Archive | June, 2017

SFDance Works Season Two: June 22-24

28 Jun

ODC’s BWayTheatre on Seventeenth Street in San Francisco was the scene of SF Danceworks Season two June 22-24 with nine dancers, six dances, one superb violinist, and a number of happy volunteer staff. That virtually all of the participants had some local connection, past or present, was to be expected and said fact intensified the pleasurable buzz.

I’ll make with the details first, impressions later. And while I am at it, let me recommend Toba Singer’s review in Culture Vulture. Eloquent evaluation.

To the list of admirable, thoughtful reviews, add Rita Felciano’s for Danceviewtimes, seen by me the first time June 28.

James Sofranko, SFDance Works’ artistic director and founder, both last season and this, has been canny in his choices, drawing dancers from three local companies, as well as two local choreographers. San Francisco Ballet, where Sofranko is a soloist, was represented by one present principal dancer, Jaime Garcia Castilla, and three former artists, Garrett Anderson, Dana Genshaft and Pascal Molat. ODC provided Steffi Cheong, Lines Ballet Brett Conway, and one-time Ballet San Jose-Silicon Valley Ballet’s Kendall Teague joined dancers Danielle Rowe and Laura O’Malley, now resident in the Area.

Choreographically, the major works included in the program were Jose Limon’s Chaconne, mounted by Gary Masters, as well as Christopher Bruce, CBE, whose Shadows was staged by Dawn Scannell and Tracy Tinker.

From Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Alexandro Cerrudo’s Never Was opened the program with Danielle Rowe and Brett Conway, followed by James Graham’s Two Dimes and a Nickel in its premiere, danced by the trio Dana Genshaft, Garrett Anderson and Kendall Teague, probably representing the nickel and two dimes respectively.

Matt Miller’s lighting for Alejandro Cerrudo’s Never Was kept Danielle Rowe and Brett Conway in semi-darkness throughout the wonderful strains of Henry Purcell and George Handel. Branimir Ivanova’s mottled forest green costumes reinforced the now-you-see-it briefly quality of well-paired, elegant dancing.

From half-light to Jim French’s bright lighting for Two Dimes and a Nickel, dancers Dana Genshaft, Garrett Anderson and Kendall Teague moved to snippets of some eight pieces of music pieced together by James Graham, who apparently is a Gag exponent; my impression of the excellent dancing reinforced the name of the movement style.

Jose Limon’s Chaconne with Pascal Molat and violinist Rene Mandel preceded the first intermission with Danielle Rowe’s For Pixie with Brett Conway and Laura O’Malley immediately following the break. Christopher Bruce’s Shadows ended the second part of the program with dancers Steffi Cheong, Danielle Rowe, Garrett Anderson and Kendall Teague.

The program’s themes could be roughly divided into choreography inspired by music, choreography motivated by mood and/or situation and choreography which may have been mood and/or as a vehicle. What lingers is, of course, Limon’s Chaconne, with Molat’s quite different body size, providing in the quick steps and arm gestures the essence of what Limon brought to his solo. Once one registered the physical difference, one appreciated what Molat’s intelligence, generosity and pleasure gave to make his performance a triumph. And, of course, he enjoyed the superb violin support of Rene Mandel.

Christopher Bruce’s Shadows provided a portrait of frustration, attempts at escape, displays of restraint and ultimately the solidity of four individuals in departure. It is not the first time Bruce has dealt with the push, pull and hesitation that has seen danced in San Francisco. A Bruce work on the departure of Irish men was earlier danced by San Francisco Ballet with David Palmer as one of the departing. Here Bruce, using music by Arvo Part, presents with equal strength an urban view, featuring a table and four crude chairs, with Steffi Cheong and Kendall Teague as the young, most easily frustrated, with Garrett Anderson and Danielle Rowe as the experienced, pragmatic pair. In the end, all four lift suitcases and prepare for departure. Cheong and Teague reflected youthful frustration while Anderson and Rowe made me want to see them in a Tudor piece. The desperation seemed that Bruce was also familiar with Vincent Van Gogh’s portrait of The Potato Eaters.

After the second intermission, the final work was Penny Saunder’s Soir Bleu, using music of five composers, Paul Moore, Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Lera Auerbach amd Johann Paul Von Westroff. With Mario Alonso’s set design and Mark Zippone’s costumes, it brought Jaime Carcia Castilla into the roster of prior dancers, the work inspired by American painter Edward Hopper. There is a long explanation in the program notes that Hopper’s wife sacrificed her own talents to foster Hopper’s; this may have been registered by the frequency with which Steffi Cheong appeared in front of a paneless window structure down stage left. Interspersed were curving movements and lines of the male dancers in front of yet another structure, enhanced by the lighting, the semi-ghostly quality indeed reflective of the spareness of a Hopper evening. I remember Danielle Rowe sweeping past in a fitted garnet toned gown its wide skirt accented by her phrasing, along with the repeated look by Cheong, and Castilla following a curved line, his own body making a crescent as he moved.

Sofranko demonstrates taste and his discerning eye makes for a balanced program. Even when the final results raises some quibbles, it’s clear he knows how to assemble the provocative as well as the pleasurable in programming. That’s no mean feat; I, for one, want to see his decisions become a venerable part of San Francisco’s early summer dance calendar.

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S.F. Ballet’s Student Showcase May 31, 2017

2 Jun

San Francisco Ballet’s Showcase began with Beethoven and ended with Tchaikovsky, and the choreographic prowess of Karen Gabay and George Balanchine. More specifically, this meant the first movement of Beethoven’s Seventh, the Pastoral, to showcase the entire student body of the school and for Balanchine, his opening work in the U.S., on students, the ballet Serenade. Both, in their own way, were savvy expositions of student capacities.

The Student showcase for years now has been held at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ Theatre over three days, one of which includes a dinner for major supporters.

Casts varied so I can only comment on the opener which saw many of the area’s reviewers present. I was sitting on the right aisle in front of Erik Tomasson, whose limpid photographic clarity has been such a pleasure for easily a decade. The rapid sound of clicks assured that some of the salient moments of each of the six works seen will be duly preserved and a few publicly shared. Also in the audience was Victoria Morgan, Artistic Director of Cincinnati Ballet and one-time member of San Francisco Ballet.She remarked she was celebrating her second decade there as Cincinnati Ballet’s artistic director.

While I agree with Rita Felciano that we missed seeing the individual levels display their competency, combining Levels 2 through 8 to the emphatic musical declaration of one of Ludwig’s happier compositions was Karen Gabay’s savvy choice to provide emphasis and energy to the aspiring professionals. Former principal dancer of some three decades with Ballet San Jose, Gabay is a certified trouper; she knows how to present dancers so they look their best and clearly enjoy so doing.

The curtain opened on all six levels seated, then kneeling and rising in gradated rows. To the musical whirrs, drums, woodwinds and strings, the older students moved at the back in lifts, the younger ones rising, pointing their toes, and expanding their chests with port de bras right to the beat. I found it captivating in this showcase that the music genuinely carried the dancers, down the last singular emphasis of the drums.

Myles Thatcher’s Panorama, to the music of Douve Eisenga, followed with six dancers, costumes milliskin with abstract color patterns. Wonderful work for the men, both technically and visually, though the music seemed to outweigh the amount of Thatcher’ inventions, one of those unfortunate situations happening using finished musical scores. Thatcher’s use of entrances, pairings, the center and breakouts demonstrate his growing inventiveness.

Following the first intermission, I wish the three-fold casting sheet had identified by date of Meistens Mozart , Helgi Tomasson’s 1991 setting for seven recorded songs. I remember reading somewhere that Tomasson’s first choreographic essay was for a student showcase. Though not this work, it is deft and complimentary to the capacities of young talent, mostly level 7 students arrayed in white.

Like other companies, S.F. Ballet is encouraging choreographic efforts with its trainees and corps members, supplying trainee Blake Johnston with an opportunity to present Filaementous to the music of Bryce Dessner for six dancers, and assistant by former SFB principal Wendy Van Dyck. Like Meistens Mozart a number of the dancers were drawn from level 7 with two I assume to be in the trainee program.

Before the second intermission Wona Park and David Preciado danced the Pas de Deux from Don Quixote, that time-worn warhorse which can excite when the two dancers possess verve and technique to spare. The recorded music was so dreadfully fast that Preciado could not preen properly and Park’s fan was missing in her variation. Her steady balance was notable and she recovered nicely from a stumble at the beginning of her fouettes in the coda. Had the music been more correctly paced, the fact that the venerable pas de deux is a wedding celebration might have emerged.

Following the intermission some level 7s and mostly level 8 students, along with some unidentified dancers who may be trainees, danced Elyse Borne’s staging of Serenade , Balanchine’s first choreography created in the United States in 1934, premiered 83 years ago this coming June 10. With Wona Park dancing the fated one, along with Maya Wheeler and Leili Rackow, and with Joseph Warton and Ethan Chudnow as principal partners, the results were appreciably correct, precise and filled with rediscovery for the audience. Whatever happens to the nearly thirty dancers involved, they can retain the satisfaction of a ballet well danced, with wonderful coherence, and an audience quite aware of their considerable accomplishment, an appropriate ending for a genuine school graduation program.