Adieu, Mademoiselle Maffre. Ballet bids farewell to one of its best.
Rachel Howard, Chronicle Dance Correspondent
Tuesday, May 8, 2007
Muriel Maffre raised her impossibly long arms toward the War Memorial Opera House ceiling Sunday night, then let them drop -- clunk -- hopelessly into her shoulder joints like the limbs of an abandoned marionette. The image was famous -- Anna Pavlova's "Dying Swan" -- and yet in one keenly considered movement, Maffre had made us see it anew. The standing ovation came instantly: This was a charged evening at the San Francisco Ballet, a farewell gala for a dancer of international singularity.
Some ballerinas are especially loved for their charisma, some for their musicality, some for their technical prowess. During her 17 years at the Ballet, Maffre has been something else. A majestic presence at more than 6 feet tall en pointe, she has neither fought her height nor relied on the length of her legs for sheer spectacle, though they certainly provide that. Instead, she has rallied her formidable intelligence to investigate every mechanical possibility of her unorthodox physicality. Each role she tackled in her parting sampling of short showpieces offered a stunning study in kinesthetic logic.
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