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.

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One Response to “S.F. Ballet’s Student Showcase May 31, 2017”

  1. Petoi June 2, 2017 at 11:54 pm #

    Nice to read a review by someone who was paying attention n understood programs purpose n accomplishment. To acknowledge all areas such as how to fit 170 students on a less expansive stage,son fur the first time, is no small feat. Congrats to Ms Gabay

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