Tag Archives: Jose Manuel Carreno

Silicon Valley Ballet Has Problems

8 Mar

Teri McCollum, whose Odette’s Ordeal manages to “scoop” news in the best
Hedda Hopper fashion, has reported an indefinite layoff of dancers and administrative staff at Silicon Valley Ballet. Announcements in the San Jose Mercury or San Francisco Chronicle are yet to appear. Apparently the Silicon Valley Ballet School continues at the spacious studio on First Street in San Jose.

McCollum spoke with Millicent Powers who has headed both the Board of
Directors and assumed the executive directorship last year; she was informed that a search for funding to complete the 2016 season was not forthcoming from the Santa Clara Valley art patrons. Clearly, the renaming of the company is a model in wishful thinking.

The angst felt by the dancers started in 2012 when Dennis Nahat’s contract with the company was terminated following The Nutcracker season. Nahat,
who brought the nucleus of the company with him when the joint-city arrangement with Cleveland was terminated, stated the company’s coffers held a million dollars at the time of his departure. It also had a history of interesting productions ranging from Donald McKayle and Martha Graham revivals [Rainbow Round My Shoulder, Appalachian Spring] to David Lichine’s Graduation Ball, the Bouronville Toreador, along with Swan Lake, Giselle and his own production of The Nutcracker, Lew Christensen’s Il Distratto and Michael Smuin’s Tempest.

Wes Chapman was brought in as an interim artistic advisor, and the company
direction began to align itself with productions first seen with American Ballet Theatre. The school also became infused with the certificate program started by ABT. After two such seasons, it was announced that Jose Manuel Carreno was contracted for three years as artistic director.  Carreno was able to call upon his ABT colleagues for an interesting Gala in 2014, but funding remained slim and, after a tardy salary settlement for both orchestra and conductor, performances were danced to recorded music.

In 2015, there was a flurry of fund-raising towards the retirement of a 3.5 million dollar debt; enough funds were raised to complete the season. Following the Nutcracker season, sixteen dancers toured Spain under the auspices of a Spanish impresario, according to Teri McCollum, the same program presented to San Jose audiences in February.

While company was in Spain, Karen Gabay, Artistic Associate and 36-year veteran and sometime principal dancer with the company, was abruptly terminated, with the statement Gabay had resigned. Following the February performances, the administrative staff was also abruptly laid off;  the management was dickering with the union to permit a three week lay-off for the dancers while fund raising was being pursued.

Based on McCollum’s report, the fund raising was not successful; dancers and administrative staff now are confronted with seeking employment elsewhere. Those of us who have enjoyed the company’s performances; in particular, some of the dancers, pray for ready alternate options for each and every one dancers, administrators and artistic directors.

Interesting and ironic is that both Nahat and Carreno were members of American Ballet Theatre, over two decades apart. Nahat was also active with the USA IBC in Jackson, Mississippi in 1990 when Carreno won the Prix de Jackson medal.

Advertisements

Silicon Valley Ballet’s Production of Giselle

19 Oct

It was a case of something old and something new for this 1841 Romantic Era tale of love, class, love betrayed and love transcendent October 16-18. And, yes, it was the U.S. first, Alicia Alonso’s take of the classic Giselle thanks to Jose Manuel Carreno’s dream to bring it to the United States It was however, something, if not old, borrowed, since the sets and costumes utilized were first seen when this San Jose-based ensemble was directed by Dennis Nahat, a fact overlooked in the pre-performance promotion. Scenic credits go to Gianni Queranata for the excessive floral scenery scenery, perhaps late summer abundance; Act I costumes to Paul Plesh and Act II costumes to David Guthrie with David K. H. Elliott as the lighting designer. Who knows the credit for the recorded music.

While the company possesses three ballerinas undertaking the coveted role of the delicate peasant girl, it has also acquired a principal male dancer in Brett Bauer, one-time member of San Francisco Ballet, principal with the Oregon Ballet Theatre under Christopher Stowell. My main objection to his performance was his hair was too crew cut for Albrecht and his costume in Act II hit at an ungainly length on his hips. I attribute such concerns to the late Russell Hartley; his eye for costume and decor was such that he said, “I get so disturbed by some costumes, I can’t see the ballet.”

Saturday night Ommi Pipit-Suksun made her debut as Giselle, as Junna Ige did in the afternoon. Pipit-Suksun’s face and body lines make for an ideal Giselle; she added inherent diffident movements I consider Asian, endearing, moving through her postures naturally. Her eyes possessed the unblinking attention of a bird, fluttering; ultimately when she realized the betrayal, caged, deprived of the incandescent joy experienced dancing with Loys, Albrecht in disguise. It was wistful, tender, sanity bending inexorably against the facts of fate and class.

Instead of game, Hilarion, hesitancy sensitively portrayed by Akira Takahashi, wanted to give Giselle a white floral bouquet; there were the villagers arriving as he is about to place the blossoms in a receptacle. His approach to Giselle was more physical before the sparring between Hilarion and Loys [Albrecht], upstage until aware of Hilarion’s physical importuning. The tangle of wills provoked Giselle’s anxiety and her sinking to the bench, an Alonso motive seen in Alonso’s Giselle segments on Channel 32.5, a singular contribution Alonso included in her production.

Later, when there was the second attack, her friends rush to provide a chair, and Loys’ concern is more than passing. One could see Pipit-Suksun upstage, gathering her strength as she joined the circling villagers. Avoiding some of the technical challenges, [the toe hopping on the diagonal and dancing before the Courland party because of hyper-extended muscles], Pipit-Suksunl, along with her exquisite presence, conveyed a technically strong portrait of the fated adolescent.

Berthe was ably portrayed by Karen Gabay; not so many years ago, she was a memorable Giselle. The mime scene was expanded, with a Wili appearing in the background. Berthe, corralled a villager physically to demonstrate the ugly fate of woman unfulfilled and male caught at midnight in the forest. Here Alonso has been not only specific, but the background  Wili  is visible only to the audience. I wonder at the connection between Cuban folk rites and interpretation of the ballet’s libretto.

Act II enjoyed spreading rays of light from center stage, moon hovering slightly orange in the background, stage necessities triumphing over scenery. As Myrthe, Jing Zhang’s port de bras, with the other Wilis, demonstrated they were not quite alive, along with steady arabesques moving horizontally across the stage. Skillfully dancing as Moyna and Zelma Amy Marie Briones and Cindy Huang emphasized this semi-worldliness. The clear box sounds of the toe shoes in Zhang’s rendition showed little sign of special Marley flooring, or a sprung floor underneath, the San Jose Performing Arts Center might consider as a good investment.

Pipit-Suksun was elegant, a fluid sprite, tenderly supported by Bauer. One particular touch I enjoyed was the use of simple blossoms in the initial encounter which Albrecht picked from Giselle’s raised arms. No great tossings, it reminded me of Igor Youskevitch’s feats when dancing with Alonso several decades ago, and seemed a fitting tribute.

As Aimee T’sao noted in her San Jose Mercury review, the pity is the production is unlikely to be reproduced soon, giving the dancers the opportunity to grow in their roles, as well as the possibility of hearing an orchestra in the pit once more.

Given only six of the corps de ballet were hired by Dennis Nahat, with thirteen corps dancers arriving during the interregnum and under the direction of Jose Manuel Carreno, it’s difficult to assert how changed the former Ballet San Jose has become. The uncertainty prior to Carreno’s arrival was palpable, along with the deficit non-existent under the Nahat aegis. Given all the adjustments, the new SVB has made a major stride in this production of Giselle. But there still is must yet to be done fiscally and artistically. This production speaks to future possibilities.

Act I Giselle Excerpt

31 Aug

The local TV broadcast station, 32.5, continues to supply the viewer with some intriguing short ballets, many of which are not performed and therefore quite unknown here in the U.S. Over the weekend I saw a dancer by the name of Kiyoko Kimura in a pas de deux by Uwe Scholz to Mozart music. Didn’t really register the name of her partner because the work was a remarkable study of a woman’s reaction to being bereft of the man she loves. While not totally clear her solitude was the result of a breakup, the responses, timed exquisitely to the music, were so on target; Kimura’s interpretation was exceptional.

Jiri Kylian’s Petit Mort has been seen several times, and more recently, his pas de quatre for two couples to Le Cathedral Engloutie, the women in long dresses fashioned like the robes made notable by Martha Graham.

But back to the subject of this posting, Giselle. The station has been showing an excerpt from the first act of Giselle, as danced by Alicia Alonso with the Ballet Nacional de Cuba on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of her debut in the role. If my calculations are correct, that would make Alonso 57. The men were Antonio Gades as Albrecht and Jorge Esquivel as Hilarion.

It is this version which Jose Manuel Carreno is bringing to Ballet San Jose in October, and it will be fascinating to see whether the production retains the mime detail as well as how at home the dancer in the title role will be.  Oops, it’s now Ballet Silicon Valley!

At 57, Alonso possessed a matronly body and displayed port de bras correct but minus the nuance of young muscles. Her jetes were still high but with an older body, one saw, visibly, the effort.

It was the mime, however, that captivated; Hilarion kissing her hands in the initial confrontation, and Giselle pulling them away from his grasp. Earlier Albrecht had picked a second daisy which he calculated as coming out a resounding “yes.” But the clincher in the detail was to find Giselle on the bench at the conclusion of the Hilarion-Albrecht confrontation, leaning to one side, right hand on her heart, clearly upset over the situation, underscoring the fragility of her heart, providing the viewer with the essence of the role.

Misty’s Promotion

4 Jul

July 1 the PBS Newshour carried the news of Misty Copeland’s promotion to principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre. I read with some emotion of Lauren Anderson and Raven Wilkinson’s bearing flowers following Copeland’s first Swan Lake with American Ballet Theatre, well documented by Alastair MacAulay in the NY Times and Marina Harss on DanceTabs.com.

It’s a well-earned bravo on all accounts. Copeland had appeared at Ballet San Jose’s Gala the first season Jose Manuel Carreno commenced his directorship, dancing  so effectively and with such panache in a dance from Twyla Tharp’s Sinatra Suite. She had the IT factor for me.

At perhaps the third USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Lauren Anderson came as one of the contestants, a protege of Ben Stevenson who really knows a thing or two about dancers. Unaccountably, she was limited after Round One, though, as I remember, she wound up with as encouragement award.

In 2000 Raven Wilkinson came as a participant in the Ballets Russes Celebration, organized in New Orleans by the the New Orleans International Ballet Conference, where her history with the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo was duly recorded by Geller/Goldfine Productions for their remarkable documentary “Ballets Russes”.

Missing amongst the roster of flower-bearing ballerinas, however, was Virginia Johnson, a founding member of Dance Theatre of Harlem, who I remember as unforgettable in DTH”s production of their Creole Giselle. I guess the difference is the fact that Johnson, though sans question a principal, she was a principal with an African-American company, and the aim in the recitation was an African American “making it” in a “white” company. Such a pity.

Ballet San Jose and Technology

1 Apr

Ballet San Jose presented Bodies of Technology March 27-29 at San Jose’s California Theatre, an 1100 seat theater which looked almost full at the Sunday matinee. It made me wonder whether the company might seriously consider changing its venue. The sound and look of a full house is better than a half-filled larger location.

Bodies of Technology also served to make an additional contribution to the reputations of Bay Area choreographer Amy Seiwert, This Might Be True, and former San Francisco Ballet principal and City Ballet teacher, Yuri Zhukov, User’s Manual. The third choreographer, Jessica Lang, Eighty One, has had at least one other work presented by Ballet San Jose, originally produced by American Ballet Theatre.

Before the curtain rose on Seiwart’s work with its beautiful, mostly blue, visual design by Freder Weiss, Artistic Director Jose Manuel Carreno, Board Chairman
Millicent Powers and Chief Executive Officer Alain Hineline came out to thank the audience for the support given to raise over $550,000 by March 15 as part of the company’s stabilization efforts.

While the immediate following statements are hors de categorie of performance, the website Charity Navigator gave the company a rating of 68% for the year ending June 2012, lacking availability of information on loans and Form 990, as well as posting a fiscal deficit of $1,130,870 within a year following the forced departure of artistic director Dennis Nahat. Nahat stated the company was in the black when he departed. Available on the Web, such information leads one to wonder why the deadline and why the funding was needed.

Additionally, Hineline announced the projected company’s name change to Silicon Valley Ballet, with the logo displayed on the curtain; small copies were handed out to audience members when they departed the theater.

Throughout the program with its heavy emphasis on ensemble, music was of the minimal variety; melody is out, folks. Seiwart’s musical choices by Nits Frahm and Anne Muller provided ten silver unitard-dressed dancers and the choreographer with a background for geometric patterns of entry, exits and formations on stage, enhanced by Freder Weiss’s visual echoes of the dancers movements. One of the most lovely was like folded ribbon cascading as dancers lifted their partners on entering, the lifting with the supported partner’s leg in a la seconde into arabesque. At the end, however, the visual patterns departed from movement echoes, becoming snowflakes, perhaps spring blossoms. This Might Be True is well worth seeing a second time.

Jessica Lang’s Eighty One, premiered by the company in an earlier season, again had the composer Jakub Ciupinski performing his commissioned score on an elevated platform upstage left, stage light emphasizing his presence like an
all-seeing shaman, the other lighting slanting diagonally as if from dusty skylights from which pointed shoes or an arm were revealed at the beginning.

In the murky light, dancers pirouetted, partnered, lent their backs to the floor if I remember correctly, and in their grey to black toned costumes cohered admirably to semi-robotic commands, light replacing the smoke of the Tharp work seen in the previous trio of ballets.

Yuri Zhukov is the most esoteric and traditional of the three choreographers. When he was producing Zhukov Dance Theatre in San Francisco [with support from Millicent Powers and Cindy Adams], his work was imaginative and spare, focused on contemporary life from an unusual angle. User’s Manual continues in that vein, but with marked differences for the dancers: their faces were whitened and all sported red wigs, the women’s possessing bangs. Usually employed for translations or plot summaries, an overhead prompter first displayed multiple images of stones wrapped with strands of perhaps rope, then later multiple images of a carrot-haired young woman grimacing, several non-human images with vocal English sounds and a few phrases of Japanese.

The commissioned score was performed by The Living Earth Show, electric guitarist Travis Andrews and percussionist Andy Meyerson, a duo with a xylophone producing two notes through most of the ballet, the guitarist whose contribution sounded repetitive. The printed credits stated that the collaboration “thrives on pushing the boundaries of technical and artistic possibility in its presentation of commissioned electro-acoustic chamber music.” From what I heard, I did not hear what could be called acoustic.

User’s Manuel provided the audience with a pas de deux featuring Kendall Teague and Ommi Pipit-Suksun, an intricate passage displaying Pipit-Suksun’s finesse and finished line to advantage and affirming Teague’s capacities as a partner.

The company coheres wonderfully as an ensemble, each dancer attacking the individual assignment vigorously, dancing at full tilt.

I guess I display my age when I am not particularly moved by one note electronic music with hints of outer space. One hopes a) that the company’s performance zeal is rewarded with continued opportunities and b) there will be more melody, not just by Prokofiev May 8-10, but with a live orchestra.

Ballet San Jose’s Master Pieces, February 20

28 Feb

Using recorded music of Petyr Illich Tchaikovsky, Leonard Bernstein and Philip Glass, Ballet San Jose presented the 1947 Balanchine work Theme and Variations; Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free, premiered in 1944, and Twyla Tharp’s In The Upper Room, choreographed in 1986.

Theme and Variations featured Junna Ige and Maykel Solas in the roles Balanchine created for Alicia Alonso and Igor Youskevitch then dancing with Ballet Theatre before that company acquired the additional label American. The two dimunitive dancers danced with great accuracy, Ige a bit subdued, but sweet, and Solas meeting the demands of those killer turns with equanimity. With the mental images of the creators in my mind, the gentleness was that much more striking, and I dare say the lack of an orchestra created a certain abruptness in the corps de ballet. One also needs to remember that Ballet Theatre at the time wasn’t all that swift classically; the roles given to the supporting males demonstrate that state of ballet’s development in the U.S.

The local production was rendered tidily, everyone dutifully in the right place at the right time. The fire implied by the surges in the music never seemed to translate the dancers’ bodies; I attribute that to the lack of a live orchestra. I saw Alonso and Youskevitch in the roles at the Los Angeles Biltmore Theatre, and watched Yoko Ichino flirt with her partner, along with several other exponents, the daisy chain movements and the male double rond de jambes as well as the sur la place double tours were familiar. Ige and Solas were on time and in command of the required technique, but I think they too would have been more fired up with musicians in the pit.

Then there was Fancy Free with its wonderful World War II subject matter, the music, costumes. For my money Ommi Pipit-Suksun, with her wonderfully articulate body, liquid movement and sensual qualities well dusted with delicacy, displayed the ambiance Janet Reed brought to
the role. Seconded by Grace-Anne Powers, the dame with the red handbag and the jaunty yellow skirt trimmed in black, was saucy without Muriel Bentley’s bite. Emma Francis appeared in a yellow wig as the girl at the curtain who sends the fellows scooting off stage, heftier than Shirley Eckl.

Rudy Candia, Joshua Seibel and Walter Garcia were the three sailors and James Kobecky the bar tender. Candia, in Jerome Robbins’ original role, was far milder in his innuendo than the creator, but truer to the overall spirit. Joshua Seibel came close to the sweet testosterone of John Kriza who danced the role throughout his career with Ballet Theatre. Walter Garcia assumed Harold Lang’s original brash sailor, also made memorable by Michael Smuin. Brooke Byrne
remarked that Dennis Nahat would have been able to heighten their impact, for all the fact that Jose Manuel Carreno danced one of those three on twenty-four hours’ leave.

Twyla Tharp chose Philip Glass’ music of the same title for her 1986 commission for American Ballet Theatre, In the Upper Room, creating a smoke-like atmosphere and demanding an unremitting attack from the dancers; they rose to the challenge with gusto, garnering an enthusiastic, standing response of the evening from the audience for the vigor and zest they brought to their assignment. The costumes looked as if they had been designed for minimal detention quarters with most of the dancers in sport shoes with a couple of women in red pointe shoes.

I do not exactly agree with CEO Alan Hineline’s statement that the company dances world-class, especially minus an orchestra. It does provide a roster of interesting works. Les not forget the repertoire under Dennis Nahat was equally varied, including works both modern and classical.

Toba Singer’s Biography on Fernando Alonso

22 Feb

At Ballet San Jose’s February 20 performance, Toba Singer mentioned she will be speaking on Fernando Alonso with Jose Manuel Carreno, current artistic director of Ballet San Jose, on April 28 at the San Francisco Public Library’s Main Building, Larkin at Grove. Toba said Carreno plans to bring some of the Ballet San Jose dancers.

Unfortunately, if my memory is accurate, Library policy does not permit the selling of books, so the presentation will be strictly Carreno’s memories of Alonso and Singer’s observations. I rather think that’s quite good enough!