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 Post subject: San Francisco Ballet 2009: Program 2
PostPosted: Sat Jan 31, 2009 7:44 pm 
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Location: San Francisco
Ballet sizzles 'In the Middle'
Rachel Howard, Chronicle Dance Correspondent
Saturday, January 31, 2009

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Everyone who sees William Forsythe's "In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated" is knocked out, and no wonder. It's like going on safari, watching exotic creatures prowl through their native habitat and pounce into displays of territorial command. Ballet dancers as a pride of muscle-rippling, competitive lions. Ballet class - to my mind, the implied setting of Forsythe's signature 1987 work - as their savanna.

Nearly every company in the world dances "In the Middle" these days, it seems. But Thursday at the opening of San Francisco Ballet's Program 2, I couldn't help thinking the War Memorial Opera House was the place to see it. Few international-caliber troupes have cultivated personality and passion with the fervor of Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson. The payoff shines in "In the Middle" as well as in two encores from last season's New Works Festival.

That "In the Middle" should look like such an artifact of its era and also so fresh is testament partly to the vigor of performance it receives here, but mostly to Forsythe's evolutionary place in ballet tradition. From the industrial-chic lighting and electronic Thom Willems score to the ethos of sexually aggressive individualism (think "A Chorus Line" meets "Fatal Attraction"), "In the Middle" screams late '80s. Yet its stretched-to-the-limits understanding of classicism - vestigial glimmers of Petipa and Balanchine between all those extreme extensions and provocative crouches - is timeless.

More...

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 02, 2009 1:00 pm 
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There is a link to the Contra Costa Times review of Programs 1&2 in the SFB Program 1 thread.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 02, 2009 4:16 pm 
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Location: San Francisco
Also, Simon Ball, guest artist and principal with Houston Ballet, will be appearing in select "In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated" performances through the end of the run. Casting can be found here.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2009 6:13 pm 
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Location: San Francisco
San Francisco Ballet
Program 2
Tuesday, February 3, 2009, 8PM

San Francisco Ballet’s initial program may show off its dancers’ liquid limbs, but Program 2 displays their steely attack and strength.

William Forsythe’s “in the middle, somewhat elevated” uses stark shadows and a cavernous stage to display wham-bam dance paired with Thom Willems’ synthesized romp full of wrps and zings. Dressed in teal with additional black hip-slung cropped tights for the women, the dancers, below a suspended duo of gold cherries (hence, the work’s title), whizzed about in contortions and jagged angles while enunciating the in-betweens. This rollercoaster of a ballet featured 10 incredibly strong dancers who complemented each other so well that they delivered one of the most high quality events I’ve ever seen on the Opera House Stage. Vanessa Zahorian, the ever-dependable technician, showed muscle and power as she plowed through some intense pirouettes and partnering, and Sofiane Sylve, with her tight ringlet curls, proved that she’s “on” even when hip-jutting off balance. The dark haired and He-Man-like Simon Ball, joining the cast as a guest artist (thank you, Houston Ballet!), matched up with Katita Waldo and later Sylve, in two dynamic duets based on trust, guts, and impeccable timing. The cast also included Elana Altman, Frances Chung, Lorena Feijoo, Pascal Molat, Joan Boada, and Ivan Popov. Without much grandeur, Forsythe has showcased raw, abstract ballet at its best. And to think “in the middle” premiered in 1987!

The evening also included encore performances of Stanton Welch’s “Naked” and Val Caniparoli’s literary “Ibsen’s House.” “Naked” is filled with fun yet irrelevant choreography. This isn’t a dance to save mankind, but it was a pleasant opener for the evening. While Rachel Viselli seemed a little hesitant throughout, Elizabeth Miner and Pascal Molat more than made up for it with their spunky toe tapping. Molat, in particular, moves through space in a rare-to-find organic way, connecting phrases together beautifully so as not to highlight sections of eight or four. Instead, even with somewhat mundane choreography, his pristine movements follow a continuous build-up of energy that puts the dancing at the forefront while the choreography becomes an afterthought. Also, Frances Chung has built upon her spectacular performance last year (this time with Quinn Wharton), infusing more richness and emotion into the adagio with effortless partnering. Again, I wonder why this pair isn't singled out on the casting sheet like the other featured couples…

With the orchestra playing Dvoràk’s haunting score, couples surged ahead in “Ibsen’s House.” Set against Sandra Woodall’s set design, which could either be a giant floor-to-ceiling window covered in flowing white and black drapes or the bottom edges of a woman’s dress and petticoat (take your pick; they both could work!), the five women play out their gender roles and attempt to break free or face their hardships. Lorena Feijoo passionately led the crew as Hedda Gabler, and Clara Blanco has grown even more in her dress smoothing, don’t-put-your-arms-around-me Nora Helmer. Perhaps the most touching moment came from Katita Waldo’s Mrs. Alving and Davit Karapetyan in his debut as her son Oswald. She protectively wrapped her arms around him as he thumped his chest, as if a reminder of his impending death.

Speaking of death (which isn’t a hot topic on any writer’s to-do list), the Opera House seemed better filled than early last week, but I still spied empty pockets of seats throughout the orchestra. In this economy, let’s not forget to support our local arts organizations, both big and small, as they also weather the storm.

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Last edited by RaHir on Thu Feb 05, 2009 11:38 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 05, 2009 6:27 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Many thanls for your two passionate reviews, Rahir. Wish I could have been there to see SFB work their magic on "In the Middle", a work I much prefer to the other Forsythe regular "The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude".

The most exciting performance of "In the Middle" I have seen was the first Kirov performance in London's Royal Opera house. The guys looked as if they had been let off the leash and some of the women had enough time to play with the steps rather than just bash them out.

I'm still sad that I was overseas and missed "Impressing the Csar" when Ballet Flanders was in London last year; "In the middle" is the central act in this evening length work. Here's a review from The Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2007/ju ... stival2007


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 Post subject: Sunday matinee, Program 2 casts excite too
PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2009 7:09 pm 
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"Naked"'s three key couples were Miner & Yamamoto, Viselli & Bauer, Stahl & Martin. Though the choreography lacks focus, the dancers more than compensated. If forced to pick anyone out for special notice, I'd have to note Visell's fluidity, backed by Bauer's effortless partnering. Everyone though was full of energy and commitment.

"Ibsen's House" offered a completely different set of couples as well from the ones reported in previous posts. LeBlanc played frustrated and rebellious Hedda to Quinn Wharton's menacing husband. The most expressive couple was Muangmaithong as Nora with Deivison. Despite being so slender and fragile-looking, she exhibited enormous dramatic power along with secure technique, and was equally matched by him. They earned the major applause at the conclusion. How satisfying to see corps figures pop out like this! Waldo and Karapetyan portrayed Ghosts with heightened expression as well. His facial expression and minute gestures added much to his character's confusion and longing. Roberts was the Lady from the Sea with Mateo Klemmayer, another well-balanced pairing, as were Lorey and Vanderlinden. Another example of the depth of SFB, that the second cast could so completely match the highest level of this imposing and moving work. The electricity in the audience was palpable.

Need I say that In the Middle was another knock-out? We had Sylve with guest dancer Simon Bail, Waldo with Ruben Martin, van Patten with Sofranko, Kochetkova with Willis, Elizabeth, and McNulty. Brava, bravo.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 10, 2009 11:43 am 
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Wow, so many names I recognize getting great opportunities. So exciting.


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