Tag Archives: Alexsandra Meijer

Ballet San Jose’s Neoclassical to Now: February 15.

15 Mar

If Jose Manuel Carreno wanted to demonstrate that Ballet San Jose’s dancers enjoyed the capacity to dance diverse styles, he could scarcely have chosen three more diverse choreographers than George Balanchine, Jorma Elo and David Naharin; the iconic Serenade, Elo’s Glow-Stop and Naharin’s Minus 16 fulfilled Carreno’s aim and then some. Ballet San Jose’s dancers rose with pride and vigor to their assignments rendered, unfortunately, to recorded music.

Opening with George Balanchine’s Serenade, Ballet San Jose staked their ground as an ensemble fulfilling the potential Balanchine portrayed in this first ballet created in the United States after his arrival from Europe, using Petyr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings. With seventeen dancers and five principals, the company reflected the earnest dedicatory qualities which must have infused the original dancers, intense, focused, exalted in this formative undertaking. Thank heaven the San Jose dancers convey a touch of earthliness through all their technical assignments.

In Ommi Pipit-Suksun and Any Marie Briones, Serenade enjoyed striking interpreters and equally brilliant interpretations; they danced one with the music, true to the impulse. Alexsandra Meijer gave one of the sunniest performances she has danced, clearly enjoying her role, even down to losing the man to the unseen fateful figure of Pipit-Suksun. In Nathan Chaney, a new principal, the company enjoys a male dancer with amplitude of bearing and technique.

Glow-Stop
, which Jorma Elo set to Mozart and Philip Glass, is neither my favorite choreographer nor the work the best he can offer. I sometimes wonder why he doesn’t provide strings from the flies attached to the dancers’ arms and legs, connecting the stop and start, jerky pauses or finishes to various passages. Admittedly it’s fascinating to hear Mozart’s light, bright crystalline music and its construction deconstructed visually; your mind constantly flashes “oops, that’s not going very far.” The dancers, bless their hearts, did well by Elmo, I’m sure challenged and responsive. Choreographers, of course, are highly individualistic human beings, but deconstruction of line places Elo and MacGregor in dead heat, Elo on the puppet end, MacGregor on the contortionist side.

Minus 16
by David Naharin is set to Hebrew songs and a bit of Over The Rainbow. Seventeen dancers sat on chairs in a semi-circle, black coated, black trousered, black hatted – the image of Orthodox Hebrews, minus curls.They gradually progressed on and off the chairs to the swinging Hebraic melodies before gradually beginning to doff clothing, tossing them defiantly into the middle of the stage. It was mesmerizing and fun. In skin colored tights and leotards, they cavorted; blackout. The light rose; the dancers, dressed, sauntered off stage, inserting themselves into the rows to choose an unsuspecting member of the audience. Taking them onto the stage, they danced with them to Latin music; some of the unexpected performers respond with alacrity. A slight woman, blonde and in blue two seats away from me, really dug it. The audience adored it; what a wonderful end to the evening.

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Ballet San Jose’s Gala, November 16

20 Nov

Scott Horton, Ballet San Jose’s new press representative, arranged to have the entire area’s dance reviewing contingent in attendance at Ballet San Jose’s Gala, November 16 at San Jose’s Center for Performing Arts. Allan Ulrich was seconded by Rachel Howard and Mary Ellen Hunt. Coming with Rita Felciano, covering for the San Jose Mercury, I saw Claudia Baer, Toba Singer, Aimee T’sao plus Odette’s Ordeal Teri McCollum and Janice Berman of S.F. Classical Voice. A number of San Francisco Ballet dancers were present besides Helgi and Marlene Tomasson.

The lengthy program possessed several numbers danced not only by San Francisco Ballet interpreters, but I have been lucky enough to see the original interpreters in one pas de deux. Like it or not, there were measurable standards. I include program readability. Thankfully, the dancers’ names were printed in black; golden script against white made the booklet pages almost unreadable. Apparently an easy read for Ballet San Jose’s program designer wasn’t sexy enough. Whatever the reason, big events tend to seduce planners to emphasize glamor over clarity.

George Daugherty took the small orchestra through the lively paces of a Tchaikovsky Swan Lake entree to showcase the Ballet San Jose students, 100 strong, in a show-everyone arrangement by Delia Rawson. Notable were four young men and perhaps eight young young boys, black tights and white tee-shirts appearing with aplomb, along with tiny tots and adolescent girls pirouetting capably en pointe. The final grouping reminded me of the final movement in Balanchine’s Symphony in C where principals and corps invade the stage space.

From the up energy of the school ensemble, Christopher Wheeldon’s After The Rain pas de deux opened the program, with a distinct drop in energy. The deliberate Arvo Part music provided a glimpse of New York City Ballet dancers Ask La Cour [son of former Ballet San Jose’ School principal Lise La Cour] and Rebecca Krohn from New York City Ballet. The height contrast between La Cour and Krohn was visually awkward. Krohn’s style is soft, almost blurring the edges of Wheeldon’s quirky postures. A signature pas de deux for Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith, the New Yorkers suffered by comparison.

The pace quickened when Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky’s pas de deux featured Ana Sophia Scheller and Gonzalo Garcia, former San Francisco Ballet principal. I saw Violette Verdy and Jacques d’Amboise dance this as guests with for San Francisco Ballet at the Palace of Fine Arts. Verdy, the role’s creator, gave a slight emphasis when finishing s phrase. Scheller relied on the smooth sequences Balanchine created, slight piquancy was missing. Garcia started slowly, gaining in quality; heavier in the thighs than in San Francisco, he danced the ballet with Tina Le Blanc at her retirement; here he seemed sluggish.

A dozen Ballet San Jose dancers appeared in a section of Jorma Elo’s Glow Stop to the Philip Glass music, abounding in jerks and twitches interrupting classical line, phrasing and execution. The twelve made a cohesive ensemble; I wish for them better assignments. The dancers were: Amy Marie Briones, Cindy Husang, Alexsandra Meijer, Annali Rose, Ommi Pipit-Suksun, Jing Zhang, Damir Emric, James Kopecky, Jeremy Kovitch, Joshua Seibel, Maykel Solas, Kendall Teague. Ramon Moreno was absent as was Maria Jacobs-Yu; formally retired from the company, she expects her second offspring.

Gillian Murphy and Thomas Forster in the Black Swan pas de deux was notable; tall, slender Forster’s was a visibly smitten portrayal of Prince Siegfried. Murphy danced like a power house, brashly knowing, teasing, if traveling on the final fouettes. The pair sent the audience out energized for the intermission.

After the intermission Ballet San Jose Board Chair Millicent Powers proudly presented Jose Manuel Carreno to the audience as the company’s second artistic director. In his charming Cuban-Spanish accent Carreno acknowledged visiting artistic directors Kevin McKenzie and Helgi Tomasson plus his amazement as being on the other side of the performing curtain.

Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s balcony pas de deux from Romeo and Juliet provided a glimpse of Julie Kent and Marcelo Gomes. Framed by the set from Dennis Nahat’s production for the Prokofiev score, they left no doubt about the electricity of the two Renaissance Verona adolescents.

Shifting stylea to the Le Corsaire pas de deux Rudolf Nureyev brought westward, Cincinnati Ballet dancers Adiarys Almeida and Joseph Gatti; competitors at the 2006 USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Gatti earned a bronze medal. Small, dynamic, well placed, Gatti danced a very aggressive slave; Almedia was smiling, pert, almost totally en place with her fouettes.

New York City Ballet principal Joaquin de Luz danced David Fernandez’ solo to Johann Sebastian Bach’s Presto movement from the Violin Concerto in G. Minor. The challenge, interspersed with port de bras allowing the dancer to breathe, de Luz’ musicality, engaged the audience with his modest charm.

Another set of New York City principals appeared with George Balanchine’s Tarantella to Louis Moreau Gottschalk’s infectious 19th century interpretation of an Italian staple. Megan Fairchild and Daniel Ulbreicht were perky; Ulbreicht’s fun, teasing and elevation electrified the audience.

Boston Ballet principals Lorna Feijoo and Nelson Madrigal danced the second act pas de deux from Giselle in strong stage light, robbing the mystery, making their appearance abrupt. Stuck between two high energy pas de deux their artistry suffered.

Marcelo Gomes demonstrated his dramatic facility in the penultimate pas de deux,, the two dances Twyla Tharp set to Sinatra Songs. With a scintillating, responsive Misty Copeland, the audience reaction was predictably huge.

San Francisco’s Maria Kochetkova and Taras Domitro completed the gala with the war horse Grand pas de Deux from Marius Petipa’s Don Quixote. Postures, balances, pauses, carefully choreographed glances were etched, delivered with sang froid assurance designed to leave the audience gasping. Domitro, noted for his ballon, surpassed himself. Kochetkova matched previous double and triple fouette turns with carefully spotted ones to the four corners. It was a fitting finale to the evening.

Now comes not only Carreno’s challenge artistically, but Stephanie Ziesel’s responsibilities to provide for Ballet San Jose fiscally; there have been nasty rumors to the contrary.

At Last Ballet San Jose’s Roster 2013-2014

26 Sep

With just five days to go before September’s end, like the U.S. Congress, Ballet San Jose has released its company roster for 2013-2014, placing Karen Gabay in the new category of Artistic Associate and minus Maria Jacobs-Yu, who elected not to sign a contract this year. Jacobs-Yu’s delicate precision will be missed.

Not a dignified way to announce a company’s roster of dancers; but Ballet San Jose’s record makes one want to mention artists contributing to much of its varied repertoire history under its former artistic aegis. What invariably strikes me as noteworthy is that both past and present artistic directors are Ballet Theatre alumni from different periods of ABT’s evolution.

So, onward to glimpse the thinking of artistic director Jose Manuel Carreno and his Associate Artistic Director Raymond Rodriquez. Evidence points to the remarkable training ground of Carreno’s native Cuba for the corps de ballet is gaining three former members of the Ballet Nacioinal de Cuba in addition to principal dancers Ramon Moreno and Maykel Solas.

Nutnaree Pipit-Suksun has been promoted to Principal Dancer status; along with Alexsandra Meijer, they are only two women in the principal dancer roster. The three men are Jeremy Kovitch, Ramon Moreno and Maykel Solas.

The soloists now include Amy Marie Briones, Rudy Candia, Damir Emric, Junna Ige, Beth Ann Namey, Mirai Noda, Akira Takahashi and Jing Zhang. Emric’s status reflects promotion from the corps de ballet.

The new comers to the corps de ballet include Kathryn Meeusen and Thomas Baker from apprentice roles. The Cuban influx includes Jorge Lopez Barani, Walter Garcia and Ihosvany Rodriguez. Also new to the corps de ballet are Grace-Anne Powers, a former member of La La La Human Steps of Montreal and Alison Stroming, a former dancer with Alberta Ballet, both women natives of the U.S.

These new comers join Shannon Bynum, Cindy Huang, Lucius Kirst, James Kopecky, Alex Kramer, Brieanna Olson, Francisco Preciado, Annali Rose, Joshua Seibel, Cynthia Sheppard, Sarah Stein, Kendall Teague and Lahna Vanderbush.

The three apprentices are Emma Francis, Nicole Larson and Mariya Oishi.
Francis previously danced with Oregon Ballet Theatre.

George Daugherty will continue as Music Director. Those who have been fans of Nutnaree Pipit-Suksun look forward to her performances as a principal.

A Gala, Estonian Style, June 28

4 Jul

One of the best things about the June 28 performance of the Estonian National Ballet at the Palace of Fine Arts with its accompanying musicians was the audience.  It made me feel comme il faut still existed and a corner of the theatre-going audience  alive and well with its share of handsome young men and comely young women, nicely dressed but not attempting to be fashion plates, or boasting ostentatious rocks. Of individuals observed, I saw one mid-aged couple dressed in Estonian costume, lively if understated members of  the crowd..

Unfortunately, I arrived just before eight to learn that the performance, while starting late, was scheduled for seven – and here I had written an advance piece about Tiit Helimets efforts to bring the company here -so the premiere of the Helimets’ ballet Time was missed.

At the mid-section of the Gala, Hando Nahkur played Schumann and accompanied Hanna-Lina Vosa, singing in both Estonian and English, before Alexsandra Meijer and Tiit Helimets danced the pas de deux from Act II, Swan Lake.  The pair were also featured on the cover of the play bill,  in white on the ticket stubs, but in the Black Swan pas de deux, despite the presence of Helimets, an incongruous image for the cover of an Estonian-themed Gala. The seat rake and the stage width made Meijer look less than long-limbed. It seemed her correct port de bras was placed rather emerging organically from the solar plexus, the positions well practiced but slacking emotional motivation.  But what can one expect from a deliberately programmed cultural pot pourri?

Teric McCollum  later reminded me that Titt Helimets used  a wine promotion to help raise funds for the Estonian Festival using the Black and White Swan motif for a red and a white wine.  The promotion was apparently successful, and Quinn Wharton’s Helimets-Meijer images in those iconic roles made tardy sense (and the legs looked longer!).

The Estonian wares on display for sale quite intriguing and handsome – sand dollars with beaded circles attached for earrings, leather employed for the same purpose, key chains, wallets, a drop dead elegant leather computer case, some dresses with peasant braid arranged in expected locations, CDs of Nahkur in concert.

The Gala closed with Marina Kesler’s Othello, danced to recordings of composer Arvo Part.  It was the first time I had ever heard cacophony and forte connected with the Estonian-born composer.  McCollum also mentioned that Estonians can use his compositions free of charge, which helped understand the choice behind this tumultuous Shakespearean tale.  Unlike Portia, also Venetian, Desdemona is loved by an admiral of Moorish descent whose Christianity  must have rested comparatively lightly upon him.  His lieutenant Iago manages with the aid of Blanka to create circumstantial evidence of his beloved’s infidelity.  Othello chokes her.

Kesler has altered the plot to make Blanka accept money from Iago to plant the scarf on Cassio, a lieutenant Othello loves and trusts with Desdemona, a source of Iago’s envy. Kesler also has Blanka plant the scarf after she seduces Cassio, a considerable departure from  the Shakespearean plot, plus the joint death of Othello following his killing of Desdemona. I suppose such tweakings are permitted, but why call the ballet Othello?

Another departure from the Venetian setting and period were the women’s costumes, short, peachy-pink satin skirts of three tiers of puffs, removed at one point  and worn again at the finale. The men’s costumes looked a bit like replicas of the school uniforms worn by boys in the Russian Imperial Ballet School, admittedly quite handsome though again not of the period.

The dancers themselves were marvelously flexible and technically secure in choreography requiring stretching, bending and a variety of distortions of classical vocabulary though executed en pointe, most of them small of stature.  Any choreographer would be excited to work with such dancers.  The dancing which ignited the ballet was Sergei Lipkin’s; he got the assignment for wiliness, maneuvering, plotting and nearly all the  choreographic solos.  Othello and Desdemona in the persons of Anatoli Arhangelski and Eve Andre looked Mutt and Jeff visually, he tall and the necessary choreographic adjustments, she fair, small, roundly shaped, strong athletic legs – perfect to throw into bends, stretches and lifts or to wrap around the waist.  As Cassio Jonathan Hanks was given something of a cipher role, but still  jaunty emerging from his encounter behind the red draperies and sexual shenanigans with Heidi Kopti’s Bianka, the fated red scarf, rather than white, draped around his neck.

I would love to see the company dance Tudor, Robbins or Balanchine, even to see what they might do with Agnes de Mille.

Karen Gabay’s Gala with Ballet San Jose

1 May

Karen Gabay’s Gala, her final performance as a principal with Ballet San Jose, was rather hastily arranged and followed the company’s final performance of the season April 21.  However short the arrangements were, the tribute selections which started at 7 p.m. were warmly received by the audience in the half filled San Jose Center for the Performing Arts.

Excepting Amour Gitan, the music was recorded.  The selections were apt, however, and included video selections from Gabay’s thirty-some year sojourn with a company originally founded by Dennis Nahat and the late Ian Hovarth.  The first of three videos showed footage from her early Cleveland years, Gabay a glowing young woman with her initial principal role as Maria in the Nahat-Hovarth production of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker; her attentive partner was an equally youthful Raymond Rodriguez. As Maria, Gabay’s hair was noticeable in supported turns; I couldn’t help but wonder what such flung tresses in pirouettes does to a partner.  This section also featured a bespectacled youngish man with an abundant head of hair and an enthusiastic, discerning delivery.  It took me several seconds to register this spokesman as Dennis Nahat.

Fast forward, The Nutcracker  grand pas de deux  provided Gabay in white classical tutu with seven cavaliers dressed in black.  As  arranged by Gabay, each partner supported her for a phrase or two of that swelling hymn to the pas de deux.  The swains were: Maximo Califano, Rudy Candia, Jeremy Kovitch, Ramon Moreno, Anton Pankevitch, Raymond Rodriguez, Maykel Solas.  Bright eyes gleaming, her smile radiant, Gabay looked sensational.

The next video permitted time for Gabay to change for Amour Gitan with Maykel Solas, the pas de deux she created and danced in Ballet San Jose’s spring series.  The video included moments from the Nahat production of Romeo and Juliet which was created on Gabay with Rodriguez as Romeo. While Lev Polyakin was the violinist once more with George Lopez as pianist for the Maurice Ravel Tzigane created for the two instruments; later the orchestrated version was debuted in 1924 under the direction of Pierre Monteux. In 1975  Balanchine created a work for Suzanne Farrell to the symphonic version.

In her one-sided slit ruffled red sheath, Gabay was sufficiently alluring to get her way with the bare-chested Solas after some preliminary squabbles and one or two spectacular Solas jetes. In this partnership Gabay’s upper back stiffness was noted, neck and shoulders creating a forward emphasis in the upper torso, a foreshortening developing over time as a mannerism.  With her petite appeal, generous spirit and steady technique it was little noticed.

Following intermission and another video the program finished with another Gabay creation, 2-2 Tango, featuring many of the company dancers.  One could enjoy the haunting phrases, with that wonderful swoop and punctuation in the tango.  Gabay has the ability to create light-hearted, sometimes cheeky, unexpectedly punctuated dances as demonstrated in Point of Departure summer tours  as well as two pas de deux danced by Junna Ige and Shimon Ito in 2010’s USA International Ballet Competition.  Enjoyable, they register as clever, well constructed, a new take on some formulaic situations if one is scarcely torn asunder emotionally.  It’s  a genuine talent.

Gabay utilized Maximo Califano handsomely.  In suit and fedora at a slight sinister angle, it was a neat touch having him launch the piece evoking the drama inherent in his native Argentine music. He moved around three couples, the women dressed in red with a touch of flounces.  Three couples followed, then a pas de trois where Mirai Noda and Maria Jacobs-Yu skirmished over Akira Takahashi before joining forces to defeat his ambivalence towards their charms. Mordido paired Gabay and Rodriguez in a skillful, if deadly-tender death dance, Gabay’s only appearance here.  Down the line Califano, Beth Ann Namey and James Kopecky reversed the two and one face off.  Eight couples danced the finale with Califano to complete the dance with a final dashing gesture.

Following the warm audience enthusiasm,  there was a large bouquet of red roses for Gabay.  Raymond Rodriguez delivered a tribute after the individual tributes when each dancer in the company, whether on or off stage, brought a single rose to Gabay.  Jacobs-Yu curtseyed, stage hands came on, conductor George Daugherty, the evening’s musicians, costumers, electricians, publicist Lee Kopp.  It was a genuine parade of associates.

A jarring visual note occurred when Alexsandra Meijer in a short strapless white dress retired into the group after giving a rose to Gabay; she  then rendered a curtsey and rose to Maximo Califano before weeping on his shoulder.  Rumored not to have his contract renewed,  Califano and Meijer both joined the company in 2001.

It is thought and hoped that Karen Gabay will remain with Ballet San Jose as ballet mistress.  She would, like Rodriguez, contribute an enormous institutional memory and professional wealth.  Seeing glimpses of her mad scene in Giselle and verve in Toreador in the videos, character roles would benefit from her dramatic skill and theatrical savvy.  Where ever she settles, the organization will be damned lucky.

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.

Ballet San Jose’s Don Quixote

26 Feb

Ballet San Jose seems to have acquired the habit of importing major male dancers for its full length productions, principally to partner Alexsandra Meijer as well as jack up the box office receipts.  It occurred when Tiit Helimets was given S.F. Ballet’s permission to dance Albrecht to Meijer’s Giselle and when Sasha Radetsky assumed the Ben Stevenson take on Cinderella’s Prince in San Jose’s production of Stevenson’s  interpretation of the Sergei Prokoviev score.

For Don Quixote, however, it was Jose Manuel Carreno’s turn, dancing Basilio in a Mikhail Baryshnikov reading of the Marius Petipa-Alexander Gorsky 1869 production of Don Quixote, here staged by Wes Chapman who had danced it during his years with American Ballet Theatre and mounted it twice for Alabama Ballet when he was that company’s artistic director.

On February 15, Junna Ige stepped in to dance Kitri on opening night.  For the Saturday matinee, Amy Marie Briones was assigned the Kitri plum opposite Jeremy Kovitch.  Saturday night was slated to be Ige’s second performance but with Maykel Solas with the Sunday matinee featuring Meijer with Carreno’s second appearance.  Apparently Meijer’s neck injury was comparatively minor.

The production struck me as a catch all with the physical set borrowed from Hans Christian Molbech’s set for Ballet San Jose’s earlier production of August Bournonville’s Toreador augmented in Act II’s Gypsy Camp and the Vision Scene by Santo Loquasto.  I wish Karen Gabay had been given something besides the brassy orange-red wig as bar maid in Act III, where her role took over some of Mercedes’ dancing seen in the San Francisco Ballet production.  Which production is more accurate is up for grabs, given the Bolshoi-influenced version with SFB via Yuri Possokhov and the Kirov/Maryinsky/ Baryshnikov flavor which probably found its way into the Ballet San Jose production.  The sources and their differences could be the source of animated discussions amongst balletomanes more avid than yours truly.

Other discrepancies included the absence of the Inn Keeper’s wife or an expanded role for Sancho Panza, which would have allowed Juan Moreno to exercise his marvelous comic skills which vie with Pasal Molat’s for acuity in the moment.  Costume wise, one might expect Inn Keeper Lorenzo as played by Anton Pankovitch to take off a towel-turned apron in honor of his daughter’s nuptials.

There’s not much new to say about the plot, derived from a small section of  the novel Don Quixote of Miguel de Cervantes.  The ballet reduced the Don to a facilitator of the romance between Kitri, an Innkeeper’s Daughter and Basilio, a young barber.  The Don is utilized to thwart the Innkeeper into blessing the union  even though Lorenzo has been trying to marry Kitri to Gamache, an aging fop with some aristocratic  pretenses and an evident money bag.  Their successful maneuver, brought about by Basilio’s faked attempt at suicide, creates the raison d’etre for the wedding scene and the war horse favorite pas de deux, a constant presence at many galas and international ballet competitions.  In the mix are some gypsies, a street dancer called Mercedes, a Toreador and his cloak-swishing companions plus a dream scene permitting Cupid and the Queen of the Dryads to flit en pointe with the corps de ballet in formation.

Maria Jacobs-Yu piqued effectively as Cupid in the two performances I saw and Jing Zhang and Nutnaree Pipit-Suksun traded roles as Queen of the Dryads and Mercedes.  In the mix were a Toreador and his cloak-swishing companions and a dream scene following the Don’s mishap with the windmill, permitting him a vision of Cupid and the Queen of the Dryads.  Pipit-Suksun’s sensual correctness made her Mercedes a full-fledged flamenco artist, not merely a street dancer, and her Dryad Queen a bit remote but very regal.  Her timing is musical, unforced, never hurried, her port de bras a consistent dream.  Jing Zhang is openly dashing, an  extravert, inclined to sell the high points of her assignments.

Damir Emric and Maximo Califano traded roles as Don Quixote, but Emric took on the role of Espada, the Toreador to Califano’s Don when Wes Chapman gave us a Gamache edged with sarcasm and Califano’s was given to the grandiose gesture. Rudy Candia danced Espada opening night.  When it came to the Gypsy interlude, Beth Ann Namey was the opening woman and Shannon Bynum for Saturday’s matinee.

I saw Jose Manuel Carreno win the Jackson Grand Prix in 1992; his prize money probably is still impounded in a Jackson bank because of his Cuban origins.  He was immediately snapped up for the English National Ballet then under Ivan  Nagy’s direction.  Nearly twenty years later, Junna Ige was a finalist at Jackson, partnered by Shimon Ito in the 2010 Jackson marathon.  It seemed fitting that an unanticipated accident brought the two together, seasoned by that competitive pressure nearly two decades apart.  Carreno’s genial classicism is as correct as ever, master of multiple pirouettes, his grand jetes low and space filling.  Practiced in the role, he enjoyed it.  Except for an off-balance flub in her final fouettes in the grand pas de deux, Ige was spot on, charming, her technique well proportioned and clear.  Her smiling oval face reminded me of Margot Fonteyn in her prime, lively, nothing forced, in the moment.

Saturday’s matinee possessed some ballet history for Bay Area devotees because of Amy Marie Briones’ debut as Kitri; she demonstrated principal role status in this 1869 Ludwig Minkus melodic favorite.  A bevy of students and fans plus Briones’ teacher Ayako Takahashi were witness to Briones’ command of the role, aided by Jeremy Kovitch.  Briones dances large scale, with spirit, her technique ample, final fouettes, if traveling, alternated between singles and doubles.  Briones’ outstanding gifts could incorporate more nuance in her port de corps and port de bras, but as a debut she was simply grand and refreshing.

Kovitch did all right by Basilio, but he could allow himself to assume a macho emphasis, lengthen his sideburns, even add dark rinse to his hair, augmenting his steady partnering and overall dependability.

I hope Don Quixote won’t be out of the repertoire too long.   George Daugherty conducted the orchestra with  much verve  and I’m sure inspired the relish with which the dancers delivered their assignments. The audience responded enthusiastically.