Ballet San Jose’s Neo Classical Masters, March 22

15 Apr

Ballet San Jose branched out not only to repeat Sir Frederick Ashton’s Meditations from Thais, but adding his early work, LesRendezvous to its March program, repeating Stanton Welch’s Clear and Clark Tippet’s Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1.  An added draw was Rachel Lee as guest violinist with the small, lively orchestra led by George Daugherty with his usual verve.

It’s rare for Ballet San Jose to repeat a ballet in one season or in back to back seasons.  Dennis Nahat did repeat works but with more than one or two seasons between.  I suspect the company felt the need a) to expose the San Jose audience to a number of good choreographers and revivals because b) that will keep them coming.  The company’s seasons were truncated during the Recession; it remains to be seen when it will return to four spring performances in addition to The Nutcracker, let alone add a fifth.

Les Rendezvous echoes the blithe, crisp tone of Daniel Francoisc Espirt Auber’s music and displays young men posturing a la “pip pip old boy” or “jolly good” as they enter and exit the stage.  The girls are suitably demure in white with pink-bordered skirts,  designed by William Chappell, a mainstay figure in pre-World War II London ballet circles.  Vivacity and The Old School in the Young Bloods might have been a suitable sub-title. Some themes are perennial for this ringer for an opener.  They run one  girl with two or three suitors, here Junna Ige with Alex Kramer and Francisco Preciado; a happy couple, here the confident Amy Marie Briones and Maykel Solas; finally, the gaggle of young women speculating about the young men who in turn are curious about the young women.  The port de bras looked Cecchetti influenced, but the entrances, exits and ensembles were fresh and wonderful, despite its 1933 debut; this work is one lively 80 year old senior.

Ashton’s Meditation from Thais to Jules Massenet’s perennial interlude provided a showcase for Nutnaree Pipit-Suksun’s sustained adagio and warm, liquid port de bras.  She conveyed a dreamy sensuality to this courtesan whose beauty invades a monk’s mind., and was ably partnered by Jeremy Kovitch. Rachel Lee’s violin helped infuse the languor Ashton built into this deceptively simple pas de deux; its creators, Anthony Dowell and Antoinette Sibley acknowledged was “a killer” to dance. At its premiere Ashton induced the audience to want it repeated!

Jing Zhang substituted for Alexsandra Meijer in Stanton Welch’s Clear, set to Johann Sebastian Bach’s Concerto in Gi minor. Zhang’s attack was strong and impersonal in the work Welch acknowledged having been influenced by his presence in New  York on 9/11/2001.  Save for Zhang’s minimal role at the end, it’s a man’s work and they clearly rose to the challenge.

Clark Tippet’s Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 required major exposure to four couples, the women dressed in different colors. Junna Ige and Mayfel Solas led the ensemble while Mirai Noda and Akira Takahashi made the fourth.  Predictably Amy Marie Briones and Maximo Califano were not only red but danced the assertive portions of the 1866 virtuosic violin challenge.  In blue Alexsandra Meijer and Jeremy Kovitch danced the adagio.  Meijer danced correctly but without a particular focus on either mood or music.

Rachel Lee’s rendition of three standard but important violin works justly made her the heroine of the program.

The weekend of April 19-20-20 will see Ballet San Jose dance a work by Merce Cunningham and a premiere by Jessica Lange. Following the April 21 matinee, the company will stage a 7 p.m. farewell celebration for Karen Gabay.  After 30 years and an affiliation which started in Cleveland with Dennis Nahat and Ian Horvath, Gabay is moving on to other realms, one of which is rumored to be American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.

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