Tag Archives: Claude Debussy

Cowell Theatre Reopens with Mark Foehringer Dance Project

17 Sep

September 13 Cowell Theatre reopened after a face lift for Fort Mason’s Herbst
Pavillion. Walking in the usual door to Cowell, unalloyed space opens up before the eyes and a new smooth grey surface greets the visitor between that entry and a white wall which protrudes out into the Pavillion. It looks as though temporary barriers will be erected for events, but on September 13 there was nobody else but us dance devotees. Absent were the wonderful posters of past Cowell events which adorned the now demolished wall between the Pavillion floor and the Cowell entrance. Nothing has changed that long walk to the Theatre’s entrance.

Dances Sacred and Profane spells Debussy, that most evanescent of composers and Foehringer decided to collaborate with visual artists Camille Utterback and Phill Tew to create a work for five dancers, three men and two women. Debussy was augmented one piece each by Gabriel Faure and Maurice Ravel. It was a brave try, provocative at moments, visually arresting in graphics of dots, bursts of green sticks and vague, dissolving human figures, but alas, not engaging the attention all the time. Brett Bowman and Dana Hemenway contributed videographics; there was questionable sound augmentation by Dr. Michael St. Clair. Additional credits in the program listed Frederic G. Boulay for production design and direction, costume design by Connie Strayer and Jamielyn Duggan and dance room Spectroscopy by Dr. David Glowacki. All seemed to line up on stage at the end, and I am certain there was exhilaration felt by every last one.

The women were dressed in flowing nude-hued draperies, ditto the color of the men’s tights and at one point in similarly colored loose trousers. At no time was Michael Oesch’s lighting full force, remaining shadowy throughout, partly to display the visual designs on the three screens behind the dancers, partly enforcing not only the dreamy nature of Debussy’s compositions but supplying a tenderness to the two striking male pas de deux as well as almost the genderless ensembles.

A number of years ago when Dance Spectrum was one of San Francisco’s alternate ballet ensembles, Carlos Carvajal choreographed Shapes of Evening to the same music, using the circle, and flowering-like imagery to create a balletic interpretation, moving around, from and returning to a circle of four or five couples. Lighting then also was subdued, though slightly golden, the dancers being clearly recognizable. I found myself contrasting that balletic distinctness of movement to the less fullness of gesture, the continual dissolving of an ensemble or pas de deux on Cowell’s stage.

Earlier Foehringer had choreographed a Debussy-based pas de deux for Heather Cooper and Brian Fisher danced at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music which I found most effective in an exposed environment, perhaps the genesis of this recent work.

The dancers were Raphael Boumaila, Sonja Dale, Jamielyn Duggan, Brian Fisher, Cooper Neely.


2014 USAIBC Round III Session III, June 26, 2014

15 Aug

This final session opened with Aaron Bell who had been featured prominently in the ballet documentary “First Position.” He chose two divergent classical variations, the flashy one last,the men’s variation from Sleeping </em>Beauty as a beginning and the Slave’s variation from Le Corsaire as his second. At present, his attack is more suited to the Prince Desire role, clean, correct, somewhat self-effacing. A thoughtful, intelligent dancer, his excellence also conveyed a neutral quality. This also was conveyed in Vista, Steve Rooks’ setting to Steve Reich’s “Music for 18 Musicians.” A long time observer remarked she thought Bell needed to attend classes with other students. I have no way of knowing if that situation pertained, but the observer was thoughtful and caring.

He was followed by Jinsol Eum dancing the same variation, slender, equally correct with touches of distinct elegance, an impression cemented with Solor’s variation from La Bayadere’s Kingdom of the Shades.

Partnered by Michal Slawomir Wosniak, Gisele Bethea essayed Sleeping Beauty’s Act III pas de deux with amazing felicity. I had no trouble believing she was a princess on the occasion of something momentous. Her port de bras and gestures over her low petite battements looked like the results of a coaching session with Margot Fonteyn, their progressive rise winning me over.

Romina Contreras with Sebastian Vinet selected Victor Gsovsky’s Grand Pas de Deux,,looking authoritative in the opening. Unfortunately, Contreras lost balance visibly initially in her variation, though she finished with aplomb. Her general demeanor led one veteran competition observer to comment, “Not this time, but in five years she’ll be a ballerina.” Vinet, a former member of San Francisco Ballet, cuts a handsome figure, but something happens in his torso distorting line and phrasing, though partnering Contreras with skill and empathy.

Seniors Jeong Hansol and Kota Fujishima danced as if they had telegraphed across the Straits of Korea; both danced the male variation from the Nutcracker’s grand pas de deux and Acteon’s variation from Esmeralda’s Diana and Acteon pas de deux by Agrippina Vaganova.

Three senior pas de deux followed with one non-competing partner. Byul Yun with non-competing partner Heewon Cho elected the Diana and Acteon pas de deux as did as did Tamako Miyszaki with non-competing partner Ariel Breitman. In between Melissa Gelfin elected Le Corsaire with non-competing partner Telmo Moreira. Clearly, fireworks were preferred for the senior pas de deux.

The contemporary third of Session III possessed a share of surprises. Jinsol Eum danced Juhyun Jo’s take on Pink Martini’s “But Now I’m Back”; black shirt, trousers and jacket topped by a black Fedora adjusted from time to time for emphasis, while Eum’s lean, flexible body angled, lunged and jumped with considerable panache.

Gisele Bethea’s selection, Imagine, left me with a vague impression of excellent execution, but exactly what was being evoked?

Two unusual choices of classical music for a competition were reflected by Romina Contreras and Sebastian Vinet who danced to Jaime Pinto’s essay to a Claude Debussy Sonate 1. The second was non-competing partner Telmo Moreira’s use of Frederick Chopin’s Lady of the Camellias Black pas de deux for finalist Melissa Gelfin, the former was as quiet and lyrical as Moreira’s setting was turbulent.

In between Jeong Hansol’s interpretation of Jong Ni Lee’s Napoli March of Thomas Beckman was titled Forgot Something. Terribly obvious, what was missing were Hansol’s trousers with the music providing the background for maneuvering and exposing the social and visual embarrassment for the spectacled forgetful male, accented by bright red shorts. The audience responded with chuckles, laughter, guffaws and much applause.

Ending the competition, Tamako Miyazaki with Ariel Breitman performed Tamas Krizsa’s Last Days to Max Richter’s music of the same name, an apocalyptic interpretation to music sounding much the same, enhanced by the lighting plot. One could only surmise that such feelings might be felt momentarily at the press conference the following morning.

Another Jacques D’Amboise Appearance

21 Jan

Channel 32.5 screened another of the 1955 glimpses of a young Jacques D’Amboise. Again the hue was sepia, images fuzzy, foreshortened with camera’s limited capacities Again, the footage credits were Canadian.

It was thrilling because it was Jerome Robbins’ Afternoon of a Faun to that evocative music by Claude Debussy with the girl/woman being Tanaquil Le Clerq. The camera made her legs look heavy, so that her spiky thin quality was almost totally lost. But not her dancing and the thrill of having a record of one of her signature roles, created by Robbins with Le Clerq in mind.

1955 was achingly close to Le Clerq’s falling prey to polio in Copenhagen, making
the footage poignant, the record precious.

Eifman’s Perspective on Rodin at Zellerbach Hall, May 12

22 May

Without question, Boris Eifman’s company elicits great praise for its dancing and similar controversy about its choreography.  Nothing, however, keeps the transplanted Russian speaking public from attending his ballets in droves; they were out in force for the May 12 matinee when I went to see Eifman’s interpretation of Auguste Rodin’s tumultuous love affair with Camille Claudel.

What one can expect from an Eifman ballet are slender dancers with jaw-dropping flexibility, striking sets, many with metal structures which get incorporated into the action because the dancers climb, crawl or drape themselves along one of another of the bars while the taped music blares one of several climatic moments.

For the matinee the cast included Oleg Gabyshev as Rodin,  Lyubov Andreyeva as Camille and Nina Zmievets as Rose Beuret, Rodin’s long-suffering companion, and mother of his son, whom Rodin married at the end of his life.  Not only are the soloists less than mid-thirties in age, but the matinee’s three principals were trained outside the main stream of Russian classical academies.  Gabyshev hails from Novosibirsk, Andreyeva from Minsk, Belarus and Zmievets from Kiev, Ukraine.  Two others featured on Saturday graduated from the Vaganova Academy, two hailed from Perm.

Eifman very cleverly utilized a series of French composers for his dramatic exposition, most  pieces with which American audiences likely were familiar: Maurice Ravel; Camille Saint-Saens; Jules Massenet; Claude Debussy; Erik Satie, cutting and pasting where score and dramatic action seemed to jibe.

Eifman seems to be at his best at moments crystalizing action, the last visual image before a blackout. Also effective with repetitive movements, he shows Rose’s providing Rodin with his food – the economic serving gesture, the slump of Rodin, his quick dispensing of the meal, mind distracted.  Zmievets’ use of her torso snaking forward, profile to the audience, her sharp nose, dark hair and supple reach of her body from neck through to her hips was a sculpture in itself.

Several instances occur when the metal structures frame images indelibly associated with Rodin, most notably when the corps members assume the famous, if never realized Gates of  Hell. (The crowning three figures of which were inspiration for Yuri Possokhov’s Francesca da Rimini.)Also, the movement of bodies which assumed the positions of The Burghers of Calais, a copy known to many visitors to San Francisco’s Palace of the Legion of Honor.  Yet another device was Rodin moving dancers’ limbs before throwing a canvas over the figures displaying yet another famous statue such as The Lovers.

One expects Eifman to depict the triangle in extreme fashion and he doesn’t disappoint.  I found my stomach churning even when observing and feeling skeptical about the feverish extremes of Claudel.  In that category I would place Eifman’s assignments for the inmates of the mental institution.  Granted time and culture divergence, having worked in an inpatient psychiatric setting, the costuming and circle arrangement for the women inmates rang false, if perhaps quite necessary for Eifman’s concept of the tangled love and sculptural collaboration. He depicts only Camille’s destruction of her work, nothing of what remained, and, of  course, her subordination to Rodin’s endeavors.  Eifman may have felt it would soften the stark contrasts which are such a hall mark of his choreography.  In his choices, Eifman eliminated Rodin’s contacts with the dancing greats of the day: Isadora Duncan; Anna Pavlova; Vaslav Nijinsky.

Obviously, I have not reprised the story line, but for those interested Wikipedia provides outlines of both artists.  It also might be noted that little, if anything, was made of Camille’s brother, Paul, the French diplomat and poet, who was responsible for placing his sister into an asylum, or of the asylum staff who made repeated efforts to see her released, actions unsupported by her family. That is the final part of the horror story.