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 Post subject: San Francisco Ballet 2007 Program 1
PostPosted: Thu Feb 01, 2007 1:45 pm 
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A review from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Quote:
REVIEW
'Artifact' seals Tomasson's imprint on S.F. Ballet
Rachel Howard, Special to The Chronicle

Thursday, February 1, 2007

William Forsythe's "Artifact Suite" is designed to slap you in the face, but the startling thing last year was how the San Francisco Ballet corps danced it. They gave themselves to the limb-tearing extremes as though lives were at stake, teetering above gaping échappés like would-be suicides at the edge of a skyscraper.

Arms reached from torsos as though blown in a gale storm; legs stretched to the breaking point. The corps had enjoyed triumphs since Helgi Tomasson became artistic director in 1985, hitting new benchmarks in classics such as "Swan Lake." But "Artifact Suite" was the first work they seemed to possess in the way the Kirov might claim the works of Petipa, or the New York City Ballet, those of Balanchine. Their fierceness made a group statement: This is the San Francisco Ballet under Tomasson.


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I agree with Rachel about the corps owning Artifact Suite. I think that's why I liked it so much.

I also agree about Rory. He's been shadowed for too long. I think this could be his year. He is incredibly versatile which I honor above all else in a ballet dancer.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 02, 2007 2:31 am 
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Forsythe is a controversial figure and the bane of ballet traditionalists. However, dancers around the world continue to be inspired by his choreography and Rachel Howard's description of the SFB corps owning "Artifact" reminded me of my own experience watching Scottish Ballet perform the same work in 2006: a company galvanised by Forsythe's brilliant innovations creating an electrifying atmosphere in the theatre.


Last edited by Stuart Sweeney on Thu Feb 08, 2007 4:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 03, 2007 6:18 pm 
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Program 1, San Francisco Ballet, War Memorial Opera House, February 2, 2007

In Jeannette Walls’ autobiography, The Glass Castle, she relates an episode in which her father made her aware of the barely perceptible halo at the top of a flame, explaining that it represented the “border between turbulence and order.” William Forsythe’s seminal piece, “Artifact Suite” can be said to occupy the same space as that halo. As the closer in last night’s program, it once again took the increasingly stouthearted San Francisco Ballet Company’s dancers to their leading edge.

The corps, dressed in ochre unitards, falls into a “U” formation around the periphery of the stage. In the dim light, the principal females in the Duet Couples, Muriel Maffre and Lorna Feijoo, are distinguishable by the black tights they wear with their ochre tops. All the dancers’ attention is focused on Elana Altman, the “Single Female Figure” whose back faces the audience as she leads the dancers in semaphore-like port de bras. No sooner are you put in mind of a spooky warehouse of dancers with a sign in the window that reads, “Classical Ballet not spoken here,” than everyone breaks out into adroitly-tendered tendus. Feijoo sends up a volley of open ronde de jambs en l’aire that stop when her partner Pascal Molat chases her back-hopping sautés in arabesque across a vast space. These glimpses into the artifactory of dance movement are aborted by thuds from a fire curtain that comes down just as the movements find their pitch—not as loud-sounding as in last season’s performance—and more effective that way because they strike you more as a delimiters than distractions, like the frames around showcases. After the third thud, the curtain opens on the corps in a “V” formation. Opposing feline moods are invoked by the work of Maffre, sinuous, stretched and full out expansive, as if she were pulling this choreography up from a trove of artifacts to integrate into an embodiment of muscle and mental memory, and Feijoo, who leaps quickly and cleverly like a sleek cat, changing her focus from moment to moment, as preparations and steps meet seamlessly. The corps leaves the stage to the two couples, and blackness is the new framework until twin light trees stream blinding beams from their lowest rungs, and men in green advance on a diagonal. “Will audiences have the pleasure of seeing her dance another Forsythe work again?” is the question that persists as Maffre clearly holds back nothing, letting the full heft of the choreography carry her into a dimension we can and cannot see. Pierre François Vilanoba, while drinking her up, is also very much in command of his partnering, deft and large at the same time.

The corps work is where athletic meets balletic in the dispatch and deployment of modern arms with more classical placement of the legs and torso. Still, low-slung extensions that fire ronde de jambes á terre impressed into the floor take on Graham-like accents, and are rendered richly textured by Forsythe’s diffuse lighting. Then there is Eva Crossman-Hecht’s musical arrangement of the Bach score, which opens the piece with an imploring bass violin. More instruments are added, and in the segment that follows a pause where the stage remains dark and the house lights come up to half, piano rills introduce the women, costumed now in grey and black, as rapid grand jetés fly in all directions. This is not to suggest that what we see is at all chaotic. On the contrary, where the dancer stops and starts is clear and unequivocal, and yet there is a feeling of released energy that is just as unambiguous.

A low rumble emerges as a tinkling etude-like piano accompanies leg clôches, and detailed work with the hands make you think of water that starts with a trickle and whooshes throughout as arms sweep bodies into a series of variations on a theme ending in pendulum swings leading into deeper water images. A phalanx of men infiltrate the women in a serpentine pattern and then they clap one rhythm as the women clap another, a kind of primal call and response as the rain forestation of the piece slowly diminishes. Five dancers remain onstage, skittering and jumping. As the movements come faster and more off-balance, you are thinking “Balanchine,” unless you’ve never seen Balanchine work, in which case you are just taking in monumental choreography. Possibly this is what Balanchine’s work would have said had it not been encumbered with his “ballet is woman” fetish and attendant denial mechanisms that pushed men and personality into the background or off limits entirely.

Pascal Molat’s spiraling, arching and slinky solo is cinematic in its gravitas and range. The women are invited back in. Feijoo is still poised to kill and she does. The corps dancers shape up into a tableau, then arms begin to swing, giving up their leader, Altman, whose Xtreme ballet solo liberates her facility, and there is the feeling that they are ringing in a universal body of contemporary dance—the last two centuries’ lexicon for this art form honed to a fine point.

Balanchine’s “Divertimento No. 15” is a prodigious piece set to complex if not layered music by Mozart, which has me alternately thinking “I hate this,” “I love this,” depending on whether I feel that the dancers are corseted into steps that are unnatural or unbound for them to enjoy themselves. Staged by Elyse Borne, the opening white tutu allegro is danced a bit stiffly and at times unsteadily with planted pointe work that brings to mind a story recently related to me by Bruce Marks about a certain teacher at Royal Danish Ballet School: According to Marks, he forced the girls to bourrée as hard and as fast as they could and named that sadistic practice, “Thunder.”

In Theme, Ruben Martin and Hansuke Yamamoto, in denim-colored tights and appliquéd tunics, give us a virtuosic duet that serves to move the performance quality up several notches, with Elizabeth Miner and Frances Chung taking the stage to match them in the First and Second variations. Rachel Viselli is lovely in the Third variation, and Vanessa Zahorian takes to Balanchine like a duck to water in the perky Fourth variation. Davit Karapetyan is the hero of this piece, as he gambols through the Fifth variation and Tina LeBlanc, America’s Sweetheart of a ballerina charms us in the Sixth. As the dancers continue to warm up we see more and more to “love” and less to “hate,” including adroit quarter turns, with legs extended à terre, soft bourrées, Frances Chung’s off the hook assemblés, spirited folkloric-looking men’s dancing, and generous penchées by the women. Upon reflection, perhaps the stiffness of the opening movement was conceived of as a platform for the virtuosity of the exquisite partnering of Elizabeth Miner and Hansuke Yamamoto among others, in the Andante movement. It certainly takes audience and dancers alike, through the paces of Balanchine maneuvers.

Most haunting in the evening’s program was the new-to-SFB [see correction in the post that follows] work, “Aunis,” culled from the repertoire of the French choreographer Jacques Garnier, and staged rather brilliantly by Jean-Claude Ciappara, set to accordion music composed by Maurice Pacher. Dancers Garrett Anderson, Rory Hohenstein and James Sofranko, three superb movers dressed in 1930s-era white shirts, black ties and tights, roll up off the floor in Humphrey-Weidman propulsions to strike contrasting poses. A mood of release dominates the piece, men who, like boys let out of school, are free of constraints to explore the space between and among them. They try on for size (and shape) a variety of tempi: flamenco, waltz and more modern swizzles and dizzles that have no names except the ones I have just given them, as they pump toreador arms horizontally and take us on a day trip tour of the European dance idiom. None of the men turn aside the many opportunities to show what they know, and recapture more than a glimmer of what set them to dancing in the first place.


Last edited by Toba Singer on Wed Feb 07, 2007 5:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 04, 2007 5:05 pm 
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Quote:
Most haunting in the evening’s program was the new-to-SFB work, “Aunis,”



Jacques Garnier Aunis was ntroduced into the repertoire in 1995


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 07, 2007 1:26 am 
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I saw Program 1 last Wednesday, but am only posting my thoughts just now.

Divertiment No. 15 - I love the music, but what more can be said of Ballanchine? It was what you expect from him. I liked it, but not one of my all time favorites.

Aunis - It was interesting to see this cast (Garrett Anderson, Rory Hohenstein, James Sofranko) and compare to the Gala cast (Nicolas Blanc, Pascal Molat, Pierre Francois Villanova). I enjoyed the energy they had onstage. I'm glad Garrett and Rory have been promoted and hope that the same will come true for James.

Artifact Suite - I can watch this piece over and over again. Sitting in the audience (for the first 2 pieces, I was standing in the back. Someone was kind enough to offer an extra ticket because a companion left early) I was struck again by the reaction to the 'fire curtain'. I just assumed that everyone had read or heard about it already, but it was kind of funny that there was still some commotion about it. The corps was fabulous, especially in the second half. I read one review which stated the corps danced as if their lives depended on it and I agree. I feel there is such an urgency watching this piece. I hope to see it one more time during this run. It will also be interesting to see when it will be brought back again.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 07, 2007 1:29 pm 
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I saw Program #1 on Friday night. "Artifact Suite" was one of the more intriguing experiences that I have had at any performance of the arts in many years. The choregraphy's brilliance, for me, resided in its unpredicatable shuffling of pattern and movement. Because I could not predict, I did not become bored. The angular play of light also captured my attention. The light seemed metaphorical of the physical forms it so artfully created.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 07, 2007 11:34 pm 
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We saw Program 1 on Sunday afternoon. Just a few comments on individual performances.

We were never fans of Sarah van Patten until her Juliet. She showed wonderful elan and line in Divertimento on Sunday. Feijoo's legs flashed like lightening during her solo, and reminded me of Melissa Haydn in the 1960s. Having seen much Balanchine in that decade, I had difficulty seeing how this work deserved the laudatory commentary in the program book. It seemed dull until the solo divertissiments took over, and it wasn't the fault of the corps, who carried most of the initial section.

During Artois, Boada replaced Andersen, and demonstrated he could blend easily with the others in this very non-classical work that requires a suppression of individuality in favor of comradeship.

As for the Forsythe, what can one add? Both LeBlanc and Waldo stretched to new extremes (as he demanded) both literally and figuratively. The corps was magnificent even at week's end. Maffre added new layers with her grotesque contortions in the final section. How could she get her body to do that? What seemed a cipher role last year transformed, and led my mind into reading various metaphors, from ritualistic joy to terrifying dystopian warnings.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 10:10 am 
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I finally saw program 1 on Saturday. It was my first time seeing all 3 ballets; I missed Artifact Suite last year.

The best part of Divertiment IMO was the alternating solos, especially Elizabeth Miner and Frances Chung.

After the amusing Divertiment and the warm Aunis, what greater contrast could you get than Artifact Suite? It really was one of the ballets that needs to be seen more than once to totally take it in, and that is not at this time possible for me. To me, though, just to give first impression, it looked like some dystopia with discordant music, shadowy forms, and angular movements. I would hardly call it classical or pretty, but definitely thought provoking. A great vehicle for Muriel Maffre in particular. And a great display of the talents of the corps. I agree with the program notes that the negative space, the space between the dancers, which normally is not really noticed, becomes part of the presentation here. Definitely something to see again. In fact I'd say all 3 pieces are worth a second viewing if the chance comes.

I have to admit, though, that I thought some of the "gimmmicks" in Artifact Suite were too much. The descending iron curtain was distracting; I want to see dance, not a black wall. It also made the audience titter nervously, breaking the mood. At one point, the bright lights were right in my eyes. At others, the stage lighting was so artistic I could barely see the dancers. The ballet is strong enough to not need to cross the line into kitsch.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 18, 2007 11:03 pm 
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Oh, boy... I love "Artifact I" and I love "Artifact II," both of which I have seen perform in entirety by various companies, but "Artifact Suite" is just one Artifact too long. It may not feel so tedious to me if this was at the beginning of an all-Forsythe (or Forsythe-Kylian-Elo) program with one other work (or two short works) to close the evening. BTW, I think one reason this ballet works on SFB is the number of Europeans in the company... Those intimate with the work will know what I mean...

"Aunis" was great at the gala and with three strong men to showcase it then but its highly repetitive nature became all too apparent danced by the "B-cast."

"Divertimento No. 15" was enjoyable -- it's not the way NYCB would dance it but SFB has stamped their own mark on this ballet.


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