Archive | March, 2015

Dance Bliss – Mark Morris

27 Mar

A note by Alistair MacAulay in the New York Times recently led me to query KQED when we would get to see a classic Mark Morris scheduled for Friday March 27 in New York City. The on-line times even had snippets of the broadcast.

KQED responded to my query with the following:

“Great Performances #4005 “Mark Morris Dance Group: L’Allegro” is currently scheduled to air on KQED Life Monday 3/30 8pm-10pm, with an early morning repeat on the same channel Tuesday 3/31 2am-4am.”

So for those to whom it matters, prepare yourself for blisss.

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Janice Ross at The Jewish Museum, April 16

8 Mar

Thursday, April 16, in conjunction with the Holocaust Remembrance Day, Janice Ross will engage in conversation with Wendy Van Dyck, former San Francisco Ballet principal, in discussing Leonid Yacobsen, 1904-1975, the controversial Soviet choreographer. The discussion will occur at the Jewish Museum, 736 Mission Street, Third and Fourth Streets, San Francisco at 6:30 p.m. Tickets at $10 include Museum membership. Sales and signing for Like A Bomb Going Off, Yale University Press, 2015, will follow.

Ross, Stanford Professor in the Theatre Arts Department, and author of studies on Margaret d”Houbler [University of Wisconsin, 2000], San Francisco Ballet [Chronicle Books, 2007], Anna Halprin [University of California Press, 2009} has been both a prolific writer and steady contributor to informed coverage of dance and dance scholarship throughout her career. Following two years of a monthly dance column, 1964-1966 by a different writer, Ross became the first full-time dance writer on The Oakland Tribune, and the first in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has served as president of the Dance Critics Association and collaborated with the late Cobbett Steinberg on a San Francisco Ballet-related symposium titled “Why a Swan” when that company produced its first production of the Marius Petipa-Lev Ivanov-Petyr Ilyich Tchaikovsky classic. More recently she spent two years as President of the Society for Dance History Scholars and arranged to have the Society’s annual meeting held on the Stanford Campus during her presidency. In 2014 the Isadora Duncan Dance Award Committee, for which she served at one-time as a member, bestowed on her a Sustained Achievement Award.

Dwight Grell, 6/7/1937- 2/3/2015

3 Mar


The Los Angeles Times
printed Dwight Grell’s obituary March 2, 2015. David Colker did a good job summarizing the outline of Dwight’s passion for Russian Ballet, accurate and anecdotal.

But the skein of association and the times when Dwight stumbled upon his
passion, thanks to the 1959 West Coast tour of the Bolshoi Ballet under Sol Hurok’s auspices lingers for those of us who knew him in varying shades of
intimacy.

I first met Dwight during the 1986 USA IBC Competition in Jackson when Sophia Golovina was one of the master teachers in the International Ballet School, Yuri Grigorovitch the Russian Juror and Robert Joffrey the Jury Chair.Two Russian competitors were Nina Ananiashvili and Andris Liepa. These two young dancers shared the Jackson Grand Prix, the first of only three awarded in the Competition. The second was Jose Manuel Carreno in 1990 and Johann Kobborg in 1994.

Dwight Grell, slender to gaunt because of Chrone’s disease, was there with Todd Lechtik, a short, energetic young photographer whose working hours were spent with a UCLA medical clinic. Todd had taken pictures of the exhibits that Dwight assembled when either the Bolshoi or the Kirov hove into view and he soon became the Archives’ official photographer. Todd said Dwight would go to the flower mart at 4 a.m. to select the flowers to throw on the stage, red and gold streamers for the Bolshoi, blue and white ribbons for the Kirov.

Todd said Dwight would instruct him when to send a bouquet sailing across the orchestra pit. In the beginning, the venue was the Shrine Auditorium which had basketball marks on the floor. The physical anomaly must have made those floral tributes that much more welcome.

Dwight’s genius were the gestures, the smallnesses making a dancer smile, to feel cherished. The flowers, his ability to be around to turn pages for the pianist, to run errands, and in return toe shoes ready for the discard became part of a rapidly growing cache of memorabilia

Todd’s skill as a photographer and as a ballet student with Yvonne Mounsey proved invaluable to Dwight’s Archives.

Mounsey danced in Colonel de Basil’s Original Ballets Russes on its final 1946-47 U.S. tour. When George Balanchine revived The Prodigal Son for New York City Ballet, Mounsey danced The Siren..

“We roomed together in Jackson, in London, in Moscow. Word got around about Dwight’s interest and once he was offered 100 postcards on ballet outside the Bolshoi.”

When I was assisting Olga Guardia de Smoak in organizing for the Ballets Russes Celebraton in New Orleans in 2000, Dwight arrived bearing a large, oblong package which revealed an ornate gilded frame. Inside was the ballet program performed at the Bolshoi celebrating the coronation of Nicholas II in Moscow.

If my memory is accurate, one of the principals was Mathilde
Kessinskaya, one time lover of that last Romanov emperor. It gave me a flutter, along with one or two volumes Olga identified. “Those are the year books which Sergei Diaghilev compiled.”

In 2003 Dwight’s balletic treasure were donated to USC, where not only is it a record of a devoted balletomane, but it also reflects Russian ballet history in the mid-late twentieth century.

A year or two later, Dwight joined Pomona College friends, Irene Nevil, Ina Nuell Bliss, and me for lunch. When it was over, Harry Major said,, “ His work should be featured on California Gold.” I am not sure that ever happened, still, there was no doubt that Dwight Grell was himself a treasure.

San Francisco Ballet’s Program IV, February 26

1 Mar

Just two on this program, Jerome Robbins Dances at a Gathering and Liam Scarlett’s Hummingbird, premiered last year at San Francisco’s Opera House.

This was the second time this month I listened to Philip Glass as the background/inspiration (?) For a ballet. Both pieces, excessively long, found me fighting drooping eyelids, I’m afraid. Somehow Jerome Robbins’ Glass Pieces is more interesting.

Once again, also, Maria Kochetkova, like Francis Chung the program before, was called upon to dance major roles twice in a program. Both dimunitive principals rose to the occasion. Fortunately, the entrance for Kochetkova was in the final third of Hummingbird. While Francis Chung and Gennadi Nedvigin flirt, spin, turn in the first third, Chung emerging from the strange black-streaked billows in the back as well as overhang to engage Nedvigin, she in deep shimmering blue, he in a dusky blue trousers and shirt. It doesn’t take long to get the feeling that Scarlett created movement for every note. I wondered if there was another position besides over the knee, under the arms, over the head, tossing, dipping, flinging that Nedvigin could challenge Chung with.

The piece de resistance in Hummingbird, however, is the pas de deux for Yuan Yuan Tan and Luke Ingham. Last year I thought it was incredible; this year, while the ambivalence goes on and on and on, it still is a satisfying section to witness, though Tan’s ambivalence to Ingham’s clear, sustained and patient desire is finally rejected. As a pas de deux representing a flawed relationship it is remarkable, though with different music it might well be just as effective. As it is, Tan’s long legs are arched, and her torso snaked around Ingham in a variety of ways; she is lifted, lowered, raised and embraced by Ingham’s enviable capacity as partner and lover. Ultimately Tan’s final farewell is tender, reluctant but resolved.

Back to Ballet Number One – Dances at a Gathering, which has not been danced here since Joanna Berman was one of the company’s principals. Again, Chopin was felicitously supported by veteran pianist Roy Bogas. The line up, identified by colors, included Maria Kochetkova paired with Davit Karapetyan; Vanessa Zahorian with Carlo Di Lanno; Mathilde Froustey with Joseph Walsh; Dores Andre with Stephen Morse and Lorena Feijoo with Vitor Luiz.

New comers de Lanno and Morse did well by their assignments, and Froustey was light, effervescent. Lorena Feijoo, given the role of the unsuccessful flirt, made you want the fellows to stop and take a good look, while Luis and Karapetyan added the touches of mazurka and czardas which Robbins is known to sprinkle when he choreographs to Chopin. Joseph Walsh as the man in brown was given the entry and the poignant moment when he touches the earth.

I have the memory of the earlier staging as being more intimate, more clannish, but would need to see the work again to see if this revival is simply new on the dancers’ bodies; eight of the the opening cast are listed as dancing their roles for the first time, with Feijoo and Zahorian as the veterans. SF members of the former casts may well have gone on to other tasks. It’s another sea change.