Napa Valley Festival Del Sole
July 16-25, 2010
Stars of American and Russian Ballet
at the Lincoln Theatre
By Catherine Pawlick
23 July 2010
For political and financial reasons, the days of East Coast or European ballet companies visiting the Bay Rea are fewer and further between than they were in the 1980s. Then, in the heydey of touring companies, we witnessed the Joffrey, ABT, the Kirov or Bolshoi (or both) on an annual basis, and at the War Memorial Opera House. Now local dance aficionados must travel further to see some of the best dancers in the world – either to Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall (which cleverly eliminates a section of the audience from attending), or further. ABT no longer tours to the Bay Area at all. Russian companies tend to visit every other year, at best.
So Napa Valley’s Festival del Sole, now in its fourth year, offered a valuable treat in the form of its “Stars of American and Russian Ballet” evening on July 23 at Napa’s Lincoln Theatre. Dede Wilsey’s generous support enabled a pair of dancers from each of four companies –ABT, New York City Ballet, the Bolshoi, and our local San Francisco Ballet – to perform an evening of short divertissements to a nearly full house.
The cream of the crop, in literal leaps and bounds, came in the form of visual perfection from ABT couple Maxim Beloserkovsky and his partner-wife Irina Dvorovenko. Poster children for idyllic beauty in motion, with pristine lines and sculpted bodies courtesy of Ukraine, the couple opened the program with an excerpt from “Apollo.” Beloserkovsky is the very image of a Sun god: blonde locks, flawless physique, arched feet and muscled torso. But in what can often be a stiff, emotionless rendition of Balanchine’s choreography, Beloserkovsky infused an element of charm and humanity into the role. Here is a dancer at home in the seemingly unlimited confines of his talent, able to use the stage as playground without marring the choreographer’s vision or intent.
Dvorovenko, equally lovely with shiny auburn hair and delicate doll-like features, unraveled airborn developpes, curled into arched port de corps, and took a few liberties with epaulement, but there was nonetheless a refreshing freedom about her own interpretation. This was Balanchine revisited: fresh and intriguing.
From Russia’s capital, two Bolshoi Ballet dancers, Marianna Ryzhkina and Gennadi Saveliev (he subsequently a member of ABT), brought a historical excerpt from Yuri Grigorovich’s “Raymonda” as their first piece. A ballet that isn’t on offer by any American company, the cool legato of the pas de deux and strange lift configurations provided an outlet for Ryzhkina’s long lines and articulate feet. Saveliev’s floor-sweeping costume cape (a requisite component of every version of this ballet) distracted from the dance, but Ryzhkina’s pretty features and balletic form were enough of a draw to salvage the wardrobe issue. She recalls the younger Daria Vasnetsova at the Kirov, now rising through the ranks with the help of coach Gabriela Komleva. Both dancers need choreographic outlets to better use their natural gifts. Later, the Bolshoi pair performed the second act pas de deux from “Giselle”, confirming a possibly intentional legato emploi. Saveliev’s 45-degree cabrioles and arabesques suggested the nostalgia of Old World Russian Ballet. Ryzhkina’s hovering arabesque balance made her a truly ethereal being. Still, one wanted to see the couple in something more traditional, perhaps less romantic and more classical, such as “Swan Lake.”
Instead, Megan Fairchild and Andrew Veyette of New York City Ballet performed Peter Martins’ oddly untraditional compilation of the White Swan Pas de Deux. Ending the grand adagio, famous across centuries, with a sudden allegro musical insert, the effect was jarring and made the reason for Siegfrind and Odette’s shifting mood unclear. The pair’s execution was untidy, and the revised choreography a disappointment when the traditional version is tried-and-true.
Beloserkovsky and Dvorovenko returned to the stage with a refreshing new work, Jessica Lang’s “Splendid Isolation III.” Here Dvorovenko wears a white skirt that is easily three times her height in its length. As she turns on the floor, the fabric curls around her legs, and her torso forms various statuesque poses. Beloserkovsky is intrigued, caressing her skirt, separated from the object of his fascination by, one supposes, the medium between them. After various manipulations of the fabric, Dvorovenko at last breaks free: the couple dance, and lay together, pulling the blanket of fabric over themselves in a final cozy pose. The creative piece combined props and the theme of unattainability in a thought-provoking combination.
Local favorites Lorena Feijoo and Vitor Luiz of the San Francisco Ballet also appeared in the program, first in the pas de deux from Forsythe’s electric “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated,” where the delivery was adequate, but the choreographic selection failed to emphasize these dancers’ true talents, which were on full display in the grand pas from “Don Quixote” which closed the evening. Feijoo’s supreme balancing skills – a trick the Cubans have mastered – and Luiz’s airborn pyrotechnics brought the house to its feet at the end of the evening.
If a drive up to Napa is what it takes to see performers of this caliber, then the price is minimal for this degree of dancing excellence.
Author, "Vaganova Today: The Preservation of Pedagogical Tradition" (available on amazon.com)