Tag Archives: Pierre-Francois Vilanoba

Program VIII SF Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet

6 May

May Day, May Day, May Day – San Francisco Ballet opened Helgi Tomasson’s Romeo and Juliet at San Francisco’s Opera House with the incredible costumes and set by Hans Jens Worsae, some stalwarts in their accustomed roles and several new ones, and, of course, that score by Sergei Prokofiev.

I would swear the some of the choreography had been altered; such imaginings the curse of an imprecise memory and seeing a number of same named productions by different companies. Here there are so many wonderful touches, from the Verona town square arousing from dawn to early morning. I do not remember the rose window of the church being illuminated, or reflected either in the scene where Romeo and Juliet are wed by Friar Lawrence, or when Juliet comes rushing for guidance from that pivotal ecclesiastical figure.

When the company first produced the ballet, Rita Felciano and Eric Hellman organized a symposium around the production, mentioning the original production by Vana Psota in Brno, Slovakia just before World War II and the German takeover of the short-lived republic of Czechoslovakia. Juliets then in the company also were interviewed.

The key speaker for me, however, was an historian who had researched the demographics of Renaissance Italy, basing his findings on the data available in Florence, and, presumably, Tuscany. He found a substantial number of
single parent households, the woman in charge of young children, the husband deceased, documents recording his age at least a decade or two older than the widow. The historian, and forgive my failure to identify him at this juncture, concluded that the young men went off to war, the older men, survivors of conflicts, married the dewy young damsels, and that romance, let alone marriage between age-alike young men and women was unthinkable. Ergo, why is County Paris clearly a stripling in the figure of Steven Morse? Why not Jim Sohm or Reubin-Martin-Cintas as more historically accurate, whose name also implies his possession of quite a spread of hectares?

That harangue completed, I have only praise for the pairing of Val Caniparoli and Sofiane Sylve as the Capulet parents, the easy grandeur of Caniparoli and the intense swirling elegance of Sylve were exactly right. Sherri Le Blanc, making a debut as The Nurse, seemed less lusty but equally caring as Juliet’s Nurse, and as Tybalt, Anthony Vincent (heretofore named Spaulding) was elegant, sinister, a calculating figure, clearly frustrated by Lord Capulet’s insistence on politeness within the family palace.

When the House of Montague appeared, Jeffrey Lyons and Lacey Escabar seemed slightly defensive in the power contest, given to spirit more than concerned with tangible spoils. In Mercutio, Taras Domitro seemed to personify this, less an older pal to Romeo than an impulsive intuitive with vast technical gifts. As Benvolio, Hansuke Yamamoto was required to bring some gravitas to the merriment which he did with elevation and elan. In Carlos Quenedit, there was Romeo you might have seen with his gang, sporting a Giants ballcap turned backwards, relaxing around a motorbike or with a group of mechanics, likeable, young, competent, as innocent of poetry as he was on the mark as Basile in Don Quixote.

The role of Verona’s Prince has always been well served by Martin Pistone, cutting a figure of physical power with the will to use it. Dores Andre and Dana Genshaft made slender, spirited, clearly street-wise harlots, Andre’s discovery of Mercutio’s imminent death particularly sharp. The trio of acrobats, Noriko Matsuyama, Francisco Mungamba and Wei Wang were adept in their assignment, Wang’s strength an interesting contrast to Mungamba’s flexibility and Matsyama’s pertness. Mercutio’s death scene gave Domitro the chance to demonstrate dramatic power, combined with his prodigious technique, showing what his dramatic gifts can provide. I wonder if he might make a better Romeo.

Sarah Van Patten first danced Juliet when she was 16 with the Royal Danish Ballet, before joining San Francisco Ballet. Her partner prior to Carlos Quenedit was Pierre-Francois Vilanoba; I confess to missing him. Her interpretation possesses a gossamer dusting of impulse and emotion; the initial meeting and the balcony scenes were explorations to be followed by the culmination in the early morning final pas de deux. Particularly impressive was Van Patten’s fateful behavior in her bedroom with the senior Capulets and Paris. The Capulets’ insensitive ploughing ahead with nuptial plans despite Tybalt’s death, more implacably so by Lady Capulet – the sweep of her skirt as telling here as in the ballroom, Sylve’s face marvelously stoical, her gestures and movements conveying it all, pulling the velvet yardage away from Juliet’s grasp. Helgi Tomasson’s production, visually splendid, is both a challenge to the company and a pleasure to its audience.

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San Francisco Ballet’s Program Five, Don Q

3 Apr

Even with the umpah nature the Minkus score provides for Don Quixote, it’s a romp;for these creaky old bones, it’s like comfort food as visible signs of the old order, mythical or otherwise, crumbles at each pothole on San Francisco’s principal streets. Only the new dual fuel buses with their accommodating buttons and the hand friendly curve below on the yellow painted metal poles can convince me The City That Knows How is doing exactly that for its motley inhabitants. And it’s really nice that the Civic Center Parking Lot charges only $3 an evening to devotees of ballet’s classical war horses. I grab for reassurance anywhere that the world can still possess moments of “It’s all right Jack!” or similar Cockney cheer. Recently, there has been Lawrence Ferlinghetti for back up on PBS.

My colleagues are swifter, faster, more disciplined when it comes to credits for the make overs of this Petipa production adapted by Gorsky for the Bolshoi Ballet. Gorsky’s influence is felt because Yuri Possokhov, who danced in it, collaborated with Helgi Tomasson on San Francisco Ballet’s production, with its lovely set but some color clashes in Packledinaz’ costuming. The work itself is meant to tease, dazzle technically and embrace romance with just a dusting of Spanish flavor. Marius Petipa must have been far enough away from his own Spanish shenanigans to incorporate them in the original production. Yes indeed, in his early years he was something of a rogue.

My colleagues doubtless have explained that from a small segment of the Spanish novelist’s opus, there was a Kitri; she was extracted and made central to a plot prevalent through most of social history: Daddy, an innkeeper or tapas supplier, wants daughter to marry well and safely; translate money. Daughter wants to choose; in this tale, with the “quixotic” Don and his retainer Sancho Panza it happens with the aid of gypsies and a wind mill, providing the excuse for some very classical 19th century style dancing. In between, sunny Spain provides friends and townsfolk who love to gather in taverns and some toreadors and their romantic partners. Finally with a feigned suicide, the lovers are blessed and the marriage scene is danced with the warhorse pas de deux, which, when done well, gets us all whooping and hollering with delight at the curtain.

Jim Sohm is making an unofficial second career portraying seniors, daft or domestic; he is doing it very well. He’s tall and hefty enough to give Don Quixote a presence and muscle. With Pascal Molat’s minted Sancho Panza, gem-like in his rogue behavior and eye for purloined gluttony, the pair thread through the narrative, making it coherent while still implausible. The selling point of the ballet for me is the contrast between the girl-boy spectacle and the wonderful characterizations possible in stock theatrics. Val Caniparoli and Anita Paciotti provide the cantina parents with Ricardo Bustamonte the inn keeper where papa gets foiled into blessing the pair. Then there is Gamache, which Ruben Martin-Cintas is undertaking for the first time, with all his pastel furbelows and foppish behavior.

We have Carlos Quenedit as Basilio, the penniless barber, opposite Mathilde Froustey as Kitri. Both danced their respective roles before; Carlos with the Ballet Nacional de Cuba and with the Joffrey Ballet before joining San
Francisco Ballet and Froustey with the Paris Opera Ballet. Hard to imagine the Froustey delicacy in Giselle doing a volte face into Spanish spunk. Overall, she
managed it nicely the more she danced; her beginning was a bit tense; her overall portrayal reminded me of the cliche April in Paris rather than Seville in summer.

Quenedit electrified the audience, and deservedly so, in his opening variation; prodigious elevation, crispness and an insouciant command of his whipping tours. (I really don’t understand why international competitions don’t allow this pas de deux as part of their official assignments for prize aspirants.) That accomplished, the performance settled into its narrative and one really good time.

This mood was enhanced by the crispness of Kitri’s girl friends, Doris Andre and Noriko Matsuyama, matched for size and general ebullience. For the major toreador, Espada, and girl friend Mercedes, Daniel Deivison-Oliveira and Sarah Van Patten came on strongly, matching intensity, both posturing and smouldering with elan. Having remembered the taller interpreters, Pierre-Francois Vilanoba and Muriel Maffre, it was good to see another pair make a strong, well-matched impression.

Hansuke Yamamoto and Dana Genshaft dominated the gypsy segment, Yamamoto’s jumps compensating for his build, slighter than one expects for a gypsy. This gypsy scene also is more out of Romany than Granada, bandanas replacing combs and ruffles. The gypsy scene, of course, ends when Don Q attacks the lumbering turn of the windmill and falls into a injury-induced sleep. Here Sancho Panza’s concern assumed genuine pathos – Molat blending concern and fatalism.

For Don Q, however, it provides a vision of skillful, saccharine femininity with the ballet’s most classical passages, led by Sofiane Sylve’s formidable, very classical Queen and a nimble, delicate Cupid portrayed by Koto Ishihara. Never mind that Cupid mythologically is male; here it’s a fleet young female. Kitri has been transformed into Dulciana and Don attends her dancing in a manner worthy of the Prince’s vision in Sleeping Beauty. Who knows, this may have been Petipa’s first sketch of that hide and seek vision of 1890, just as La Bayadere predated Lac de Cygnes.

Then it’s on to the tavern operated by Ricardo Bustamonte , a table dance by Marcedes, and Daddy Caniparoli in hot pursuit with Gamache locating the hidden Kitri with an eloquent pointed finger, gloved of course. The would-be alliance is interrupted by suicide bent Basilio, laying down his cloak, plunging his long, wicked knife into his side, having, of course, clued Kitri into his deception, fondling her when she raises his head. Don Q to the rescue with the aid of his lengthy spear, separating Gamache from the scene and with height and metal-tipped spear inviting Papa to bless the dying union. Bien sur, surprise!

Intermission!

The Wedding Festivities comprise the entire final act, with the toreadors rushing in with their capes, their partners flouncing in with black bordered white gowns almost equal to the finale of flamenco performances and a bevy bridesmaids. The setting is the same as that of Act I; one wonders how the Inn Keeper and spouse can afford such an outlay.

Basilio and Kitri are both garbed in white, he with a fair share of gilt braid and she with a fairly elaborate bodice above the crisp classical tutu, both prepared to dance a pas de deux one has seen often enough to demand the dancers astonish us. [A balletomane attending international competitions is particularly prone to such views.] The inaugural adagio seems to provide the best passage to impress the audience, where Basilio spins her and when they face each other at a distance. Kitri’s balances should be strong and long enough to emphasize the Spanish Je ne sais quoi in allure. The male solo doesn’t do nearly enough for the man, and the female variation has to be distinguished by the use of the fan. Lorena Feijoo managed to employ it in the final menage, a feat I have yet to see equaled, and any fouettes that appear should not travel. Froustey’s balances were secure and Quenedit partnered and postured very well. I had hoped to see Feijoo and Vitor Luiz at the final matinee May 29 but a minor injury changed the casts.

Like Giselle and Romeo and Juliet yet to come, Don Quixote was programmed to help celebrate Helgi Tomasson’s three decades as San Francisco Ballet’s artistic director. All hail! For 2015-2016, let’s hope we see Don Q repeated. Not only is it a romp, it provides a healthy range of opportunity for the company’s dancers. Who can quibble with that?

San Francisco Ballet’s 2013 Gala, January 24

11 Feb

Celebrating San Francisco Ballet’s 80th season, Helgi Tomasson gave his audience and supporters a sleek event of pas de deux, a pas de trois, one pas de quatre, a solo and a final ensemble excerpt which will begin Program I January 29.

I am fascinated by the choices Tomasson sometimes makes for partners, particularly for fluffy moments like George Balanchine’s Tarantella to the tinkly music of Louis Gottschalk, which sounds  like a precursor to early New Orleans jazz. So much so you can imagine it on an early Victor Red Seal record or envision it being played on an out-of-tune upright piano in some seedy New Orleans dive.  Pairing Sasha de Sola and Pascal Molat was novel, although de Sola conveys jauntiness along with her extraordinarily straight back.  Molat can dance the cheery street urchin in any guise thrown him,  his final measures soliciting every last centime.

Switching gears the suicidal solo from Roland Petit’s L’Arlesienne touched on daring the audience; it worked. Pierre Francois Vilanoba made one of his initial impressions in the company dancing this role and the title of Lar Lubovitch’s Othello.  A dozen years later, Vilanoba conveyed the mental dislocation with a honed ferocity, a  image of suicidal madness worth remembering, circular grand jetes, flailing arms, riveted gaze.  Petit doesn’t always get many marks for his choreography, but his theatricality is unmistakable.

Returning to the light touch, August Bournonville and his Flower Festival at Genzano with Clara Blanco and Gennadi Nedvigin was another surprise pairing, nicely matched in size and sweetness.  Blanco could have been better coached;  she was half way between her iconic Nutcracker Doll and the thoughtless Olga in Eugene Onegin.  Nedvigen’s finishes in tight fifths elicited enthusiastic applause.

Myles Thatcher’s In the Passerine’s Clutch was conceived as a pas de quatre for Dores Andre, Dana Genshaft, Joan Boada and Jaime Garcia Castilla and enjoyed a premiere at the Gala. Thatcher used music from the prolific compositions of contemporary Polish composer Wjceich Kilar and is his third choreographic essay for San Francisco Ballet affiliated dancers.  Passerines are called perchers and number the greatest proportion of birds in the avian kingdom, including swallow, ravens, thrushes, sparrows, warblers, even the Australian Lyrebird.  Thatcher’s attempt to capture the darting, clustering, clampering, quarreling and mating deserves a second viewing.

Lorena Feijoo made her first appearance since giving birth to Luciana in the Act III variation from Raymonda, hand slaps and all  to Alexander Glasunov’s insinuating music .  Feijoo’s delicate sensuality was touched with a distinctly regal quality.  Audience members clapped when she appeared on stage.  Shades of Alexandra Danilova.

Tomasson’s Trio featured Sarah Van Patten, Tiit Helimets and Vitor Mazzo, in the section of the work set to Tchaikovsky music.  They danced an eloquent, inevitable triangle with Mazzeo as the dark figure luring Van Patten from Helimets arms, Mazzeo bearing a limp Van Patten off stage right with Helimets alone and forlorn at the curtain.

The Wedding pas de deux from Act III of the Petipa-Gorsky Don Quixote  completed the Gala’s first half, danced by Frances Chung and Taras Domitro as Kitri and Basilio in the lustrous white costumes designed by the late Martin Pakledinaz.  Rendered with eloquent understatement, and measured formality, Paul Parish mentioned Felipe Diaz, one-time San Francisco Ballet soloist and currently a company ballet master, had rehearsed the two.  Paul observed, “You absolutely have to have someone tell you where your head needs to go, where your eyes should focus.  It’s something you cannot do alone, or just with your partner.”  Chung and Domitro emphasized polish more than bravura.  That seemed to disappoint a number of individuals, but it suited me just fine.

Three pas de deux and one ensemble piece were the  Gala’s second half content, a paean to the company’s repertoire range.  Maria Kochetkova and Vitor Luiz reprised the first act dream scene between Onegin and Tatiana where John Cranko’s Tatiana sees Onegin emerge from her bedroom mirror in a dream.  Given the elaborate set, one understands why Tomasson chose this snippet to open the second  half; it’s a major production operation.

On to the strains of John Philip Sousa and Balanchine’s wonderful spoof of the Sousa  brass umpapa.  This 1958 romp for New York City Ballet was first danced by San Francisco Ballet in 1981; I can remember Madeline Bouchard, Anita Paciotti and David McNaughton scintillating in their assignments.  Here Vanessa Zahorian and Davit Karapetyan took on the Stars and Stripes  pas de deux created by Melissa Hayden and Jacques D’Amboise.  Here danced for a sunny pertness rather than the broad good humor originally conveyed,   Zahorian and Karapetyan came across cheerfully.

Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith danced Christopher Wheeldon’s pas de deux from After The Rain, set to Arvo Part’s extended ethereal score which never seems to conclude. It was an etched, elegant performance, tender but seeming to proceed under glass.

Excerpts from Serge Lifar’s Suite en Blanc finished the Gala, an ensemble piece which has become de rigeur in a Tomasson-run Gala, serving to remind the audience that a company stands or falls on the calibre of its corps de ballet as much as the brilliance of its principal dancers.  Lifar, who was the last major male dancer to rise under Sergei  Diaghilev’s influence, was ballet master for the l”Opera de Paris ballet company from the mid-‘Thirties through World War II, including  those four long years of the Nazi Occupation of most of Northern and Central France.  This work was premiered some mother prior to D-Day and in Zurich, appearing to lack any reference to the privation the French dancers were experiencing.

While I intend to discuss the ballet further after seeing the entire work, it was marvelous to see Sofiane Sylve as one of the center dancers, conveying in her bones the style and presentation required for this very French ballet.

Casting for San Francisco Ballet’s January 24 Gala

23 Jan

While there are the usual admonishments regarding program and casting changes, San Francisco Ballet posted the current Gala casting on its website, and it is interesting in new pairings, some new works and a repetition or two from recent elegant memories.

Sasha de Sola and Pascal Molat lead off the evening with Balanchine’s version of  Louis Gottschalk’s  Tarantella, followed by the final solo from Roland Petit’s L’Arlesienne with Pierre-Francois Villanoba, the music by Bizet.

Vilanoba danced it early in his sojourn here, excelling as usual with its dramatic challenge. With either his rumored or stated retirement at the end of this season, the choice is spot on.

From drama to the gentle August  Bournonville flirtation and romance, Clara Blanco will debut in the Flower Festival at Genzano with Gennadi Nedvigin.

Myles Thatcher, still a member of the corps de ballet, has created a pas de quatre for Dores Andre, Dana Genshaft, Joan Boada and Jaime Castilla titled In the Passerine’s Clutch, the score being that by Wojceich Kilar’s  Like me, in case you didn’t know, passerine refers to perching birds, ranging from larks to finches, crows and swallows.  Thatcher has created the costumes with Susan Roemer, the Smuin Ballet dancer.

Lorena Feijoo, dancing for the first time since the birth of Luciana. will probably wow us in Raymonda’s solo from Act III of the same-named ballet set to music by Alexander Glasunov.  Welcome back, Lorena.

I suspect an Intermission will follow after Raymonda or the following pas de trois with Sarah Van Patten, Tiit Helimets and Vitor Mazzeo in Helgi Tomasson’s Trio set to a Tchakivsky score.  It should because a brilliant post intermission launch could be the grand pas de deux from Don Quixote, a debut for Frances Chung with Taris Domitro.  To the warhorse tunes of Ludwig  Minkus and Ricardo Drigo, it’s the version jointly mounted by Tomasson with Yuri Possokhov, with this bravura piece little changed from its original choreography.

John Cranko’s Act I pas de deux from Eugene Onegin will be reprised by Maris Kochetkova and Victor Luiz, who danced it at the company’s local premiere last year.

From bravura to drama to sauce, the program lists next the cheeky  Balanchine salute to John Philip Souza’s The Stars and Stripes, arranged by Hershey Kay, with Vanessa Zahorian and Davit Karapetyan.

Christopher Wheeldon’s evocative pas de deux to Arvo Part from After The Rain will be danced by Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith.  Smith is another principal dancer who seems to be slated for retirement at the end of the San Francisco Opera House season.

With this quartet of  stylistic difference, the Gala audience will get a bit of 20th century ballet history with a pas de deux from Serge Lifar’s Suite en Blanc, set to music by Eduoard Lalo..  Sofiane Sylve and Tiit Helimets will do the honors of a work Carlos Carvajal, who danced it during his days with the Grand Ballet de Marquis de Cuevas,  says is meant simply to display the company.  The full version is slated for Program I on January 29.

There doubtless will be a final company ensemble, but it was not listed this morning.

Combating Cancer With a Dance Gala, June 6

10 Jun

San Francisco Ballet soloists Garen Scribner and James Sofranko bonded not only with a shared dressing room, but over their concerns regarding cancer.  Scribner was in touch with the Fremont-based research firm, Cancer Prevention Institute of California; the two dancers formed a plan to present a dance gala benefitting the organization June 6 at San Francisco’s Herbst Theater in the Civic Center’s Veterans’ Building.  Two other San Francisco Ballet dancers, Sarah Van Patten and Luke Willis, co-chaired a silent auction.

Scribner-Sofranko enjoyed managerial coaching from SFB’s dance enthusiasts the Pascarellis, plus corporate and individual sponsors to cover production costs, netting $100,000 for the Institute.  Alphabetically, the companies cooperating in the event were: AXIS Dance Company, Ballet San Jose, Amy Siewart’s Im-aj-re, Alonzo King Lines Ballet, Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, ODC/Dance,  Robert Moses’ Kin,  San Francisco Ballet, Smuin Ballet, tinypistol, Zhukov Dance Theater.

The producers arranged a judicious balance of dance genres performed by members of the  eleven Bay Area ensembles. The Gala also served a second important function; the selections  exposed audience members to styles and companies previously seen primarily by die-hard dance lovers  attending everything.  Herbst’s stage is box-like – not exactly the best for dance, though many of local  dance history’s memorable performances occurred in the space.

Yuan Yuan Tan, solicitously partnered by Pierre-Francois Vilanoba, launched the program with the adagio to J.S. Bach’s Concerto No. 5. in Helgi Tomasson’s 2004 ballet 7 for 8.  The lighting did little for either dancer, but Tan’s lingering developpes and arabesques were all there.

Robert Moses’ 1998 solo Descongio found Katherine Wells in little girl white bloomers and tunic dancing to Chopin’s Sonata for cello and piano.  Willowy Wells rendered every shoulder roll or hand gesture assigned with her usual lyricism, though one wonders why each note required a gesture or a quirk.

Alex Ketley’s To Color Me Different, created for Sonsheree Giles and Rodney Bell of AXIS Dance company in 2008, registered the first strong departure in Gala formulas with  Bell’s masterful manipulation of his wheelchair. Giles, with constant flying leaps, seeming to assault Bell, was intense, both demonstrating why the pair earned an Izzie Ensemble Award in 2008.

Junna Ige and Maykel Solas from Ballet San Jose switched emphasis to George Balanchine as Broadway-style  choreographer in his take on “Embraceable You” from the Gershwin-inspired  1970 skillful froth Who Cares.

Maurya Kerr, one-time Alonzo King dancer, combines some of King’s torso inflections, but  manages to make a statement in her ensemble tinypistol.  Here it was Babatunji Johnson in the 2012 Freak Show; she gives her interpreters a total workout.

Sarah Van Pattern evoked the peculiarly haunting Andrew Sisters’ song “I Can Dream Can’t I?”, from Paul Taylor’s 1991 Company B,  backed by Matthew and Benjamin Stewart.

The first half of the Gala ended with Meredith Webster and Zack Tang dancing a pas de deux from Alonzo King’s 2006 ballet The Hierarchical Migration of Birds and Mammals.

K.T. Nelson required Anne Zivolich, dressed in a chic black floor-length gown, to fly all over the stage as well as dust it in the 2005 Shenanigans; Dennis  Adams appeared strategically, moving minimally, all in best fluttering hen to nonchalant  cock tradition.  They got it together,  Zivolich ending up in an odd-angled catch.

Frances Chung and Matthew Stewart continued the duet pattern in a lyrical setting to Robert Schumann music created in 2011 by James Sofranko.

Also created in 2011 was Amy Seiwart’s Divergence interpreted by Roberto Cisneros, now with Sacramento Ballet after wunderkund appearances with Smuin Ballet.

Yuri Zhukov gave the Gala a world premiere, Ember, using Martyn Garside and David Lagerqvist and a spotlight.  First one dancer tracked the other with a rolling spotlight, then spotter and spotted roles reversed, all accented by the swerving light and occasional abrupt blackout.  The men, nude to the waist and in white trousers, eventually confronted each other before a quick blackout.

The Smuin Tango Palace, 2003 brought Jane Rehm and Shannon Hurlburt as the first couple, toying with Hurburt’s fedora, on, off, on to Rehm’s head, off and tossed by Hurlburt, she in an elaborate short, provocative garment, he dressed  George Raft style.  Luscious Robin Cornwell followed with Jonathan Dummer, minus antagonism. Seeing the number on the program, I  hoped the selection would include Smuin’s sizzling male duet; no luck – just two separate couples and the wonderful tango recording.

Maria Kochetkova and Joan Boada appeared in Christopher Wheeldon’s 2008 pas de deux Within the Golden Hour, dressed in seafoam blue-green, quite the most costumed dancers in the program with Kochetkova’s head adorned like a ‘Twenties socialite.  Their melting pas de deux to Vivaldi earned a prolonged applause, along with the whistles, shouts and clapping  sprinkled through the program.

An excerpt from the 2011 Light Moves with the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company closed the  Gala with its distinct change of pace and energy and Jenkins’ somewhat typical penchant for tussle as a choreographed form of  engagement.

As the dancers all emerged on stage, some already changed for the reception, the audience rendered the best possible recognition, a standing, shouting ovation.  It had been a definite dance high, and it just might become an annual affair.  I can think of other ensembles to be considered.

Don Quixote Finale for 2012 San Francisco Ballet’s 2012 Season

30 Apr

From the matadors’ tights to the popsicle-hued dresses on the women’s knee- length dresses, Martin Pakledinaz stepped up the cheerful revival of the Tomasson-Possokhov version of the Petipa-Gorsky romp, loosely based on Cervantes’ Spanish novel, Don Quixote. This ballet version, premiering in 2003, received its new production premiere April 27 as SFB’s finale for the 2012 season.  The audience loved every bravura second of it; from the looks of it, so did the company and conductor Martin West.

Well they might.  Jim Sohm made an auspicious debut as the befuddled Don with Pascal Molat reprising his magnificent reading of Sancho Panza, ever ready to ogle and fondle senoritas, purloin sausage and filch ham.  Right from the beginning Sohm’s eyes conveyed the Don’s slender grasp of earthy reality, holding his imbalance of gallantry and fantasy throughout.

Where the Royal Danish production was soft-hued distinction, Pakledinaz selected a strong emphasis on sun-baked, semi-psychedelic colors, primarily for the toreadors, finishing  with the traditional black squashed-like hat. Black braid generously attached  provided the dash necessary to convey these Hispanic cultural peacocks..

Pierre-Francois Vilanoba led the pack; flanked by a condor-eyed Sarah Van Patten as Mercedes; he gave us an elegant matador,  perhaps influenced by his Galician surname. The pair kept the tension alive with  brief sideline forays.

Gamache, the well-heeled, aging fop Kitri’s father wanted to see married to his daughter, introduced Myles Thatcher to the role, his hobbling interpretation in lavender-toned satins and plumes a nod to Damian Smith’s 2003-2004 over-the-top movement.  Ricardo Bustamonte  conveyed the sharp-eyed tavern keeper father with Anita Paciotti as a mother pre-occupied with tending and tidying up the situation.  And there was that smart, swift moment when Kitri dehatted and dewigged her senior suitor.

Casting Vanessa Zahorian with Joan Boada as Kitri and Basilio initially seemed  anomalous, but any question was rapidly dispelled. Despite a slight imbalance  at Act One’s ending,  Boada was suitably clean, precise,  his elevation reminding us of  phenomenal bravura capacities.

Except for traveling double fouettes in the wedding pas de deux, Zahorian was spot on throughout, balances firm and just long enough to register to the eye if not to linger, her port de bras appropriate, height and thrust of her developpes notable. Her excellence is achieved by a no-nonsense technical approach rendered impressive by her musical phrasing.

The Dryad scene allowed the presence of San Francisco Ballet School students as did  the brief pantomime in the Gypsy camp where Don Quixote tilted with the windmill and Hansuke Yamamoto danced nimbly as the Gypsy chief. Sofiane Sylve and Clara Blanco graced the Dryad scene, Sylve the definitive queen with her deliberate attack, Blanco as Cupid darting nimbly across the boards with her impeccable port de bras.

Added to this production was a 26 year old white horse for Don Quixote and a donkey for Sancho Panza, later utilized for Gamache.  When Gamache dismounted on the left side of his borrowed animal, it made visual the double entendre.

What was not to revel in?

Three Romeos, Three Juliets, March 6, March 9, March 11, 2012

17 Mar

Seeing Helgi Tomasson’s fated lovers to Sergei Prokofiev’s score March 6, was followed with seeing two more performances; March 9 with March 11 from San Francisco’s Opera House’s Grand Tier.

Interpretation varied because of personality, height and bone structure.  Joan Boada and Maria Kochetkova  managed swiftness and a comparative fragility impossible for Pierre-Francois Vilanoba and Sarah Van Patten, or Vitor Matteo and Yuan Yuan Tan.  Still, vulnerability, passion and fragility of love against the fortress of Renaissance social structure remained alive in the other casts.  The audience’s warm enthusiasm to William Shakespeare’s tale was undeterred at Sunday matinee’s standing ovation.

I quibble a tad historically.  County Paris implies a man of ample means and possessions, not likely young. Italian Renaissance history records  youthful maidens marrying older, frequently battle-scarred men, leaving young women early widows.  Lovers/partners of even age was social revolution stuff, and explored at the critical conference held during the 1994 premiere of the Tomasson  production.  Missing was the fact  Paris and Mercutio are kinsman to the Prince of Verona, explaining why Mercutio takes such liberties,  enjoying princely protection.  Did the Prince register his kinsman Mercutio lying dead?

Nutnaree Pipit-Suksun was present as a silken, socially assured Rosaline for the three casts seen, also Val Caniparoli as Lord Capulet, Jim Sohm as Lord Montague twice,  Martino Pistone’s sturdy square build lent rough authority as the Prince of Verona as did Anita Paciotti’s peasant Nurse.  Jorge Esquivel replaced Ricardo Bustamonte as Friar Lawrence March 11.

Cast changes played as a unit with the three Juliets and Romeo: the evenly matched Benvolio and Mercutio, Jaime Castilla Garcia and Gennadi Nedvigin for Boada, Daniel Deivison a ferocious Tybalt, Pauli Magierek a histronic Lady Capulet .

Pairing Boada and Maria Kochetkova, matched for size and  bravura,  subjected the audience to dangerous  breath suspension.  Kochetkova’s acrobatic training permitted an abandoned plunging into lifts, quick reverses of direction; Boada’s balcony scene was ardor and aerial wed.

Nedvigin’s Mercutio evoked the Russian character dancer, ready to strike boots and extend arms in deep plie.  He used the same solar plexus base struggling to maintain Mercutio’s  nonchalance, mortally wounded, staggering towards the church, collapsing on the stairs.

Elana Altman danced Lady Capulet March 9 and Sofiane Sylve March 11.   Sylve seemed to personify nobility, hinting at her attachment to Damian Smith’s brooding Tybalt in the ballroom. Altman’s explosion over Tybalt’s body would be great as the Queen in Jerome Robbins’ The Cage. Her Tybalt was Antony Spaulding, elegant, silkily sinister.

The Van Patten-Vilanoba partnership possesses a humanism, a warmth when   physically relating to the other characters.  When Pascal Molat as Mercutio staggers towards the church, dying on the steps, he dies in Romeo’s arms, emphasizing the subsequent fight with Tybalt. Romeo is gentle, even being mesmerized at the Capulet’s ball. Van Patten’s demureness is  poised, puzzled, questioning.  She staggers against the balcony steps railing when Romeo  kisses her.

Yuan Yuan Tan’s line sang lyrically, thanks to Vitor Matteo’s height, possessing perhaps ballet’s longest legs. As Romeo Matteo is on native Italian earth.  Her smile evoked Ching Dynasty feminine portraits and she avoided  rendering Juliet as another victim.

Hansuke Yamamoto as Benvolio, Taras Domitro as Mercutio matched each other for height and swiftness, excellent contrast to Smith’s Tybalt in the ballroom scene.

One could write a chapter on each casts, from the principals to the acrobats, the touches Tomasson has gradually assembled to coalesce this exciting production, to be performed this fall in Washington, D.C.