Tag Archives: Rachel Lee

Ballet San Jose’s Neo Classical Masters, March 22

15 Apr

Ballet San Jose branched out not only to repeat Sir Frederick Ashton’s Meditations from Thais, but adding his early work, LesRendezvous to its March program, repeating Stanton Welch’s Clear and Clark Tippet’s Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1.  An added draw was Rachel Lee as guest violinist with the small, lively orchestra led by George Daugherty with his usual verve.

It’s rare for Ballet San Jose to repeat a ballet in one season or in back to back seasons.  Dennis Nahat did repeat works but with more than one or two seasons between.  I suspect the company felt the need a) to expose the San Jose audience to a number of good choreographers and revivals because b) that will keep them coming.  The company’s seasons were truncated during the Recession; it remains to be seen when it will return to four spring performances in addition to The Nutcracker, let alone add a fifth.

Les Rendezvous echoes the blithe, crisp tone of Daniel Francoisc Espirt Auber’s music and displays young men posturing a la “pip pip old boy” or “jolly good” as they enter and exit the stage.  The girls are suitably demure in white with pink-bordered skirts,  designed by William Chappell, a mainstay figure in pre-World War II London ballet circles.  Vivacity and The Old School in the Young Bloods might have been a suitable sub-title. Some themes are perennial for this ringer for an opener.  They run one  girl with two or three suitors, here Junna Ige with Alex Kramer and Francisco Preciado; a happy couple, here the confident Amy Marie Briones and Maykel Solas; finally, the gaggle of young women speculating about the young men who in turn are curious about the young women.  The port de bras looked Cecchetti influenced, but the entrances, exits and ensembles were fresh and wonderful, despite its 1933 debut; this work is one lively 80 year old senior.

Ashton’s Meditation from Thais to Jules Massenet’s perennial interlude provided a showcase for Nutnaree Pipit-Suksun’s sustained adagio and warm, liquid port de bras.  She conveyed a dreamy sensuality to this courtesan whose beauty invades a monk’s mind., and was ably partnered by Jeremy Kovitch. Rachel Lee’s violin helped infuse the languor Ashton built into this deceptively simple pas de deux; its creators, Anthony Dowell and Antoinette Sibley acknowledged was “a killer” to dance. At its premiere Ashton induced the audience to want it repeated!

Jing Zhang substituted for Alexsandra Meijer in Stanton Welch’s Clear, set to Johann Sebastian Bach’s Concerto in Gi minor. Zhang’s attack was strong and impersonal in the work Welch acknowledged having been influenced by his presence in New  York on 9/11/2001.  Save for Zhang’s minimal role at the end, it’s a man’s work and they clearly rose to the challenge.

Clark Tippet’s Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 required major exposure to four couples, the women dressed in different colors. Junna Ige and Mayfel Solas led the ensemble while Mirai Noda and Akira Takahashi made the fourth.  Predictably Amy Marie Briones and Maximo Califano were not only red but danced the assertive portions of the 1866 virtuosic violin challenge.  In blue Alexsandra Meijer and Jeremy Kovitch danced the adagio.  Meijer danced correctly but without a particular focus on either mood or music.

Rachel Lee’s rendition of three standard but important violin works justly made her the heroine of the program.

The weekend of April 19-20-20 will see Ballet San Jose dance a work by Merce Cunningham and a premiere by Jessica Lange. Following the April 21 matinee, the company will stage a 7 p.m. farewell celebration for Karen Gabay.  After 30 years and an affiliation which started in Cleveland with Dennis Nahat and Ian Horvath, Gabay is moving on to other realms, one of which is rumored to be American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.

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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.