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.”

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