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 Post subject: San Francisco Ballet 2007 Program 2
PostPosted: Mon Feb 05, 2007 5:36 pm 
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Location: San Francisco
En Fuego. Sort of.
San Francisco Ballet, Program 2
“Blue Rose,” “The Dance House,” “Firebird"
Saturday, February 3, 2007, 8PM

This past Saturday evening, it may have been cold and lifeless outside, but the idea of seeing a whirl of high-quality dance brought warmth and excitement to my heart. While some of my newfound inner warmness could possibly be attributed to the recent dinner of miso soup, warmed lotus root, sake, and spicy sushi, my point is that I felt slightly toasty, my thoughts were warm, and I saw red hot, as in San Francisco Ballet’s choreographer-in-residence Yuri Possokov’s “Firebird.”

This new version of “Firebird” hit the spot for what could have been a chilly San Francisco outing, and while it conjured up images such as the Princess and Bowser from Nintendo’s “Super Mario Brothers,” the Phoenix from “Harry Potter,” and the Orcs from “The Lord of the Rings” all rolled into one, Possokov’s “Firebird” conveyed a fantasy all its own. Helping Tiit Helimet’s lovesick Prince rescue his “fairest of them all” Princess (Rachel Viselli) from the clutches of Pascal Molat’s in-need-of-rhinoplasty Kaschei, Yuan Yuan Tan’s orange-wigged, body suit-clad Firebird displayed a rare tenderness that exuded from every limb: an extended arm, a gentle attitude, and a soft yet powerful stare. Possokov’s choreographic skills seem to improve each go-around, and “Firebird” is no exception, infusing folk dance seamlessly with traditional ballet while also adding a comedic touch every now and then. There is continuity throughout without seeming repetitive, and his inclusion of relative props and intriguing yet minimal set design (by Yuri Zhukov) contrasted with Stravinsky's traditional score is a refreshing change. Authoritative without being too serious and mystical with a dash of comedy, this is one bird that gets the worm.

The two other works on the mixed bill didn’t quite have the power that “Firebird” did. “The Dance House,” David Bintley’s introspective take on AIDS within the dance community, debuted on SF Ballet’s stage 13 years ago. Facing reality head on, “The Dance House” abstractly explores not only the contagiousness of the disease, but also the reality that we are all connected to each other in some way whether small or large. Molly Smolen, in the adagio with Tiit Helimets, displayed lovely liquidity through her port de bras and développés. Tina LeBlanc and Kristin Long both shined in roles they originated, and Gonzalo Garcia’s “Patient Zero,” while reckless and crazed, seemed a somewhat fitting portrayal. Today, “The Dance House” can be viewed on a more macro level, with the concept ably being applied to other current day situations such as the impact of global warming, war, and racism, and it’s this ability that makes “The Dance House” work on a larger scale.

Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson’s “Blue Rose,” which is set to music by Elena Kats-Chernin and premiered last year, probably should have stayed in the past. The choreography feels uninspired, often flat, and if I may be so bold, a bad copy of Mr. Balanchine’s worst works (hip swivels and parallel cou de pied positions abound). However, Vanessa Zahorian and Nicholas Blanc added a buoyancy to the work, infusing a crisp energy to a rather bland piece of fare, and Natal’ya Feygina (piano) and Roy Malan’s (violin) accompaniment proved zesty.

“Firebird” anchors this program well and lives up to its entertainment and story telling potential. Adding balance to the evening, “The Dance House” does a 180°, making us face reality instead of hiding in a fantasy world. Overall (and even with the addition of “Blue Rose”), SF Ballet seems to be on track for the season.

A few other things to note. First, Guennadi Nedviguine is now Gennadi Nedvigin. Have I (and everyone else) been spelling his name wrong all these years? Time to update my spell checker. Second, if you’re waiting for will call tickets, be prepared to get yelled at, whether you’re old or young, and forced to reform your line out the door, down the steps (with no hand rails or assistance for the elderly and disabled) perpendicular to the entry doors, and along Van Ness. Or else.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 05, 2007 5:38 pm 
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Location: San Francisco
S.F. Ballet dances a highly animated 'Firebird,' full of cartoon menace
Rachel Howard, Special to The San Francisco Chronicle
Saturday, February 3, 2007

Quote:
The good news about Yuri Possokhov's "Firebird" at San Francisco Ballet is that the production really moves, as one pleasantly surprised luminary of the local dance scene enthused while dashing from the Opera House on Thursday.

Possokhov, the company's principal dancer-turned-choreographer in residence, was born in Ukraine and began his stage career at the Bolshoi. Russian through and through, he folds folk elements into his group dances with native naturalness, and the ensemble moments in this "Firebird" are filled with an exuberance to match Stravinsky's majestic score.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 05, 2007 5:39 pm 
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Location: San Francisco
"Firebird" takes flight but fails to soar
By Mary Ellen Hunt
Contra Costa Times
Posted February 3, 2007

Quote:
Yuri Possokhov surely has a goofy romantic streak in him. In his first commission for San Francisco Ballet as official choreographer in residence, Possokhov's new version of the old Ballet Russes boy-meets-bird classic, "Firebird," has a sleek contemporary aesthetic, but the moment when it really takes flight is in the sweetly naive "first love" pas de deux for the Prince and Princess, danced at the premiere Thursday night by Tiit Helimets and Rachel Viselli.

Possokhov originally created a version of "Firebird" for the Oregon Ballet Theatre in 2004, although the word is that he made substantial changes for this production. Nevertheless, although it had some standout moments -- many of which center on a gleeful Pascal Molat, chewing the scenery as the demon Kaschei -- this "Firebird" in the end doesn't quite satisfy.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 05, 2007 6:33 pm 
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So did any of you see it? Lucy? djb? Azlan?

I would think Yuan Yuan makes a good firebird since she is so inhumanly dancer/ creature -like.


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet 2007 Program 2
PostPosted: Mon Feb 05, 2007 8:33 pm 
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Location: San Francisco
RaHir wrote:
A few other things to note. First, Guennadi Nedviguine is now Gennadi Nedvigin. Have I (and everyone else) been spelling his name wrong all these years? Time to update my spell checker. Second, if you’re waiting for will call tickets, be prepared to get yelled at, whether you’re old or young, and forced to reform your line out the door, down the steps (with no hand rails or assistance for the elderly and disabled) perpendicular to the entry doors, and along Van Ness. Or else.


It's a transliteration for English speakers, as opposed to the transliteration for French speakers that he used to use. I checked the SFB website to remind myself which French company he was associated with, only to find now that SFB is the only company named in his bio.

I tried to find out something about his past online and couldn't, but I came across the post of mine in a language-related forum, antimoon.com, a couple of years ago, in a discussion about transliterating from Russian and other languages that don't use the Latin alphabet:

Quote:
Deborah Thursday, March 03, 2005, 23:47 GMT

There's a Russian dancer in the San Francisco Ballet, whose name I would transliterate as "Gennadi Nedvigin," despite the lack of clarity about how the "g" should be pronounced, but he came by way of France, so his name is spelled "Guennadi Nedviguine." This is fine for people who are used to French spelling, but it can be confusing for English speakers who are unfamiliar with French spelling and Russian names.

Deborah Friday, March 04, 2005, 00:26 GMT

the lack of clarity --> the resulting lack of clarity


I seemed sure, in 2005, that he had come by way of France -- I hope I didn't just assume he had, based on the spelling of his name.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 05, 2007 10:36 pm 
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djb, you're correct, Gennadi (or Guennadi) danced with now defunct Le Jeune Ballet de France -- as I understand it, around the same time as Joan Boada. I asked in the press office about the decision to change the spelling of his name, and you are also correct that Guennadi Nedviguine is the French transliteration.

He made the decision quite recently to go with the English transliteration, so RaHir, you haven't missed anything. My assumption is that it's so people will have an easier time pronouncing his name correctly.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 05, 2007 10:49 pm 
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Thanks for the information, ME.

The only problem with his new transliterations is that, since the English "g" can be pronounced two ways, some people might think his name is pronounced "Jennadi Nedvijin." But that's English orthography for you.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 05, 2007 10:55 pm 
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By the way, ME, your link isn't connecting to the review. Is it just too late to read it now?

I did see Program 2, and, I agree with what little I've read of Ms. Hunt's review. I'm not in much of a critical mood at the moment, but I enjoyed it and the performances were fine. However, that's not much compared to the way I feel about most of Possokhov's choreography, which is that it's usually exciting. I'm planning to go again on Wednesday (gotta see Lily Rogers as the Firebird).


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 05, 2007 11:19 pm 
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I'm very excited to see Lily Rogers -- I noticed her especially in Artifact, and then couldn't help but notice her in Divertimento on Sunday.

This link to my reviewmay or may not work -- the reviews tend to go to archive rather quickly unfortunately!

I enjoyed Firebird, but I think Yuri Possokhov has done (and will do) even more interesting things.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2007 6:10 am 
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mehunt wrote:
I'm very excited to see Lily Rogers ...I enjoyed Firebird, but I think Yuri Possokhov has done (and will do) even more interesting things.


I have the same first impression of Yuri's work, but Elana Altman was wonderful as the Firebird on Saturday afternoon. What an opening week she's had: leads in Ballanchine (4th Variation in Divertimento No. 15) on Wednesday 1/31, Single Female Figure in Forsythe's Aritfact Suite on Friday 2/2, Firebird on Saturday, February 3, and a reprise of Divertimento on Sunday 2/4. I love her long line, her intelligence, her eagerness. She and Lily grew up in the SFB School. I too am looking forward to Lily's debut in Firebird. Yuri has great taste in dancers.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2007 9:05 am 
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I managed to catch your review Mary Ellen and enjoyed your comments. At some date in the future I may even pinch your description of "The Firebird" as the: "...boy-meets-bird classic..." with full accreditation, it goes without saying.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2007 9:23 am 
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Due to a scheduling oddity, I saw program 2 last week but won't see program 1 until Saturday.

I agree that Blue Rose should stay in the past. I found it dull last year. But some ballets have to "grow on you" and I looked forward to seeing if I would like it better. Aside from the giddy pdd with Rory Hohenstein and Rachel Viselli, it was still dull. Dancers just can't do a lot with boring choreography.

I like the comment that Dance House can be a metaphor not just for AIDS but for disaster. I saw it that way as well. But a question: can anyone explain the significance of the costumes? They were not "generic dance" and were unusual enough to have had some kind of special meaning. Maybe I'm dense but I could not figure out what it was. As the central figure, Rory Hohenstein was both menacing and pathetic.

The SF Chronicle review refers to the running in place scene in Firebird as resembling Wile E Coyote. The audience did laugh. IMO there is nothing wrong with a bit of comic relief in a ballet. This was the first time I have seen Elana Altman in a starring role and I hope and trust it won't be the last. In fact, perhaps because Saturday afternoon performances are less "important" than evening, the program was heavy on soloists with Altman, Hohenstein, Viselli, Frances Chung, Hansuke Yamamato and others in lead roles. I have no complaints as all of them looked terrific.

It appears that at least some of the soloists are being pushed this year (Rachel Viselli is going to be one of the Auroras in Sleeping Beauty) and all I can say is it's about time.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2007 1:59 pm 
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Please let me know how Lily does. She's one of "my girls".


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 07, 2007 1:06 am 
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I just saw Program 2 tonight and wanted to post my thoughts:

Blue Rose - When I first saw it last year, I thought it was pleasant but nothing more. Seeing it tonight, it was better than I remembered but still nothing more than a pleasant little piece.

The Dance House - Gonzalo Garcia as the central figure was great. I also liked Katita Waldo and Pierre Francois Villanova in the second pas de deux. However, I think I need to view it again to really form an opinion.

Firebird - It was worth the wait. Yuri has another hit on his hands. I loved Pascal Molat as Kaschei and Yuan Yuan Tan as the Firebird. Tiit Helimets as the Prince partnered both Tan and Rachel Viselli (the Princess) well. What impressed me most was the male corps as the Monsters with Kaschei. There was one great sequence when the Firebird was encircled by the monsters. As the Firebird was leaping about in the circle, the monsters did a wave around her. This is the best description I can give, but you really need to see it. I also liked the 'slow motion' running sequence when Kaschei was chasing the Prince.

I plan to see the other casts this week: Elana Altman will be the Firebird on Friday. Lily Rogers dances the Firebird on Wednesday and Sunday.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 07, 2007 9:57 am 
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Stuart, you can borrow the phrase anytime you like! ;)

I went to see Porgram 2 again last night as well. The orchestra sounded MUCH better for Firebird, although I still like the longer version of the ballet better. I think it won't be my favorite of Yuri's ballets, but everyone certainly looked more comfortable -- as always, it's a pity that reviews are usually just of the first performance, before people have time to settle into things.


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