Archive | February, 2018

Book Review: The Legacy of Legat

27 Feb

Deane-Grey, MBE, Patricia, The Legacy of Legat
Zagreb, Croatia, Hiperion, 2017 (?), 183 pp., illus. Pbk.
ISBN: 978-953-56634-4-7

This informative paperback came my way from The National Arts Education Archive, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Lawrence Batley Center, Wast Bretton, Wakefield, WF4 4LG, United Kingdom. The location is also one of two Yorkshire locations with extensive examples of the work of sculptor Henry Moore.

The contents combine several aims with varying degree of depth; among them, personal experience and comprehensive knowledge, including anatomy drawings; brief histories of classical ballet and Nicolas Legat; association with Ana Roje, Legat’s principal student; Roje’s summer sessions in Croatia; the development of Bermuda Civic Ballet; for teachers, the particular style of a Legat class at the barre and in the center; two glossaries; pictures of Deane-Grey in various classical roles. The Preface is credited to Jelko Yuresha, partner and husband of Belinda Wright, also pictured partnering Deane Grey.

Two pages are devoted to the dates and venues of the Legat Exhibit by Barbara Vernon Gregory and first displayed at The Royal Opera House the fall of 1987.
It was shown elsewhere in England and in the early ‘90’s at the Jackson and Moscow international ballet competitions. In 1988 the Exhibit enjoyed a series of engagements in North America, and subsequently at other European venues.
An futile effort was made by Mrs. Deane-Grey to have the exhibit shown in San Francisco; it was apparent just how much slogging effort goes into such arrangements under Deane-Grey’s aegis as international coordinator.

One of several charming inclusions are the posting of a plaque commemorating Legat’s classes at 46 Colet Gardens in London and the 1995 announcement of the Legat Foundation formation with Lady Kennedy (Moira Shearer) at President and under the patronage of Lord and Lady Yehuda Menhuin, [Dare I down grade this achievement with the comment that Menhuin was partially San Francisco raised, making his debut performance with the San Francisco Symphony?]

The Legacy of Legat is an admirable effort, clearly a summation of a lifetime devoted to classical ballet with substantial results. Margaret Willis wrote eloquently of the 2012 Bermuda Civic Ballet’s production of Romeo and Juliet for dancetabs featuring dancers from Zagreb in the principal roles,celebrating the “Civic’s” fortieth anniversary.

In the future weeks I plan personally to explore the Legat method as Deane-Grey has so faithfully recorded it. From my perspective, The Legacy of Legat is an important addition to the book shelves of balletomanes and ballet teachers.

Further information on the Legat Exhibit and Foundation can be obtained through Anna Bowman:, telephone: 0-1924-830-690.

SFB’s Number Three – Home Grown

21 Feb

San Francisco Ballet’s Third 2018 Program included works by Helgi Tomasson and Val Caniparoli, both created for the 2008 season and then Myles Thatcher’s Ghost in the Machine, premiered in 2017. Tomasson’s classical choice, On a Theme of Paganini by Sergei Rachmaninov and Val’s use of Antonin Dvorak’s Quartet, musical selections were followed by Michael Nyman’s rather interminable contemporary sturm, a detriment to choreography and a withering challenge to the San Francisco dancers who met the marathon with spirit, dash and their usual competence. It also is a program filled with the excitement of dancers essaying roles for the first time, an invariable treat to balletomanes.

Tomasson gave himself both a challenge and a respite with his choice of Rachmaninoff’s familiar music. The audience probably was very familiar with the sound and the ebb and flow of the development. But nonetheless it is tricky to convey runs and phrases as well as the melody.

For this Tomasson performance Sasha de Sola, Wei Wang, and Max Cauthorn made their debuts as did Vitor Luiz who partnered Maria Kochetkova, with the corps de ballet in serried ranks. As principals de Sola and Kochetkova proved a distinct contrast in phrasing though both danced their assignments on the beat. The difference lay in their port de bras: Kochetkova more or less placed her arms in the necessary places, while de Sola’s arms flowed in and out of the final position, essentially the classic versus the lyric, also extensiona of their relative heights.

Wang and Cauthorn applied themselves to their roles with energy and enthusiasm and, for all his smaller physique, Luiz was clearly on the button.

Caniparoli’s Ibsen’s House is by far one of his most scenic ballets, decor and costumes credited to Sandra Woodall, whose absence in ballet credits may partly be explained by two years in a theatrical contract in Shanghai. That huge drapery upstage left, drawn back to accent the picture window, with transparent veiling through which many of the characters are seen arriving, is one of the most handsome stage designs in any company’s warehouse, a masterly revealing of the desperate, dissatisfied 19th century women Ibsen chose to depict.

The five women appear initially, led by Doris Andre who has assumed the Gabbler role created by Lorena Feijoo, Andre’s focus sharpening the use of her hand down her face and torso. Sofiane Sylve and Tiit Helimets personified the struggle of The Doll’s House, his implacable either/orness against which Sylve maneuvered in his confining supported turns and arabesques

Dores Andre and Vitor Luiz conveyed the relentless passion of Hedda Gabler.. Andre’s contained gestures etched the dilemma before she stretched her body and grappled with Luiz, whose fascination for his lover presented pauses and uncertainty in the midst of mutual passion. Sofiane Sylve and Tiit Helimets took on their Doll’s House assignment with zest, Sylve’s resistance in being partnered by the overbearing alpha male of Helimets struck a response in audience tension – mine at least.

Jennifer Stahl and MylesThatcher made me want to read Ghosts as did Kimberly Marie Olivier and Luke Ingham personifying the turbulent Lady from the Sea and the desperation of Rosmerholm embodied by Hannah Rose Hummel and Sean Orza.

Thatcher’s Ghost in the Machine enjoyed Alexander Nichols two harp-like strands angled against each other, changing color as the dancers tackled the overlong score. Hopefully Thatcher will find tidier music for his growing choreographic chops.

Nyman’s score certainly reflected Thatcher’s exploration of contemporary relations and communications – the push, pull, argument, negotiation, the uneven tension and resolution which seems today’s modus vivendi, an acute awareness of this energy by the choreographer. His visual demonstration of such prescience abounded in thrust arms, pushes, pulls in rapid entrances and exits by the five sets of dancers with Frances Chung and Jaime Garcia Castilla first and later Carlo di Lanno and Dores Andre, supported by Esteban Hernandez and Isabella de Vivo, Sasha de Sola proved to be the principal seeker of balance, supported at various points by Steven Morse, Ellen Rose Hummel dancing for the second time here with Max Cauthorn.

Since I abound in trivia and asides, I’ll mention the Ghosts in the Machine partnership of Andre and Di Lanno is reflected on Erik Tomasson’s cover of the company’s literature for Programs Two and Three. It also is apparent that soloists and principals frequently dance two ballets on a program and corps members seem now being assigned substantial roles. It makes for definite excitement, a wonderful chance to appraise the depth of the company.

SFB’s Program 2 – US Balletic Bookends

16 Feb

That catchy summary was provided me by Angela Amerillas, one-time ballet student, social dance and health education professional. Come to think of it, she’s dead on; Program two encompassed not only George Balanchine’s Serenade but Justin Peck’s Rodeo Suite from Aaron Copland’s landmark music for Agnes de Mille’s landmark choreography for Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.In between Petyr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Aaron was John Adams’ music for Benjamin Millepied’s The Chairman Dances-Quartet for Two. Another note, come to think of it, is that all three choreographers have been connected with New York City Ballet.

Another interesting note was the casting of principals in two works. I assume this will hold true with other performances, not a little due to giving the artists a real chance to perform, opening other dates for opportunity in the rich roster of SFB’s principals and soloists.

Aside from the glacial blue tutus the women wear in Serenade, the presence of Carlo di Lanno and Mathilde Froustey in soloist roles conveyed unusual emotional depth. Di Lanno made of the partner a major figure where it usually is a cipher to display the woman. Froustey danced her assignment connecting not only with the dancing, but acknowledged the audience something of a rarity with dancers schooled in Balanchine abstraction; it’s refreshing, beyond her evident strength and correctness.

Yuan Yuan Tan, hair-loosened, was the woman who is thwarted by Jennifer Stahl whose flowing hair provides arms and hands over the face of Luke Ingham. Sean Bennet, Alexandre Cagnet, Nathaniel Remez and Alexander Reneff-Olson were the quartet called upon to support the corps.

Danced by the company, Serenade continues to provide enormous visual and emotional satisfaction.

The Chairman Dances to John Adams’ music seemed consistent with Benjamin Millepied’s desire to be “of the times;” that he designed the costumes also seems consistent with such declaration. Music and choreography seemed studiously modern in contrast to Copland’s adaptations of American folk tunes and Tchaikovsky’s own European influences. The first of the three parts found Maria Kochetkova fooling around expertly with Carlo di Lanno who, off and on, was grinning with apparent enjoyment, while Kochetkova danced the whimsical flirt, only occasionally acknowledging what a superb partner supported her in Millepied’s quirky choreography.

Among other things, what follows are two sets of duets by the same gender, the first with Ulrich Birkkjaer and Benjamin Freemantle, the second with Yuan Yuan Tan and Jennifer Stahl, the men in creamy trousers, the women in full-length white with slits. Hard to say whether it was comment on gender relationships from friendship to romantic struggle. Each ended abruptly in a blackout. The audience response was warm, but brief.

Then came Justin Peck’s Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes, taken from Aggie and Aaron’s landmark ballet for Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. This suite of dances was premiered by New York City Ballet in 2015, and debuted at this year’s Gala on January 18. Esteban Hernandez led the opening trio with Hansuke Yamamoto and Wei Wang in the beige striped costumes Peck designed with the collaboration of Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung. Jaime Garcia Castilla came on in echoing blue with four others; later there were additional six males helping to dance up the genuine storm and tribute to the male dancer in ballet to music celebrating their importance some sixty odd years earlier. Ulrik Birkkjaer blended into the proceedings with a humorous touch, partnering Dores Andre whose own touch echoed his, creating a silken sophistication along with the hoe-down and wistful musical moments.

Note: I have rarely seen Yamamoto and Castilla dance with such scintillating enjoyment, Hernandez tossed off his opening declaration and subsequent high jinks with clarity and nonchalance, owning his assignment.

Addtional note: Esteban competed at the Jackson USAIBC in 2010 receiving an encouragement award before later earning a junior Grand Prix at the Youth America contest and completing training with The Royal Ballet. Four years earlier, in 2006, brother Esteban earned the junior Gold at Jackson, joining San Francisco Ballet and advancing to soloist before joining Het National Ballet, now a principal with the English National Ballet. If one were to delve into the history of San Francisco Ballet,winners of Jackson awards are studded throughout its roster. It has been a treat to have seen them all at their professional beginnings.

Ruth Ann Koesun, 1928-2018

16 Feb

Ruth Ann Koesun died in her native Chicago and is memorialized at some length
in Anna Kisselgoff’s obituary in the New York Times. I very much recommend it. Not only was she a member of Ballet Theatre when it toured the country, but like Sono Osato, she testified to Lucia Chase’s taste in dancers.

Talent was the thing in Ballet Theatre; if the dancer was bi-racial, and of Asian descent, they were welcome, setting the precedent reflected in American Ballet Theatre today.

Koesun was very much a part of my early ballet education, seeing the company in Ontario in 1948 and when it danced at the Biltmore Theater in Los Angeles. For the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo it was always the Philharmonic Auditorium. Small boned and slight, Koesun’s delicacy in Billy the Kid as Billy’s Mother and Sweetheart made quite an impression as well as her insouciance in Jerome Robbins’ Interplay, She was definitely an intrinsic part of those yeasty early years of Ballet Theatre.

I had one opportunity to meet and talk with her, and while I have forgotten the conversation, I remember her sharing the enormous scrapbook she possessed of her time with Ballet Theatre. My main carryaway from the encounter was the awesome reality of spending time with someone whose dancing had shaped my perceptions and given me so much pleasure.