Tag Archives: English National Ballet

2014 USAIBC Round III, Session I, June 24, 2014

17 Aug

Row O is the last in the orchestra, now divided by a center aisle at Thalia Mara Auditorium in Jackson where the First Session of Round III commenced last night. Amy Brandt of Pointe Magazine, one-time Milwaukee Ballet member and dancer with Suzanne Farrell’s ensemble, sat beside me, just in from an extra wait at O’Hare in Chicago. On the aisle was Rhee Gold of Dance Studio Life.

Amy’s connection with me was Fiona Fuersner, one time San Francisco Ballet soloist and her brilliant dancing, so well remembered, in the third movement of Balanchine’s Symphony in C and Lew Christensen’s Divertissement d’Auber, again with Michael and the late Virginia Johnson. For Rhee Gold the ties are with Cheryl Osseola, the magazine’s editor, and Rita Felciano, dance critic for The San Francisco Bay Guardian.   The connections make for quick and pleasant.

As readers probably know, Round III requires two classical variations of soloists, and one classical pas de deux for couples in the two sections prior to the contemporary round. It makes for a long evening and a longer night for Claudia Shaw who assembled individual DVD disks for each competitor, in addition to producing a master for the USA IBC administration.

With thirty-one finalists, this session saw five juniors and five seniors; two of the latter in pas de deux. Three of the women elected this form. Blake Kessler,  and Steven Loch, chose the Act III male variation from Sleeping Beauty, with its opening pirouettes ending in a darting, low a la seconde, ending with a swift menage of turns. Kessler’s passé preparations could have been more defined.

Taiyu He chose the male variation from The Nutcracker, tidy, crisp, precise. So Jung Lee of Korea danced the almost cobwebby delicate Princess Aurora variation from Sleeping Beauty with correct and musical style, causing me to measure her taller formality to my indelible memory of Margot Fonteyn.

Mizuho Nagata, with Ogulcan Borova as non-competing partner dashed off the Le Corsaire pas de deux, Nagata choosing a flowing, knee-length blue chiffon garment. If I can embellish the word accurate with acute, Nagata demonstrated it, though her overall attack struck me as a trifle metallic.

Daniel Alejandro McCormick danced his own Nutcracker prince, his greater length providing a softer contrast to Taiyu He, an invariably fascinating diversion for the balletomane. Andile Ndlovu’s choice of the same variation was accomplished with definite nobility.

Steven Loch’s Prince’s costume shimmered with a ruff at the neck – a dashing figure. His tours seemed very rushed at upstage center, but the finish was elegant and stylish.

Shiori Kase of Japan essayed that holiday staple, The Sugar Plum Fairy variation – gracious, elegant and delicate of gesture., as close to spun sugar as a dancer can get.

After the first Intermission, Blake Kessler bared his chest in the male variation from Le Corsaire. His delivery was smooth, but demonstrated little emphasis.

Taiyu He and So Jung Lee split Victor Gvosky’s Grand Pas Classique between them. Both phrased the movements well, dancing clearly and without affectation. Lee delivered the battements en avant with steely calm, sending the audience roaring, but I ached for her toes on that supporting foot! She definitely aced it.

Daniel McCormick also bared his chest but as Acteon in Aggripina Vaganova’s famed Diana and Acteon pas de deux from Esmeralda. His multiple turns were clear, and he executed multiple turns with unforced panache.

In the second pas de deux of the evening, Arianna Martin danced Corsaire with Nayon Rangel Iovino. He approach again made me believe she was channeling Alicia Alonso, though I have seen Alonso in the role. My scribbled notes remark “good fouettes.

Andile Ndlovu chose the male variations from the Nutcracker’s grand pas de deux and the Acteon variation from the Diana and Acteon pas de deux in Esmeralda, phrasing well, quite elegant.

Steven Loch’s second variation was Solor’s from La Bayadere, a choice which reinforced his classical abilities, but gave little hint of his range. This was compensated by his own choreography in the contemporary section, Chained: My Struggle With Mental Illness, a prolonged essay of agony, fear and fight.

Irina Sapozhnikova, elected Le Corsaire, Medora and the Slave, with her non-ompeting partner, Joseph Phillips, where she was slightly crisp, well phrased and during fouettes, spun singles and doubles, executed to the four corners, staying more or less in one place through the challenge.

Shiori Kase’s second variation was also Medora’s variation, marked with a deep blue tutu, the skirt larger than normal, the tunic and skirt surface dusted with brilliants. Again, her musical phrasing was notable.

While I mentioned Loch’s contemporary solo, my memory fastened on Taiyu He’s Cupid, portrayed as quite the trickster, while So Jung Lee’s Prayer as evocative of the human will, persisting in the face of harrowing conditions, hers seeming to evoke the Korean War.

Daniel A. McCormick’s offering was choreographed by Parrish Maynard, one of San Francisco Ballet School’s instructors, and a former company principal. Titled Between The Lines, McCormick held a brick-like grey object which defined space; he held it, placed it on the stage, worked around it; at the end he held it once more.

Arianna Martin’s contemporary followed, choreographed by her non-competing partner Nayon Rangel Iovino, danced to Vivaldi music with the title of Inner Layer.  The choreography was an extended exercise in stretching and twining Martin clothed in what looked like grey practice trousers, and it seemed to occupy every second alotted to a contemporary entry.

Andile Dnlovu’s own choreography, Wandering Thought, certainly displayed versatility and seriousness of purpose. I did feel, like Loch’s essay, an earnest and  great personal investment in the performance, which have been assisted by an outside critical yet empathic eye.

Sapozhikova’s contemporary was titled La Manana de San Juan, choreographed by Pavel Glukhov. The Latin theme was reflected in the brown-patterned costumes, a fair amount of heel-toe and lateral emphasis in the choreography, and, as I remember, a sombrero. The tone was light, its execution clear and modest, as mild as Diego Pisador composed it.

Shiori Kase’s solo ending the evening was Moon Cry to the spare sounds of the bamboo flute, the  shakuhachi, choreographed by her coach Antonio Castilla, also ballet master for English National Ballet. She commenced on her knees in a short purple-hued kimono. Reticence, longing and despair flowed through the spare sound, ending, of course, in the same traditional posture, if in despair. It  was  a surprising delicact, an elegant end to Session I.

N.B.  this somehow never made it from Draft and Preview to Published Status.  My apologies to the competitors and any other individuals mentioned.



Ballet San Jose Announces its 2013-2014 season

24 Aug

Ballet San Jose will start its 2013-2014 season with a November 16 Gala before proceeding to Karen Gabay’s Nutcracker December 13-26. 2014 will see three repertory programs starting February 13 and ending May 11 in this first season with Jose Manuel Carreno as artistic director, Raymond Rodriguez as Associate Artistic Director with George Daugherty as Music Director and Conductor.

Choreographers for the spring season will include Twyla Tharp, Paul Taylor, Ohad Naharin, Vicente Nebrada, Jorge Amarante, Igal Perry, Jorma Elo, and Dwight Rhoden. Their works will represent company premieres.

The Benefit Gala on November 16 reflects Carreno’s drawing power from his years with American Ballet Theatre, and his ability to attract fellow Cubans and
notable Spaniards to spice the occasion, beyond obvious guest contracts. The Gala roster will include from American Ballet Theatre: Julie Kent, Marcelo Gomes, Misty Copeland, Gillian Murphy. From New York City Ballet; Gonzalo Garcia, Joaquin de Luz, Daniel Ulbricht and Megan Fairchild. It is probably Garcia’s first area appearance since leaving San Francisco Ballet for New York City’s namesake company. Boston Ballet will be represented by Lorna Feijoo, Nelson Madrigal, Adiarys Almeida and Joseph Gatti. Topping the list will be Tamara Rojo, one time Royal Ballet principal and now Artistic Director and principal dancer with the English National Ballet. The artists will bring welcome glimpses since their companies have not appeared here recently.

Program I, February 14-16, 2014 will include George Balanchine’s Serenade, credited as 1949, probably in a current form; it was initially created in 1935 soon after Balanchine arrived in the United States. Jorma Elo’s 2006 work, Glo-Stop will be included with Ohad Naharin’s company premiere of his 1999 work, Minus 16. The theme of the program is Neoclassical to Now.

Popular Music, Transcendent Dancing is the title for Program 2, March 21-23.
The five works are company premieres and include Vicente Nebrada, 1975, Nuestros Valses; Argentine-born choreographer Jorge Amarante, 2007, Grapa Tango; Israeli Igal Perry, 2013, Infinity to Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Hammerklavier’s Adagio; Paul Taylor, 1997, Piazzolla Caldera, Astor Piazzola music. Dwight Rhoden, one time Alvin Ailey Company member now most noted as the artistic director of the Complexions ensemble, shares his 2013 Evermore to the music of Nat King Cole.

Two works will complete the third Program May 9-11 titled Masterworks of Movement and Theatre. They are the 1949 Roland Petit Carmen, in the company’s repertoire for some time, and Twyla Tharp’s 1986 ballet for American Ballet Theatre In the Upper Room to the music of Philip Glass.

Ballet San Jose will announce the company member roster in September.

Jose Manuel Carreno will move to San Jose, California

20 Jun

The spring signs have been confirmed with Allan Ulrich’s post in the San Francisco Chronicle  that Jose Manuel Carreno will join Ballet San Jose September 3 as its new artistic director, his contract specifying an initial three years.  Carreno also stated that he would not be dancing but would concentrate his energies  on the company.

When I refer to the spring signs Carreno was at the San Jose Performing Arts Center for Ballet San Jose’s final set of performances and was sighted in the lobby with his usual smile.  Rita Felciano and I wondered at the time if this was a signal regarding a new artistic director.  Surprise, surpise.

Ulrich also mentioned that Raymond Rodriguez has been promoted to associate artistic director.  This may mean that Karen Gabay will be named ballet mistress.

I was lucky enough to have been at Jackson to cover the U.S.A. International Ballet Competition when Carreno won the Prix de Jackson, 1990 if my memory is correct.  German Juror Dietmar Seyffert remarked to me at the time “He has such an erotic body”; that sunny sensuality has pervaded his entire career.  He was immediately offered a contract with the English National Ballet which at that time was directed by former American Ballet Principal Ivan Nagy. It was the first time Cuban dancers appeared at the Competition with such distinction and their beautiful training would continue to impress subsequent competitions and jurors.  Carreno’s partner joined The Cleveland Ballet, invited by artistic director Dennis Nahat who was responsible for the Competition’s practice of wielding the seeded dancers into an ensemble which opened the Awards Gala in a  grand splash.

Unless Ballet San Jose’s practices change, and another Gala ensues in the fall,  the repertoire for the 2013-2014 season will be announced only when the company starts its ticketing for their annual Nutcracker.  A summer effort is being made to resurrect Michel Fokine’s Paganini, and this may figure in the spring season.   Paganini was a work  created for the de Basil Ballets Russes which featured Dmitri Rostov in the title role and Tatiana Riabouchinska as the Divine Spirit, and in its final U.S. tour Tatiana Stepanova.  For the Festival del Sole, Tiit Helimets is slated to take over the violinist’s portrait and Amy Marie Briones as the Divine Spirit.

What is remarkable in this announcement is the consistent referencing of American Ballet Theatre personnel for an institution which was created by an earlier American Ballet Theatre alumni, Dennis Nahat.  Clearly, the tradition of dance theatre was firmly established by Nahat,, and one  which Carreno will likely  carry on.

Tiit Helimets helps Estonia Stage June 28-30 San Francisco Festival

5 Jun

San Francisco Ballet dancers usually get a month’s vacation in June, although some times touring individually, collectively or guest performances can fill in the thirty days.  In 2010, Tiit Helimets took an ensemble of ten dancers to Taillin and Tartu, the two principal cities in Estonia. Helimets’ venture had commenced through contacts made during a guest appearance as Albrecht in Ballet San Jose’s 2010 production of Giselle.

The ensemble included Val Caniparoli whose ballet Ibsen’s House to Anton Dvorak music was included in the program; recording this Eastern Odyssey on video was Quinn Wharton, then an SFB corps member, now with Hubbard Street Dance Theater. The video funding was raised through an appeal on Kickstarter, proposal crafted by Terri McCollum, best known for Odette’s Ordeal; it was nicely over subscribed.  The trip included a manager, a massage therapist with Katita Waldo as ballet mistress.

Eastern Odyssey was initially premiered at the Vogue Theatre, San Francisco.  What has happened to it since I’m not sure. But the success of the venture launched Tiit Helimets’ desire and efforts to bring an Estonian ballet ensemble to San Francisco; the end of June will see that realization.

The Festival will be ticketed for all but the June 30 Yerba Buena Gardens Dance Festival.

For tickets, the link is: http://estonianculturefestival.eventbrite.com/s.

Tickets will include entrance to a June 28 12-3 p.m. stage rehearsal at the Palace of Fine Arts with a Q&A by Tiit Helimets;  he is managing the event.

Friday. June 28.  An expo follows 5:00-7:00 p.m., a performance from 7:00-10:00 p.m. With the Estonian National Ballet and guests.

Saturday, June 29 will be marked by a Song Festival at Calvary Presbyterian Church, Fillmore and Jackson Streets, San Francisco, 2-5 p.m.

The final event at Yerba Buena Gardens 12:30-3 p.m. Sunday, June 30 should be open to the public.

Ticket costs and privileges are explained on the website.

For the Friday performance, Helimets has choreographed Time to music by Paula Matthusen, a music professor in electroacoustic and acoustic music at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. Estonian ballet mistress Marina Kesler has created Othello to the music of Arvo Part.  In between the two works actress Hanna-Liina Vosa and pianist Andrus Nahkur, distinguished Estonian artists, will appear.  Forty young Estonians, 15-25, members of the Estonian Youth Wind Orchestra will open the program.

The Estonian dancers coming number eleven, five of them soloists, six corps de ballet members. One soloist hails from Russia;  Moldova,  Japan and England are represented in the corps.  The full company numbers 56 under the direction of Thomas Edur whose career with his wife, Agnes Oaks, was principally with the English National Ballet, 1990-2009.

Both Edur and Oaks competed in the USA IBC in Jackson in 1990, where they were cited as the best Senior couple. Edur was also awarded a bronze medal.  They were identified as best couple by the  London Critics Circle in 2002; in 2010 both Edur and Oaks were made Commanders of the British Empire [CBE] by Queen Elizabeth II. Edur was named as the best male dancer in  the 2004 Laurence Olivier citation.

I culled the following from the Web. The Estonian National Ballet began in 1914 when two Russians, Nina Smirnova and Robert Rood, appeared at the Estonian National Opera.  A salaried troupe was started in 1918 and gave independent performances 1919-1920. In 1922, Viktoria Kreger of the Moscow Great Theatre staged Coppelia dancing the role. Rahel Olbrei, one of the ensemble, assumed leadership of the ensemble in 1926,  expanding her ballet training with study under Mary Wigman and Rudolf Laban; left in 1944 due to World War II pressures.  Anna Ekstrom, leading the company from 1944-1951, established the Estonian National School in 1946, which teaches Vaganova technique.

Subsequently The Estonian company had three artistic directors prior to Edur. He assumed a  company where dancers sign contracts with the government and once hired, cannot be fired.  The contract is year round;  after twenty years, they are eligible for a pension.  Corps members are utilized in operas and musicals; soloists appear only in ballets and the artists enjoy roughly two months of vacation in the summer.