Tag Archives: Val Caniparoli

San Francisco’s Summer Specialities

12 Jul

What San Francisco’s dance scene provides in the summer is its increasing variety of interesting works, many of which are organized by artists and choreographers engaged in other organizations during most of the year.

Thus far there has been SF Dance Works’ premiere season and July 8-10, the Cowell Theatre at Fort Mason has housed Amy Seiwart’s 6th Sketch, where she has invited  choreographers to join her in stretching their vocabularies, utilizing some exciting dancers, and choroegraphers coming from Sewiart’s various  associations .

July 8 provided a foggy evening to trail down the western side of the Fort Mason pier that houses the Cowell Theatre where the original corridor has been cordoned off and the vast space is being remodeled. Eventually, the entrance is to be moved to the eastern side of the pier and none too soon when one contemplates the varied weather one encounters in reaching the space which has housed so many dance events since Fort Mason became a cultural definition. Friday nights also is the evening Fort Mason has inaugurated Off The Grid, where a cluster of 30 mobile trucks serve specialties to anyone hungry, nearby or purposely attending to sample the variety, 5-10 p.m. complete with music and three bars.

Returning to dancing, Amy Seiwart came out from behind the red curtain to explain that the brief season are intended to help two or three invited choreographers besides herself stretch themselves beyond their acquired choreographic “tool box,” trying something outside their comfort zone. The invited were Nicole Haskins, Anthony Hoagland and Val Caniparoli. Hoagland’s Cigarettes was a repeat from the 2011 season. But Haskin’s With Alacrity and Caniparoli’s 4 in the Morning were premieres, as was Seiwart’s Instructions. Most of the ten dancers have worked in various companies where Seiwart has choreographed.

Haskin’s With Alacrity utilized a quartet, three women and a man in various encounters, Andre Silva with Beth Ann Maslinoff, Kelsey McFalls and Annali Rose. Susan Roemer’s monochrome costumes were alleviated by a band of multi hued patterned fabric at the waist of the women’s skirts and Silva’s tights. The floor patterns as well as the movements were atypical but not arresting and while there was some partnering, nothing suggested male-female attraction or particular rivalry.

Following a pause was “Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray” is a plaintiff folksy song, sung by what seems to have been five different interpreters to illuminate a table, four chairs, plus a vintage refrigerator brought out by James Gilmer, Scott Marlowe and Peter Frank, housing Sarah C. Griffin, the quartet costumed by Jamiellyn Duggan. The men, garbed in iconic scruffy clothing, open up the refrigerator door to reveal Griffin jack-knifed in its interior, trailing gown befitting ‘Thirties style glamour, and three pairs of high-heeled shoes which she removes, steps into and removes at various moments before clutching all three and reverting to her original cold storage.. The contrast between the beer-culture behavior of the men and the intense glamour, unfufilled, was as fascinating as Griffin is as a dancer, clearly a major talent.

Seiwart’s Instructions was clearly the major component of the program and her plunge into narrative, in this instance a lengthy poem by Neil Garman, augmented by Benjamin Britten’s Suite for Cello, played on stage by Michelle Kwon, stopping and starting as dancer-actor Scott Marlowe spoke the lines and seven dancers provided the territory or obstacles which the wayfarer encountered. Seiwart’s capacity for groupings grounded her foray into narrative, utilizing gestures and postures suggesting the terrain through which the traveller moved. Susan Roemer’s black costumes enhanced the quasi-magical implications of Garman’s words. It’s a work that should be seen again.

Caniparoli’s Four in the Morning took its inspiration from William Walter’s music for Facade, though completely different from Frederick Ashton’s selections from the poem of Edith Sitwell. Costumer Susan Roemer clothed the men in their skivvies, shoes with socks to mid-calf and the women in lightly cream-colored slip-like satin gowns, while each verse was marked by a clock-like entry on back stage left-side curtain, slightly blurred because of the scarlet folds. Caniparoli has created a tongue-in-check entertaining pieces for Smuin Ballet, but nothing to my knowledge set to speech. Sitwell’s verse runs a path trippingly on the tongue in the best Gilbert and Sullivan manner; the content, however, is as pared down and suggestive as the deshabile of the costuming, the women with knowing and occasionally with some come hither, shoulder gestures, cocked chins and flicks of the hand. The men lunge, pirouette, lifting the women, disappear with one suggestively, tossing out garments to suggest the inevitable horizontal postures.  But no, one garment is a kilt.

Both Caniparoli and Sewiart’s works utilized all eight dancers: Sarah C. Griffin, Rachel Furst, Annali Rose, Beth Ann Maslinoff, James Gilmer, Peter Franc, Andre Silva and Scott Marlowe.

Thanks to Amy Seiwart and her generous Sketch, next summer is something to anticipate.

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2016 Smuin Spring Season

20 May

The May 6-15 Smuin Ballet Spring Season at Yerba Buena Center’s Lam Research Theater presented two revivals and one premiere, Val Caniparoli, Jiri Kylian and Helen Pickett the choreographers. Each work possessed charms, ingenuity or a high degree of emotional response, almost invariably the case when the program includes a gem like Return to a Strange Land, Kylian’s 1975 ballet for six dancers to the music of his fellow countryman Leos Janacek, a tribute to John Cranko’s sudden death.

Tutto Cetto Il Lavandino, Val Caniparoli’s commentary on sleek abstract works, danced to the wonderful sonata allegro form music of Antonio Vivaldi, provided elbows, body lunges, pirouettes, lifts and ensemble groupings in every possible form and stage location for fourteen dancers, with sleek black costumes by Sandra Woodall. The ensembles’ stage location with entry and exit combined with the erect or leaning bodies and gestures kept coming, coming, coming until they vanished as a green laundry sink was pushed sideways on stage at the curtain, as stated, “Everything But The Kitchen Sink.”

Kylian’s tribute employs four men and two women, danced in four parts to a piano rendition of Janecek’s music. Smuin Ballet previously mounted the work in 2013, utilizing the set and costume design by Jiri Kylian, with lighting redesigned by Kees Tjebbes. The quartet of pieces go: a trio of two men and a woman; two pas de deux and a final trio. Against a near monochrome drop suggesting a limitless and somber horizon, the woman seems frequently to be a bird, tossed or buffeted by wind. In each of the four deceptively simple parts, she somehow winds up on the shoulders or the back of one of the men, the dancers facing front, resulting in images elegiac and haunting .

Helen Picket’s Oasis, receiving its premiere during the Smuin Spring season, utilized the entire ensemble of sixteen dancers, with an original score by Jeff Beal, augmented by Emma Kingsbury’s video, also responsible for the costumes and the scenic design. The latter provided wave-like drops which looked white, almost transparent at the beginning and at the end resembled matchstick-like bamboo.

I really would need to see it again to form a definite opinion; Pickett’s capacity for groupings, entrances and exits indicate a keen eye for effective movement, no mean achievement when moving from a rehearsal room to the proscenium arch.

Menlowe Ballet’s 2016 Spring Season

5 May

Coming thick and fast, late April-early May signal performance, performance, performance.

Lucky for Menlowe Ballet-it was able to engage four Silicon Valley Ballet soloists and principals for its spring season titled Collage. The company has a penchant for bold single title programs, though the performance does not always reinforce the declaration. This time, with its three numbers, the label was apt. It featured Michael Lowe’s Jin Ji [Collage[; Repeat after Me by Val Caniparoli to Johann Paul Von Westhoff’s Sonatas Pour Violin and Basse Continuo; and Gregory Dawson’s “and so I say to you,” to music by Dalmusio Payomo, Ron Kurti, Gregory Dawson. The Caniparoli and Dawson works were premieres, the Lowe work a mix of former parts from his Izzie-winning Bamboo and two additional numbers.

Lowe engaged Junna Ige and Maykel Solas, principal dancers, and soloists Amy Marie Briones and Akira Takahashi from the ill-fated Silicon Valley Ballet, all of whom had been initially hired by Dennis Nahat when the company was named Ballet San Jose. The fifth dancer, Anton Pankovitch also enjoyed the Nahat imprimatur, [ if you can apply that word to dancers] but had appeared with Menlowe Ballet in 2014; a quintet of excellent troupers..

The cheerful charm of Lowe’s choreography has been reinforced by the Menlo Park Academy of Dance students, seven of them in Chai DaiRibbons], included in Jin Ji. Well trained, mostly on the medium-sized, they danced with non-nonsense and confidence. What was most interesting in this pleasant Asian-accented work was Chu Yi [New Year’s Eve] featuring Akira Takahashi as a young man on a drunk with fantasies of three women [Christina Schitano, Amy Marie Briones and Chantelle Pianetta]. Moving between the table with bottle and tumbler and center stage Takahashi partnered the trio in succession as they emerged from a glittering, multi-hued shimmer of metallic ribbons. Consistently in character, Takahashi warmed to his role with an energy which he didn’t seem allowed to unharness in the years following Nahat’s departure from the ill-fated Ballet San Jose-Silicon Valley Ballet.

Val Caniparoli’s Repeat After Me hued to its formal structure, if the music itself had measures anything but classical. Angular gestures of arms, hands and head accents opened and closed the work. Susan Roemer’s costumes gave the women short grey blue skirts with a black line front and back. The colors were matched by the men, but might have been enhanced with a belt. Maykel Solas made his first appearance as did Anton Pankovich, both excellent partners.

“And so I say to you,” Gregory Dawson’s first work for Menlowe Ballet, gave clear evidence that he has moved on from the predominantly singular variations of his mentor and former director Alonso King. Using Pankovich to commence and complete the work, Dawson’s ensemble passages, particularly at lower stage left, worked well with the energetic score attacked at equal pitch by the ensemble.

Typical of my reactions to both new works, I need a second viewing to deliver an opinion verging below the initial visual and aural impact. What lingers from this performance was the cohesion of the new artists, the existing dancers and the students.It would be terrific if the new artists could remain with Menlowe Ballet, enriching the ballets and certainly drawing audience members from their former company. It also might inveigle more critics to watch Menlowe Ballet grow from strength to strength.

A final charm to the evening was to see Betsey Erickson in the audience and
elsewhere Christine Elliott, both with length histories in Bay Area dance and seasons with American Ballet Theatre and Rika Onizuka, a veteran both of Smuin Ballet and Lines Contemporary Ballet. Carlos Carvajal’s wheels wrapped it up as a singular evening’s treat.

Menlowe Ballet with Four Silicon Valley Ballet Dancers

22 Mar

At the 30th Anniversary Isadora Duncan Dance Awards Ceremony March 21 at the Yerba Buena Center Forum Theatre, Artistic Director Michael Lowe said that not only will their April 29-May 1 program feature choreography by Val Caniparoli and Gregory Dawson, but four popular dancers from Silicon Valley Ballet will be dancing.

Junna Ige, Maykel Solas, Amy Marie Briones and Akira Takahashi will be Menlowe Ballet’s guest artists. Besides being excellent dancers making the best of a truly bum deal, the quartet represents the best in cultural diversity.

It should be an exiting spring series at Menlowe Ballet’s usual venue, Menlo Park High School Auditorium.

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San Francisco Ballet’s 71st Nutcracker Season

3 Jan

In this third San Francisco production of Petyr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s commission for Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov (Willam Christensen’s ground–breaking undertaking and brother Lew’s the second with at least two different productions), Helgi Tomasson celebrated the city’s emergence from the 1906 earthquake and fire by aligning it to the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition; Michael Yeargen took his clue from images of the 100th year before in slides, Act I’s setting and hints of the Conservatory of Flowers, supported by James F. Ingalls’ lighting. Martin Pakledinaz designed the fetching gowns of the period as well as the traditional and pastiche costumes for Act II. The results congratulate San Franciscans. From the cheerful opening pandemonium sounds December 16 and the December 18 matinee, the seasonal tradition is a winner all the way. The sound pitch opening night was up there with the screams of a basketball game, while volunteers carefully herded toddlers and grammar school attendees for their pictures with a French soloist (the flute soloist for more traditional viewers) and the Mouse King, and off the other side of one of the crimson-carpeted entrances to orchestra seating. Most girls wore aspirational net tutus with frequent rhinestone tiaras. The mother of one girl near me said her chestnut-haired daughter was studying karate and acrobats.

Opening night Val Caniparoli was his genial self, if somewhat perfunctory. Katita Waldo gave us a welcoming Mme Stahlbaum while Ruben Martin Cintus exuded the pleasant organizing half.. Two youngsters, Alexander Renoff-Olson and Kristi DeCaminada made a convincing go as the grandparents. Francisco Mungamba’s displayed flexibility in yellow tights and bobbing trim; Lauren Parrott was mercifully brunette after the memorable tawny blonde of Clara Blanco; Wei Wang jumped energetically as the toy Nutcracker.

One of the production’s charms is the transformation scene, and although the sleepy gestures of Clara’s (Sienna Clark) seemed perfunctory if on time to the music, the enlarging furnishing along with the tree are just right as is the appearance of the Nutcracker Prince in the handsome personage of Davit Kerapetyan. Gaetano Amico was the nasty Mouse King, a role everyone loves to hate and the interpreter tries to make the most of in his brief allotted phrases.

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San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson’s Nutcracker. (© Erik Tomasson)

Vanessa Zahorian served as a gracious Sugar Plum Fairy with Frances Chung as the grownup Clara, following the Snow Scene with Jennifer Stahl and Luke Ingham as the reigning monarchs of a blizzard almost obscuring the figures midway and towards the end. Why they dancers have to navigate a storm is beyond me. Flurries should be sufficient.  The same threatened obliteration was accorded Koto Ishihara and Joseph Walsh December 18.

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Frances Chung and Davit Karapetyan in Tomasson’s Nutcracker. (© Erik Tomasson)

Distinguishing themselves in the Chinese and Russian were Lonnie Weeks and Esteban Hernandez. The trio bursting from the Faberge-inspired eggs is invariably a treat to be followed by Anatole Vilzak’s variation for the three dancers. It’s one of the supreme relics of the earlier production.

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Lonnie Weeks in Tomasson’s Nutcracker. (© Erik Tomasson)

I saw a second performance, the December 18 matinee to see what Pascal Molat did with Drosselmeyer. I didn’t expect Sancho Panza, of course, but he is just such a wizard with character parts. Of course he was wonderful. His hands were invariably seeking the edges and the corners of what he was assigned, finishing his work before donning his coat, the manner in which he tied the pouch for the clock, his gallantry with the flower seller on the street. His semi-crouching position when levitating the cane was like someone in a contest; I felt an unusual touch in his consoling Fritz at not getting the nutcracker, topped only by the bow with which he tied his handkerchief on the wounded wooden doll. Throughout the scene this Drosselmeyer was intimately attuned to youngsters, at one with them as well as a distinguished, eccentric clock maker. His wizardry with the transformation scene, reassurance to Clara and continued guidance through Act II was simply de rigeur. One can relax with an “ah” watching him, a total treat.

Jeffrey Lyons and Amy Yuki made a jovial and gracious set of Stahlbaums while Val Caniparoli joined Anita Paciotti in the grandparental roles.

Here Esteban Hernandez as the toy Nutcracker bounded electrically from the box. Blake Kessler was the yellow Harlequin and Jahna Frantziskonis, coming to the company from Pacific Northwest Ballet, was the porcelain pink doll.

I noticed in some principals’ tutus a broad, slightly floppy over skirt, like an expansive flower; instead of gradated layers of ruffles,the tutu cuts to the underpinning exposing upper tights and pants when lifted by a partner. What seemed to be a charming floral bouquet, suddenly your eyes were directed, minus smaller petals, to stamens and pistils.

Doris Andre served as The Sugar Plum Fairy regally. I did not notice it much before this season and it may reflect some tweaking, but the Sugar Plum Fairy summoned her waltzing flowers as well as the busy little lady bug, moths and butterflies to hear the tale of the Nutcracker Prince’s battle with the Mouse King. It brought a warmth to the undertaking, a winning witnessing to the otherwise austere evocation of the Conservatory of Flowers.

Normally the French variation, usually belonging to a trio of Dresden Shepherdess but here candy-caned striped can can dancers, appeals to me not at all. In the December 18 matinee, however, I noticed some nice phrasing with adroit finishing emphasis by Miranda Silveira.

Carlo di Lano made his debut in this production of the holiday staple with Matilde Froustey as his adult Clara. What a marvelous pair they were, both in looks and European ambiance. When the Nutcracker’s mask was lifted, di Lano’s breath animated his port de bras: liberation! This sensibility pervaded every motion, making the most logical, the most spectacular special.

Oakland Celebrates A Half Century

2 Jun

A 4 p.m. curtain May 23 at Oakland’s Paramount Theatre was preceded by a series of still images from its memorable repertoire, few unfamiliar. Three were missing, belonging to its inaugural season reminding me of the courage and freshness of the company’s original vision Ronn Guidi hewed to during his tenure as artistic director. The audience included a near who’s who of dancers long associated with the mid to late twentieth century ballet world, their numbers almost bringing tears to my eyes. And as part of the opening, Graham Lustig both on video and in person did the company proud while Joanna Harris remarked that Ronn Guidi not only brought twentieth century ballet incons to the Paramount Theatre, he reintroduced narrative to audiences exposed to balletic abstraction. Further Lustig mounted not only ballet icons excerpts but in the second half gave the Bay Area choreographers who contributed to Oakland’s repertoire their due. The Diaghilev era snippets, familiar to long-time balletomanes, may have seemed strange to ballet-goers whose exposure dates from the first years of the twenty-first century. The dancers were young, eager, willing but as yet unfamiliar with the style and nuance needed to burnish  assignments; hopefully that will emerge if the works are remounted. The second half of the program saw them at their best. Lustig adroitly programed Ronn Guidi’s Secret Garden pas de deux for the ill-fated parents as the opening of the retrospective, danced by Sharon Wehner and Taurean Green, and followed by the frivolous pas de deux from the Bronislava Nijinska-Darius Milhaud-Chanel production of Le Train Bleu with Megan Terry and Sean Omandam cavorting in the Chanel-copies of Twenties beach wear. The Hostess solo in Les Biches was danced by Lydia McRae in that witty satire of Riviera louche behavior choreographed by Nijinska to the music of Francis Poulenc and was followed by the Can-Can from La Boutique Fantasque of Leonide Massine to Ottorino Respighi’s arrangement of Gioachhino Rossini music, with Daphne Lee and Tyler Rhoads essaying the roles created by Massine and Lydia Lopokhova. The elegaic solo from the Michel Fokine-Igor Stravinsky Petrouchka was interpreted by Evan Flood with a brief appearance by Patience Gordon as the Ballerina. It was followed by the one-time torrid pas de deux from Michel Fokine’s Scheherazade danced by Alysia Chang as Zobeide and Michael Crawford.as the Slave. The final two excerpts before intermission were Billy’s Solo from the Eugene Loring–Aaron Copland classic Billy the Kid, effectively interpreted by Gabriel Williams and Claude Debussy’s L’Apres Midi D’un Faune as reconstructed by Ann Hutchinson. Matthew Roberts was the Faun, Emily Kerr as the Chief Nymph. The program notes were quite detailed and included more nymphs than I remembered. The second half of the Oakland Ballet’s Gala comprised eight dances, six premieres. Amy Seiwart’s Before It Begins used Antonio Vivaldi’s Violin, Strings and Harpsichord for her quintet with Alysia chang, Daphne Lee, Lydia McRae, Taurean /Green and Sean Omandam. Seiwart’s overt classicism was followed by Michael Lowe’s trio featuring Megan Terry, Sharon Wehner and Evan Flood in a Mongolian-inspired theme by JigJiddorj. N with an instrument known in the West as Horse Head Fiddle. Flood was garbed in Asian-type garments, dancing frequent frontal grand jetes, softened by flowing sleeves and trousers. Betsy Erickson, who has served as ballet mistress for the Oakland Company for seven and a half years, chose Marjan Mozetch’s Postcards from the Sky music for A Moment- A Lifetime, interpreted by Emily Kerr and Taurean Green Erickson’s contribution was followed by the 1976 production of Carlos Carvajal’s mounting of Green to music of the same name by Toru Takamitsu originally choreographed in 1974 for his ensemble Dance Spectrum. Here danced by Patience Gordon, Lydia McRae and Michael Crawford, it demonstrated the Carvajal capacity for abstraction and use of unusual scores. Robert Moses’ Untitled revealed his ability to choreograph to classical music with Roy Bogas’ rendition of Erik Satie’s Gnossienne No.3, danced by Emily Kerr and Matthew Roberts, as sensitive and lyrical as one would wish. Nine dancers danced Graham Lustig’s contribution, Luminaire to the joint composition November by Max Richter and Alexander Balanescu. The dancers were Alysia Chang, Patience Gordon, Daphne Lee, Megan Terry, Sharon Wehner, Evan Flood, Taurean Green, Sean Omandam and Tyler Rhoads. The 1999 Alonzo King contribution to Oakland’s repertoire, Love Dogs, with music by Francis Poulenc, featured Lydia McRae and Michael Crawford, with King’s characteristic expanded nuances in partnering and individual torso accents. It was followed by Val Caniparoli’s Das Ballett. set to Leopold Mozart’s Toy Symphony, a lively sextette with Alysia Change, Daphne Lee, Sharon Wehner, Sean Omandam, Tyler Roads, and Matthew Roberts, an adroitly festive finale to this fiftieth Oakland Ballet celebration. Two thoughts struck me about this laudable undertaking. One is the fervent hope that the supporters of the occasion will continue contributing to the company’s funding, allowing Lustig additional time to refine the willing dancers who reflect excellent training, but need time and exposure to polish their craft. The second is Karen Brown’s statement in the gala program regarding company member composition. True, Oakland now possesses a 30 per cent complement of African Americans, but they are not and have never been the only minority whose careers Oakland fostered and supported. Asian-American dancers were developed in pre-Brown company years. Carolyn Goto, Joy Gim and Michael Lowe were just a few of those dancing under the Guidi aegis. Further, early on, Judy Titus left Oakland to join Dance Theatre of Harlem where she, like Brown, enjoyed principal status. Omar Shabazz also was a local dancer.Both dancers, I might add, were fostered by Ronn Guidi; Brown’s comments do not acknowledge the considerable change not only in opportunity but in social climate, when few African Americans ventured into the classical classroom.  Guidi fostered anyone truly  interested. Finally, I want to comment not only on the completeness and the generosity of spirit reflected in the program, but to identify two, possibly three, dances I remember well. One was The Proposal of Pantalone by Angene Feves, Associate Artistic Director of the company for the first year or two. Usingivaldi viol de gamba recordings, Feves’ graduating thesis From San Francisco State University involved commedia del arte characters and her extraordinary skills as a seamstress, providing a ballet of wit and panache unhappily lost to history. Angene and Ronn danced Brighella and Harlequin and a young fourteen-year old named Anita Paciotti made a ravishing young Italian whom Pantalone wanted to marry off for a healthy sum. There was a modern work by Nancy Feragallo, name forgotten, but her name was associated with the set designer for San Francisco’s Contemporary Dancers, led by Jay No Period Marks, and husband, Roger Feragallo. Somewhere a review with my byline lies in an issue of Thought magazine, published in New Delhi. There also was a work to Modest Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain in which Debbie Hesse remembers dancing in opaque oblong ghostly garments, all sizes essaying jetes and cartwheels across the stage in orderly abandon. It is such a pity the three works faded in to obscurity save in the minds of those who danced and who saw and remembered.

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.