

SFIAF Executive Director Andrew Wood explained to me that for most local groups works presented  at SFIAF constitute premieres.  “I don’t see them before, as I have works which are seen  performed by foreign troupes.  Local groups are booked before their works are seen.”

If I had to summarize this final matinee it would be “a hit, error and hmmh.”

Armitage Gone! Dance, The Novellus Theatre, May 19

21 May

S.F. Performances promoted Armitage Gone! Dance, its final dance presentation of the 2012 season, widely.  May 18 and 19 had its share of competition, Asian Heritage Day in front of the Asian Art Museum took up two blocks of Larkin and two of McAllister, forcing bus rerouting; a free event, it may have siphoned off the audience by the sheer size and number of its individual activities. San Francisco International Arts Festival was in its third and final weekend.

Novellus Theatre was nicely, if not totally, filled to capacity to witness the 2012 65 minute work for ten dancers  called Three Theories.  Labels indicated there were actually four divergent compositions in sections called Bang, Relativity, Quantum and  String.  Rhys Chatham’s  was an excerpt from Two Gongs;  Raga Jog; Vilambit Ektaa! employing violin and tabla [Sangeeta Shankar and Ramkumar Misra] ; an original score by Chatham and John Luther Adams’ Dark Waves.

Karole Armitage has attracted marvelous dancers, five having danced for her four or more seasons, one of them six, another nine, four Asian, one African-American. For an ensemble probably not permitting full seasons of performance or pay, it speaks well of this Balanchine-Cunningham exposed former dancer turned choreographer. Part of the longevity must be due to Armitage’s clear connection with these two major figures in twentieth century choreography. Each dancer was impressive if not mentioned specifically.

Armitage made no attempt to deny her  influences nor the use of classically trained dancers. Any one of them could dance up a storm in a professional ballet ensemble. It was frankly refreshing to see Armitage embrace classical technique with a highly sensual, athletic use of her dancers’ capabilities.  Six o’clock a la seconde abounded, frequently supported by an arm around the neck; splits supported, up ended, or stretched across the floor saw usage.  Random entries and exits recalled Cunningham; vertical lines upstage to down evoked Balanchine’s vocabulary.

Initially Armitage clothed the ten in the briefest of tights and bikinis, revealing well muscled bodies; beautiful pectorals in the men and lean torsos and legs in the women this side of  rib and spine showing, usual with dancers in ballet companies.

The Novellus stage was bare with the wings exposed; a light row at the back was low to the floor, sometimes raised; blackouts employed intermittently.  The body stretches at the shoulders were full, complete, torsos capable of undulation and reaches in all directions.  This was particularly true in the second section where the complex patterns of violin, tabla in a  raga
structure invited continuous filigrees of gesture extending the side or forward reach of the torso. This conveyed intimacy, improvisation, joy in the sensual thrust and coil of body and contact, reinforced by stroking of back, arm, thigh by Bennyroyce  Royon partnering Megumi Eda.

In the third section Marlon Taylor-Wiles and Masayo Yamaguchi paired off, Mutt and Jeff style, their exchange augmented by Yamaguchi’s acquisition of pointe shoes, Taylor-Wiles’ tossing and catching Yamaguchi augmented occasionally with her  dainty, skittering bourrees,  an encounter one of athletic glee. The pointe shoe  convention was shared by the other women with  a gradual transition into short white body suits and trunks for the men.

Mercifully, Armitage knows when to stop full tilt, non-stop exposition. The audience responded warmly, a number standing to demonstrate their approval.  Having seen bare stages and choreography abstracting the sensual at Novellus and elsewhere, my vote for the most satisfying to date  is cast with Armitage Gone! Dance even though I’m not at all sure of what
that title means.