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PostPosted: Tue Apr 29, 2008 12:07 pm 
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Brief summary thoughts: I saw B on Saturday and A on Sunday. I certainly don't agree with the NY Times that they were all awful. Actually, on both days I liked the first ballet best. Naked was provocative (not the title, which still makes no sense). It looked so classical but ... The program notes talked about dependency, what is one dancer without the other, and this really struck home in the bit where the woman is reaching to take her partner's hand (something you see all the time) but then he is gone and she is left to twirl around and around, like the ballerina on a music box. "Ruins" pdd was fabulous but the first part just went on and on and on... OK, you've made your point! I also did not see the need for the women to have such ugly hairstyles. I thought Julia Adam's presentation had its moments but was too over the top. Vanity could be expressed by looking constantly in the mirror, it is not necessary to stare at one's own derriere. And while eroticism has a place (I loved After the Rain, for example), naked couples grappling really does not appeal to me. I found myself thinking her ballet should have been called Naked. Joyride to me means a bunch of teens in a cool looking car. Mark Morris' piece did not convey that at all - was it a joyride on the moon platform?

Overall liked Sunday's program best. Fusion: If I say "West Side Story meets Le Corsaire" that sounds dumb but that was my thought. An odd coupling but it worked. My only complaint was the artistic lighting that made it hard to see who was whom. So can someone ID for me the couple in the PDD: the woman is behind a wall of dervishes, the man pulls her through, carries her onto the stage in a stiff horizontal position, then the dance follows. It was fabulous, great, a highlight and I could not for the life of me figure out who was dancing it! In the Golden Hour looked like the kind of showcase piece that the company can make a regular part of its repertoire. Changes was fun, silly, not too memorable. Not sure why Mamas & Papas, an LA group, was chosen as the iconic band instead of one of the great SF bands, and really it did not show the 60s at all - there was more to the decade than mini skirts and marijuana!

Looking forward to Program C next week.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 29, 2008 4:13 pm 
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Location: San Francisco
San Francisco Ballet
New Works Festival, Program B
Saturday, April 26, 2008, 2PM

The city’s been abuzz with chatter surrounding San Francisco Ballet’s New Works Festival, a three-program, multi-week spectacle of new choreography created by some of ballet’s most loved and well regarded dance makers, and Helgi Tomasson, looking to knock everyone’s socks and slippers off, seems to have delivered. At least, if Program B is any indication, I should be walking barefoot through the city for months to come.

Due to some personal scheduling, I started the Festival out of order, yet my gut tells me this shouldn’t be a problem. Ideally, each program should be able to stand on its own, yet as a festival, they should complement each other, too. In addition, each program’s individual works should also balance one another, yet Saturday’s matinee didn’t quite achieve my own expectations. Part of that may have been my fault, as who knows what to expect from something titled “New Works Festival.” Similar to the new InterContinental Hotel down on Howard Street, you’ve got to see it to believe it. And so I did.

The evening’s winner was a tie: Mark Morris’ continuously leg-kicking “Joyride” worked my brain into overtime while James Kudelka’s “The Ruins Proclaim The Building Was Beautiful” forcefully sauntered forward. With eight dancers clad in Isaac Mizrahi’s metallic unitards, “Joyride” takes no prisoners. The work highlights kicks, sharp arabesques, and wonderfully executed in-sync pirouettes, just as John Adams’ score (with him conducted the orchestra on this sunny afternoon) punches along at breakneck speed. Sarah Van Patten and Gennadi Nedvigin, dressed in shiny gold, led the way, steering everyone down a pulsating path of skill and gusto. Young corps member Jennifer Stahl, swathed in gunmetal grey, showed amazing control, and Rory Hohenstein flowed through the ever-challenging movement with a sexy naturalness.

Kudelka’s “Ruins” explores the social undertones of humanity, and the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, under the direction of David Briskin, brought Rodney Sharman’s score, based on pieces by composer César Franck, to life. The darkly lit corps of women, adorned in pink sliced-and-diced tutus and nests of wispy hair (potentially by Helena Bonham Carter but credited to James Searle), waltzed like rosy waves from corner to corner. Frances Chung and Elana Altman were first to face the well-coifed and finely dressed (if slightly creepy) threesome of Pierre-François Vilanoba, Aaron Orza, and Martyn Garside, and the women pushed and fought, but easily gave in to the support, direction, and control the men provided. Yuan Yuan Tan, as the more modern woman in red, proved a better opponent to Vilanoba, but again, she finally succumbed to the weight and demands required of her to survive. Kudelka choreographs in stunning tangents, spilling forward with expansive ideas, and “Ruins” proved both lovely and disturbing all at the time.

Stanton Welch’s “Naked” showcased unimaginative yet structured choreography to music by Francis Poulenc. With the title, splash of neutrals across the back scrim, and peachy tutus and tunics, I expected raw expressive movement and something more telling than the basic leaps and turns. Still, the twenty-six minutes moved briskly, and the dancers brought their A-game, moving crisply across the stage. The two highlights of what “Naked” almost was were Kristin Long, who lit up the stage with her fresh spring in her jumps, and Frances Chung in her pas de deux with Brett Bauer with Chung dancing tenderly in Bauer’s arms. Why these two were not listed in the “principal” section of the casting sheet is beyond me…

Julia Adam’s “A rose by any other name” oddly set to Bach’s “Goldberg Variations,” sadly prompted me to recall “Angelo,” a static ballet I sat through more times than humanly necessary. With excessive posturing, gesturing, and two-dimensional walking about with arms up and down (I felt like I was examining Aztec codices or Egyptian hieroglyphs after the first few minutes), “Rose” drooped from the beginning. Yes, Adam changed the story up by having the fairies be men who then are recycled as the suitors/forest later on, and some of the ideas behind the fairy variations were cute (Bauer as Beauty always stared at himself via a mirror, even it was under his legs), but these tricks couldn’t save the ballet from wilting. Long appeared underused, but she was adorable nonetheless.

So with Program B complete (at least for me), I’ve seen it, and so far, I believe it. Sure, some of the choreography wasn’t to my taste, but I enjoyed seeing the company’s dancers in top form and on display for all to see. And to me, that's what matters most.

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PostPosted: Tue May 06, 2008 1:50 pm 
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Location: San Francisco
San Francisco Ballet
New Works Festival, Program C
May 3, 2008, 2PM

San Francisco Ballet’s New Works Festival is still the talk of the town, and luckily I was able to catch a matinée of Program C, featuring three very diverse ballets. This afternoon's cast showcased mainly dancers from the corps de ballet and soloists, a refreshing treat perhaps foreshadowing the company's future, and if so, this vision is grand.

Val Caniparoli's "Ibsen's House," gets my vote as winner of the afternoon. With dark fabric and a brightly draped "window" adorning the back, the 10 dancers emotionally poured through Caniparoli’s circular and attractive movement while portraying various characters from five Henrik Ibsen's plays, each focusing on women's place in society. These women aren’t cookie-cutter, and Caniparoli intends to prove it. Obviously, the ladies were the focus here, dressed in Sandra Woodall's dark jewel-tone dresses. Lorena Feijoo, in burgundy as Hedda Gabler, treaded lightly as she expansively lept forward and extended her arms, and Aaron Orza (a last-minute replacement for David Arce), as her husband, seemed indifferent to her needs. Clara Blanco shone as the young Nora Helmer, and Luke Willis as Torvald Helmer picked her up like a doll whether in second position en pointe or grasping his neck more like a father than a husband. I greatly enjoyed seeing the glowing Blanco in a featured role: she's got lovely, pure technique plus a special presence. Courtney Elizabeth and Pierre Françios Villanoba played the couple from “Lady from the Sea” with electricity and passion, but Patricia Perez, looking lost compared to the other women, danced somewhat tentatively with Steven Norman as the couple from “Rosmersholm.” Dana Genshaft, with enchanting musicality, and Garen Scribner paired well as the mother and son from “Ghosts,” dancing naturally and with confidence. “Ibsen’s House” featured innovative lifts along with 10 dancers’ sensitive and dramatic performances, and to top it off, Dvoràk’s “Piano Quintet in A Major, Op. 81” sounded divine from the pit. Caniparoli sure has a hit on his hands.

Jorma Elo’s contemporary “Double Evil” highlighted the program’s only tutu ballet. Dressed in Holly Hynes’ greens and turquoise, the six dancers pranced, skittered, and dove like zoo animals finally allowed to roam freely in the wild. Lily Rogers and Ruben Martin, as the lead couple, partnered in a sensitive opening duet, he sneaking under her leg as she smoothly extended to arabesque. Courtney Wright, Dana Genshaft, Garrett Anderson, James Sofranko, and Nicolas Blanc looked to be enjoying themselves, but Dores Andre, a more demure dancer, seemed out of sync with the rest. Elo blended two very different music scores well in the 20-some odd minutes, and James Ingalls’ juxtaposition of full lighting with Philip Glass’s “Concerto Fantasy for Two Timpanists and Orchestra,” a rhythmic and rumbling feat of semi-minimalism, and dewy, overhead spot lighting for Vladimir Martynov’s softer and lyrical “Come In!” worked wonders to distinctly differentiate the two ever-competing onstage moods. "Double Evil" was quite a treat.

“Thread,” San Francisco’s modern dance maven Margaret Jenkins’ contribution to the program, played on the concept of the myth of Ariadne, Theseus, and the labyrinth at Knossos. Jenkins produced some interesting movement vocabulary, especially with the smaller group partnering, but “Thread” felt drawn out and lengthy at times, never quite finding the center of the labyrinth, and instead getting stuck in a dead-end half way in. Jenkins’ incorporated some very hard-to-see movement behind a scrim, and Paul Dresher’s composition, made especially for “Thread,” lingered but didn’t help move the story along. Luckily, the dancers looked comfortable in the more modern movements, and Pauli Magierek sparkled as a refreshing Ariadne. Too bad this wasn’t enough to save the more muddled choreographic sequences from becoming a faint memory.

San Francisco Ballet’s New Works Festival, though, made a splash on my dance calendar, featuring a slew of dancers from corps de ballet to principal over the course of a few weeks. I enjoyed myself immensely, and I’m glad that many of the works will revisit the Opera House’s stage next year.

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PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 1:08 am 
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Joined: Mon Apr 19, 2004 11:01 pm
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I'm not a fan of opening nights, but I love closing nights, and
tonight's final performance of SFB's 2008 season was a good one (New Works Festival, Program C). Some of
you may already know this, but I didn't until I saw flowers being
thrown from the wings for Molly Smolen and Steve Norman and Courtney
Wright and Garrett Anderson, all of whom are leaving the company. Tiit and Molly danced a final pas de deux in "Ibsen's House." It was touching.

I heard that promotions have been announced to the company but are
not yet public. I have a feeling they may be in tomorrow's Chronicle,

Favorite moments tonight: a wonderfully complicated pas de trois in
Jenkins' "Thread" with Courtney Elizabeth, Jim Sofranko and Damian
Smith; Dana Genshaft dancing with 19th-century restraint in Ibsen's
House, and 21st century energy in Elo's "Double Evil." Lily Rpgers
making Elo's quirky moves look very elegant.

The dancers were relaxed, the audience was appreciative, and the SFB season ended, as always, too early.


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PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 9:50 am 
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Location: San Francisco
Thanks, bcx, for the report! Do you know if Molly is leaving or retiring? Official promotions are normally not announced until July, so we may have to continue speculating for a few months!

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 Post subject: Promotions: An inside leak
PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 11:36 am 
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Yesterday Afternoon after class Helgi Promoted the following people

Jamie Garcia Castilla- Principal

Dana Genshaft- Soloist

Pauli Magierek- Soloist

Garen Scribner- Soloist

Anthony Spaulding- Soloist


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 Post subject: Molly Smolen
PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 11:36 am 
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Is retiring


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PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 12:23 pm 
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Location: El Granada, CA, USA
Wow, congrats to all of them.


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PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 12:46 pm 
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Location: San Francisco
Yes, big congrats for everyone! Although I'm a bit surprised that Jaime's been promoted but not Rory. It'll be interesting to see if there are any other retirements from the ranks (principal or otherwise) over the next few months. There are several dancers who are right around the 20-year mark w/SFB. Anyone know if Garrett and Courtney are retiring or going to another company? Personally, I think they'd be a lovely addition to OBT...

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PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 1:47 pm 
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Location: San Francisco
RaHir wrote:
Although I'm a bit surprised that Jaime's been promoted but not Rory.

I was also surprised - until I read Rita Feliciano's review (http://www.danceviewtimes.com/2008/05/still-looking-b.html#more). At the end she mentions that Rory is also apparently leaving. :cry:


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PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 2:45 pm 
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Location: San Francisco
It's really too bad that SFB doesn't announce departures earlier; now I'm wishing I had taken in a few more performances to get my "fix" of some of my favorites and show my appreciation before they jet off somewhere else.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 4:03 pm 
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Wow, I will miss Rory Hohenstein. I loved him in Rodeo, among others. Congrats to all the newly promoted dancers, especially those like Dana Genshaft and Pauli Magierek who "paid their dues' for so many years in the corps.

Anyone know where Courtney Wright and Garrett Anderson are going?


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PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 4:07 pm 
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Location: San Francisco
RaHir wrote:
It's really too bad that SFB doesn't announce departures earlier; now I'm wishing I had taken in a few more performances to get my "fix" of some of my favorites and show my appreciation before they jet off somewhere else.

Yes, if I had known Rory was leaving I would have wanted to see him again - either in Joyride or Within the Golden Hour. I am always sad when I hear dancers are leaving :( and these changes do happen, but got me thinking about next season:

1) Who will dance the role of Tony in West Side Story Suite? Garrett and Rory were alternating the role.
2) Who will dance the role of Riff? Rory and Damian were alternating and both were wonderful, but Rory had a stronger singing voice (IMHO).
3) Of those leaving for other companies, any of them going to Joffrey?


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PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 9:04 pm 
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crandc wrote:
Wow, I will miss Rory Hohenstein. . . .

Anyone know where Courtney Wright and Garrett Anderson are going?


For what's it's worth, here's what I've heard:

Rory is going back East for personal reasons and may be back.

Courtney and Garrett are joining a ballet company in Finland (Europe is where many SFB dancers go--they are highly regarded there).


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PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 9:41 pm 
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I'll miss all of those who are leaving. And speaking of leaving, when did Chidozie Nzerem leave? I miss him, too.


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