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 Post subject: SF Ballet Student Showcase
PostPosted: Sun May 14, 2006 5:53 pm 
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Looks like no one else has started a thread so I will jump in. I went to the show Saturday at Yerba Buena Garden. The San Francisco Chronicle had carried a story listing where about 10 students would be going to begin their professional careers. Apparently since the story was run some more students got offers; I was there early and heard them comparing notes. One boy, feeling sentimental, told two girls they would not see each other again. The girls said that they would see each other at some time. But he said this was the last time they would dance together. I did not hear where, if anywhere, he was going, but one girl was headed to South Carolina and the other to Florida.
I found myself wondeing if the program was printed by students. The cover said "Sunday, May 13" although it was Saturday and the entry for Western Symphony referred to First Movement, Second Movement, Fourth Movement ... wait, doesn't #3 belong there?

Enough of that.

The program began with Konservatoriet. I suppose that is a good student program since it has roles for various levels of skill. Frankly, I liked the children best. They were cute, performed their simple steps well, obviously were having a blast and their parents cheered their every move. The male lead also looked very good. His name is Patrick Doe and he is en route to Memphis. I am not technically proficient as many here, but he made no errors that I could see and did not miss a beat when one of his shoes flew off.

Next was Amplitude Goldberg, a new ballet choreographed by Nicolas Blanc and danced by 3 pairs of students from the SF Ballet Trainee Program. Blanc was introduced in the audience and took a bow. A woman sitting by him I think was Yuan Yuan Tan. Blanc left before the program began, maybe he wanted to watch from elsewhere although he had a good view from where he sat. Anyway, the kindest thing I can say is that he is a much better dancer than choreographer. It was explained (the education director of SF Ballet School, whose name I did not catch, acted as MC, essentially providing the background usually given in program notes) that it has no plot but is "a slice of life". I am not sure what slice it was. Much of the choreography looked awkward. That was not the fault of the dancers; it was the steps themselves. In a plotless ballet the theme or mood should be clear but this was not. It was not even about just dancing to the music. I am not sure what it was about. I think the dancers, the most skilled students, deserved a better vehicle.

Western Symphony was by far the best, both in choreography (Balanchine) and in the dancing. Of course, the two go together; good choreography brings out the dancers' talents. Western Symphony is of the same genre as Rodeo, based on tales of the American Old West. But while Rodeo depicts what happens on the ranch, Western Symphony shows the cowboys slicked up and going into town to impress Roadhouse Girls in fluffy skirts (although in those days a "daring" short skirt displayed the woman's ankles). Patrick Doe returned, even stronger, in the first movement, squiring a graceful, but slightly cooked, Claire Stallman (she needs to remember what happens to fair skinned dancers in outdoor shows!), backed by a strong corps of cowboys and fluffy-skirted girls. The second movement was even better; Kevin Yee-Chan (who will be joining Smuin Ballet) was surrounded by a group of adoring, diminutive women, but had eyes only for Suzy Spaulding. He pursued her with elegant grace, until she danced away, leaving him to shrug and return to the four adoring women. But the star of the piece, and the afternoon, was Diego Cruz Alvarez in the 3rd movement and finale (with his partner, Kelsey Hellebuyck, in a wild hat). Strutting across the stage, waving at the audience, he displayed not only solid technique but good looks, high energy, a constant beaming smile and the ability to project personality that really cannot be taught. Diego will be an SFB apprentice next year and will no doubt spend a year or two in the back row of the corps for the good of his soul, but look for him in future. He reminded me of Gonzalo Garcia in Garcia's corps days. In fact, he already seems to have a following of class girls who yelled "Go Diego" repeatedly. The finale, featuring the 3 lead couples joined by a fourth, was a high energy supercharged dance that pefectly showed the energetic students. This time, not just the parents cheered.


Last edited by crandc on Thu May 18, 2006 10:46 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun May 14, 2006 11:25 pm 
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Rachel Howard's appreciative background piece on the Student Showcase is here:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.c ... 01&sc=1000

One of the reasons I like to attend the San Francisco Ballet School's Student Showcase each year is that it reminds me of the incredible commitment, dedication and discipline required of a professional ballet dancer, and the slow but visible progression demonstrated by each level of training. Even the simplest exercises performed by 10-year-olds has its own beauty. I went to Wednesday's performance at the Palace of Fine Arts, and Saturday's free outdoor performance at Yerba Buena Gardens, which had different casts.

After the exercises demonstrated by early level students on Wednesday night (not repeated at the outdoor performance on Saturday), the rest of the program showcased the abilities of the most advanced students, and it almost always consists of (1) something by Balanchine; (2) a piece by a new choreographer (last year it was by a student choreographer; this year it was by Nicolas Blanc [SFB principal dancer]; and (3) a dance from the classical repertoire (lately, happily, it's been something by Bournonville; this year it was his charming version of a class in a French ballet school, "Konservatoriet"). Peter Brandenhoff, formerly of the Royal Danish Ballet, and just-retired SFB principal, staged this version, and I found it absolutely charming. Kelsey Hellebuyck, who has been hired by the Boston Ballet (our loss) and Diego Cruz Alvarez (who is joining SFB) were extremely enjoyable to watch on Wednesday. (I must admit I'm in a Bournonville mood these days, having just enjoyed, immensely, the new DVD of the Royal Danish Ballet's "La Sylphide," with Lis Jeppesen and Nikolaj Hubbe). Ballanchine's "Western Symphony" is a rousing crowd pleaser and Suzy Spaulding and Kevin Yee-Chan were especially pleasing in the 2nd movement adagio. The dancer who particularly caught my eye in both performances was Ashley Muangmaithong in "Western Symphony" on Saturday, and Nicolas Blanc's "Amplitude Goldberg" on Wednesday. I'm sorry she won't be joining SFB, but Oregon Ballet Theater is getting a very promising dancer in her.

By the way, I'm pretty sure Leslie Young, former SFB dancer, and coordinator of the SFB School Trainee program was the woman sitting near Nicolas Blanc on Saturday. Yuan Yuan Tan was in attendance on Wednesday but I didn't see her on Saturday.


Last edited by bcx on Tue May 16, 2006 3:56 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon May 15, 2006 1:40 pm 
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Location: El Granada, CA, USA
They didn't do the third movement of Western Symphony so they didn't list it.

I loved Nicolas Blanc's ballet. It was innovative and challenging, but not beyond the skills of the students. I didn't think the choreography was awkward at all. Maybe it was the cast you saw.

The MC was Charles McNeal Director of the Center for Dance Education. He hosted the Izzies this year too.

I saw the Wed. night performance. The dinner was that night so the "first" cast is usually put on. Konservatoriet is difficult. Bournonville generally is. I was not convinced they understood the style. The choreography is completely devoid of transitions so the dancing can look stilted and awkward. They did a pretty good job considering the material.

Western Symphony was fun. Ludmilla Campos was particularly vampy. She looked great.


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PostPosted: Mon May 15, 2006 2:06 pm 
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Thanks for the clarifications on names and on the 3rd movement. I thought it was a boo-boo.
I hadn't realized they used varying casts, although I suppose that makes sense. It is possible the soloists in Konservatoriet were not the "A" list. Ludmilla Campos was not in the Saturday program at all. But I guess we will get glimpses of her next year.


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PostPosted: Mon May 15, 2006 4:17 pm 
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"I loved Nicolas Blanc's ballet. It was innovative and challenging, but not beyond the skills of the students."

I thought Nicolas Blanc's piece was very promising (his first major piece of choreography, according to Charles McNeal) and look forward to seeing more of his work. He is choreographing a special piece for Courtney Clarkson, SFB corps member, for her competition in the 2006 USA International Ballet Competition, Jackson, Miss., June 17 – July 2. Something "innovative and challenging" that plays to a dancer's strengths is just what you would want in a situation like that. Nutnaree Pipit-Suksun will be competing for Thailand, and Davit Karapetyan will be competing for Armenia in the same competition. I wonder what they'll be dancing. I hope someone from criticaldance will be there; I wish I were going!


Last edited by bcx on Tue May 16, 2006 3:57 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue May 16, 2006 1:19 am 
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It looks like everyone has done a great job here, but just a gentle reminder of our policy on reviewing school performances...from the courtesy section:

Quote:
School performances - young performers deserve particularly sensitive attention. As a result, positive comments about individuals are fine while negative criticism is not. Overall comments about performance standards or style are acceptable, but in the context of the School (ie what may be appropriate for Paris Opera Ballet School might not be suitable for a local school).


Kate (ksneds, moderator)


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PostPosted: Tue May 23, 2006 4:01 pm 
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Location: El Granada, CA, USA
Don't get me wrong people. This school is near and dear to my heart and I consider some of those kids "mine". They overall looked better than some professional companies I've seen.

Look in the press releases area for news about the school.


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