Tag Archives: Steve Reich

2014 USAIBC Round III Session III, June 26, 2014

15 Aug

This final session opened with Aaron Bell who had been featured prominently in the ballet documentary “First Position.” He chose two divergent classical variations, the flashy one last,the men’s variation from Sleeping </em>Beauty as a beginning and the Slave’s variation from Le Corsaire as his second. At present, his attack is more suited to the Prince Desire role, clean, correct, somewhat self-effacing. A thoughtful, intelligent dancer, his excellence also conveyed a neutral quality. This also was conveyed in Vista, Steve Rooks’ setting to Steve Reich’s “Music for 18 Musicians.” A long time observer remarked she thought Bell needed to attend classes with other students. I have no way of knowing if that situation pertained, but the observer was thoughtful and caring.

He was followed by Jinsol Eum dancing the same variation, slender, equally correct with touches of distinct elegance, an impression cemented with Solor’s variation from La Bayadere’s Kingdom of the Shades.

Partnered by Michal Slawomir Wosniak, Gisele Bethea essayed Sleeping Beauty’s Act III pas de deux with amazing felicity. I had no trouble believing she was a princess on the occasion of something momentous. Her port de bras and gestures over her low petite battements looked like the results of a coaching session with Margot Fonteyn, their progressive rise winning me over.

Romina Contreras with Sebastian Vinet selected Victor Gsovsky’s Grand Pas de Deux,,looking authoritative in the opening. Unfortunately, Contreras lost balance visibly initially in her variation, though she finished with aplomb. Her general demeanor led one veteran competition observer to comment, “Not this time, but in five years she’ll be a ballerina.” Vinet, a former member of San Francisco Ballet, cuts a handsome figure, but something happens in his torso distorting line and phrasing, though partnering Contreras with skill and empathy.

Seniors Jeong Hansol and Kota Fujishima danced as if they had telegraphed across the Straits of Korea; both danced the male variation from the Nutcracker’s grand pas de deux and Acteon’s variation from Esmeralda’s Diana and Acteon pas de deux by Agrippina Vaganova.

Three senior pas de deux followed with one non-competing partner. Byul Yun with non-competing partner Heewon Cho elected the Diana and Acteon pas de deux as did as did Tamako Miyszaki with non-competing partner Ariel Breitman. In between Melissa Gelfin elected Le Corsaire with non-competing partner Telmo Moreira. Clearly, fireworks were preferred for the senior pas de deux.

The contemporary third of Session III possessed a share of surprises. Jinsol Eum danced Juhyun Jo’s take on Pink Martini’s “But Now I’m Back”; black shirt, trousers and jacket topped by a black Fedora adjusted from time to time for emphasis, while Eum’s lean, flexible body angled, lunged and jumped with considerable panache.

Gisele Bethea’s selection, Imagine, left me with a vague impression of excellent execution, but exactly what was being evoked?

Two unusual choices of classical music for a competition were reflected by Romina Contreras and Sebastian Vinet who danced to Jaime Pinto’s essay to a Claude Debussy Sonate 1. The second was non-competing partner Telmo Moreira’s use of Frederick Chopin’s Lady of the Camellias Black pas de deux for finalist Melissa Gelfin, the former was as quiet and lyrical as Moreira’s setting was turbulent.

In between Jeong Hansol’s interpretation of Jong Ni Lee’s Napoli March of Thomas Beckman was titled Forgot Something. Terribly obvious, what was missing were Hansol’s trousers with the music providing the background for maneuvering and exposing the social and visual embarrassment for the spectacled forgetful male, accented by bright red shorts. The audience responded with chuckles, laughter, guffaws and much applause.

Ending the competition, Tamako Miyazaki with Ariel Breitman performed Tamas Krizsa’s Last Days to Max Richter’s music of the same name, an apocalyptic interpretation to music sounding much the same, enhanced by the lighting plot. One could only surmise that such feelings might be felt momentarily at the press conference the following morning.


Three and Two for SFB

2 Mar

These San Francisco Ballet programs are listed in reverse because that’s the way I saw them.

The February 20 Program Three started with a Russian-born classic, ending with a Russian-themed myth choreographed by a Russian very much at home in San Francisco. The middle belonged to Christopher Wheeldon’s Ghosts.

I saw Nureyev’s version ofLa Bayadere’s Kingdom of the Shades for The Royal Ballet on the same stage, mounted early in his association with the British company. It informed me that this Indian-themed work preceded Swan Lake by nearly two decades. The more recent, storied visit of the Paris Opera to San Francisco and its full-length production, again a Nureyev production, provided another bench mark.

The Kingdom of the Shades from La Bayadere was first mounted for San Francisco Ballet by Natalia Makarova in 2000; this is second time she has staged it, here assisted by Susan Jones. The revival enjoyed three fine soloists: Mathilde Froustey; Frances Chung and Simone Messmer plus Davit Karapetyan as Solor. Karapetyan’s entrance jete, high, clean, energizing, the first of many to follow, his Russian training and deportment clear, was captivating. While Yuan Yuan Tan presented a willowy Nikiya, an elegant shade, her connection to Solor was limited to partnering, lacking hints to their former emotional connection. I did not expect her to be Giselle, but I did want some connection, particularly in the lengthy use of the filmy scarf, symbol of ghostly connection and purity.

Next to Karapetyan, the three soloists were gratifying with Froustey’s lightness, Chung’s careful correctness followed by her usual swift allegro, and Messmer’s soundless landings. Myy memory of Makarova’s first staging for San Francisco was crisp; this seemed closer to Giselle.

Christopher Wheeldon’s Ghosts, sandwiched between La Bayadere and em>Firebird, is distinguished by a hanging sculpture by Laura Jellenek which gradually lowers after each section of the work, music by K.C. Winger. Vitor Luiz, Maria Kochetkova, Sofiane Sylve, Tiit Helimets, Shane Wuerthner made it all seem conjured from the past as the Jellenek strips of grey in a formation like a tangled skein of wool, gradually fell lower and in sections.

Yuri Possokhov took the Firebird myth to the village, giving a proletarian view of a story involving a Prince, captive Princesses, a demon passage before a court finale. He turned to Yuri Zhukov for set design, a series of cut outs and a red-orange cage for the hero’s captivity by the evil Kostei, whose soul resides in a mammoth egg. With Pascal Molat as oily slime, a monster caressing his egg, elevated by his minions, the tale starts off impressively.

Tiit Helimets makes good as the hero, capturing the feel of a golden boy, country-style. His encounter with Sarah Van Patten’s Firebird featured her always eloquent eyes, but Sandra Woodall’s costume is long on a flash of red cloth designed primarily for its effect in grand jetes, awkward in the pas de deux. The encounter lacks gift of the feather, the necessary toekn our hero must produce to summon her return.

Sasha de Sola as the princess is well matched physically with Tiit Helimets. Her garment with its torso slash of red above white skirt is a surprising delineation along with her coronet; neither peasant nor princess,plus she’s a bit nasty to her handmaidens – a pastural imperialist.

Van Patten’s bird is a tad provocative with her circular hip movements; Tan made them neutral. Van Patten’s eyes rendered the bird vivid, eloquent,if the scarlet fabric tail could be effectively shorn.

The final folk groups projected robustness, a feeling Possokhov obviously wanted. The expansive diagonal stage crossings needed to be repeated too often to fill the music. You registered satisfaction early on. Though not following the traditional tale staged by Fokine and Stravinsky, Zhukov’s designs were a delight, and Possokhov’s desire to create a folk version was basically appealing.

Friday, February 21 I caught up with Program Two: Val Caniparoli’s Tears, to Steve Reich’s music and Sandra Woodall’s elegant costumes. Ratmansky’s From Foreign Lands received its second season showing with some debuts of corps dancers – a happy solution and opportunity with more traditional vocabulary than Wayne MacGregor’s Borderlands.

In Borderlands, Wayne MacGregor can be counted on to set his dances in a structure, with lights that bring dancers to our attention or fade them from sight, and props which can obscure or reveal them in dramatic ways. He also can be counted upon to challenge dancers’ flexibility, speed and endurance. You stare at their abilities, hoping they won’t harm their rotator cuffs, or dislocate a hip joint; for despite their training, MacGregor’s movements are demanding and quite outside much of the classical training canon. Oh, yes, you can see an arabesque and an attitude, some amazing lifts, but what is he saying with the talented bodies at his disposal? I would not be surprised if MacGregor cites William Forsythe as an influence. Forsythe, however, has his own visceral familiarity to the classical canon; while he can make dancers look absurd at moments, he does not contort them as if they were spastic or in a drug-induced spasm.

Clearly I did not like it, though the dancers were marvelous, every last one: Maria Kochetkova, Jaime Garcia Castilla; Sarah Van Patten; Pascal Molat; Frances Chung; James Sofranko ; Sofiane Sylve; Daniel Devision-Oliveira; Koto Ishihara; Henry Sidford; Elizabeth Powell ; Francisco Mungamba.

Having spit out my distaste, Val Caniparoli’s Tears featured the three couples in
roles they created on February 18: Lorena Feijoo and Vitor Luiz; Sasha De Sola and Tiit Helimets; Ellen Rose Hummel and Daniel Deivison-Olivera. With the image of water in his mind, the women’s costumes displayed handsome pleats revealing a range of blues and greens; one thinks changing hues, still pools shrouded by hanging branches of venerable trees. The port de bras were liquid, partnering skillful, but the music too lengthy.

What delighted me about Ratmansky’s second season was the insertion of corps members guided by principals; the eagerness, two slight flubs in the beginning, the good-natured cooperation to bring off this important assignment in young dancers’ careers.Participating in this debut were principals Jaime Garcia Castille, Gennadi Nedvigin, Mathilde froustey, soloists Simone Messmer, Hansuke Yamamoto Shane Wuerthner and corps members Shannon Rugani and Luke Willis with the debutantes Isabella De Vivo, Julia Rowe, Elizabeth Powell, Steven Morse. This frothy rendition of European nationalities – Russia, Italian, German, Spanish, and Polish were subtly slight, visually reassuring with Borderlands to follow.