Tag Archives: Haruo Niyama

San Francisco Ballet School’s 2015 Student Showcase

27 Jun

The May 28 program for the annual San Francisco Ballet School recital at the Yerba Buena Center’s Lam Research Theater listed sixteen faculty members and eight pianists. Four of the faculty were guests, current or former principals with the company. The wonderful Brian Fisher was listed for Contemporary Dance, with Leonid Shagalov for Character Dance.

The parents and assorted relatives attached to the dancers behaved like parents in any audience where offspring are involved and contact with other parents is fairly frequent. It’s one of the closest things to neighborhood that San Francisco can muster, perhaps outside of The Ethnic Dance Festival or other studio recitals. All anything extra is needed are trestle tables and pot luck contributions and country America would be shining clear.

Using a medley of Alexander Glasunov’s melodies, Parrish Maynard devised a handsome display of the students from level 2 to level 8. Not quite a defile or a full one-act ballet, it none the less felt and looked like something grand, while at the same time remaining the very personal pull of seeing earnest young faces, mostly smiling, presenting the tradition moulding their bodies and minds into exponents of Louis XIV’s ecole de danse. It was the best such presentation of the school’s students in my memory.

Capping this display before intermission was James Sofranko’s sprightly, musically adept interpretation of a Mozart Symphony. Sofranko, a SFB soloist and a graduate of the Julliard School of Music, provided unerring touches of colloquial movement to augment a thorough exposition of classical technique with formations and movement patterns underlying the benefits of his Julliard schooling. I could watch back to back a dozen times and still find delight.

Senior student Benjamin Freemantle’s work Bare to music by Laure Romano Bare followed Intermission, danced by two couples and six corps. The women wore long flowing garments with generous swaps of color, evoking attempts at tie dye. Handsome dancers, swirling skirts and frequent entrances and exits, but mood or emotion failed to visit this early choreographic effort.

Patrick Armand staged Vasily Vainonen’s Flames of Paris pas de deux, danced to Boris Asafyev’s music. The dancing pair were Chisako Oga and Haruo Niyama, both small, energetic, engaging and technically highly proficient. It’s my understanding the Niyama is yet to see sweet sixteen, but brimming over with the chops to deliver this Soviet era evocation of the French Revolution.

Having seen photos of Vakhtang Chabukiani in the role as well as seeing its comparatively recent popularity at the Jackson Competitions following Joseph Phillip’s successful rendition, It’s hard to discern a knowledge of the work’s back story and unlikely the dance world will make Simon Schama’s book on the Revolution required reading. This is not to denigrate May 20’s highly competent rendition, but to mention a need for the dance world to investigate any historical roots of what is portrayed, particularly in this country with its short history.

Tina Le Blanc staged Helgi Tomasson’s Bartok Divertimento for Natasha Sheehan with Francisco Sebastao, Blake Kessler and Daniel Domenach.

Kenneth MacMillan’s Soiree Musicale to Benjamin Britten’s music, created to honor Dame Ninette de Valois’ 90th birthday, received its American premiere with S.F. Ballet School’s students. With two principals, a male pas de quatre, two sets of six couples and a dozen corps members, it was a major undertaking on a relatively small stage. It would be good to see it staged at the Opera House or even Stern Grove where sight lines are less overwhelmed and the dancers enjoy a modicum of space; the stage at Lam Research Theater is too small.

As in all other numbers Soiree Musicale was a noble effort, competently performed and emblematic of the strides shown by the current crop of teachers and students at the school. The confidence and nascent wisps of elegance one hopes to see deepen each following spring, with the fervent desire that there will be enough ensembles to absorb the evident talent.

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Jazz Session with San Francisco Ballet Students

18 Jun

Wendy Van Dyck, who coordinates San Francisco Ballet’s advanced students performing group, cast an inquiring eye at the arrival of the San Francisco Jazz Center edifice on Franklin and Fell Streets and her inquiry bore remarkable fruit. With the aid of the program director at the Center, Erin Putnam, eleven advanced San Francisco Ballet students collaborated with six 2014-2015 SF Jazz High School all-Stars Comb, S.F. Jazz Center’s students led by Dann Zinn, in a combined improvisation and structured event at the Jazz Center’s Theatre, coming together on April 21

The Center’s amphitheatre seating exposed the eleven dancers, five young women, six young men relentlessly but did not deter their improvisations. Restrictions were based on the space itself or the line of fellow dancers awaiting their turn.

Such a handsome, well honed set of bodies, joy to watch! The height and shape of both genders were models of what steady study, diet and discipline can provide the adolescent. One of my favorite parts of classicism in the human body, the arms, clearly reflected the definition of the upper arm without which strapless or sleeveless garments for women look frumpy,and and many possessors oblivious to the contours exposed in a full-length mirror.

As expected, there was much space devouring and aerial competence by the dancers; a few chose some floor work, but it was clear ballet discipline emphasizes reach, stretch and musical acuity. With Dana Genshaft as choreographer, it was apparent that the weightedness of modern dance has yet to balance ballet’s emphasis on lightness and position precision, for modern dance has a closer and visceral kinship with jazz.

I am in no position to evaluate the six musicians’ ability, but their support of the dancers was solid and included Paul Desmond’s Take Five and a number by Oscar Levant, Blame It on My Youth. It should be noted that the young musicians’ dedication included commuting from the mid-Peninsula outside of school hours.

The musicians listed were: Akili Bradley, trumpet; Matt Richards, alto; Eric Nakanishi, tenor; Matt Wong, piano; Kanoa Mendenhall, Bass; Benjamin Ring, drums.

I think either Patrick Armand, the Associate Director of the San Francisco Ballet School, or Wendy Van Dyck, mentioned that the students’ native countries numbered nine. They were: Hadriel Diniz; Daniel Domenech; Blake Kessler; Anastasia Kubanda; Shene Lazarus; Daniel McCormick; Haruo Niyama; Davide Occhipinti; Chisako Oga; Francisco Sebastiao; Natasha Sheehan.

A brief Q and A followed the hour-long program.