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San Francisco Ballet - 'Don Quixote'
by Mary Ellen Hunt
February 5, 2004
-- War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco
Practically the first question I heard
as I entered the Opera House on Thursday evening was "How was it??
How WAS it??"
It seems many more people than could attend were interested in the debuts
of LeBlanc and Nedviguine, which, rumor has it, was unfortunately a one-off.
It would be a pity if true, because they make a terrific couple. As gala
observers might have guessed, the two of them compliment each other beautifully,
with Nedviguine offering solid support for LeBlanc, and LeBlanc melting
his sometimes icy persona.
For a first go at this lengthy ballet, they seem to have worked a great
deal on the comic timing so integral to the first act. Technique is never
a problem for either of them, although a couple of small bobbles here
and there indicated to me that they felt the pressure. Nevertheless, being
two pros, they came through when it mattered most, not just with tricks
and razzmatazz, but with some carefully chosen touches and -- that favorite
word of music critics -- rubato.
I've decided that I like that word for Tina LeBlanc. When I first saw
it in a review, I had never heard this musical term applied to dance before,
but it encapsulates a kind of phrasing of a note (or step) in which one
stretches and holds the moment a little longer than is strictly musical
in order to create an effect of tension and release and it really applies
Watching LeBlanc in the purely classical Dream sequence was like a lesson
in rubato. She takes space with the grandeur usually reserved for longer
dancers, and her every releve was accompanied by delicate and assured
arms that seemed to stretch on forever.
Although I like Elizabeth Miner in the role of Cupid very much, her variation
often looks as if she were pulled by the music, rather than as if she
were pushing the music. LeBlanc, by contrast, works at the leading edge,
ahead of the music and you wind up with the constant impression of aplomb.
In general, she is not as aggressive as Lorena Feijoo in the same role,
but then she doesn't need to be. In the grand pas de deux, everything
was conducted with the utmost elegance and measured attack, right down
to the way she placed her hand in his, and their luscious glissades terre
a terre. After nailing her solo, LeBlanc dropped her fan right at the
end of her variation, but it seemed to make her all the more determined
to finish her coda (her fouettes included sixteen counts of slowly changing
her spot so as to take in the entire corps de ballet) which she polished
off, even though the fatigue must surely have been catching up with her.
The ballet, which I remember as being LONG last year, proceeded apace,
making me think that they may have tightened up the action a little. And
there was the usual slew of good work from supporting characters. Moises
Martin was was perhaps a little more dreamy and not as gangly a Don Quixote
as Kirill Zaretskiy was on Tuesday, while Pablo Piantino did a good job
of fleshing out the comic relief character of Sancho Panza.
Different from the opening night (in which Muriel Maffre performed both
the Street Dance and Mercedes -- as it is in most productions where the
street dancer IS Mercedes) on Wednesday night the Street Dancer was a
saucy Julie Diana in the first act, with a somewhat unsteady Elana Altman
taking over as Mercedes in Acts 2 and 3. Altman had some nice moments
in the solo in the tavern, although I have to note that Ruben Martin,
as Espada, completely missed his cue to help her onto the table to dance,
so the poor woman had to hoist herself three and a half feet up in order
to be on time to do her little swishing skirt bit. It’s a tough row to
hoe, however, that tavern bit, because anyone who’s not Muriel Maffre…well…just
isn’t Muriel Maffre.
Sarah Van Patten, in my opinion, still lacks the experience to do even
soloist roles roles I've seen her in so far. Her Gypsy woman had none
of the smoulder of Sherri LeBlanc, although it did have more of the skirt
swishing, which looked suspiciously like Mercedes (another role she performs
in this ballet).
The gypsy king, always a bit of a mystery to me, was nimbly danced by
Hansuke Yamamoto on Wednesday. He performed cleanly, and did the best
he could with perplexing mimes such as, "What? Your father? Coming
here? Wait… I have an idea… Run away!!"
Katita Waldo, as the Queen of the Driads, was cool, calm, and collected,
although her variation wasn’t quite as expansive as I’ve seen her. And
playing the fop Gamache was a very funny Peter Brandenhoff to round things
Edited by Lori Ibay
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