Tag Archives: Courtney Elizabeth

San Francisco Ballet’s Program VII, April 12

14 Apr

The San Francisco Opera House wasn’t quite  full for the opening of San Francisco Ballet’s all-Balanchine program, next to last for the spring 2012 season. Part can be attributed to several days of rain and the reported 750 flashes of lightning hitting the San Francisco Bay Area.  It also might also be attributed to the choice of Mr. B.’s invention, “Divertimento #15,” “Scotch Symphony,” and “Four Temperaments,” none new to the company’s repertoire.

Divertimento No. 15 was last seen at Stern Grove where casting included Lorena Feijoo, Nicolas Blanc and Tina Le Blanc, pleasant and civilized in that sylvan setting.  Despite W.A. Mozart’s music, it seemed to drag.  Part of the problem was the “after Karinska” costumes.  Trying to evoke that era’s elaborate panniers in women’s costumes, tiny blue bows appeared twice on the chest,  the tutu  itself approximating elaborate lace and embellishments.  The women’s heads sported an off center  circles of brilliants equally at home with Chanel or Vionnet.

To that very intricate, delicate music, Balanchine managed to keep the eye engaged with visual shifts in small ensembles. The five women shared the three men, Taras Domitro and Hansuke Yamamoto, in sequence or in combination, along with  Gennadi Nedvigin, the latter briefly a center piece of a trio with two women. In one duet Vanessa Zahorian gestured, then moved quickly aside so Nedvigin’s sautes could be seen; the two had shared  prizes in the 1999 Erik Bruhn competition.

Frances Chung and Sasha De Sola also danced with distinction.

Like Divertimento and Four Temperaments, Felix Mendelsohn’s Scotch Symphony is no stranger to SFB’s repertoire;  I disremember who danced it.  But I saw it danced at New York City’s Civic Center when the three principal roles were created by Maria Tallchief, Andre Eglevsky with Patricia Wilde as the stand alone third.  Not a stellar creation, Balanchine  created it to compliment the Scots when the company appeared at the Edinburgh Festival.

Tallchief’s interpretation was marked by a certain astringency; both physical heft and weight were featured in the Eglevsky and Wilde assignments.  Equally swift, Yuan Yuan Tan danced with nuance; her softness more than compensated for Tallchief’s qualities. It is an excellent role for her and Tan made the most of it, thanks to her astonishing line and lightness.

Karapetyan did well by the slight drama of the Sylph’s  barred  by the kilted men and in partnering, but he did not seem comfortable; his costume lacked the dash the kilted corps men enjoyed. Courtney Elizabeth’s rendering was crisp and engaging, if Wilde’s amplitude was absent.  It reminded me, however, just how innovative Balanchine was in his use of solo female bravura.

Hindemith’s The Four Temperaments has seen some worthy interpreters amongst San Francisco Ballet dancers. In  the Theme section with three couples, Nutnaree Piput-Suksun and Anthony Spaulding added to the memory bank, their gravity, and phrasing soothing and full.  Taras Domitro, debuting in Melancholic, seemed too slight for the downward pull of that mood.  When Sarah Van Patten and Tiit Helimets danced the Sanguinic variation, one felt his physical size would have lent itself to Domitro’s assignment.

Vito Mazzeo, new to the Phlegmatic, was another improbable piece of casting.  Technically correct, his slender height seemed an impossible vehicle for such retarded  behavior.

Sofiane Sylve, spot on,  energized the stage in Choleric, leading the ensemble into those final thrusts of the arms, forward movements with the thrusting hips. The ballet has long since been denuded of the Seligmann costumes in favor of practice clothes, helping to energize the program’s finale.

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John Cranko’s Onegin Mounted for San Francisco Ballet January 27

9 Feb

Malfunctioning U-Verse connections to my computer delayed posting these comments.

With  Santo Loquasto set and costumes borrowed from The National Ballet of Canada, San Francisco Ballet staged their elegant reading of John Cranko’s Onegin January 27 in a cast giving remarkable readings for the first of their  two scheduled  performances.  Vitor Luiz, cast as Onegin and Gennadi Nedvigin, Lensky, paired with Maria Kochekova as Tatiana and Clara Blanco as Olga.  Pascal Molat filled the blander role of Gremin with his usual warmth.

Other scheduled casts were: Davit Karapetyan and Vanessa Zahorian as Onegin and Tatiana with Taras Domitro and Dana Genshaft  Lensky and Olga, Quinn Wharton as Gremin. Sarah Van Patten and Pierre-Francois Vilanoba as  principals are flanked by Isaac Hernandez and Courtney Elizabeth as Lensky and Olga, Tiit Helimets as Gremin.  Yuan Yuan Tan as Tatiana was partnered by Ruben Martin Cintas as Onegin, Jaime Garcia Castilla as Lensky, Dores Andre, Olga, with Damian Smith as Gremin.

Casting gave major roles to Clara Blanco and Dores Andre as well as for Courtney Elizabeth, Dana Genshaft and Quinn Wharton. Blanco and Andre were promoted to soloist status following their debuts as Olga.

The production displayed a beautiful, classic columned  porch on the diagonal from upstage right, hinting at a comfortably grand country home; later it was Tatiana’s bedroom with an anteroom, then  an elegant palace in Act III’s  ballroom and the private room of  Tatiana, with the telling touch of a hobby horse downstage right, symbol of  her domestic existence. In Act II, the girls wore gauzy grey fluffy dresses contrasting to the townspeople wearing modified versions of  Regency dress with  bonnets;  Act III displays filmy  pastel elegance de rigeur for St. Petersburg. My one hesitation in believability was in the birches, Act II is Lensky’s and Onegin’s duel, despite pleadings by Tatiana and Olga.  A whiff of snowflakes falls where Tatiana’s birthday party was outdoors.

The five principals were matched in size, the timbre of their performances well- pitched from Kochetkova’s awkwardly romantic Tatiana to Luiz’  tensile precision, while Nedvigin as Lensky with Blanco as Olga displayed the image of warmth and assured young love with their remarkably correct, fluid style, breathtaking to watch. Molat as Gremin presented an assured, diplomatic, an ultimately family man.

Cranko’s assignments of  pas de deux fascinated – Act I, Scene I belonging to Lensky and Olga, Scene II with Tatiana’s letter  visualized through Onegin’s miror emergence.  Act II given to conflict; after the distasteful rejection of Tatiana’s letter,  Onegin’s provocation of Lensky ups the tension;  Scene II , filled with Lensky’s soliloquy, before the pas de trois with Olga and Tatiana prior to the senseless duel.

Luiz gave Onegin’s Act III demeanor bravado consistent with the character’s restlessness; his response seeing Tatiana was in the best coup de foudre style, clear contrast to the domestic  pas de deux between Tatiana and Gremin. Kochetkova made the Onegin  struggle  genuine by  drawing Gremin back from departing, seeking strength for her encounter,  passionate,  but never warm.

I saw the second performance of Van Patten-Vilanoba with Hernandez and Elizabeth and Helimets as Gremin. Van Patten and Vilanoba have partnered elsewhere; both share a believable stillness. Van Patten is naturally engaged whether in reading or in tending older folk at the party, hesitant but not awkward.  Her affection with Helimets as Gremin was warm, comfortable, making the struggle with Onegin monumental.

Vilanoba’s smiles and disdain  were  quiet, calm, thorough,  icy in impact where Vitor’s Onegin  smoldered intensity. Hernandez’ Lensky was the warm young romantic, broken in pieces. Elizabeth’s Olga’s was brittle and shallow.

San Francisco Ballet usually gives a new work two seasons; this holding true, the audience can enjoy the reprise of John Cranko’s dramatic, elegantly potent ballet in 2013.

San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker December 9

12 Dec

With San Francisco Ballet’s  handsome setting,Nutcracker time brings San Francisco audiences a nostalgia trip to the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exhibition  A cast familiar with their roles made the company’s  Nutcracker opening  warm and comfortable, almost as familial as those occupying the scarlet seats.

There was Val Caniparoli, jumping with elan at appropriate moments displaying the gusto of  Her Drosselmeyer with a hand flourish here, there, with eyes steady on the mark. Ricardo Bustamonte and Pascale LeRoy as the Stahlbaum parents were socially savvy and practiced while the grandparents Jorge Esquivel and Anita Paciotti reminded us old age still harbors youthful urges plus more than a smidgeon of elan.

For dancing dolls the Jack-in-the-Box requires a extremely limber male and soloist Garen Scribner fulfilled the role’s profile with supple back bends and final split. Clara Blanco has danced the beruffled pink doll almost since joining the company; stiffness of arm, rigid torso bend, cocked foot, awkward head movement with stock rigid kisses were honed to perfection. Daniel Baker’s Nutcracker was blessed with a strong, springy jump; his jab with the flimsy sword delighted the boys at the party.

The fight scene, with the sideboard magnified to allow the toy cannon and horses to emerge, seemed particularly lively, the mice pugilistic, muscle-demonstrating. Daniel Deivison as The Mouse King was particularly grandiose, gesturing to his troops, making slit throat gestures to The Nutcracker.  Nicole Finken’s Clara guided the mousetrap towards the monarch’s leg, enabling The Nutcracker to rise from the floor, delivering the fatal thrust.  The ruler’s final moments were a paean worthy of any melodrama before he frissoned into the orchestra pit.

The snow scene was nearly a blizzard before Vanessa Zahorian danced her final finger turns supported by Davit Karapetyan, both delivering stylish performances. The corps assignment, dance in a winter’s setting, possessed none of the swoop and swirl Lew Christensen gave the scene, nature reflected in dance.

From behind the mask and tunic Gennadi Nedvigin emerged with classic simplicity, total turnout, effortless elevation and unaffected courtesy. Following intermission his account of the battle was testimony to his Bolshoi training, flowing, easily comprehended, given full measure.  You wanted to get up and cheer; in Frances Chung’s Sugar Plum Fairy he enjoyed authoritative listening.
The flowers for the waltz as well as the insects gathered to hear the story, one of the few moments where the evocation of the Conservatory of Flowers looked occupied.  Despite moving the sleigh/grandstand seating to various positions, the stage image was bare, almost uninviting, although Anatole Vilzak’s Russian variation momentarily filled the void, led by an exuberant Pascal Molat with Daniel Baker and Benjamin Stewart.

Also invigorating were the men in the Spanish variation led by Isaac Hernandez with Diego Cruz and Francisco Mungamba with the posturing Dana Genshaft and Courtney Elizabeth flipping skirt hems and fans in elegant style..

Maria Kochetkova emerged from the kiosk as the transformed Clara, diffident, wide-eyed over her sudden change in size, costume and body contour.  She made  the pas de deux with Nedvigin an exploration, acknowledging him as a guide and protector, yet an authoritative interpretation, serene and sure. Their mutual  Bolshoi schooling was an added bond, making a consistent  presentation, a grand, unaffected simplicity, aware of themselves in space, a rare, satisfying spectacle.