Tag Archives: Jaime Garcia Castilla

San Francisco Ballet’s Gala, January 19, 2012

21 Jan

Helgi Tomasson  knows how to assemble a Gala, mixing charm, bravura, substance, sweetness and, where necessary, pathos and high jinks.

Despite the rain after two months of mild sunlit days, the atmosphere in San Francisco’s Opera House was warm .  Chair of the Board of Trustees , John  Osterweis made the usual  opening remarks, mentioning  the Gala was dedicated to F. Warren Hellman’s memory.  He “went off script” to say  Chris and Warren Hellman had recruited him to the Board  twenty-five years ago and that San Francisco Ballet would not be the company today without  Hellman’s involvement.

The ten item program included six pas de deux, two male numbers, one solo, and the finale ensemble. To commence both halves of the program, Tomasson  featured the company’s strong contingent of men,  opening with Yuri Possokhov’s ensemble from Sergei Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony with Jaime Garcia Castilla, Diego Cruz, Isaac Hernandez, Steven Morse, Benjamin and Matthew Stewart. Separated from the women, the glimpse showed several striking devices;  initially silhouetted, the men  bounded across the stage like young stags, singly, successively and simultaneously and pirouettes executed with arms en haut.

The second half opened with Hans Van Manen’s Solo, a trio of male dancers last seen  when  Peter Brandenhoff, Stephen Legate and  Yuri Possokhov shared their farewell to SFB.  This trio included  Gennadi Nedvigin, Garen Scribner and Hansuke Yamamoto, in reverse order. Van Manen makes the three  prance, jump, wiggle and gesture with increasing complexity to J.S. Bach’s Violin Suite No. 1 in D Minor. Yamamoto was fleet, a bit laconic, Scribner contained , and Nedvigin covered territory like a comic in a Moiseyev  suite.

With Sarah Van Patten, Tiit Helimets, Pascal Molat danced in the scruffy red and blue death figure costume from David Bintley’s The Dance House. Van Patten and Helimets sculpted their roles to the Shostakovich music.

Damian Smith in red tights and white mask danced Val Caniparoli’s Aria, music by Handel.  Smith,  gesturing masterfully in commedia del arte tradition.

Three pas de deux followed ;  Vanessa Zahorian and Davit Karapetyan with Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky’s pas de deux; Sofiane Sylve and Vito Mazzeo in Christopher Wheeldon’s Continuum, topped off by the Flames of Paris pas de deux with Frances Chung and Taras Domitro.

The Zahorian-Karapetyan rendition of roles created by Violette Verdy and Conrad Ludlow in 1960 differed by size and cultural nuance.  Zahorian’s longer limbs stretched the phrasing from Verdy’s accents, but the choreography was served admirably and Karapetyan partnered his new wife solicitously.  Sylve moved around Mazzeo like a vine expanding tendrils, beginning and finishing with each meeting the other with touching  palms, executed with spare deliberation.  It fell to Domitro  to dance the role created by Chabukiani in Flames of Paris; Domitro added his insouciant habit of pointed foot rising in his grand jetes.  Frances Chung polished her soubrette assignment with crisp pirouettes and traveling  multiple fouettes.

The evening’s greatest charm arrived with Sir Frederick Ashton’s Voices of Spring, Maria Kochetkova spewing rose petals, held aloft by Joan Boada, an ineffable nosegay to  Johann Strauss II’s  melody.  Ashton was a remarkable poet in his ability to depict the essence of a culture, a theme or music.

Yuan Yuan Tan was partnered by Hamburg Ballet’s Alexander Riabko in Lady of the Camellias, John Neumeier’s overwrought rendition to Chopin’s Ballade. The choice of music was overly long and required excessive repetition, calling attention to the repetition and not to the love story. Close to home, Val Caniparoli has created a similar pas de deux seen with Diablo Ballet, much  tighter and closer to the story.

The Gala finished with an excerpt from Christopher Wheeldon’s Number Nine, created for the company in 2011, a work  British spit and polish in its wing-like formations. Four pairs of soloists and eight pairs of supporting corps de ballet exhibited  women with bent knee and arabesque held aloft. In executing similar striking formations, the stage was a bit too busy for all out admiration.

Involving nearly half the company for the finale is a typical Helgi Tomasson  completion for  this consistently interesting Gala..


A First at Stern Grove, San Francisco

3 Aug

San Francisco Ballet danced at Stern Grove July 31, and the weather, though grey and overcast,  didn’t pull its usual pakiput off and on. New corps members, apprentices and San Francisco Ballet School trainees  led off the program with two ballets, Andante Sostemuto, choreographed by J. Francisco Martinez and Timepiece by Myles Thatcher, a member of San Francisco Ballet’s corps de ballet.

Andante Sostenuto, set to Franz Schubert’s Piano Sonata No. 21, displayed
Elizabeth Powell, Lacey Escobar and Shion Yuasa’s capacity for length of leg and sustained developpes and arabesques.  Supported by Francisco Mungamba, Trygve Campston and Henry Sidford, the choreographer went overboard in his zeal to display the women supported with their crotches displayed front and center,  buns being carried in fetal positions or jack-knifed postures held aloft. Andante and legato tempi can be better used.

A wholly different mood greeted the audience with Myles Thatcher’s  Timepiece. Switching from full skirts to revealing tunics and tights with syncopated rhythms and jazzy accents, nine dancers strutted, preened, darting and breaking momentum to Thatcher’s exploration of what spending time can mean. An effective variation was assigned to Francisco Mungamba, a slender, recent corps de ballet member moving with liquid assurance, halting with equal ease.

Following the Intermission Helgi Tomasson’s 7 for Eight to the strain of Johan Sebastian Bach featured William McGraw at the piano and harpsichord. Maria Kotchetkova, and Ruben Martin Cintas filled the first movement;  her elegant attack  seemed to ask, ‘Do you love me?”  Vanessa Zahorian and Gennadi Nedvigin sparked the 2nd movement, two classicists who each enjoyed one of the early Erik Bruhn citations in Canada. Dores Andre, Elizabeth Miner, Joan Boada wove the third movement followed by a brilliant pairing of Jaime Garcia Castilla and Gennadi Nedvigin.  Joan Boada postured through the fifth movement with the harpsichord encouraging Boada’s accents. Kochetkova and Martin Cintas returned for the sixth movement, affirming their initial appearance, before all eight dancers polished off the seventh momvement.

The program concluded with one of George Balanchine’s eternal sparklers, Georges Bizet’s Symphony in C., Lorena Feijoo with Victor Luiz in the first movement, port de bras en haut, the numerous low jetes together, composed, sensuality lurking around their abundant correctness. Sofiane Sylve with Vito Mazzeo encompassed the second movement.  Sylve could be seen at intermission marking her movements, bundled against the chill, tiara in place; like the other company members swathed in leggings and sweat shirt.  Sylve rarely overstates or prolongs a movement, so that the beauty of her dancing is that elusive element, “Did I really see that?”  And you know you did.  She was partnered by Vito Mazzeo, recently elevated to principal status.

Frances Chung with Isaac Hernandez romped through the third movement, a long-remembered experience when San Francisco Ballet first performed it at the Alcazar Theatre March 12, 1961 with Fiona Fuerstner and Michael Smuin, bursting with energy.  Chung and Hernandez are more polished, but just as ebullient. The finale featured corps de ballet members Nicole Chiapponi with Lonnie Weeks before everyone flooded the stage for the finale.    Martin West, principal conductor, kept the energy and timing consistent.

Tomasson’s programming enjoys high percentages in adroitness and ability to read an audience. To this he has added this special segment of the coming tier of dancers, and what mutual thrill it is likely to be- that is, if the weather in not pakiput as they say in the Philippines.

Should this seem unusually sketchy, I was not perched at the press table, but amidst baseball hats,a ski cap to which a shawl was added in the midst of a series of dazzling pirouettes and the nearly constant movement along a central pathway.  That’s a public performance for you.