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 Post subject: San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker
PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 2:28 pm 
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From the Contra Costa Times.

Quote:
Dance review: Magic is intermittent in S.F. Ballet's 'Nutcracker'
By Ann Murphy
CORRESPONDENT

When the clockmaker Uncle Drosselmeyer appeared with his white hair swept up in a punkish block opening night Thursday at San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker at the War Memorial Opera House, it was a small but radical signal. Artistic director Helgi Tomasson and Damian Smith, who inhabited Drosselmeyer with sly ingenuity, were jettisoning the tame avuncular wizard of the past. In his place they offered us a far more powerful and daring figure: the edgy artist-wizard,whose powers can transform our experience of reality.
The liberation of Drosselmeyer in San Francisco Ballet's four-year-old retooled "Nutcracker" was only one of many small knowing changes that made the night's first half -- that historic clunker in almost every production -- a deep pleasure. But it was the significant change that allowed the action of Act I to take on a clarified, poetic air.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2007 11:54 am 
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Rachel Howard reviews the performance in the San Francisco Chronicle:

SF Chronicle

Plus a review from Janos Gereben in The Examiner:

The Examiner


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2007 4:07 pm 
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From the Chronicle review:

Quote:
News flash for you lingering holiday dance Grinches: The fusty, old San Francisco Ballet "Nutcracker" you remember from Christmases past is long gone.


More's the pity.

Quote:
With all of this - and especially that magical first-act change of scale when the doll-cabinet becomes a looming toy soldier fortress, the fireplace a towering inferno - you might not notice that the big ensemble choreography tends to be a tad sterile.


For me, the choreography -- and not just in the big ensemble pieces -- is what has turned me into a Grinch. I haven't been back to see the ballet since 2004, it's debut season.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2007 9:26 pm 
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Clara Blanco, back at SFB after a year at the Birmingham Royal Ballet, danced the Grand pas de deux this afternoon. Helgi’s version of the Nutcracker story is that a young girl (Clara) dreams of becoming a beautiful ballerina partnering the Nutcracker Prince. In the real version of this story, Clara Blanco leaves San Francisco for England as a member of the corps, and returns a year later to dance a principal role (and wins over the artistic director). Clara Blanco's dancing this afternoon was wonderful: refined, elegant, with subtle little touches. Although she was rehired as a member of the corps after a year at Birmingham, she is actually dancing with the maturity and strength of a soloist. She has grown at lot since she left SFB, and it was a joy to see. My guess is that she will be dancing many solo roles this year, whatever her formal designation. Julianne Kepley, recently hired from the Joffrey as a soloist, was the Sugar Plum Fairy this afternoon; joyous, clean, welcoming dancing. Dancing almost always trumps choreography at SFB.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2007 9:55 pm 
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Location: San Francisco
Ninety mi-nut-es of holiday magic
"Nutcracker"
San Francisco Ballet at the War Memorial Opera House
Dec. 18, 2007, 7PM

Sparkly fuschia-colored life-sized dolls, dancing snow, and squeals of tiny children’s joy stir up memories of early dawn on Christmas morning, which is just what Helgi Tomasson’s maturing “Nutcracker” aims to do at each and every performance. Tuesday night was no different, with tots dressed up in their best frocks and suits, sitting at the edge of their seats, and gaping at every turn and leap. “Mom! She just got so tiny!” exclaimed one little child behind me as the tree rose high above the stage. “Ooh! Snow fairies! Hee!” piped another as Snowflakes danced out of the wings. And if I had thought about it less, I probably would have giggled with glee right along with them!

Act I plopped us in the middle of 1915 San Francisco, and the character dancers, supers, and company dancers looked right at home. The party at the Stahlbaums’ passed with ease--a group dance here, children running there, and a graceful Jessica Cohen as Clara--, and it all flowed quite well into the dancing dolls. Rory Hohenstein played the flexible and somewhat dopey harlequin, and Clara Blanco, who’s returned to SF Ballet after a one-year hiatus in England, shined as the spinning, flexedfoot dancing doll. Katita Waldo heralded the stage as the Snow Queen, and as her King, Hansuke Yamamoto displayed impressiveness in both his sissones and partnering. Lily Rogers stood out as a light-footed and stretchy snowflake, and Ashley Muangmaithong’s smile carried all the way to the back of the Opera House. In Act II, encircled by a buzz of butterflies and ladybugs early on and Waltzing Flowers toward the end, Elana Altman commanded as the Lilac Fairy, but she dazzled in the allegro, leaping high above the ground yet always with an air of calm around her. Adeline Kaiser slithered as the lead in Arabian, artfully partnered by David Arce and Aaron Orza, and James Sofranko along with Benjamin Stewart and Matthew Stewart kicked and spun with attack from the first moment they leapt out of the Faberge eggs. The best, though, was saved for last, when Frances Chung and Jaime Garcia Castilla (his debut in the role) performed the Grand Pas de Deux with electricity and finesse. Chung’s piqués were soft yet forceful, and she spun effortlessly through her fouetté turns. Castilla’s chaîné-grand jetés reached forward past his finely pointed feet and stretched arms, covering every inch of the stage, and his artistry proved his “princiness.”

Martin West conducted the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, and its spirit proved merry, adding to a well rounded "Nutcracker" overall. But while I enjoyed this evening’s onstage performance immensely, it was my neighboring children’s intrigue and genuine appreciation for a classic story intertwined with all of the tricks, secrets, and magic that the theater holds so dear (and SF Ballet does so well) that reinforced that the holidays are a time of happiness, joy, and warmth.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 21, 2007 3:47 pm 
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Clara is a lovely dancer. She won the Prix de Lausanne in 1999 (fact-check me please!) I think and spent her last years of training at SFB School. I'm glad she danced so well. I sometimes think Helgi doesn't know what he's got in front of him until it's gone. I'm glad she's back.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 21, 2007 9:54 pm 
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Some interesting observations from Paul Parish in the Bay Area Reporter:

Bay Area Reporter


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2007 8:15 am 
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To quote LMCtech:
Quote:
"I sometimes think Helgi doesn't know what he's got in front of him until it's gone."


I see that the company is now advertising for a male dancer. This a few months after Gonzalo and Moises leave. I wonder if Helgi thinks he will be able to replace these two wonderful dancers with someone better?


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 24, 2007 2:41 pm 
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As the company is advertising for a 6 feet tall+ male principal, I don't think it's to "replace" Gonzalo (who was maybe 5' 8" or 9"? He was slightly taller than me and I'm 5'5") or Moises (a former soloist) so much as to fill a partnering void. Damian Smith seems to be slowly moving towards more character-esque roles, and Pierre-François Vilanoba and Ruben Martin can't partner every tall principal/soloist female dancer in the company (plus while PFV's continuously maturing performance-wise, I don't think he's technically as crisp as he was a few seasons ago). Dancer searches (and visas, if need be) can take awhile, so it's possible we won't see this potential new hire for a year or more.

On a casting note, it's nice to see Courtney Wright and Brett Bauerdebuting this week as Snow!

Also, it seems Vadim Solomakha returns as a guest artist to dance with Yuan Yuan Tan in the grand pas de deux. Just two performances, but what a treat!

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2007 4:21 pm 
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PFV can be injury prone as well so having another tall principal male is good insurance. You can't necessarily get better than Gonzo and Moises but as good as has a good shot.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2007 5:44 pm 
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An interesting article from the SF Chronicle about the filming for broadcast.

Quote:
Filming Ballet's 'Nutcracker' requires shot-by-shot breakdown
Jesse Hamlin, Chronicle Staff Writer

Some of the best TV cameramen in the business were sitting around a table at the San Francisco Ballet on Sunday morning, watching a tape of the Helgi Tomasson-choreographed "Nutcracker" they'd be shooting a few hours later and scribbling notes in their scripts.

A voice on the tape counted beats as the crew followed a constant stream of cues. Director Matthew Diamond coolly snapped his fingers and called out camera numbers every few moments, a split second after Associate Director Rae Kraus prepped the crew for the shot - "ready 38" - and what to watch for.



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PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2007 6:56 pm 
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Just some comments on yesterday afternoon's show.

I enjoyed the dancing dolls in Act I more than I had before. They often struck me as a bit boring as I was waiting for the "real" action in the second act. Jaime Garcia Castillo was the acrobat and Clara Blanco (bienvenidos!) was the ballerina doll.

Elana Altman (Snow Queen) is fast becoming a favorite of mine. This time, the snow scene got by with no mishaps (last year a dancer lost her tiara early on and every Snowflake had to step around it).

The Chinese variation is the ONLY one I have ever been able to watch without cringing. A huge improvement over the "traditional" racist bobbing and bowing. Arabian (Courtney Clarkson, Brett Bauer, Anthony Spaulding) was great, always gets a lot of cheers. And I love Hansuke Yamamato in the Russian variation, although when he jumped through the egg he got a piece of paper stuck to his face, pulled it off and threw it down (to laughter from the audience) where a helpful page picked it up.

Agree that the Waltz of the Flowers is choreographically weak. The Sugar Plum Fairy's (Molly Smollen) solo is fine, but most of the flowers seem to spend a lot of time standing there or walking in a circle. They look lovely, but where is the dance? I am, I have to say, the world' prize klutz, zero talent, could not dance in the corps in high school productions, but the music of the Waltz of the Flowers always makes me want to get up and dance. It's my favorite of the ballet, and I wish the choreography matched it.

Rachel Viselli & Pierre-Francois Villanoba danced the Grand PDD. I am used to seeing Vilanoba partnering Muriel Maffre. Viselli is not Maffre but did not try to be; she was lovely as herself. I still get chills when the cabinet revolves and girl becomes woman. The PDD was the climax of the ballet as it should be.

Incidentally, there was a huge crowd, probably close to a sell out, which was not the case in past years for the Dec. 26 matinee.


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