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 Post subject: SF Ballet Stern Grove performances
PostPosted: Tue Oct 26, 1999 7:53 pm 
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<u>San Francisco Ballet Stern Grove, San Francisco <B>8/1/99</B></u><P>I am inclined to believe it is best to approach an outdoor performance with a sense of adventure. This free performance by the oldest professional ballet company in the U.S. reinforces it. The reasons are simple: there are many elements in an outdoor setting that are not in control of the concertmaster, like for example a sudden gust of wind rippling through the orchestra causing a small havoc with the music sheets or the weather turning from a cold foggy morning to a baking hot afternoon forcing dancers to adjust their warm-up routines. However, in spite of the lack of climate control, the festive atmosphere of a picnicking audience and the makeshift nature of the performance area, San Francisco Ballet once again turned in a very enjoyable performance and gave its fans a brief opportunity to enjoy its stars during the summer.<P>The program itself began with Lew Christensen’s style of high adventure with the always funny Con Amore, which according to the program notes, is one of the most popular works in the history of this company. It is not difficult to understand why as I am tickled pink each time I see this piece performed. Choreographed by Christensen in 1953 to music by Rossini, Con Amore is a farcical comedy involving female military guards, a swarthy bandit, a husband, his mistress and her three suitors, with an angel of love thrown in for good measure. In a piece that seems more slapstick theater than dance, the ability to dance well to create the slapstick is paramount. Take as an illustration the temper tantrum sequence by the mistress in which Julie Diana almost captured perfectly her character’s duality of emotions: the bratty temper projected by the furious exaggerated movements of the legs and the simultaneous flirtatiousness signified by the fussing of the hair and hat. This is of course a crucial moment in the ballet as these few minutes of dancing, if done brilliantly, conveys to the audience the essence of its character. However, in this afternoon’s performance, Diana although expressive, appeared a little pensive and perhaps a little too graceful, thus softening the effect of the tantrum. Meanwhile, Muriel Maffre, as captain of the guards, was once again the perfect haughty leader of a band of women – she seems to have become a specialist in these kinds of roles, that include the Queen of the Wilis in Giselle and the leader of the arachnowomen in The Cage.<P>Three pas de deux pieces constituted the middle section of the program, in which adventure took different forms. In the Grand Pas de Deux from Act II of the Nutcracker, the adventure was to see if the young and exciting pair of Vanessa Zahorian and Guennedi Nedviguine have the maturity to dance their best for a picnicking audience equally interested in their sandwiches as they are the performances on stage, a daunting prospect when one considers the dancers’ lack of rehearsal-fitness during the off season. Zahorian and Nedviguine had followed their Erik Bruhn prize win earlier this year with radiant performances in Theme and Variations and the Peasant Pas de Cinq in Giselle. However, this afternoon’s performance showed that these two young dancers still have a fair amount to improve on. While Zahorian, who is still only a corps member, was her usual expressive self, her timing seemed to be a little ahead of the music, forcing some awkward pause-and-jerk movements. Meanwhile, soloist Nedviguine’s cool and calm demeanor appeared too much in contrast to the expressiveness of the music and Zahorian’s expressions. These are however minor quibbles and with some improvement, this pair may become the most celebrated duo in San Francisco Ballet’s history.<P>The other Grand Pas de Deux of the afternoon was from Act III of Don Quixote, featuring principal dancers Yuan Yuan Tan and Vadim Solomokha. What these two dancers share and perhaps why they are often paired together is their child-like exuberance. The adventure here was to see how much of their exuberance would actually be unleashed given a lazy afternoon crowd. Nothing it seems can diminish Solomokha’s broad grin or Tan’s penchant for “lush” pirouettes, for they provided plenty of both and more this afternoon.<P>The only contemporary piece in the program was Shogun, a term which in itself connotes exotic adventure. Performed to taped music by Milton Nascimento and Fernando Brant, the premise of this piece appears to be a ritual between a samurai and his pupil. As such, I have always felt this piece, choreographed by Ivonice Satice, would work much better if performed by an older principal dancer and a younger soloist or corps member, once that is you get past the idea that the music is South American and not really Japanese. This afternoon’s casting of two corps members, Peter Brandenhoff and Chidozie Nzerem, was an interesting contrast – though still ineffective – to the prior casting of principals David Palmer and Christopher Stowell. Because this piece is performed by two bare-chested men in menacing staidness, Nzerem provides an interesting edge with his brooding good looks and his well-toned physique. I suggest that a pairing of the older Palmer as the tutor and Nzerem as a power-hungry pupil would provide for an interesting twist to this piece.<P>Whether intentional or not, Helgi Tomasson saved the best for last. Led by Tina LeBlanc and Roman Rykine, the company paraded on stage in Balanchine’s Theme and Variations. This piece also provided for the biggest – literally – adventure, that is of fitting the entire cast of 26 on the small makeshift stage. But that they did and, as with all productions of Theme I’ve seen, with much aplomb. Having been taken aback by the poor performance of the otherwise perfect LeBlanc earlier this season when she was paired with Parrish Maynard, I was once again surprised, this time by the improvement made when she danced opposite Rykine in this afternoon’s performance. And having seen Theme about three times on each coast this spring, I can also safely say that there are significant differences between the SFB and NYCB productions. If, as a NYCB dance fan informed me, the NYCB version remained true to its origins, then SFB must have modernized its version as its costumes are more pastel and have a slimmer fit, its soloists wear smaller earrings, and its orchestra’s tempo and contrast in the “parade” sequence seem more jarring in the introduction of the sequence, thus leading to a more distinguishable march.<P>The greatest adventure for me personally this afternoon however was prior to the ballets, when the orchestra performed a musical tribute to former Principal Conductor Dennis de Coteau who had passed away recently. I put my sunglasses on to hide my eyes, as I have not yet learned how to listen to the adagio movement of Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations without sadness and melancholy, especially when performed in solemn honor of a respected individual, in this case, a talented artiste who will be missed.<P><BR>[This message has been edited by Azlan (edited August 09, 2000).]<p>[This message has been edited by Azlan (edited August 11, 2000).]


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 Post subject: Re: SF Ballet Stern Grove performances
PostPosted: Mon Aug 07, 2000 7:07 pm 
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Image <P><BR>I didn't make it to this year's (<B>2000</B>) free performance at Stern Grove but upon hearing the initial reports from my network of insider informants, I wish I did.<P>Apparently, the cold weather almost prevented the show from going on, with the dancers' union voting whether it was too cold to perform in this outdoor performance. However, a compromise was reached and half an hour later, the show commenced, with dancers appearing in leg warmers over their costumes.<P>In this SF Examiner review, Allan Ulrich writes, "Ballet delivers alert performance despite stern conditions in Grove." He also admired Guennadi Nedviguine's buoyancy in "Solo." The company also performed William Forsythe's kinetically mesmerizing "Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude" and Mark Morris' daffy "Sandpaper Ballet"<P>Read the <A HREF="http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/examiner/archive/2000/08/07/STYLE1076.dtl" TARGET=_blank>full article</A>.<p>[This message has been edited by Azlan (edited August 08, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: SF Ballet Stern Grove performances
PostPosted: Mon Aug 07, 2000 8:02 pm 
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Hmm.... cold muscles ain't what's needed for the helter-skelter of Forsythe's 'Vertiginous etc.' I'm not surprised that the dancers took action.


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 Post subject: Re: SF Ballet Stern Grove performances
PostPosted: Tue Aug 08, 2000 3:27 am 
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who danced the pirate in con amore? <P>and i can't imagine, having been there, how they got theme and variations on that stage! <P>and just out of curiosity, doesn't anyone criticize helgi for hiring russians? it seems to bother people when anyone else does it! Image<P>and finally (!) denis de coteau was a wonderful man. i was very sorry to hear he'd passed away.


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 Post subject: Re: SF Ballet Stern Grove performances
PostPosted: Tue Aug 08, 2000 5:37 pm 
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Tiny tangent - <BR>"Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude" is the coolest name for anything I've heard in days. Weeks. A while.


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 Post subject: Re: SF Ballet Stern Grove performances
PostPosted: Wed Aug 09, 2000 6:13 pm 
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Sorry for the confusion, Grace. The first review up above was from last summer's performance. I didn't go to this summer's.<P>Pmeja, I forget who danced the pirate but I will look through my old program.<P>Azlan


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 Post subject: Re: SF Ballet Stern Grove performances
PostPosted: Wed Aug 09, 2000 6:40 pm 
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Here is an excerpt from Octavia Roca's version:<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>They danced. And though leg warmers were thrown on top of some costumes and not every piece ended up being performed, the dancing was spectacular.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P><A HREF="http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2000/08/08/DD89534.DTL" TARGET=_blank>Read the full article</A>.


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 Post subject: Re: SF Ballet Stern Grove performances
PostPosted: Fri Aug 11, 2000 8:07 pm 
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Pmeja, the pirate/sailor role in Con Amore was danced by Michael Eaton in last year's Stern Grove performance.


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 Post subject: Re: SF Ballet Stern Grove performances
PostPosted: Tue Aug 15, 2000 7:58 am 
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It's hard to explain the curious anomaly of SF weather to those who have not experienced it...and the weather at Stern Grove is, ironically, more prone to collect pockets of cold fog than most other places in The City. Every year, it seems to be a roll of the dice. I'm gratified to hear that the dancers agreed to perform with leg warmers. (The Stern Grove performances are free and provide many people with their only annual experiences with each of the major art forms.)


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 Post subject: Re: SF Ballet Stern Grove performances
PostPosted: Thu Aug 02, 2001 4:27 pm 
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Here is the preview for the <B>2001 performance</B>:<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><B>SF Ballet home for Stern Grove show</B><P>Rachel Howard, SF Examiner<BR> <BR> San Francisco Ballet's annual appearance has always been a highlight of the Stern Grove Festival, but this year it takes on a special anticipation as the company, fresh back from a successful run at the Paris Opera Garnier, leaves soon for its debut performances at London's Covent Garden Royal Opera House and engagements in Bilbao, Santander and Barcelona, Spain.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P><a href=http://www.examiner.com/ex_files/default.jsp?story=X0802BALLETw target=_blank><B>More</B></a><p>[This message has been edited by Azlan (edited August 06, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: SF Ballet Stern Grove performances
PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2001 4:46 am 
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From <B>S.F. Ballet takes a place in the sun - Even the weather's grand at Stern Grove</B> by Octavio Roca, San Francisco Chronicle:<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>San Francisco Ballet is between gigs, in the middle of the most prestigious international tour in the company's history. Following their recent success in Paris, the dancers are off to London and Barcelona next week and barely had time for a stopover at Stern Grove yesterday afternoon.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P><A HREF="http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2001/08/06/DD212187.DTL" TARGET=_blank><B>more...</B></A>


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 Post subject: Re: SF Ballet Stern Grove performances
PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2001 11:10 am 
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This sounds like a great performance this year -- did anyone in SF attend? Azlan? Belinda?


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 Post subject: Re: SF Ballet Stern Grove performances
PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2001 11:44 am 
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Francis, you are succeeding in making me feel guilty. You must be the dozenth person to ask me that...<P>However, maybe I can get some others to give their impressions...


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 Post subject: Re: SF Ballet Stern Grove performances
PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2001 5:57 pm 
Saw the Stern Grove performance yesterday. Here's my take on it.<BR>Swan Lake: Yuan Yuan Tan has beautiful line as Odette, shes looks a good swan (albeit a skinny one), but I found her wanting. A lot of her footwork seemed sloppy to me, and sometimes she just doesn't phrase her steps very well. No attack to her dancing. Her tempos were slow, slow, slow. Vadim Solomakha didn't have a lot to do, but he whetted my appetite to see him as a full length Siegried. The swans fared better. There are several corp dancers I really think deserve to be soloists: Nicole Starbuck and Elizabeth Miner always seem to do a good job. Another dancer I wish would get more opportunities is Corinne Blum. She's tall and not skinny, but really has an elegant line and a grace to her dancing.<P>Sleeping Beauty Act III excerpts: The best dancing was in the Pas de Six. Jason Davis is another corp dancer who deserves more opportunities. I really think he's better than several of their soloists. People went crazy about the Bluebird pas de deux... but I didn't. Guennadi Nedviguine and Kristin Long need more coaching in the style of that difficult piece. Nedviguine's entrechats six were muddy and I just didn't see the lightness and unearthliness that role needs. Long is an excellent dancer, but I just don't think she's got the pure classical style to dance Princess Florine (called the Enchanted Princess in Tomasson's version). I didn't see the fireworks.<BR>I did love Lorena Feijoo as Aurora. She may not be perfect for the role, but what a wonderful performer she is. Unlike some principals in the company, this woman really knows how to project and relate to her partner. Unfortunately, her partner in this case, Cyril Pierre, is a dancer who's position in SFB I just don't get. I know he's married to Lacarra, but I just don't see his personal appeal. I thought his solo was barely passable. He's an okay partner, but doesn't add any energy, passion or drama to his ballerina. <BR>Best of all yesterday was Symphony in Three Movements. Excellent dancing by both the corps and soloists.I especially loved Julie Diana, Sherri LeBlanc (who can dance Balanchine with her eyes closed) and Michael Eaton who I continue to think, is one of the best dancers in the company. <P>------------------<BR>cheers,<BR>ralph


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 Post subject: Re: SF Ballet Stern Grove performances
PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2001 7:09 pm 
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Hello, Ralph, and welcome! Interesting comments you made. It sounds almost like something I would have written if I were there! Those characteristics you ascribed to the dancers are ones I am quite familiar with.<P>One correction though: While Pierre and Lacarra are a couple, I'm not sure if they are married.<P>And I second all the way your nomination for Starbuck to be promoted!<p>[This message has been edited by Azlan (edited August 08, 2001).]


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