Tag Archives: Petyr I. Tchaikovsky

Ballet San Jose’s Gala November 3

11 Nov

For the first time, Ballet San Jose opened its season with a Gala, featuring a company premiere, war horse pas de deux, some excerpts and a full short ballet culled from American Ballet Theatre’s repertoire.  It also resurrected the use of a full orchestra, led by George Daugherty,  missing in the spring season, its first without its founding artistic director Dennis Nahat.  The program was the joint selection of  Artistic Advisor Wes Chapman and Ballet Master Raymond Rodriguez.

A Gala is designed to whip up interest for the later season, displaying the company roster to  advantage after a fund-minded dinner and before a congratulatory post-performance event. Entering the Frank Lloyd Wright auditorium, characterized everywhere without a center aisle, the front orchestra rows, some eight or so, were vacant, clearly meant for the audience paying $1000 for the privilege, $800 of which was to support a Ballet San Jose community-related activity.

Seated center orchestra, mid-way up, I found myself behind a massive head of white hair; after switching for the final work, a tall head inclined to move to the music, hazards of the no aisle seating arrangement.  The program itself featured an obviously staged photo by Quinn Wharton, dominated by a brunette in a short strapless dress, one knee up on a black backed chair.Its purpose seemed to convey patroness in front of the dancers, two men and a dancer in tutu in broad fourth position, one man on the left stripped to the waist, apparently warming up using scenery for his  barre and the street clothed male to the right, leaping while holding on to a stick.

However, The Nutcracker’s Waltz of the Flowers opened the program featuring eight couples, the women’s knee-length costumes in shades of peach and with paniers, the men sporting green tights with grey vests, flowers and their stems.  This was the first view of Karen Gabay’s take on the holiday staple which will be premiered fully in December.  While the Waltz lacked the focus of a central couple, Gabay’s use of symmetry, varying groups of four to eight and several grand circles, both as couples and men versus women, proved easy on the eyes and agreeable to the mood.  Rita Felciano remarked, “After all, the waltz has always been a couple dance.”

Sir Frederick Ashton’s creation to Jules Massenet’s “Meditation from Thais,” followed with its quasi-oriental garment design by Sir Anthony Dowell,  original male partner to Dame Antoinette Sibley’s Thais.  Subsequent performers have had a hard time matching their supple classicism or conveying that the courtesan Thais is a projection of the Monk’s imagination.  It’s a hard business being very physical, a priest, in his imagination lusting for  the courtesan while pretending she should lead a celibate life in the desert.

This tricky pas de deux, staged by Bruce Sansom, former Royal Ballet principal, was interpreted by Rudy Candia and Alexsandra Meijer with Rachel Lee as violinist.  Meijer’s elegant legs,  displayed to advantage,  were given support by Candia, but ease was missing, Meijer  more austere than evanescent.

From late nineteenth century romanticism Edward Stierle’s athletic, heavily emotional solo from the Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Requiem was an explosive contrast.  Created by Stierle as he was dying from AIDS, Lacrymosa challenged Joshua Seibel to start and end with shoulder stands, legs stretched towards the ceiling.  In between, turns, tumbles and other gymnastic skills were required.  I had seen Brooklyn Mack dance it to recorded music at the Jackson Competition in 2010 in tribute to Stierle, but here both sides of the stage apron were filled with The Golden Gate Boys Choir Master Singers dressed in white middies with red ties and skirts who supported soprano Kristin Clayton.  It’s great to employ the community but the contrast jarred.

To see Nutnaree Pipit-Suksun make her Ballet San Jose debut dancing to Bach in Stanton Welch’s ballet Clear was sheer pleasure. With  Jeremy Kovitch, the two echoed the adagio in this work highly influenced by 9/11.  Pipit-Suksun’s musical line, thorough has an unforced finish.  Her emotional presence within the strict demands of this Western classical form flows beyond its boundaries.  In this elegiac pas de deux Pipit-Suksun delivered quiet consolation; later she was pert ensemble  accent  in  Stars and Stripes.  I’m glad  she is still dancing  to Bay Area audiences.

Junna Ige and Maykel Solas danced in white for the Act III pas de deux from Don Quixote. Had they been backed by a set, the costumes would have been fine; as stand alone bravura it needs more flash in the attire.  They are a nicely matched, charming  pair.  In well-schooled Japanese style,  Ige eschews  accent to her finishes. Demure,  a little emphasis is in order, along with consistency in the working foot in fouettes; they tended to become flaccid after the initial thrust.  Solas was, as always, consistent.

Dalia Rawson arranged a complicated mixture of the Ballet San Jose students to Tchaikovsky’s polonaise finale,  a visual announcement of enrollment and instruction,  the new school direction and training based on the American Ballet Theatre curriculum. There was definitely a lot to be seen from tots to teenagers, beginners to apprentice-worthy adolescents.  She used lines, circles, entrances and exits to accomplish the presentation. The audience just loved it, cheering as it did through most of the evening.

Balanchine’s Fifth Campaign from Stars and Stripes brought the full company on stage, if giving Ramon Moreno, Maria Jacobs-Yu and Karen Gabay cameo appearances.  Usually an evening’s ending work, it still was infectious.

The late Clark Tippet’s Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 provided the evening’s finale, allowing four couples solo variations with eight couples as support  Tippet attempted to differentiate the various themes, a little puckish and flirtation by Mirai Noda and Ramon Moreno, sparkle by Junna Ige and Maykel Solas.  Strong assertion by Amy Marie Briones and Maximo Califano demonstrated that Briones’ attack and flair is definite stimulus to Califano.  Alexsandra Meijer and Jeremy Kovitch were paired for the adagio. Meijer’s admirable line got blocked somewhere in  shoulder and head, individual interpretation at  odds with Rachel Lee’s violin passage.

For a first Gala, Ballet San Jose displayed competence;  it remains committed to pleasing an audience.  One awaits Karen Gabay’s Nutcracker and  2013 to assess  its new trajectory.

The Maryinsky at Zellerbach, October 11, 14

22 Oct

While extremely fortunate to witness two performances of The Maryinsky Ballet’s Swan Lake at U.C.’s Zellerbach Hall October 11 and 14, I was underwhelmed save for the caliber of the orchestra. Led by Mikhail Agrest , who lived in the United States during his formative years  and has traveled back to Russia and elsewhere for further study and performance, the musicians gave the Tchaikovsky score full flavor and depth.  There were  particularly affecting solos by harpist Bezhena Chornak, Lyudmila Chaikovskaya on violin and Alexander Ponomarev with his cello.  All three soloists realized fully  the tender, plaintive qualities of the Tchaikovsky score that supports the dancers.

The St. Petersburg-based company provided the audience with Konstantin Sergeyev’s revisions to the original choreography by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov.  Translated, that meant some effective tableaux, one particularly striking when the curtain rose on Act IV  where  the swans were gathered by the lake, the setting now illumined by dawn as it was dimmed by late night in Act II.  The crisp white tutus, the carefully recumbent swans and their placement were picture perfect in this act Sergeyev revised to convey a happy ending.

Tall men, costumed in brown and white, negotiated the Zellerbach stage with grace in Act I, considering the constraints of space.  There was the usual drinking, and the women were in off pink, wearing square head dresses.  A jester was omnipresent, displaying  endless  pirouettes, saut de chats and circling tours.  Danced by Ilya Petrov October 11, compact, dynamic, he seemed entirely independent.  Dancing in the October 14 matinee Alexander Romanchikov was tall, elegant, quite the flirt. Both were costumed with white tights, a jester’s cap of black with gold touches. a tunic of black with strips of cloth hanging from the waist ornamented with gold braid.  There was no program identification for the pas de trois.

Soslan Kulaev was the tutor for both performances, tall, black clad, a well positioned other worldly nerd.  Elena Bazhenova provided us with the Princess Regent, an interesting variation on the name of Siegfried’s mother.  Comporting herself with dignity, she also displayed a touch of a knowledgeable model displaying rare fur belts.

October 11 Vladimir Schklyarov danced Siegfried, mid-height, composed if slightly tense, but capable of several soaring jetes.  As with quite a few of the Russians there was a tendency to hit an arabesque hard, a little overstretched and to reach for height in a jete, rather than to aim for a smooth arc.  The problem may have lain in adapting to stage size. For the October 14 matinee Maxim Zyushin was cast as Siegfried, dancing very correctly, but never achieving any chemistry with Anastasia Kolegova, his Odette/Odile.  Schklyarov’s Odette/Odile was Oksana Skoryk, whose wily Odile struck fire.

When it came to Act II, the lighting was excessively dark.  Andrey Solovyov and Alexander Romanchikov were enveloped in murk as much as they were menacing October 11 and 14 respectively.  Romanchikov was the taller of the two, both  handsome and elegant. As with the men, the solo swans seemed to reach too hard in jetes or achieving arabesques.

The noted pas de deux and Odette’s solo variation were robbed of the mime to explain Odette’s situation. While the pas de deux remained familiar, some  detail in the variation like the passes into arabesques were almost totally missing.  The movement of the corps also amazed me;  the gestures had become more ecole port de bras than suggesting preening. Odette’s working foot never came near passe opening into attitude in her variation. The result ,  sculpturally handsome,  did not win over my penchant for old school detail.

Drama finally got its due in Act III where the ruling seats were placed upstage center, flanked by a backdrop of  dusky brown, tapestry-like courtiers moving out in either direction.  It also affected the  formality; just one ensemble bowed to the throne occupants in both performances. There were overhanging boxes stage left and right housing part of the royal retinue flourishing trumpets at appropriate musical phrases, making Von  Rothbart and Odile’s entrance  visibly even more exciting.

Drama first arrived when six young women came tripping in, wearing identical vapid pastels, from upper stage left, forming a diagonal line, stopping with left toe pointed and hands daintily crossed. (Given the extreme climate, pinks and light blues must bear trembling  spring significance  for Russians.) Whereupon the Princess Regent arose, moving down stage left, pausing to flip her right hand to indicate the young ones before pointing to the wedding ring finger and gesturing to Siegfried to take his pick.  While familiar with dynastic necessity, you couldn’t blame the young man for jerking noticeably at the sudden command. Schklyarov October 11 was nearly knocked off base; Zyushin at the October 14 matinee seemed merely to ponder the problem.

When the malevolent duo made their appearance, Skoryk’s Odile held  my attention; the ensuing pas de deux was exciting.  Schklyarov overshot himself a little in his variation, but the two built the necessary excitement.  Zyushin and Kolegova never managed chemistry together or in their variations, although the audience went wild at the 28 fouettesr by both women.

The happiest costumes in the production were those of the Spanish quartet, white merging into brown, brown merging into white for the women, mostly brown for one man, mostly white for another.  The skirts moved with style and one could admire both design and construction.  The variation itself featured many backbends by Anastasia Petrushkova and Yulia Stepanova, and
floor bound  petit allegro for Kamil Yangurasov and Karen Ionessian.

Act IV  I saw only at the matinee; October 11 the F bus schedule necessitated leaving at the end of Act III. The opening tableau and corps assignment was entirely winning; I felt I was finally registering the vaunted Maryinsky reputation, which impressed me in 2008.  While still not reconciled to the happy ending, the struggle was suitably theatrical as Von Rothbart lost one wing, though Zyushin seemed to follow stage patterns instead as Siegfried struggling for his beloved.

Both audiences was enthusiastic.   I cannot be accused of being blase,  but I did have expectations of the Maryinsky Ballet; aside from that glorious orchestra, these were not fulfilled.  Believe me, I ardently wanted to float out to AC Transit’s F bus for San Francisco.