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 Post subject: Diary - Saturday, Day 6
PostPosted: Sat Aug 18, 2001 9:32 am 
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Joined: Sat Mar 10, 2001 12:01 am
Posts: 2172
Location: London
Day 6 – Looking back over the week<P>San Francisco Ballet has performed all three of its programmes now. The newspaper critics have found some things that could have been done better, but not many. There have been murmurings in the Floral Hall (where the Royal Opera House’s champagne bar is situated) that it was ambitious of SFB to bring ‘mixed bills’ to London – it is well-known that the British ballet-going public avoids them like the plague but turns out ‘en masse’ for full-length tutu extravaganzas. Without doubt there would have been a taffeta-clad bottom on every seat for Sleeping Beauty, but that’s not the point. Helgi Tomasson (Artistic Director of SFB) was ambitious in his programming, staging many different pieces by different choreographers and even bringing works by two of his own dancers. He treated the London audience as a mature bunch of discerning but open-minded individuals, and it paid off. When we were unceremoniously ejected on to the street on Thursday while one of the dancers was baking his or her potato in a manner that threatened to turn the Opera House into one big microwave oven, I was able to take stock of the week and listen to the animated voices around me, eager to get back to their seats for Mark Morris’ “Sandpaper Ballet”. (By the way, who was that dancer? Own up. Britons love a little tabloid journalism however ‘well heeled’ they are.)<P>The first thing I thought whilst dodging taxis was, why did I leave my front door keys in the bag I put in the cloakroom? The second thing I thought as fire engines raced round the huge edifice that is the Opera House, was exactly how many opera houses have we managed to burn down in the last couple of hundred years? (At least three, I think). And then I began to absorb the comments being made around me. People were expressing their views on their preferred choreographer. They were able to make a choice because even if they had only attended one night, they had at least three choreographers to choose from. <P>With exposure to such diversity, the British ballet public will come of age; in one week, I saw works by Mark Morris, Jerome Robbins, Helgi Tomasson, Balanchine, Christopher Wheeldon, Julia Adam and Yuri Possokhov. Ross Stretton, newly appointed Director of the Royal Ballet, is expanding the repertoire for London, and for those for whom ballet begins and ends at the Royal Opera House, SFB’s visit will have been a sweetener. I am sure it will push them, at the very least, to want to see more Balanchine because they will have seen that Balanchine did not create just story-less works, with dancers in simple practise clothes or dressed as jewels. Perhaps they thought they knew Balanchine because they had seen the Royal Ballet’s staging of “Agon” and the Kirov’s staging of “Jewels” this year. I hope that “Bugaku”, Balanchine’s sensuous composition based on a Japanese marriage ritual, made them think again. Bugaku has been performed by the Royal Ballet, but thirteen years ago. The ballet is dated – the costumes are part traditional Japanese marital garb, and part space-age futurism typical of the sixties, and the music is reminiscent of a James Bond movie shot in Shanghai – but the cool undemonstrative white face of Yuan Yuan Tan, maintained throughout while her body submits and surrenders to her mate in sensuous pirouettes and arabesques woven around him, is timeless Japanese ritual. She turns her head away from the imposing, emperor-like figure of Cyril Pierre to express her pain of surrender, her emotion, and then turns back, bows demurely, her composure restored, indicating her surrender. And the standard was so high. My guest on Tuesday evening, a former member of New York City Ballet, thought Yuan Yuan Tan danced every bit as well as Allegra Kent on whom the ballet was created (and who, had advised on SFB’s staging of the piece).<P>|I doubt London has ever seen such a bevy of excellent male dancers (except when SFB was at Sadler’s Wells a couple of years ago.) On Monday I was totally bowled over by Roman Rykine, the protagonist in Yuri Possokhov’s “Magrittomania”, particularly the interaction with the other men, Gonzalo Garcia, Stephen Legate and Guennadi Nedviguine, all wearing pin-striped suits, braces and bowler hats. I was reminded of male tango dancers in chalk-striped suits practising together in Buenos Aires in the 30s, in order to perfect their technique to impress the ladies in the salons – the effect is strongly masculine but sensual. I thought the whole piece reminiscent of the integration of the arts into a ballet perfected by Diaghilev through the ‘Ballets Russes’, with its elaborate backdrops extracted from Magritte’s paintings and costumes based on figures from his works such as the faceless bare-breasted women (depicted by women in long flowing dresses, their faces covered with translucent scarves, cups over their breast and one arm behind the back). Plus the careful use of lighting – Yuan Yuan Tan dressed in red, was further distinguished with red light, giving her a spectral, other-worldly look. The majority of critics derided the adaptation of Beethoven by Yury Krasavin (“not for lovers of Beethoven’s music,” said Clement Crisp of the Financial Times) but I confess that I thought it apposite.<P>The other work by a company member, “Night” by Julia Adam, held the audience spell-bound. Again, the boys excelled. That doesn’t mean that the girls didn’t. It’s just that I am not used to seeing guys dancing like that – six of them moving as one body, effectively a ‘corps,’ and then dancing with each other. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of more men than women. Damian Smith came into his own in this piece. He dances with a ‘contemporary edge,’ using the floor well, in a way few ballet dancers do. Falling backwards and on to his knees, he exercises a delay, hitting the floor as if slow motion, slightly behind the music and the effect is totally sensual. Peter Brandenhoff also shone – one to watch. The audience gave a standing ovation for this piece.<P>The audience was also enthusiastic for Christopher Wheeldon’s “Sea Pictures”. It had received a luke-warm reception from San Franciscan critics last year and I had prepared myself for disappointment eventhough I was curious about the manner in which this young Briton is seducing American audiences and artistic directors. (He was recently appointed resident choreographer with New York City Ballet and has composed several pieces for SFB). I was not disappointed at all. I found his use of the floor superlative. I am not used to seeing ballet choreographers use the floor effectively – any attempts normally look gratuitous, but Wheeldon heightened the emotion between the couples saying their goodbyes as the men go to sea, by rolling them across each other, the pauses and exchanges of glances intensifying the drama. There is considerable lifting in the pas-de-deux but little repetition of the movement - each lift is different.<P>Other highlights – Lucia Lacarra’s long dramatic legs in Symphony in Three Movements, Muriel Maffre and Pierre-Francois Vilanoba’s electric athleticism in Robbin’s “Glass Pieces” (neither danced very much this week but I am sure I would be devoted fans if they had), Gonzalo Garcia springing from the floor in Tomasson’s “Prism” as if his patch of the stage concealed a trampoline and, of course, the absolutely superb masterly dancing of Joanna Berman and Yuri Possokhov, SFB veterans. San Francisco – you are very lucky to have the Company.<P><BR><p>[This message has been edited by Emma Pegler (edited August 18, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: Diary - Saturday, Day 6
PostPosted: Sat Aug 18, 2001 10:18 am 
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Joined: Fri Oct 22, 1999 11:01 pm
Posts: 17498
Location: SF Bay Area
Emma, what wonderful, beautiful sentiments! Lauren and I read your diary together and we were moved.<P>Yes, we are lucky to have SFB. After discussing this phenomenon with several ballet followers, I can summarize a general opinion:<P>- SFB is not encumbered with the obligation of maintaining a vast legacy of historically important works. This keeps the company looking ahead;<P>- Helgi Tomasson feels it is very important to have choreographers create works on his dancers to keep them alive, even in the classical works;<P>- San Franciscans have a strong base of open-minded ballet fans, old and young, who are willing to be experimented on. This allows the creation of contemporary works.<P>There are other points as well but perhaps others can chime in to add or to rebut. Belinda? MEHunt? DavidH? Lauren?<p>[This message has been edited by Azlan (edited August 18, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: Diary - Saturday, Day 6
PostPosted: Sat Aug 18, 2001 11:27 am 
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Joined: Fri Oct 22, 1999 11:01 pm
Posts: 17498
Location: SF Bay Area
And here's something really fun to read from SFB's home season:<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><B>Roll over, Beethoven</B><BR>Rachel Howard, SF Examiner<P>At the finish of Tuesday night's San Francisco Ballet program, dashing young Gonzalo Garcia bounded from the wings to deliver his bows before a stage crowded with corps members and principal dancers -- and slipped, taking an unexpected seat. "Bravo!" the audience shouted. That tripping conclusion was oddly but richly satisfying.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P><a href=../../../ubb/Forum4/HTML/000655.html target=_blank>More in the SFB 2001 Season Program 1 thread</a>


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 Post subject: Re: Diary - Saturday, Day 6
PostPosted: Sat Aug 18, 2001 11:47 am 
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Joined: Thu Sep 21, 2000 11:01 pm
Posts: 717
Location: California
Yes Emma we are very lucky to have SFB. It's thrilling to read of there success in London. <BR>One correction though, in your diary - his name is Peter (not Paul) Brandenhoff! :-) <BR>He's a talented, intelligent and very well read young man. Meet him if you can. <P>Thanks for the report, it was wonderful.<BR>D


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 Post subject: Re: Diary - Saturday, Day 6
PostPosted: Sat Aug 18, 2001 1:21 pm 
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Joined: Mon Oct 02, 2000 11:01 pm
Posts: 13071
Location: San Diego, California, USA
Thank you, Emma, for sharing your experience so those of us not there could enjoy it, too.<P>The company is scheduled to come here for the Orange County Performing Arts Center, Costa Mesa, California, 2001-2002 season and I was very much looking forward to it. Even more so now.


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 Post subject: Re: Diary - Saturday, Day 6
PostPosted: Sat Aug 18, 2001 6:53 pm 
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Joined: Sat Mar 10, 2001 12:01 am
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Location: London
Thank you Azlan, David and Basheva for your sentiments, too. Apologies about the incorrect name. I have read the programme so many times that I should be able to recite the names of the dancers in my sleep. Thanks for pointing it out.


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 Post subject: Re: Diary - Saturday, Day 6
PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2001 10:46 am 
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Joined: Fri Oct 22, 1999 11:01 pm
Posts: 17498
Location: SF Bay Area
If you think SFB is great... there's more to dance in SF than SFB. Would it surprise you that there at least six professional ballet companies in the SF Bay Area, not counting the semi-professional companies, the modern dance companies and the myriad of ethnic dance companies? The list includes Ballet San Jose, Oakland Ballet, Alonzo King's LINES Contemporary Ballet, Smuin Ballets/SF, Lawrence Pech Dance Company, and Diablo Ballet. Did I miss any?


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 Post subject: Re: Diary - Saturday, Day 6
PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2001 1:39 pm 
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Location: London
Hey - I'm just getting on the aeroplane ....can you pick me up from the airport?


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 Post subject: Re: Diary - Saturday, Day 6
PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2001 6:30 pm 
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Joined: Fri Oct 22, 1999 11:01 pm
Posts: 17498
Location: SF Bay Area
Which one, Emma? SFO, SJC or OAK?<P>Come in the Spring if you want to see SFB again. Check out the programming:<P><a href=../../../ubb/Forum4/HTML/000768.html target=_blank><B>San Francisco Ballet 2002 Season Discussion Thread</B></a><P><a href=../../../ubb/Forum13/HTML/000284.html target=_blank><B>San Francisco Ballet 2001-02 Season Announcement</B></a><P><a href=http://www.sfballet.org/2002season/schedule.php target=_blank><B>SFB 2002 Season Calendar</B></a><p>[This message has been edited by Azlan (edited August 20, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: Diary - Saturday, Day 6
PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2001 6:42 pm 
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Joined: Fri Oct 22, 1999 11:01 pm
Posts: 17498
Location: SF Bay Area
Here are the web sites of the various ballet companies in the SF Bay Area:<P><a href=http://www.sfballet.org/ target=_blank>www.sfballet.org</a><P><a href=http://www.balletsanjose.org/ target=_blank>www.balletsanjose.org</a><P><a href=http://www.oaklandballet.org/ target=_blank>www.oaklandballet.org</a><P><a href=http://www.smuinballets.com/ target=_blank>www.smuinballets.com</a><P><a href=http://www.linesballet.org/ target=_blank>www.linesballet.org</a><P><a href=http://www.lpdance.org/ target=_blank>www.lpdance.org</a><P><a href=http://www.diabloballet.org/ target=_blank>www.diabloballet.org</a><P><BR>And then there's this cool modern dance company, whose co-Artistic Director, KT Nelson, creates works on ballet companies, namely Diablo:<P><a href=http://www.odcdance.org/ target=_blank>www.odcdance.org</a><P><BR>These companies vary in strengths. I have to recuse myself from making comparisons (many of you know why) but if you do a <a href=../../../cgi-local/search.cgi?action=intro>search<a> in the Ballet forum you will find many articles and posts written about the relative merits of the Bay Area ballet companies.


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 Post subject: Re: Diary - Saturday, Day 6
PostPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2001 9:33 am 
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Location: London
wow - i guess I'll have to come for a month to take all this in.


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 Post subject: Re: Diary - Saturday, Day 6
PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2001 8:59 am 
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Joined: Fri Oct 22, 1999 11:01 pm
Posts: 17498
Location: SF Bay Area
A glowing write-up in the Sunday London Times:<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>The excellent San Francisco Ballet outpaced its European contemporaries, says David Dougill<P>California dreamy<P>Whenever the San Francisco Ballet chooses to return to our shores, it can be confident of a very warm welcome. Audiences left the Royal Opera House during SFB's one-week incumbency aglow with pleasure at the finesse, versatility and exuberance of this young-spirited company.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P><a href=http://www.sunday-times.co.uk/news/pages/sti/2001/08/26/sticuldnc02002.html? target=_blank>More</a>


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