S.F. Ballet At Stern Grove’s 75th Season, July 29

3 Aug

The Sunday that San Francisco Ballet dances at Stern Grove is nearly always a “fingers’ crossed” affair, thanks to summer fog making the temperature a dicey consideration.  Below 68 degrees Union stipulations prevent the dancers performing; there have been summers when the audience saw one or two numbers before Helgi Tomasson arrived at the mike to announce the temperature-driven shutdown.

While grey was the overcast tone, the temperature cooperated and Lawrence Halprin’s handsome redesigned meadow and hillside was packed with an estimated 10K of dance and picnic lovers. With a stage now worth performing on, the company was dancing for its 68 th time since 1943.  No, my math is correct – there has been at least one year in my attendance memory that touring conflicted with the annual appearance.

Our party of six, two arriving later, showed up with food and ancillary equipment filling a grocery cart and two TJ bags to find five of the eight seat table spots taken, three by a mother and daughter and a middle aged viewer on seats nearest the stage; none of the portable green fences are installed on the stage side of the tables. The remaining two were completing a lunch of  grilled shrimp, fennel salad, vin rose and a pound-type cake with rose geranium bought at The Ferry Market.  Ultimately, six of us distributed ourselves on the benches and started in on 40 clove chicken, steamed green beans, Greek Houmani cheese with Pain Pascal, papaya and grapes. Brooke Byrne’s contribution of lavash with eggplant humus and tofu was rapidly demolished, ditto the raisin filled loaf Dan Henry bought on 24th Street.

In addition to my friend and neighbor Remy Munar, we counted three dance teachers, Jonathan Barnett, Brooke Byrne and Corinne Nagata, plus Dan Henry, former Ice Capades partner now Pilates instructor at the Buchanan Street Y.

Barnett, Royal Ballet-trained, formerly with the Irish National Ballet,  comes each summer to the Sonoma Ballet Conservatory to teach, but spends most of the year in Edinburgh where he teaches and has started Edinburgh Ballet Circle, a performance group for professionally-minded adults. Brooke Byrne with Sonoo Petty started Geary Dance Center, next door to the House of Bagels, the fall of 2011.  Corinne Nagata, after several years of affiliation with Jacques d’Amboise’s American Dance Institute, now is affiliated with Lines Ballet’s Dominican University Program and several San Francisco private and charter schools.  Following his years with the Ice Capades when Dorothy Hamill was the principal attraction, Dan Henry managed Charles Schulz’ Ice Rink in Santa Rosa.  After starting the Pilates program at the Presidio’s YMCA, Dan built up the Buchanan Y program with his passion for the system, mechanical abilities with equipment , knowledge of cross training benefits and a capacity for wit which keeps any sessions from being  just routine.

The peroxided head of the woman at the bench nearer the stage obscured most of Balanchine’s Scotch Symphony.  She was having a great time, head moving,  torso undulating slightly over Mendelssohn passages she particularly liked. My one hissed comment asking her to keep her head in one place elicited a momentary “I’m sorry,”  but habit was strong.  I did manage to see Yuan Yuan Tan flit behind the bamboo tubs serving as screens, but it took Davit Karapetyan’s jetes and the male ensemble lifting her to see glimpses of Tan’s performance.  Nicole Ciapponi’s first movement solo allowed enough lateral coverage of the stage for me to register the crispness of  her brises.  She shares something of the solidity characterizing Patricia Wilde’s performance, creator of  the role. The Karapetyan role was first danced by Andre Eglevsky whose elegant legato failed to rescue a rather dumb nod to Bournonville and the Scots connection.  Tan’s rendition was more wispy and fluid than Maria Tallchief  as the original Sylph.  Despite the dash of the kilts, it just isn’t one of Balanchine’s best.

Following intermission, Corinne heroically traded seats with me and I was able to see the stage and stage right entrances without obstruction. Spinae, by corps dancer Myles Thatcher, his second for company trainees and apprentices, demonstrated  considerable skill in emphasizing  dancers’ spines.  Commencing with the tights-only  men circling the stage in pique arabesques to an insistent score by Phil Kline and Mary Ellen Childs, it was clear Thatcher possesses  individual vision. The whippet-slim silhouette of the ten dancers was noteworthy along with entrance and exit style and a lying prone on the floor appropriate for a ‘Thirties film musical.

Hans Van Manen’s Solo to J.S. Bach’s solo violin sneaks virtuoso upon the viewer; it has been revived periodically since its 1999 company debut.  Starting with Hansuke Yamamoto  with his springy little jete arabesques, it progressed to James Sofranko and on to Gennadi Nedvigin with slight butch arm gestures; after the trio was introduced successively, pirouettes and turns increased with the tempo, each dancing madly before exiting;  they completed the marathon as an ensemble; it’s breathtaking each time.

Christopher Wheeldon’s work Number Nine which completed the program was danced to a score that I consider martial in a  British style, declarative, unflagging – not much in the manner of nuance, but admirable in its steady progression.  The women in the corps sported handsome short yellow tunics, but the men had to labor in elongated shorts with contrasting trim which cut the line of the thigh, making them look chunky with the sole exception of Vito Mazzeo whose length of leg can defy almost anything.  Four couples danced handsomely; Frances Chung/Daniel Deivison; Vanessa Zahorian/Gennadi Nedvigin [amazing considering his workout in Solo]; Sarah Van Patten/Carlos Quenedt; Sasha de Sola/Vito Mazzeo. The ending with the women clasped in their partners arms in attitude en avant is one of Wheeldon’s unexpected reads of the classical vocabulary.


One Response to “S.F. Ballet At Stern Grove’s 75th Season, July 29”

  1. Gena October 5, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

    Thank you for posting this bit of history about Rozelle Frey. When she died in the 80s, one of her students whom was also a friend of mine found herself responsible for Miss Frey’s effects. I was given some of her things, treasures really. Dress hats, costume dresses, hand painted tea dishes and her steamer trunks were among the items. I still have most of these things though may have lost some of the dresses to water damage. Anyhow, I wonder about her sometimes and was glad to find your story!

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