CriticalDance Forum

San Francisco Ballet Program 3: Spring Rnds,Magritto.,Rodeo
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Author:  mehunt [ Thu Feb 09, 2006 11:03 pm ]
Post subject:  San Francisco Ballet Program 3: Spring Rnds,Magritto.,Rodeo

Casting for the opening of Program 3:
Conductor: Martin West

Kristin Long, Pascal Molat


Conductor: Gary Sheldon
Piano: Michael McGraw

Yuan Yuan Tan, Damian Smith*
Guennadi Nedviguine, Stephen Legate, Joan Boada


Conductor: Martin West

Cowgirl: Tina LeBlanc*
Wrangler: Stephen Legate*
Roper: Rory Hohenstein*
Racher's Daughter: Pauli Magierek*

Author:  crandc [ Mon Feb 20, 2006 6:42 pm ]
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Hey, I can't be the only one here who went to see it (I see 3 on Saturday and 2 on Sunday so I am feeling rather surfeited right now!).

First, I have to confess a major brain cramp. I wear driving glasses and since it was sunny in the East Bay, drove to BART in the dark glasses. I was actually in my seat when I realized that I had left the clear glasses at home. I had the choice of no glasses and everything being a blur or dark glasses and murky. I settled for murky; I felt ridiculous sitting in the Opera House in dark glasses but at least everything was clear if not bright!

Spring Rounds was enjoyable. I would not call it great, but I liked the quality of unexpectedness; I kept thinking, wow, that was a suprise. Katita Waldo, who I think is underappreciated, and Garrett Anderson, a rising dancer, had the leads. I also noticed one of the couples who danced, they really stood out; I could not see facial features from my seat but judging by hair color (all I could do) I think it was Danielle Santos and Joseph Philliips.

Magrittomania, I don't know, maybe I'm not "surreal" enough but I just could not get into it. I googled Magritte to get some familiarity before going and was able to recognize many images, and I understood the theme, that of stepping into the work of one's favorite artist, but just could not get engaged. Part of the problem is that the costumes, except Muriel Maffre's long red gown, were awful to the point of being a distraction. I can see how the men's suits were based on the bowler hat paintings, but they were too loose and too covering, I could not really see the dancers under all the clothing, and the women had what appeared to be inflated artificial breasts on the outside of their gowns. So I guess I would say I'm glad to have seen Spring Rounds and Magrittomania, but would not pay to see them again.

Rodeo was another story. It's hard to call it ballet, with not a toe shoe in sight, but it was delightful. Kristin Long is the consummate professional, you can put her in virtually any role and she will deliver. As the misfit trying to fit in, covering with swagger, she was forlorn, as the tomboy mocked by the "feminine" girls she made me want to say "you go girl!" and I also wanted to slap down those Kansas City girls (Courtney Elizabeth, Dana Genshaft and Amanda Schull) and the rancher's daughter, Pauli Magierek. Snots! But Damian Smith was really a pleasant surprise, this is the most I have enjoyed seeing him in any role. I had no idea he could tap dance so well! My only complaint, and it's a minor one, when Kristin finally puts on a dress I wish they could have had her wear a pretty one; that bright yellow was ghastly.

Two general points: was it just me or did anyone else notice that the Opera House floor had a bad case of the squeaks? I was reminded of the little toy mouse my cats play with. Also, both Saturday and Sunday, when the audience was still applauding, the curtain would go down and the lights up. I think we would have welcomed more curtain calls. Was the schedule that tight we could not take 2 or 3 more minutes to salute the dancers?

Author:  sfballerina [ Tue Feb 21, 2006 7:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Finally a voice

Finally, I was starting to wonder what was going on. Is program 2 that unappealing? No one seems to want to comment on it. I always look forward to hearing what everyone has to say. So anyone else got an opinion?
In regards to Spring Rounds it is one that will grow on you. The more you watch it the more you get an appreciation for the movement. I agree Katita Waldo is a gorgeous dancer. She is so beautiful in every aspect. I think the dancers you are trying to mention are possibly Nicole Grand and Joseph Phillips. They are the ones who do the slow duet.

Additionally, I understand that the floor is bothersome to many of the audience members' ears. But it is a matter of safety for the dancers. (lots of hard falls on the new floors... Kristen Long) It is an old floor and quite comfortable to dance on. I know that it will eventually be replaced with a new one. Believe me there is a huge effort to do so. It takes time to find a suitable substitute. In the mean time can we cut back on "squeaky" comments. I know the dancers have cut back greatly on the use of rosin. :D

Author:  djb [ Wed Feb 22, 2006 12:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finally a voice

sfballerina wrote:
Finally, I was starting to wonder what was going on. Is program 2 that unappealing? No one seems to want to comment on it. I always look forward to hearing what everyone has to say. So anyone else got an opinion?
It does seem that way, doesn't it? I enjoyed it immensely; unfortunately, I haven't had time to write. I'll try to write at least a little something in that thread. (And I also agree that K Waldo is wonderful -- I'm going to see her in Spring Rounds tonight, with Garrett Andrson, another dance I like very much.)

Author:  crandc [ Wed Feb 22, 2006 2:51 pm ]
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Thanks for identifying Nicole Grand. It's sometimes easier to ID the men since we can look at individual hair styles, but the women all have their hair back, so all I could say was that it was a woman with dark hair!

Sorry if I hit a nerve with squeaky floor. It's just that I did not really notice it during Nutcracker and wondered. I had not realized that Kristen Long had been injured on a new floor and obviously don't want to see that happen.

Author:  Toba Singer [ Thu Feb 23, 2006 9:31 am ]
Post subject: 

San Francisco Ballet, Program 3, War Memorial Opera House, February 21, 2006

Clue: Muriel Maffre in the red dress on the Opera House stage with a turned-in knee. She kills! The piece is Yuri Possokhov’s “Magrittomania,” and if Magritte’s surrealistic images strike you as static, Possokhov confers upon them an animus that will forever change how you see them. The piece opens with a blank canvas of a screen, upon which moving images of the painting Golconde appear. Tiit Helimets, wearing the Magritte-identifiable black suit, introduces us to and squires us through the piece. To the sound of chimes, a square of light opens in the backdrop that then becomes the blue sky with clouds canvas, and the dancers arrive in suits with apple balloons in front of their heads. You could say that the scene is set, but just as we register recognition, it changes, and now we have dancers in black suits with bowlers on their heads. They break into pairs, cavort, and fall into formation. The women in deep lavender dresses with fake breasts on the outside, dance as unselfconsciously as such ungainly costumes permit. The costumes are otherwise beautiful and the line of the dancers wearing them, otherwise evocative.

The glass-roofed and elongated depot-looking painting is up on the screen next, with an adjacent silhouette of the bowler man. A trio of men—Peter Brandenhoff, Gonzalo Garcia, and Moises Martin execute pirouettes to piano music. There’s an intimacy among them—neither macho nor fey—a not-quite secret entente that informs, as their movements grow and become more exalted, and the music drives them to break out into a bigger relationship with the painted world and the floor below it. Upstage, a different pattern emerges, as the men in black and the women in purple return, hovering over Helimets, who is rolling downstage. "Tic toc, tic toc"—a cuckoo clock is more urgent than the subtler chimes we heard earlier. The dove painting appears over the skyline of a European hamlet. The buildings that are silhouetted carry the imprimatur of the history of a continent: sacrifice, abandonment and sturdiness in the face of studied adversity. The dove is their witness. The three men join with Helimets in elongated falls to the floor, arms extended wing-like and up go their bodies into columbine sautés.

A flashlight trained on the now-dark stage stops its search when it locates a swatch of red fabric belonging to the dress worn by Maffre. She emerges, long, longer, and longest, as Beethoven’s Für Elise rises out of the score. The trepidation of the first few notes against the certainty of Maffre’s trajectory is arresting. She arranges herself in the most impossible poses, and then drops the upper half of her body onto a turned in knee. What Maffre does with that turned-in knee in a split second’s time, renders Magritte’s composition unworthy by comparison. For me, and not only in this piece, she and Possokhov have changed the course of dance history.

There’s more Beethoven to accompany Maffre, and the text is rich because of her urgent need to give the authority over to the music. It’s Baltic, Slavic, and Saxon and she is equipped with the artistic transducer to make it universal as she is partnered by Helimets, both his and her head swathed in white bridal veils. He tosses her out of lifts, drags her along the floor; she is isolated, sacrificed, betrayed, but remains unsullied and unbowed. The elaborate and theatrical orchestration of the score propels the work to attain its highest values, elevating it to the realm of genuine performance art. There’s an atavistic polymorphous perversity in the interaction of the men/men, men/women, their habits and habitats elucidated by color, motion and the imbedded surrealist instruction for release from time by flight from a Europe that is little more than—in the unflinching words of Lenin—“a prison house of nations.”

After rockin’ round the Christmas tree all winter, it is high time for “Spring Rounds,” a Paul Taylor piece that celebrates the season and its rondure by recreating its power in concentric circles. A closeup of the center of a dandelion is projected onto a blue screen and under it sit Pascal Molat with his head in Kristin Long’s lap. An affable corps, dressed in green and looking like a lovely bunch of asparagus, pal around with one another, showing what one presumes is great relief that the end of the Nutcracker season gives way to something so gently powerful as circles of alternating hops and split jumps. Knees are slightly crooked, like the interstices of the above-named vegetable, and now that the dancers have given us a beguiling introduction, they leave the stage to Long who, after an open-armed series of chaînés, shows her grit by pushing through a taxing adage, where she keeps moving through one en dehors arabesque after another, with no respite. But then, spring is the season when all are taxed!

The men are handsomely aerobic as they sauté circles around each other, and the women arrive in a line comprising the shaft that drives the men’s wheels. There's a little breakout duet from Megan Low and Amanda Schull, and then Long returns in a burst of energy, with an open style and those lightning feet of hers. The men are pumping it up; the women are fleet. Sooner or later their polarities will give way to what nature requires. Long has a pas de deux with Pascal Molat, a tinkling waltz, featuring careful crossovers in plié, chassés followed by lifts made gentle by Long’s willingess to jump, as the partners spur each other along, their weight shifting seamlessly. The corps resumes its unflagging lightness and it looks to be Jim Sofranko who springs into action in a memorable solo just before the finale.

This production of Agnes De Mille’s “Rodeo” set to the familiar score by Aaron Copland, is the juiciest in memory. After the wooden and dated version performed earlier this year by Oakland Ballet, it was a thrill to see this jubilant rendering, directed by Christine Sarry and staged by Anita Paciotti. Mercifully, they did away with the dancehall girls, who could just as well have been replaced by mannequins in any previous productions I’ve seen. Instead of having them standing around collecting dust, staring vacantly at nothing in particular, with one hip slung “sidesaddle,” the Sarry staging gives each dancer a distinct character to play and play playfully: the “special” Ranch Owner’s Daughter on her very high horse, danced by Pauli Magierkek; her cultivated Eastern Friends from Kansas City, and a shank of Women-folk who, along with their Cow-Hand pard’ners, stake out the territory so we know where we’re at. Where we are at is in front of a richly hue'd prairie sky, which depending of the time of day, turns an entire chromatic scale of orange tones or a brilliant light blue.

The head wrangler, danced by Stephen Legate, surveys the stage with a low-key, slightly bowed swagger, and more than meets his match in the The Champion Roper danced jovially by Rory Hohenstein, who has been calling out to us from the ranks of the corps for at least six years. Hohenstein delivers a slow, steady buildup, as he butts heads and other body parts with his antagonist and The Cowgirl danced with comic genius by Kristin Long . She is that counterphobic not girly girl that we see in “West Side Story” as Anybody’s, in “Grease” as Rizzo, and in “Oklahoma,” as Ado Annie, but here, instead of a supporting character, she’s dead center in the bull’s eye of the piece. She's sure she’s got everyone corralled, even though she's the one who's gonna get roped!

Because of the Agnes De Mille “flavor,” it is tempting to think of “Rodeo” as a Broadway spectacle, in the very best sense of the word, and not a ballet piece. When I reviewed the Oakland production, I dismissed the De Mille work as a one-joke caricature of a cowpoke. The San Francisco Ballet version has forced me to change my mind. The comedy is subtle here, and put in the service of teaching us about what runs deepest in ourselves, however much it may be contradicted by what we find convenient to show externally. Because that is the case, there is a wide range of possibilities here for the dancer with the right stuff—namely, virtuosity. Kristin Long as the Cowgirl, couldn’t be more perfect for the role. She brims over with the confidence that issues from the ranch hand world, where the measure of a man is his work. Her problem is that she’s not a man, and that stubborn fact hasn’t been much of a problem until the Champion Roper gives her a little more to work with than the Head Wrangler. Even when Hohenstein plays her like a fiddle, she manages to give him the slip when the time comes to fish or cut bait. He occupies himself with the other ladies, lifting them hither and thither, while she goes off to chill, only to return with an elevated temperature. In the meantime we get a nice little front-of-curtain square dance divertissement, while a behind-the-curtain scene change is effected. I’d have preferred a genuine “caller” to who’s ever voice did the calling, because a modulated Southwestern twang would have added a dash more authenticity to an otherwise clever aside.

Hohenstein shows the little miss his tap dancing skills as she gets down to ground level to have a better look at exactly how its done. She falls backward in shock after receiving a genu-INE cowboy kiss from Hohenstein, sealing her fate as a member of “the rest of us,” who swoon whenever he reaches for his lariat. It just goes to show that maybe you can’t get a man with a gun, but with a dos y dos here and a promenade there, you can occasionally sidle up to one with a rope.

Author:  Trixie G Street [ Thu Feb 23, 2006 1:45 pm ]
Post subject: 

This production of Agnes De Mille’s “Rodeo” set to the familiar score by Aaron Copland, is the juiciest in memory. After the wooden and dated version performed earlier this year by Oakland Ballet,

Huh? Rodeo was done at Oakland Ballet last fall? I remember Billy the Kid, but not Rodeo!


Author:  Toba Singer [ Thu Feb 23, 2006 2:40 pm ]
Post subject: 

:oops: :oops: :oops:

Right you are, Trixie G! Apologies to all concerned, and please scratch all references to Oakland Ballet. I guess that means I haven't changed my mind after all. I still think Billy the Kid is a one-joke caricature.

Author:  sfballerina [ Fri Feb 24, 2006 2:20 am ]
Post subject:  Floor dramas

crandc wrote:
Sorry if I hit a nerve with squeaky floor. It's just that I did not really notice it during Nutcracker and wondered. I had not realized that Kristen Long had been injured on a new floor and obviously don't want to see that happen.

The floor has sparked quite a bit of attention lately and it is has proved quite frustrating for the dancers. It is even more of a distraction to the dancers when you are worried about making a noice on the floor. It can really easily take your concentration away. I didn't mean to sound irritable about the floor. The floor has been a big problem lately. Plus, Kristen didn't get injured on it. There have just been many spills on it including a really hard one during Swan Lake. ... Nutcracker uses a different floor too. :)

Author:  salzberg [ Fri Feb 24, 2006 5:41 am ]
Post subject: 

Was the schedule that tight we could not take 2 or 3 more minutes to salute the dancers?

It may well have been. Was the minute hand on or near the "12"? It might have been a case of trying to avoid an hour of overtime for the stagehands.

Author:  mehunt [ Fri Feb 24, 2006 12:15 pm ]
Post subject: 

The whole floor thing is very interesting. I have to say that earlier in the season I had noticed some of the dancers being a bit more careful (and these are people who you usually see diving into the steps with reckless abandon) and I wondered what was going on. I'm glad that they've gone back to the old one if it means more exciting performances, squeaks or no.

Author:  Azlan [ Mon Mar 13, 2006 3:40 pm ]
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Choose the appropriate excuse for the delay in this post:
a) The dog eat my program notes;
b) I was preparing for my flight to NYC.

Alright, I might be flamed in some quarters, but I was disappointed in Paul Taylor's "Spring Rounds" -- it was a world premiere that probably elicit the most tepid response from this usually appreciative SF audience. Taylor seemingly drew everything from past works.

Fortunately, both de Mille's "Rodeo" and "Magrittomania" by SFB principal Yuri Possokhov more than made up in the rest of the program. LeBlanc and Hohenstein were expectedly adorable as the Cowgirl and the Champion Roper while Legate showed his goods as the Head Wrangler. We don't get to see Legate much, so it was a treat to see him in "Magrittomania" also. He along with Board and Nedviguine were the lynchpins for the midsection of the work.

Author:  crandc [ Mon Mar 13, 2006 4:33 pm ]
Post subject: 

Board? Aztlan, is that a nickname I don't know?

I give up, who is it?

Author:  djb [ Mon Mar 13, 2006 6:24 pm ]
Post subject: 

"Boada", mis-typed?

Author:  Azlan [ Mon Mar 13, 2006 7:27 pm ]
Post subject: 

Board? You can tell what was on my mind...

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