Tag Archives: Bolshoi Ballet

An October Gala in Moscow

8 Jul

Olga Guardia de Smoak is the go-to person on most matters relating to classical ballet. She currently is serving as the organizer for the March 26-28 Semi-Finals for the VKIBC to be held in New Orleans March 26-28, 2017, prior to the June Competition in New York City.

This current activity is simply one of a lengthy string of ballet events Olga either has master-minded or assisted in bringing to fruition. From my standpoint, and personal involvement, one of her stellar achievements  was organizing the 2000 Ballets Russes Celebration in New Orleans, enabling Geller/Goldfine Productions to jump start their remarkable documentary The Ballets Russes.

In the process of asking me to identify West Coast dance teachers who might want  to send students to the VKIBC semi-finals, Olga mentioned a mid-October Gala at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre  being facilitated by Jelko Urasha, former Festival Ballet dancer and husband to the late Belinda Wright.

It seems that ,besides his noted staging of Pas de Quatre for four ballerinas, Sir Anton Dolin created a Pas de Quatre for men, naming the variations for the elements of Wind, Fire, Air and Water. This work will be presented at the October Gala, featuring the following male principals: Marian Walter, Berlin Ballet;  Artem Ovcharenko, Bolshoi Ballet ; Vadim Muntagorov, Royal Ballet; Taras Domitro, San Francisco Ballet.

At this writing, the music is unknown, but will be posted when available.

July 8, 2016  Olga Guardia de Smoak and Deborah Brooks came to the rescue  with the name of the composer: Marguerite Keogh.  The title of the music is Variations for Four.Keogh apparently was a musical accompanist for Dolin and Festival Ballet. The work was created in 1957.

Thanks to both informants.

 

 

 

 

 

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Yuri Possokhov shares Prix de Benois with Johan Inger

21 May

Through Olga Guardia de Smoak, I learned that Yuri Possokhov was awarded the Prix de Benois recently in Moscow, sharing the choreographic award with Johan
Inger of Nederlans Dans Teater. Possokhov, who is choreographer-n-residence at San Francisco Ballet and served as one of its principal male dancers prior to retirement from dancing, was cited for the Bolshoi Production of  A Hero in Our Time, recently premiered at the Bolshoi Ballet Inger received the award for his production of Carmen for Nederlans Dans Teater.

The full complement of winners is available on the Benois de la Danse website.

San Francisco Ballet’s Program Five, Don Q

3 Apr

Even with the umpah nature the Minkus score provides for Don Quixote, it’s a romp;for these creaky old bones, it’s like comfort food as visible signs of the old order, mythical or otherwise, crumbles at each pothole on San Francisco’s principal streets. Only the new dual fuel buses with their accommodating buttons and the hand friendly curve below on the yellow painted metal poles can convince me The City That Knows How is doing exactly that for its motley inhabitants. And it’s really nice that the Civic Center Parking Lot charges only $3 an evening to devotees of ballet’s classical war horses. I grab for reassurance anywhere that the world can still possess moments of “It’s all right Jack!” or similar Cockney cheer. Recently, there has been Lawrence Ferlinghetti for back up on PBS.

My colleagues are swifter, faster, more disciplined when it comes to credits for the make overs of this Petipa production adapted by Gorsky for the Bolshoi Ballet. Gorsky’s influence is felt because Yuri Possokhov, who danced in it, collaborated with Helgi Tomasson on San Francisco Ballet’s production, with its lovely set but some color clashes in Packledinaz’ costuming. The work itself is meant to tease, dazzle technically and embrace romance with just a dusting of Spanish flavor. Marius Petipa must have been far enough away from his own Spanish shenanigans to incorporate them in the original production. Yes indeed, in his early years he was something of a rogue.

My colleagues doubtless have explained that from a small segment of the Spanish novelist’s opus, there was a Kitri; she was extracted and made central to a plot prevalent through most of social history: Daddy, an innkeeper or tapas supplier, wants daughter to marry well and safely; translate money. Daughter wants to choose; in this tale, with the “quixotic” Don and his retainer Sancho Panza it happens with the aid of gypsies and a wind mill, providing the excuse for some very classical 19th century style dancing. In between, sunny Spain provides friends and townsfolk who love to gather in taverns and some toreadors and their romantic partners. Finally with a feigned suicide, the lovers are blessed and the marriage scene is danced with the warhorse pas de deux, which, when done well, gets us all whooping and hollering with delight at the curtain.

Jim Sohm is making an unofficial second career portraying seniors, daft or domestic; he is doing it very well. He’s tall and hefty enough to give Don Quixote a presence and muscle. With Pascal Molat’s minted Sancho Panza, gem-like in his rogue behavior and eye for purloined gluttony, the pair thread through the narrative, making it coherent while still implausible. The selling point of the ballet for me is the contrast between the girl-boy spectacle and the wonderful characterizations possible in stock theatrics. Val Caniparoli and Anita Paciotti provide the cantina parents with Ricardo Bustamonte the inn keeper where papa gets foiled into blessing the pair. Then there is Gamache, which Ruben Martin-Cintas is undertaking for the first time, with all his pastel furbelows and foppish behavior.

We have Carlos Quenedit as Basilio, the penniless barber, opposite Mathilde Froustey as Kitri. Both danced their respective roles before; Carlos with the Ballet Nacional de Cuba and with the Joffrey Ballet before joining San
Francisco Ballet and Froustey with the Paris Opera Ballet. Hard to imagine the Froustey delicacy in Giselle doing a volte face into Spanish spunk. Overall, she
managed it nicely the more she danced; her beginning was a bit tense; her overall portrayal reminded me of the cliche April in Paris rather than Seville in summer.

Quenedit electrified the audience, and deservedly so, in his opening variation; prodigious elevation, crispness and an insouciant command of his whipping tours. (I really don’t understand why international competitions don’t allow this pas de deux as part of their official assignments for prize aspirants.) That accomplished, the performance settled into its narrative and one really good time.

This mood was enhanced by the crispness of Kitri’s girl friends, Doris Andre and Noriko Matsuyama, matched for size and general ebullience. For the major toreador, Espada, and girl friend Mercedes, Daniel Deivison-Oliveira and Sarah Van Patten came on strongly, matching intensity, both posturing and smouldering with elan. Having remembered the taller interpreters, Pierre-Francois Vilanoba and Muriel Maffre, it was good to see another pair make a strong, well-matched impression.

Hansuke Yamamoto and Dana Genshaft dominated the gypsy segment, Yamamoto’s jumps compensating for his build, slighter than one expects for a gypsy. This gypsy scene also is more out of Romany than Granada, bandanas replacing combs and ruffles. The gypsy scene, of course, ends when Don Q attacks the lumbering turn of the windmill and falls into a injury-induced sleep. Here Sancho Panza’s concern assumed genuine pathos – Molat blending concern and fatalism.

For Don Q, however, it provides a vision of skillful, saccharine femininity with the ballet’s most classical passages, led by Sofiane Sylve’s formidable, very classical Queen and a nimble, delicate Cupid portrayed by Koto Ishihara. Never mind that Cupid mythologically is male; here it’s a fleet young female. Kitri has been transformed into Dulciana and Don attends her dancing in a manner worthy of the Prince’s vision in Sleeping Beauty. Who knows, this may have been Petipa’s first sketch of that hide and seek vision of 1890, just as La Bayadere predated Lac de Cygnes.

Then it’s on to the tavern operated by Ricardo Bustamonte , a table dance by Marcedes, and Daddy Caniparoli in hot pursuit with Gamache locating the hidden Kitri with an eloquent pointed finger, gloved of course. The would-be alliance is interrupted by suicide bent Basilio, laying down his cloak, plunging his long, wicked knife into his side, having, of course, clued Kitri into his deception, fondling her when she raises his head. Don Q to the rescue with the aid of his lengthy spear, separating Gamache from the scene and with height and metal-tipped spear inviting Papa to bless the dying union. Bien sur, surprise!

Intermission!

The Wedding Festivities comprise the entire final act, with the toreadors rushing in with their capes, their partners flouncing in with black bordered white gowns almost equal to the finale of flamenco performances and a bevy bridesmaids. The setting is the same as that of Act I; one wonders how the Inn Keeper and spouse can afford such an outlay.

Basilio and Kitri are both garbed in white, he with a fair share of gilt braid and she with a fairly elaborate bodice above the crisp classical tutu, both prepared to dance a pas de deux one has seen often enough to demand the dancers astonish us. [A balletomane attending international competitions is particularly prone to such views.] The inaugural adagio seems to provide the best passage to impress the audience, where Basilio spins her and when they face each other at a distance. Kitri’s balances should be strong and long enough to emphasize the Spanish Je ne sais quoi in allure. The male solo doesn’t do nearly enough for the man, and the female variation has to be distinguished by the use of the fan. Lorena Feijoo managed to employ it in the final menage, a feat I have yet to see equaled, and any fouettes that appear should not travel. Froustey’s balances were secure and Quenedit partnered and postured very well. I had hoped to see Feijoo and Vitor Luiz at the final matinee May 29 but a minor injury changed the casts.

Like Giselle and Romeo and Juliet yet to come, Don Quixote was programmed to help celebrate Helgi Tomasson’s three decades as San Francisco Ballet’s artistic director. All hail! For 2015-2016, let’s hope we see Don Q repeated. Not only is it a romp, it provides a healthy range of opportunity for the company’s dancers. Who can quibble with that?

Terry de Mari, 1928-2015

15 Feb

One-time member of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo,long-time dancer in noted American musicals, Terry de Mari died February 10 in his native Omaha, Nebraska from cancer. He had just celebrated his 87th birthday.

Born to Sicilian parents, de Mari was a high school athlete when encouraged to study dance. After local studies, he moved to New York City where he studied with Martha Graham and at the School of American Ballet. Dancing under his mother’s maiden name, de Mari worked first in muscials before auditoning and joining the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1954; he was promptly cast in a major character role by Leonide Massine when Massine created a ballet to the music of Harold in Italy.

In 1957 de Mari joined the touring company of My Fair Lady, remaining with it through 1960 when the troupe appeared in Russia, dancing in Moscow, and Kiev. While in Moscow, Francis Gary Powers was shot down in his U2 while flying over Russia. and captured by Soviet forces.

With tensions at a height, the planned appearance in Odessa was cancelled, but the company did dance in Leningrad where they watched a Bolshoi Ballet performance of Don Quixote. The following day,Rudolph Nureyev apparently invited the dancers to lunch where he quizzed them regarding the United States. A year later Nureyev defected at Orly Airport.

De Mari’s credits in musical theatre included productions of Brigadoon, Oklahoma, Kiss Me Kate,Paint Your Wagon,Call Me Madam, Wonderful Town, Peter Pan, Damned Yankees, Camelot. He served as dance director for three productions of Hello Dolly when the featured performers were Carol Channing, Eve Arden, Ginger Rogers and Dorothy Lamour. De Mari was particularly responsible for coaching Lamour in Las Vegas when she alternated performances with Ginger Rogers. When Lamour was ready to tour with the production, de Mari was responsible for auditioning and hiring the singers and dancers for
Lamour’s production and also lead to a long friendship.

During his career de Mari worked with Gower Champion, Jack Cole, Hanya Holm, Gemze de Lappe, and his associates included Brian Ahern, Jane Powell, Alice Faye, Phil Silvers, Howard Keel.

My first and only direct contact with de Mari was during the initial inspection of facilities in preparation for the 2000 Ballets Russes Celebration, which formed the cornerstone for the Geller-Goldfine documentary Ballets Russes; The production debuted at Sundance Film Festival and wasnominated for an award. The New York Times considered it one of the best documentaries that year.

Terry provided the information clearing center for the Ballets Russes alumni; the site preparation and arrangements were in the hands of Olga Guardia de Smoak, president of the New Orleans International Ballet Conference. The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities partially subsidized the conference.

Terry de Mari was perhaps five feet six inches, physically fit as one would expect, and completely present during the preparations and the celebration itself. He and his colleagues produced two monographs of dancers’ memories, Reminiscences I and II, for Ballet Russes dancers and lovers.

Terry continued to provide me with information, particularly the winnowing of Ballet Russes dancers, names which joined the In Memoriam list at the annual Isadora Duncan Dance Award Ceremony in San Francisco.

Thinking of Terry, I realize his level-headed approach was singulaar. Capable of great emotion and excitement, Terry also conveyed his personal understanding and importance as a link, the information locus to whom everyone turned, a role he never shirked and admirably filled. Not only will I miss his unflagging source of news, but very much the knowledge of his awareness of that important task, keeping people in touch.

Blessings on your soul, Terry. I shall miss our contacts, but value the style with which you served dance with such competence.

2014 USAIBC Results, June 27, 2014

20 Aug

These comments will see the website not quire two months following the announcement of winners for the 2014 USAIBC Competition. In thirty-five years technology has devastated “scoops”, Facebook and YouTube almost decreeing “sayonara” to ritual and decorum.

The IBC Staff, Jurors, finalists, seeded dancers, coaches, press, family, friends and IBC volunteers gathered on the Mezzanine to learn the results of 8 sessions of Round I, 3 sessions each of Rounds II and III. Vicki Blake Harper, a six- competition press and public relations veteran, had managed to print the three page announcement to supply the press with the data.

The third page was nearly full listing scholarships and positions with junior companies of U.S. companies before the perfunctory notice of the Gala, and statements by Edward Villella, Jury Chair, and Sue Lobrano, Executive Director.

Ashley Wheater, Artistic Director of The Joffrey Ballet offered full scholarships for 2015 Summer Intensive to Blake Kessler, Matthew Griffin; from the People’s Republic of China Taiyu He and Yue Shi plus Gustavo Carvalho from Brasil. Griffin, He, Shi and Carvalho are also designated to continue into the Joffrey Studio Company.

The Joffrey also offered positions in the Joffrey Company for the 2015-2016 season to the Koreans Dae Han Na and Jeong Hansol. The two Koreans are still students, Dae Han Na of Korea National University of Art, Jeong Hansol of Sejong University.

Trainee and company contracts, 2014-2015, have been offered by Ballet West to semi-finalist Anita Sineral-Scott, U.S.A; Makenzie Richter, U.S.A. with Houston Ballet’s Second Company; Texas Ballet Theater to semi-finalist Paula Alves, Brazil; Memphis Ballet offered Matthew Griffin, U.S. a trainee position for 2014-2015.

Matthew Griffin also garnered a full tuition scholarship for Colorado Ballet’s 2015 Summer intensive and a one-season contract with Columbia City Ballet.

Gisele Bethea, U.S.A., has been offered a full scholarship and stipend for the fall 2014 and a Studio Company position, Spring 2015 with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre.

Finally, Olga Marchenkova and Ilya Artamonov, Bolshoi Ballet dancers from Russia, are invited to dance leading roles in South Mississippi Ballet’s 2014-2015 production of The Sleeping Beauty.

In all, these opportunities count as much as the following awards:
Robert Joffrey Award of Merit: Daniel Alejandro McCormick-Quintero, representing Mexico, but a student at San Francisco Ballet School,$1,000.

Jury Award of Encouragement, Female: Romina Contreras from Chile, $500.

Jury Award of Encouragement, Male: Yue Shi, People’s Republic of China, $500.

The Choreographic Award went to Nicholas Blanc for Rendez-vous, danced by finalist Aaron Smyth, Australia. Both Blanc and Smyth are affiliated with the Joffrey Ballet, Blanc a former principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet, then ballet master with the Royal Scottish Ballet before assuming the same position with the Joffrey Ballet. The Award brings with it $2,500.00

For the Best Couple Awards, the Junior went to Yasmin Lomondo and Gustavo Carvalho of Brazil; scarcely surprising since they were the sole couple participating throughout in the junior division, courteous and attentive as well as exact and musical. Both receive $1,000 each. The Senior Best Couple were
from Korea, Ji-Seok Ha and Ga-yeon Jung.

Announcement of Medals start with the Bronzes. The Jury is permitted to award two Bronzes and two Silvers for either men or women and this occurred amongst the Junior Women’s Bronze, the Men’s Bronze, the Women’s Senior Silver. The list went as follows:

Junior Women Bronze: Yasmin Lomondo, Brazil and Paulina Guraieb Abella, Mexico, each $1,500.

Junior Men’s Bronze, Gustavo Carvalho, Brazil, $1,000.

Junior Women’s Silver, MacKenzie Richter, U.S.A., $3,000.

Junior Women’s Gold, Gisela Bethea, U.S.A., $5,000.

In the Senior Division, the Awards lined up as follows:

Senior Women Bronze: Ga-Yeong Jung, Korea, $3,000

Senior Men’s Bronze: Aaron Smyth, Australia and Ivan Duarte, Brazil, each $3,000.

Senior Women’s Silver: Irina Sapozhnikova, Russia, and Tamako Miyazaki, Japan, each $5,000.

Senior Men’s Silver: Byul Yun, Korea, $5,000.

Senior Women’s Gold: Shiori Kase, Japan, $8,000

Senior Men’s Gold: Jeong Hansol, Korea, $8,000.

Missing from this roster were some dancers I liked enormously but who apparently took too much liberty in their classical variations. Jurors, enjoying coaching lineages stretching back almost to the time the classical repertoire was being established at the Maryinsky and Bolshoi Theatres in St. Petersburg and Moscow, or managed to acquire similar guidelines through migrating teachers or lengthy observation, pick up on such deviations. Generalized performances may permit such liberties; competitions do not and should not. As a result, one or two riveting dancers remained in the finalist category and the anguish was apparent
on their faces as the press conference terminated.

Adding my own opinion, there were several dancers already dancing with ensembles or companies. Beyond the requirements in classical variations, the professional rigors gave those competitors an edge in sheer performing skills; in the instance of the senior women it definitely showed. One or two other dancers revealed growing pains amongst the jurors manifesting such physical adjustments in degrees of reticence.

At the Gala, the medalists achieving gold status will dance twice, one classical variation and their contemporary selection.

Smuin Ballet’s Spring Bouquet May 17

30 May

It took a while to register why Helen Pickett’s Petal took so long to be introduced to Bay Area audiences by Smuin Ballet.  As the seventeen person ensemble closed its season at Yerba Buena’s Lam Research Theatre I remembered a comment about Yuri Possokhov’s Cinderella to the effect that the Bolshoi had exclusive rights to the production for five years.  I suspect the same reasoning may have applied to Petal, premiered by the Aspen Ballet in 2007.

It was worth the wait, an eight-person sleek sunny-toned work between Smuin’s Chanson’s d’Auvergne and Jazzin’ by Darrell Grand Moultrie, with handsome lemon-lime tights for the women with the men bare-chested dancing within lemon yellow to orange orange walls, athletic when on pointe or in grand jetes. Set to the deliberate repetitiveness of Philip Glass with additions by Thomas Montgomery Newman, it reminds one again how balletic abstraction and Glass work well together, clean sculptural work en pointe as evidence.

Rounding out the program with yet another texture was Moultrie’s Jazzin’ with its wonderful collection of jazz songs, creating an ambiance of textures – from gentle, slightly romantic French folk song tradition, to contemporary music and finishing with the immediacy of jazz singing: excellent programming.

There were one or two gutsy sets of lyrics for which Moultrie created amusing skits, allowing for chuckles, that comparative rarity with serious dance ensembles. “Spring in My Step” featured blonde Erica Felsch whose bottoms up postures in black were a little disconcerting but delivered with a nonchalance saving the dance from vulgarity. Jane Rehm danced “Takin’ No Mess” dealing with furniture in a second hand store replete with double entendre again freed froom burlesque, but such fun.  Joshua Reynolds’ “So Low” testified to the benefit Smuin Ballet has derived from his addition to the dancers’ list.

If this program is indicative Smuin Ballet is well on its way to new and rewarding adventures.

A Co-Produced Wheeldon Work for San Francisco Ballet’s 2013 Season

16 Feb

Het National Ballet of the Netherlands and San Francisco Ballet have co-commissioned Christopher Wheeldon to create a reinterpretation of Serge Prtokoviev’s Cinderella with sets and costumes by the Britist designer  Julian Crouch.  San Francisco Ballet’s announcement was dated February 15, 2012.

The work will premiere with Het National Ballet at The Amsterdam Music Theatre December 13, 2012;  the U.S. premiere is scheduled for some time in San Francisco Ballet’s 2013 repertory season.

The press release indicates that Cinderella in this version is more than a victim; she plants a hazel branch on her mother’s grave which grows into a magic tree, collaborating with four spirits to grant Cinderella’s wishes.  The prince is planned to play a larger role.

The press release also mentions use of cinematographic approach.

For those S.F. Ballet admirers of Yuri Possokhov, it places his version of Prokoviev’s Cinderella for the Bolshoi Ballet way far back on the burner, along with the creation of  Alexei Ratmansky.