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Preview - San
By Mary Ellen Hunt
With three completely
different programs at Sadler’s Wells this month, San Francisco Ballet
is bringing a little something for everyone to London. Versatility and
style have always been hallmarks of the company, and with the eleven works
planned for the tour, director Helgi Tomasson seems intent on showcasing
Casting for the performances will be available as the dates draw closer,
but here are a few glimpses of the ballets on the tour from a long-time
observer of the company.
And if you have a bit of time, take a tour of SFB’s new website (http://www.sfballet.org).
Along with the usual schedules and information, they’ve added new features
– including some entertaining “What I did on my summer vacation” updates
from the dancers.
Program I - Sept. 20 & 23, 7:30 pm
Balanchine's “Square Dance”
Balanchine’s tip of the hat to an American folk style doesn’t have the
square dance “caller” anymore, but the unique mix of formalism and folk
is as delightful as ever. Last season Tina LeBlanc tore up the stage with
the sort of astonishingly swift and clean pointe work that would have
most dancers’ feet tied in knots. But probably the most appealing part
of this light, lemon mousse confection was the playful connection she
had with a boyish and bravura Gonzalo Garcia.
Christopher Wheeldon's “Continuum”
What does it all mean? Christopher Wheeldon’s “Continuum” (a companion
piece to New York City Ballet's "Polyphonia") is one of those
ballets likely to leave the audience wondering and thinking. There are
Balanchinean echoes in the simple tights-and-leotard costumes, which play
starkly against the architectural lighting, but it’s the dancers -- the
spirited Kristin Long, the lithe Damian Smith, and the indomitable Muriel
Maffre -- who bring a human quality to this meditative series of etudes.
Alexei Ratmansky's “Le Carnaval des Animaux”
Child-like, but not childish, Bolshoi director Alexei Ratmansky’s lighthearted
ballet takes the Saint-Saens “Carnival of the Animals” as inspiration
for a whimsical menagerie of animal-based vignettes. Everyone in the company
always seems to be in high-spirits for this piece: from the gaggle of
hens -- led memorably last season by Elizabeth Miner -- to Stephen Legate’s
preening cockerel to the coltish James Sofranko and Pablo Piantino to
Muriel Maffre’s sadly dilapidated Swan.
Program II - Sept. 21 & 24, 7:30 pm
Balanchine's “Ballo della Regina”
Principal dancer and technical whiz Lorena Feijoo seems made for this
light, delicate and choreographically nerve-wracking ballet by George
Balanchine. Last August in the outdoor Stern Grove, she performed “Ballo”
with singular aplomb – she was on fire even though the temperature was
so cool that her partner Sergio Torrado was forced to resort to leg warmers.
And when she took a nasty spill in her bourrees, she was up in a trice
and fiercely attacking the steps as if nothing would stop her.
George Balanchine's “The Four Temperaments”
George Balanchine’s towering work to the music of Paul Hindemith was a
highlight of last season’s Balanchine Celebration. SFB’s take doesn’t
quite have the same refined look as that of New York City Ballet but it
does have lots of glamour. When the company performed “Four Ts” at Stern
Grove, Gonzalo Garcia captivated attention as Melancholic in an appealing
solo that seemed to simultaneously soar and slouch. Nicolas Blanc, dancing
the same part last season, was no less impressive for his obvious understanding
of the choreographic structure, right down to the peculiar arm-leg coordination.
Yuri Possokhov’s languishing Phlegmatic is also distinct from Damian Smith’s
more inquisitive, quirky approach to the role. But truly from another
planet is Muriel Maffre’s Choleric, who eats up space and lashes out those
limbs like an alien predator.
Helgi Tomasson's “Concerto Grosso”
Dominated at the premiere by the sleek insouciance of Pascal Molat, Helgi
Tomasson’s ballet for five men was a hit with the audience from the start.
Turns, jumps, and personality –- Molat has it all, but don’t underestimate
the other men. “Concerto Grosso,” in fact, is an excellent chance to see
some of the corps de ballet men -- Jaime Garcia Castilla, Hansuke Yamamoto,
Garrett Anderson, and Rory Hohenstein, to name a few -- take centerstage
Yuri Possokhov's “Study in Motion”
One of the big highlights of last season was the premiere of Possokhov’s
third work for San Francisco Ballet. Elegant, stark, and filled with breathless,
powerful dancing, the ballet became an instant favourite. Possokhov has
an eye for talent, and almost all of the dancers he’s picked have extraordinary
speed, articulation, and passion, but the real beauty of the ballet is
how he’s melded together individual inspirations.
Program III - Sept. 22, 7:30 pm & Sept. 25, 2:30 pm & 7:30 pm
in the Saturday matinee, Wheeldon's “Rush”is replaced
by Ratmansky's "Le Carnaval des Animaux" (see
George Balanchine's “Allegro Brillante”
Graceful and courtly, George Balanchine’s “Allegro Brillante” is one of
those rare ballets that can show you almost instantaneously whether someone
is a good dancer, a great dancer, or a ballerina. Can she mesh groundedness
with noblesse? Generosity with technique, par excellence? There will be
no doubt when the Cuban-born Lorena Feijoo dances with Vadim Solomakha
on the opening night of this program. When Vanessa Zahorian led this ballet
over a year ago, she dive-bombed unforgettably secure turn combinations,
but was still finding her way with the style. Now, it will be the London
audiences who will have the chance to mark her growth in the role.
Natalia Makarova's pas de trois from “Paquita”
Should you have the fortune to see Guennadi Nedviguine in this test of
classical nerve, brace yourself for some of the cleanest technique around.
Last year he, along with Vanessa Zahorian and Katita Waldo, delivered
a detailed classical trio with a brio that sent waves of murmurs through
the audience. In the summer performance, corps member Frances Chung took
Waldo’s part with a sunny brilliance that left no doubt that she’ll be
one to watch for the future. In fact, treats abound in both casts -- the
alternate trio features Jaime Garcia Castilla, whose sailing elevation
and a sly humour as the God of Love in Mark Morris's "Sylvia"
last season delighted fans.
Helgi Tomasson's “7 for Eight”
Set to the music of J.S. Bach, Tomasson’s neo-classical “7 for Eight”
puts the dancers through some fiendish paces, with intricate footwork,
flashing duets and tidy solos for technical masters of the likes of Joan
Boada, Nicolas Blanc, Gonzalo Garcia and Pascal Molat. At the center of
this universe of speeding particles, though, is the exquisite duo of Yuan
Yuan Tan and Yuri Possokhov, dancing the two mysterious central pas de
deux. With a second cast that includes former Royal Ballet School student
Nutnaree Pipithsuksunt with Pierre-Francois Vilanoba, aficionados of the
company may have to go at least twice.
Christopher Wheeldon's “Rush”
Wheeldon’s love of geometry is written all over “Rush” which is driven
by the jazzy music of Bohuslav Martinu’s "Sinfonia La Jolla."
The ballet took off with daredevil speed when the affectionately-termed
“mommy cast” – featuring the three ballerina moms of the company, Katita
Waldo, Kristin Long, and Tina Le Blanc – took the stage over the summer.
The pairing of Blanc and LeBlanc, (Nicolas and Tina, respectively) was
a fortunate one, bringing the punctuation of wit to the ballet, while
Waldo and Damian Smith stretched out into never-ending lines in their
dreamy pas de deux.
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