CriticalDance Forum

San Francisco Ballet 'Nutcracker' 2003
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Author:  Azlan [ Sun Nov 30, 2003 11:37 am ]
Post subject:  San Francisco Ballet 'Nutcracker' 2003

S.F. 'Nutcracker' impressive as ever

Anita Amirrezvani
San Jose Mercury News

For holiday thrills, it's hard to beat San Francisco Ballet's ``Nutcracker,'' which opened Friday at the War Memorial Opera House. <a href= target=_blank>more</a>

<small>[ 21 December 2003, 01:38 AM: Message edited by: Azlan ]</small>

Author:  Ima_Dancer [ Mon Dec 01, 2003 10:58 am ]
Post subject:  Re: San Francisco Ballet 'Nutcracker' 2003

'Nutcracker' profits from new sugar-high pacing

Ann Murphy, Special to The Chronicle
Monday, December 1, 2003


Roll over Beethoven, Tchaikovsky's back in town. And so are the Stahlbaums, Herr Drosselmeyer, Clara, the Rat King and the rest of the crew. Brought together by music director and conductor Andrew Mogrelia at the War Memorial Opera House on Friday, the San Francisco Ballet created a surging, swift-running "Nutcracker" performed before a squealing audience packed with children and their parents in the ballet's first family night of the season.

<small>[ 01 December 2003, 11:58 AM: Message edited by: Ima_Dancer ]</small>

Author:  Ima_Dancer [ Mon Dec 01, 2003 11:00 am ]
Post subject:  Re: San Francisco Ballet 'Nutcracker' 2003

Speaking of the Chronicle, have they hired an official dance critic yet?

Author:  LMCtech [ Mon Dec 01, 2003 12:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: San Francisco Ballet 'Nutcracker' 2003

From the SF Chronicle about those who've been there, done it, and then left it.

'Nutcracker' true stories

Ann Murphy

"Nutcracker" is really much more than it's cracked up to be. While those of us in the audience witness a carefully constructed fantasy full of gimmicks and wonderful timing, behind the scenes is a bustling world of prankish stagehands, jury-rigged equipment and dancers looking for ways to counter the boredom as they wait to go on. "Nutcracker" performers seem never to forget their time onstage, and these former mice, Mother Gingers, flowers and Princes say they still gets chills when they hear the music.

Author:  DavidH [ Mon Dec 01, 2003 12:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: San Francisco Ballet 'Nutcracker' 2003

Ann Murphy says:

A phlegmatic Yuan Yuan Tan and anemic Vadim Solomakha.......
Oy! Sticks and stones........

Author:  Ima_Dancer [ Mon Dec 01, 2003 1:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: San Francisco Ballet 'Nutcracker' 2003

Are Russell and Aaron related to Ann?

Author:  Azlan [ Mon Dec 01, 2003 9:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: San Francisco Ballet 'Nutcracker' 2003

Or Edward Murphy, of Murphy's Law?

Author:  djb [ Mon Dec 01, 2003 11:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: San Francisco Ballet 'Nutcracker' 2003

It's so nice to see Tina LeBlanc back.

As for that review of Yuan Yuan Tan and Vadim Solomakha...I didn't see this performance, but it's hard to believe she was talking about the same two dancers I've seen so many times.

Author:  crandc [ Wed Dec 10, 2003 8:17 am ]
Post subject:  Re: San Francisco Ballet 'Nutcracker' 2003

I have a few questions:
Anyone here gone to see SF Ballet Nutcracker this year? I always enjoy reading reviews from our posters.
I have also wondered if I can risk trying to see it myself. Due to environmental illness, indoor performances are off limits. But I wonder, and if anyone knows I'd appreciate the info, are there days after Christmas, especially weeknights, when crowds are sparse enough so I could attempt it and change seats if necessary? I'd love to go but it is so upsetting to look forward to something, then have to leave because I can't breathe. (Remember that next time you put on perfume to go to a performance you are keeping someone else out.)
Where is a good place to get a seat at the Opera House?
Would they freak if I brought a respirator? Looks weird and is very uncomfortable but beats losing my dinner and being sick for a week afterwards. (sorry to sound gross)
Since I know the discussion group may not be the best place for personal issues, feel free to email if you have any answers. Hope posting email does not break any rules!

Author:  djb [ Wed Dec 10, 2003 5:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: San Francisco Ballet 'Nutcracker' 2003

There's always standing room. It's easy to move around that way. Of course, I'm usually taller than most of the people around me, so I can stand behind the other standees and still see, even if it's crowded.

<small>[ 11 December 2003, 01:08 AM: Message edited by: djb ]</small>

Author:  Azlan [ Wed Dec 10, 2003 7:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: San Francisco Ballet 'Nutcracker' 2003

I second djb's response. Try standing room. When the crowd is thin, you'll even have the option of sitting.

I'm not sure which nights will be the least crowded. I would think perhaps during the week.

Also, don't be afraid to mention your concerns when you call to purchase the ticket. Sometimes they can be extremely helpful.

Author:  Toba Singer [ Fri Dec 19, 2003 9:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: San Francisco Ballet 'Nutcracker' 2003

The Nutcracker. San Francisco Ballet, War Memorial Auditorium, San Francisco

Fortunately, a new generation of dancers is beginning to emerge at San Francisco Ballet. Unfortunately, it is going to take awhile for them to become integrated into the company and raise their skills to the level of some of the veteran performers. Fortunately (with apologies to Remy Charlip), Nutcracker, in spite of its humdrum choreography, is an excellent laboratory for getting it right. Added to the awkward conjuncture, are the flu and injuries owing to viruses and fatigue. The result is that a small number of fairly inexperienced dancers dance a lot of performances and get pretty worn out. Also worn out are the scenery and costumes. I can’t wait for the Stahlbaums to repaint their parlor in anticipation of next year’s new production. I am eager for the Kingdom of the Sweets to undergo the ecological, seismic and climatalogical shifts required to change the color of that land mass to a color that is not Wilted White, Bored Beige or Punked-Out Peptic Pink. I will not grieve the loss of those faux-stained glass overhead objects that look like they were salvaged from the set of a 1970s sitcom. Either the Flowers costumes are designed to look like Four O’Clocks that we happen to be seeing in their 9 a.m. season, or they have died a slow, painful death over the years, from dehydration and overuse.

It was more than a little shocking to my Boston Ballet-enthusiast companion that there was not a full house. The usual phalanx of standing room devotees had easily found accommodations in the sinking seats in the orchestra. (Could those be overhauled as well, in honor of the new Nutcracker?) Not being required to execute a grand plié in sixth position in order to sit in them might perk up the audience for the occasion.

In spite of the sagging seats, sets, spirits, and costumes, there were some lovely moments in this past Wednesday evening’s performance. Drosselmeyer, performed by Peter Brandenhoff, takes on more and more of the absolutely necessary grandeur that Jorge Esquivel has been able to confer on the character. It is handy to remember that the Drosselmeyer character is very much akin to the Stage Manager in the play, Our Town. Without him, not only do we not have a nutcracker, we also do not have the stopping of time, Clara’s dream, with all that it brings us in the second act. It saddens me when I see producations in which Drosselmeyer doesn’t show up in the finale, though it probably makes whoever is cast to play him happy to leave early, jump on his motorcycle and arrive home before the opening grand jeté of Tripak. Drosselmeyer is the steward of the story and should be applauded for the tale he formats.

In the party scene, we are introduced to Rachelle Evans, as Clara. It was heartening to see an African-American child in that coveted role. For those who squirm at the mere mention of the words "affirmative action," YES, she was the most qualified girl to dance the role, and NO, she didn’t get to dance it because she’s Black, though it’s about time! Mary Ellen Beaudreau was tons of fun to watch as the grandma with a buzz on, and in that vein, I am convinced that Val Caniparoli’s King of the Mice is without equal in the dance world. He is the embodiment of the cowardly, swaggering General-without-an-army. Yuan Yuan Tan, as the Snow Queen, is supremely supple, gorgeous and regal in her bearing, dancing the role with total abandon and delight. As she matures, she seems to gain depth and a generosity of spirit that we did not see in her earliest performances. Vadim Solomakha is a gallant Snow King, and remains the gracious and Benevolent Despot throughout.

Margaret Karl is new to the role of Dancing Doll. Her initial mime work was quite good, but she had a little trouble with her posé arabesques. One has to assume when something so basic is not in place, it is because the dancer has the flu or an injury. The Dancing (bear) Partner brought the energy level up, and Ms. Karl was able to match his great élan.

As the Sugar Plum Fairy, Kristin Long was energetic, though a bit off the music at times. She has a back injury, but that was in no way evident. She is a trouper, and covered well for the listlessness of one of the child partners, no doubt hoping to model an energy level that the children need to work harder to achieve. Spanish Chocolate was unspectacular, with the standouts standing out a bit too much so that the work failed to move together in one piece and got a little clunky. Arabian Coffee seemed a little disembodied, and you could see the trap door leaning open against the vessel from which Maryellen Olson emerges. The headdress that Chidozie Nzerem wears destroyed the line of his neck and back. That could hopefully change in next year’s production.

Apprentice Martyn Garside was put in for Jaime Garcia Castilla, and displayed great strength informed by delicacy in the Chinese Tea divertissement, showing an enchanting ballon that should be the envy of all the male dancers in the company.

Aaron Orza was a splendidly convincing Cossack, giving us a Yul Brynner-style decisiveness in his very present-and-accounted-for rendition. His partners were adequate, though one of them less attentive than the other.

The Mother Ginger kids seemed a little shell-shocked this year. No pink costumes next year, please! Petal pink is not about Christmas!

The corps danced Flowers with total dedication to hands and arms—all of them beautiful and musically brilliant. Leslie Young, as Butterly, seemed a bit distracted and balky, as though she didn’t feel at home in the role.

Joan Boada’s partnering of Kristin Long seemed a little remote, though his variations were magnificent, with his usual mega-elevation and killer double tours. Finding fifth when he lands would model that expectation for the students, who of course still have a ways to go to accomplish that, along with pointing their toes.

If I sound a little balky myself, I have to say that it concerns me that the dancers are put through the mill for the sake of packing the patrons in. I’d rather see fewer performances with a greater scale of ticket prices, so that audiences don’t miss out, dancers stay healthier and less injured, rent is kept down, and performances are better. There are other ways to pull in the cash, such as more aggressive boutique sales, or associated events where Nutcrackabilia is sold (as they do in Houston at the downtown Nutcracker Market, a holiday institution in that city). Taking the profits out of the hides of the dancers is not good for anyone: the audience, the dancers, nor the remainder of the season, most of which is ahead of us. In considering the next Nutcracker, let’s trade what has become something of a Mincemeat Pie for something that floats better--like Marzipan!

<small>[ 21 December 2003, 10:30 AM: Message edited by: Toba Singer ]</small>

Author:  djb [ Sat Dec 20, 2003 11:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: San Francisco Ballet 'Nutcracker' 2003

Tonight's performance may be the only one I get to see this season. What a night I chose to see it! There was a large power outage in the part of the city that the Opera House is in, which had some effect on the performance (see my post in Issues/Nutcracker Fatigue for details). However, I think it added some extra zip to the performance.

I'm too tired to write much now, but I just want to say something about one special performer. The other night I watched "Top Hat." It was the first time I'd seen Fred Astaire in quite awhile (no, he didn't appear with SFB tonight), and he astounded me all over again. Well, tonight I got to see Tina LeBlanc for the first time in what seems like ages, and it had just the same effect on me. She is soooooo good! I had hoped to see her as the SPF, but now I'm glad I came on this night instead, because she was the Butterfly, and I like that choreography better. More than a butterfly, she was "like buttah!" And, as always, she made me want to dance. Welcome back!

Author:  djb [ Sat Dec 20, 2003 11:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: San Francisco Ballet 'Nutcracker' 2003

I just checked the news and learned that the power outage affected a much larger chunk of the city than I'd realized. It was caused by a fire, so I wasn't imagining I smelled smoke when I was in front of the Opera House.

Author:  Azlan [ Sun Dec 21, 2003 12:38 am ]
Post subject:  Re: San Francisco Ballet 'Nutcracker' 2003

DJB, you chose the most special night, the one that will get talked about for a long time. The last time something like this happened to me at SFB, the power came back on just in the nick of time.

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