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 Post subject: San Francisco Ballet Program 4
PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 7:37 pm 
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Location: San Francisco
Robbins, the boy wonder
San Francisco Ballet
Program 4
March 6, 2008, 8PM

As San Francisco Ballet celebrates its 75 years of pointe shoes, faux snow, and tulle, it also honors one of America’s best-loved choreographers, Jerome Robbins. Robbins, who passed away 10 years ago, brought out the sass and flair of contemporary ballet. While best known to the average person for rhythmic snapping and double passé hops in the musical and movie versions of “West Side Story,” Robbins made handfuls of well-crafted dances over a 54-year career. SF Ballet’s Program 4 showcases three of Robbins’ ballets: his first official jaunt into dancemaking with “Fancy Free”; a retrospective of love and lovers in “In the Night”; and the toe-tapping “West Side Story Suite.”

Dancers, and ballet dancers at that, are normally known for being quiet. They leap quietly, wave and spin their arms to mime when it’s time to dance, and whisper like tiny mice while waiting in the wings. In “West Side Story Suite,” though, they sing, both as a chorus and solos, a reworked and shorted version of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s “West Side Story.” On this opening night, Rory Hohenstein, leading the Jets as Riff, belted out “Cool” while strutting about the stage. His singing was adequate, but he shouldn’t quit his day job. Shannon Roberts, a dark-haired, blue-eyed corps member, shone as the fiery Anita, and along with Nicole Grand as Rosalia, they sang and shimmied their hearts out in “America.” Roberts’ portrayal is a break out performance. Here’s hoping to more golden opportunities for her in the future. As Tony, Garrett Anderson proved that you can dance in Levi’s and loftily leapt across the stage while company member Matthew Stewart sang “Something’s Coming.” Stewart deserves high praise: this is the first time a ballet company member has sung this role (in the past, it’s been filled by a professional). Dores Andre, as Maria, looked lovely, even with little to do, but in the “dream” sequence at the end (“Somewhere Ballet”), the corps members overshadowed her. I’d be curious to see Andre in the lead role in Christopher Wheeldon’s “Carousel (A Dance),” another duet about ill-fated lovers. Pierre-François Vilanoba slithered about as the knife-wielding Bernardo, and peppy Julianne Kepley gave the Jets a little extra pizzazz as the uncredited Graziela. Three cheers to Jean-Pierre Frohlich and Jenifer Ringer; they sure staged a winner, and the audience couldn’t have been happier.

Also on the bill was “In the Night,” which invites us to watch the nighttime tussles and embraces of three couples set against Frederic Chopin’s piano nocturnes. Yuan Yuan Tan and Ruben Martin explored that happy-go-lucky honeymoon stage. Martin looked every part the gentleman, but Tan focused too much on the pretty, the posing, and the audience as if she were dancing Odette and not an “in the flesh” woman in the early stages of love. There was no lack of feeling, though, with Elana Altman and Tiit Helimets. Even with some partnering goofs (he’s just not tall enough for her finger turns), they moved with careful restraint, as if we were peaking through their curtains and looking in on a private moment in their constantly intertwined lives. It’s beautifully tender to watch, especially when she’s tipped upside down, trembling her foot in cou de pied as Helimets slowly spins her right-side up. Perhaps it’s all about finding that sense of balance in life. Lorena Feijoo and Damian Smith complete the trio of duets with a passionate cat and mouse chase, evoking fireworks as they lifted and held each other close. Roy Bogas matched the dancers on the piano, and his performance sounded spectacular all on its own.

“Fancy Free,” a cute little romp with music by Leonard Bernstein, featured Garrett Anderson, Pascal Molat, and Davit Karapetyan as three sailors looking for love, short-term companionship, and/or a beer. These leading men one-upped each other as they battled it out for the affections of Erin McNulty, Vanessa Zahorian, and Mariellen Olson. Zahorian and Anderson’s duet sparkled as the highlight. They stared into each other eyes, beamed brightly, and reminded us of what falling in “like” used to be like. David Arce did all he could as the bartender, but one day I’m secretly hoping he’ll get the girl.

The program, and especially the company’s premiere of “West Side Story Suite,” shows the company's and its dancers variety. It sure is a sweet “Suite.” And how can you say no to that?

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 08, 2008 11:26 pm 
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My brief impressions:

I liked Fancy Free more this year than last. Maybe a better cast? Not sure.
Love In the Night. The 3 couples (Vanessa Zahorian and Garret Anderson, Elana Altman and Tiit Helimets, Sarah Van Patten and Pierre-Francois Vilanoba, were all magnificent.
West Side Story: Fun, not great. Frankly, the dancing was good, the singing barely adequate. In "America" I really could not hear half the words. "Cool" ends with all the Jets yelling "POW!" in unison, except in wasn't in unison. When the professional singers did "Something", the contrast was almost painful. And "Something" still makes me tear up. As for the casting Ruben Martin (Bernardo) and Katita Waldo (Anita) were stand-outs. For some reason, Graziela (Mariellen Olsen) was not in the program's casting list. A slip-up.

Overall, one of the more enjoyable programs this year.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 10, 2008 10:09 am 
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Location: San Francisco
All Robbins fest at S.F. Ballet
Mar 7, 2008
Janos Gereben, The Examiner
Quote:
SAN FRANCISCO (Map, News) - How amazing it must have been to be in the (old) Metropolitan Opera House in 1944, when Ballet Theatre first performed Jerome Robbins' "Fancy Free." This vital, athletic, revolutionary revitalization of dance is so powerful that even 64 years later, watching the San Francisco Ballet’s Thursday night performance of it takes your breath away.

With Martin West conducting the Ballet Orchestra, the joyfully jazzy Leonard Bernstein score gave wings to the three sailors on leave and on the prowl for some female companionship. Pascal Molat dazzled with a frenzied solo, including split landings. Garrett Anderson and Davit Karapetyan brought sensitivity and genuine humor into that horseplay supposedly required to gain the attention of Erin McNulty, Mariellen Olson and Vanessa Zahorian, all dancing in most fetching fashion.

Pianist Roy Bogas played the ethereal Chopin nocturnes that form the basis of Robbins' superbly romantic "In the Night," brilliantly danced by Yuan Yuan Tan with Ruben Martin, Elana Altman with Tiit Helimets, and Lorena Feijoo with Damian Smith.

After that, it was back to Americana again, to Robbins' best-known work: the choreography to “West Side Story,” the Bernstein musical with Stephen Sondheim's lyrics. Why mention the writer? Because this San Francisco premiere has the dancers sing the lyrics and shout the text – and not just dance – in an exciting theatrical performance of the work.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 10, 2008 10:11 am 
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Location: San Francisco
Ballet sings in 'West Side Story'
Rachel Howard, Chronicle Dance Correspondent
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Quote:
San Francisco Ballet's 75th anniversary season is only half begun, but its defining moment arrived Thursday in the troupe's fourth repertory program. Whatever thrills and spills Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson's risky New Works Festival may bring us come April, we already know this: No one will forget these dancers snapping and singing their hearts out in the company premiere of Jerome Robbins' "West Side Story Suite."

That "West Side Story" is enduringly irresistible even in digest form doesn't explain half the excitement; the real drama lies in what Robbins' 1995 adaptation, until recently performed only by New York City Ballet, reveals to us anew about a relentlessly ascending troupe. Like William Forsythe's edgy "Artifact Suite," though in a completely different style, "West Side Story Suite" unveils a San Francisco Ballet bolder, braver and more committed than we had thought possible.

It's a triumph a long time in the making. Tomasson has steadily strengthened the company's connection to Robbins, the artistic mentor he once worked with so closely; the whole of Program 4 attests to his progress. Robbins' intimate "In the Night," acquired when Tomasson first took the helm 23 years ago, received exquisite interpretations Thursday, while "Fancy Free," the Bernstein collaboration that made Robbins' name in 1944, fell shy of a fully realized performance yet kept the audience happy. But it was "West Side Story Suite" that drew rock-concert cheers. Even the orchestra seemed to rally, brash and bleating under Music Director Martin West.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 10, 2008 2:24 pm 
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From the Contra Costa Times.

Quote:
S.F. Ballet opens tribute to choreographer Jerome Robbins
By Ann Murphy
CORRESPONDENT
Article Launched: 03/10/2008 11:52:02 AM PDT


Jerome Robbins' fans cheered San Francisco Ballet when the curtain came down on the company premiere of "West Side Story Suite," and leading the pack was Rita Moreno, the slight, tough-minded Anita of the 1961 film "West Side Story," who was the first to leap out of her seat.

The lineup on Thursday consisted of three eminently fluent and deeply pleasing Robbins dances, each fueled by a sexy, casual-looking elegance worn either by upper crust characters or, more often, by likable proletarians. All of them sailed into and through the music like well-made boats.



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As much as I love Robbins, the concept of ballet dancers singing into microphones in the Opera House is keeping me away from this program.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 3:06 pm 
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Sunday's matinee performances were full of energy and commitment. I'm sure the presence of Alumni boosted the dancers. Also, for the most part the casts were from the first group.

"Fancy Free" in repeat from last year was more coherent overall. Anderson deserves special note for handling the slow second dance solo, which has always struck me as a bit undeveloped, with panache. McNulty and Zahorian, the two women, were sultry, sassy, sprightly, or sweet, as needed. Arce was once again behind the bar, a reminder of how Robbins always has dancers watching others dance. It may seem a thankless role, but he doesn't treat it as such. You know he's the guy others would spill their troubles to.

"In the Night" was two-thirds great (elegance from Sylve-Helimets, fire from Feijoo-Smith). The first couple, Tan and Martin, marked everything correctly, but there was no sense of their being involved in one another. Tan seems so often to be thinking to hard, too much in herself. It's really a shame, because she has the control and expression, appeals for her perfect sculptural effect. In this piece, though, the relational elements are requisite. I don't think she looked Martin in the eyes at all, and I can't say Martin put out much effort in this regard either. They were gorgeous and vacuous.

"West Side Story" had visceral appeal. How could it not with that music and movement? It took the male corps some time to shift out of stiff classical mode. Overall, there wasn't much individual characterization among either male or female corps, a point Robbins emphasizes. Energy, vigor, yes. Dores Andre dominated as Anita, no surprise for those of us who see her a lot on Sundays. The other leads seemed subdued as a result. Dance 10, Acting 6. Matt Stewart handled his vocal solo with its nasty octave jumps with aplomb, while Julianne Kepley's capable performance was distorted as the result of a poor microphone connection. A worthwhile experiment, but I don't need to see it repeated.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 21, 2008 9:37 pm 
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Location: San Francisco
I saw two performances of program 4 and I loved "West Side Story", even with the sometimes amateurish-sounding vocals. I thought both Riffs (Damian Smith and Rory Hohenstein) did very well in "Cool". Matthew Stuart sounded very good indeed. I enjoyed both Lorena Feijoo (not surprisingly) and Shannon Roberts (wow!) as Anita The only real problem I had with the singing happened in both performances. In the last verse in "America", the ladies weren't rhythmically accurate, which made the lyrics kinda impossible to make out. But the dancing was great.

I wonder how familiar young dancers (such as the ones in SFB), or young people generally, are with "West Side Story". In my neighborhood when I was a kid, just about every family had a record of the soundtrack of the movie, and some also had the Broadway version. All of us kids knew every word of every song, and would "play" the characters of the story.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 21, 2008 9:44 pm 
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I forgot to mention that Pierre-Francois Vilanoba was excellent as Bernardo! He seems born to wear a DA.


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2008 10:40 pm 
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I saw a Saturday matinee (it was the only performance I could squeeze in) and was left a little flat by "West Side." Maybe I was expecting a lot more. Perhaps, in the afternoon, it seemed even more of a matinee piece.

"In the Night" was nicely danced though and made it worthwhile. This was a Robbins piece I really like along with "Dances at a Gathering" and "Dybbuk."

I got there late as I had no desire to see "Fancy Free" again after having seen it about four times on four different companies in the last year or so, each time bored to death...


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