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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet 2002 Orange County Appearance
PostPosted: Fri Sep 27, 2002 8:24 am 
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From the Los Angeles Times:

Diverting Proficiency, but Little More
San Francisco Ballet displays its prowess in a varied program that revealed nothing new.


By LEWIS SEGAL, Times Staff Writer

Quote:
Founded in 1933, San Francisco Ballet is America's first professional classical company, and over the decades it has danced its way to major international recognition.

Its mixed bill at the Orange County Performing Arts Center on Wednesday (the opening of an engagement that switches tonight to a full-evening "Othello") proved that the company can look authoritative in 19th century showpieces, home-grown dance dramas and acquisitions from the world of modern dance.

But this evening of local premieres had nothing genuinely new to offer, no vision of ballet as anything other than expensive, conservative entertainment. You could marvel at all the honed proficiency on view, but after that, nothing.
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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet 2002 Orange County Appearance
PostPosted: Fri Sep 27, 2002 9:29 am 
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Thanks so much for your reports Jeff! I have to ask though, what "zinky" means?

I'm enjoying reading the updates as they come in!


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet 2002 Orange County Appearance
PostPosted: Fri Sep 27, 2002 10:33 am 
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Location: SF Bay Area
A review from the OC Register (thanks, MD):

Quote:
Miles of style at Arts Center
San Francisco Ballet brings humor and panache.

Laura Bleiberg, Orange County Register

Mark Morris, once labeled the "bad boy" choreographer of modern dance, is most likely not the savior of classical ballet.
<a href=http://www2.ocregister.com/ocrweb/ocr/editionArticle.do?id=4471&section=SHOW target=_blank>More</a>


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet 2002 Orange County Appearance
PostPosted: Fri Sep 27, 2002 10:51 am 
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I was afraid to ask what 'zinky' meant....you can tell me tomorrow evening, Jeff.

And thanks from me, too, Jeff for the review.


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet 2002 Orange County Appearance
PostPosted: Fri Sep 27, 2002 11:04 am 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
From the Daily Trojan:

Dance: The San Francisco ballet performs an act based on the tale of Medea


By ART PRIROMPRINTR
Performing Arts Editor

Quote:
In the southern California premiere of "Damned," the San Francisco Ballet offered a compelling portrait of human anguish and revenge. Choreographed by SFB principal dancer Yuri Possokhov and based on Euripides' "Medea," "Damned" mixes the virtuosic dancing of Possokhov's Russian training with the conventions of modern dance and ballet. The result is a riveting visual account of the "Medea."
MORE...

(Thanks Art!)

<small>[ 09-27-2002, 13:05: Message edited by: Basheva ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet 2002 Orange County Appearance
PostPosted: Fri Sep 27, 2002 12:41 pm 
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It's interesting to me that two reviewers felt that the partnering in Damned was inappropriately tricky or spectacular, because the only lasting impression I have of the partnering in the Jason/Princess duet is that it was very lyrical.


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet 2002 Orange County Appearance
PostPosted: Fri Sep 27, 2002 2:05 pm 
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Oh yes i love this entire piece, it's not every day we see this kind of piece in Paris and never we have this kind of ballet where Soloist, principals and corps dance together laughing off the hierarchy.
It's true that Julie Diana in Balladette was wonderful, she was with Damian Smith.
Lorena Feijoo is a wonderful dancer, I discoverer her in Sandpaper, but she was also brilliant as Bianca in Lubovich Othello. As I said, I think that SFB is with POB one of the most good troup of World :D !

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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet 2002 Orange County Appearance
PostPosted: Fri Sep 27, 2002 11:18 pm 
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I saw the mixed bill on Thursday night. I didn't take good notes, so most of this is from memory. Part of the problem with a mixed bill is that I often don't know who danced what. So I can't really single people out too well for last night's work. I was scanning the program between acts, trying to remember who danced what part, but I was always diverted by people I knew.

Based on what I'd heard and read about Wednesday night's performance, I'd say this was a much better evening for the company.

Paquita started a little slow. The orchestra and dancers seemed slightly lethargic to begin with, but they picked up nicely as the act progressed, building to a resounding finish. Lorena Feijoo's Paquita was regal, a bit aloof, though there was no contesting her control and grace. Many of the soloists deserve mention. I just can't put names to the faces yet.

Vadim Solomakha partnered Feijoo very nicely, attentive, assured and very lyrical. As the act progressed he seemd to breath more and more a light, boyish charm into his dance. He dazzled the audience but allowed himself to get a bit carried away in the heat of the moment, nearly falling over at the end of his coda.

Guennadi Nedviguine seemed to enjoy himself as well, partnering in the pas de trois. He pulled off a nifty move which myself and the teacher I was sitting with could not begin to name. It seemd like a series of sissonne in a circle with entrechats. It was fun to watch, mostly because he looked like he was having a good time at our expense throghout.

Sorry to single out the guys. There were only two of them so I could figure out the names.

The "Damned" still sits with me 24 hours later. I'm not sure what to think about this one yet. The fact I'm still mulling it over says something about the piece. I enjoyed what I saw. Muriel Maffre was a spidery, slinky Medea. Her crazed dance of self loathing, indecision, lust for revenge and love all wrapped up into one messy emotional ball made her more sympathetic to me. The end result was the death of her children at her own hand was less horrific, somehow understandable.

Pierre-Francois Vilanoba made for a tall, stricken Jason. His partnering with Yuan Yuan Tan as the Princess was a bit frenzied but lyric. Vilanoba appeared to have to work hard in their pas de deux whereas Tan seemed relaxed, at ease. I think Vilanoba was having an off night, stumbling loudly a few times at the beginning of the piece.

Overall the effect was to make me more sympathetic to Medea and her despair than to Jason's loss. The addition of the film clips and borderline cheesy effects when the Princess is killed seemed unnecessary. I would have to say this felt like a piece by a fairly new choreographer. It was interesting and memorable, but I'd like to see it revisited 10 years from now when he's had a bit more experience under his belt. I imagine some of the frantic energy would be played down and a bit more maturity would come through.

Sandpaper Ballet still has me quizzing myself about what I saw. From teh moment the curtain rose I was completely off balance. Sleigh ride music in the summer shifted me off center, the costumes pushed me off even further (shrink wrapped romper room outfits come to mind), then there was the dance... At first I thought this guy's either demented or a genius. A day later, I lean toward the latter.

This piece was just so much fun. When the curtain fell I found my heart sinking. Any more and I would have felt compelled to jump on stage to join in the fun. It was as if they were up there playing a delightful game and we couldn't join in, watching longlingly from the sidelines.

Some members of the corps handled the piece better than others. There were one or two that seemed locked rigidly in the years of ballet training, unable to let themselves go and relax with the piece. But this was a minor nuisance. As the dancers wove in and out of each other, the background changing from one primary color to another, I felt like I was watching soem wickedly clever game of tag.

This is the first time I've seen the San Francisco Ballet. I am impressed by the cohesion of the corps. Each member was very much in tune with the others. It's always great to see a corps that moves well together and even more exciting to see a corps that can move as one. When this happens, it's almost like listening to the famous "wall of sound" style of the 70's. You can't help but have your breath taken away for a moment and feel overpowered by it. I saw this for the first time with the Moscow Stanislavsky this spring and came tantilizingly close to seeing it again last night. The men in particular are very good at moving as a unit. Jumps were neatly timed and port de bras matched very nicely. Considering the diversity of the backgrounds of the company, this is no small feat.

Looking forward to "Othello."


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet 2002 Orange County Appearance
PostPosted: Sat Sep 28, 2002 1:15 am 
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Location: Jamaica, Queens, New York
Mmmm??? zinky … zinky … zinky … you know what it means … O I see … I spelled it wrong – should be “zincky.”

OK, getting back to the rez, as they say -- another short blurb dashed off later in the evening than is best for coherency.

I remember seeing the SFB Lar Lubovitch “Othello” in 1999 when the Merce Cunningham Dance Company’s annual residency at UC Berkeley was still in May and I used to pop up to see the old master of the aleatoric. I wasn’t all that impressed back with "Othello" then and I’m still not (esp. compared to a MCDC performance). But, I am aware that there is a lot more going on than I thought at first.

I was always impressed by the opening prologue in the Cathedral San Marco set. First, the projection on the scrim of what might be heraldric or, alternatively, pagan, symbols. Then Othello visible, prostrated on the floor like a medieval knight undergoing the prayer vigil before his knighting. But, he writhes and we’re not sure whether its Christian or pagan iconography we’re seeing. Already, Lubovitch is making us uneasy—making us choose between antithetical symbol systems. The crowd comes in – their group choreography undulates, almost seethes. The lighted cross is behind them, followed by Desdemona, lit pure and white – on pointe gliding towards Othello and us. She has become the Christian cross; stands for its purity both spiritual and sexual.

But, narrative clarity becomes -- with somewhat heavy handed treatment later on -- merely obviousness. Its as if Lubovitch and Goldenthal don’t trust audiences to understand what’s going on. Its not exactly condescension … hmmmm … more like the Boy Scout’s urge to be helpful. Like they’re helping us across the street … kind of.

Iago’s evil and psychopathology of all kinds (Iago, Emilia, Othello) becomes translated as un-balletic movement of jerking, angular motions accompanied, or rather, emphasized by jarring, dissonant, percussive sounds of the score. We see repeatedly what passes for interior monologue, hallucinations, and passage where the pas de deux is turned into what is, I believe, called folie a deux in the DSM IV of the psychiatric profession.

What I’m getting at is that the binary oppositions good vs. bad = smooth, balletic movement vs. angular, jarring movement = sonorous music vs. dissonant, percussive music, etc becomes so obvious, that after the first few moments of Act II, there’s nothing left to do but to sit back and look for the slashey moments in the rest of the ballet. [slashey as in Othello/Iago slash or Desdemona/Emilia slash, and so forth.]

However, before I sign off, I don’t want to be misunderstood about what kind of evening I had. I found much to enjoy in the ballet and the production. As Desdemona, Yuan Yuan Tan made an exceptionally pure symbol of, well, purity. Yet, I feel sort of sorry for YY. By tomorrow night, she will have been murdered a total of three times this run — once by immolation “Damned” and twice by scarf fetish strangulation (“Othello”). [and they say we see a lot of violence on T.V.]

Yuri Possokhov’s Othello was fine, especially in the slashey parts with Parrish Maynards’s Iago. And Lorena Feijoo’s Bianca? … its red hot. Reminds me of the first time I saw her perform as a principal with the Joffrey. It was a solo, hellcat number from “Legends.” Sorry, can't remember which number. I will look forward to Katita Waldo’s Desdemona tomorrow.

I’m sorry I can’t credit anybody else, but my cast list got lost in the migration from my seats behind an incredibly Big Head to much nicer seats obligingly yielded by a pair of rather attractive Cuban American girls. They seemed especially pleased to find so many Cuban dancers in the company.

People watching was exceptionally good tonite. There was this little bitty girl sitting before me taking in Act II with these huge binoculars that dwarfed her whole head… but not for long because when Lorena Feijoo came out for her sexy & sassy Gypsy dance, Dad promptly took over those binocs…

“2 Left Feet,” thanks for relieving the strain of just having my scattered thoughts on this run. ME Hunt and Basheva, thanks for your kindnesses. This less structured (Whore-of-Mensa) approach is new to me.

<small>[ 09-28-2002, 12:05: Message edited by: Jeff ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet 2002 Orange County Appearance
PostPosted: Sat Sep 28, 2002 2:07 am 
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Here are some quick thoughts on “Othello,” moments after my arriving home from it. I’ll put up some more cohesive thoughts later...I’ll also put up some more thoughts on the mixed rep program.

To be honest, I really did not enjoy "Othello." I hated how they oversimplified the characters into mere archetypes. We were forced to simply accept "oh they were in love" or "oh he was evil." All the dramatic depth of the play got lost and was instead turned into rather crude over simplifications. Othello lost any form of intelligence and becomes this hulking animal, staking out his property and prowling after it with intense looks upon his face. Not only that, it seems all he gets to do in this balelt is respond to his situations - the strong man we got in Shakespeare's Othello is reduced to almost nothing in the ballet.

But, I thought the company did the best it could with it. Yuan Yuan Tan was spectacular - and so was Lorena Feijoo. I don't know what I think of Yuri's performance yet since I was so bothered by what they turned his character into. Ugh...

The whole thing was a big disappointment, especially after the mixed rep program. I really enjoyed that program - and I don't really understand why the critics didn't really like "Damned." I mean, yes, it had its flaws but I enjoyed the choreography - and its characterizations were infinitely better than those in "Othello." At least Medea had some depth left in her.

But here's what I'm really wondering - why did they have to program a story ballet into the run? Do they really think they won't sell tickets if they don't put in a story ballet? SFB went to London with all mixed reps - and dont' forget Londoners prefer story ballets. The mixed reps had me wanting to see more of the company's shorter works, or at least a much better full length.

I also wonder what this ballet will look like when it airs on PBS later this year...and why they wanted to record it for posterity. I don't know, Jeff - since you've seen it before, did I get a bad impression because it was a bad performance?

<small>[ 09-28-2002, 04:21: Message edited by: art076 ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet 2002 Orange County Appearance
PostPosted: Sat Sep 28, 2002 8:46 am 
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Art, the story ballets are a requirement/suggestion of OCPAC. Note that every company performing in OCPAC has to perform a story ballet. For example, when POB toured the US, they brought only "La Bayadere" to OCPAC even though they performed more contemporary works elsewhere, including SF.


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet 2002 Orange County Appearance
PostPosted: Sat Sep 28, 2002 12:44 pm 
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Let me modify my above comment, then, and ask why OCPAC requires/suggests story ballets? There is a lot of other great work out there that is shorter. But perhaps OCPAC thinks that the audience wants it...and that might be true of the Orange County area, but still - it would be great to see more of the shorter, contemporary work sfrom ABT, SFB and the like instead of all story ballets. They're great, but more variety is too.

<small>[ 09-28-2002, 15:21: Message edited by: art076 ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet 2002 Orange County Appearance
PostPosted: Sat Sep 28, 2002 2:19 pm 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
I can only speak about the San Diego area...however, the OCPAC draws heavily from San Diego County. It seems that the audience here is rather clearly divided; there's the modern dance crowd and the classical ballet crowd. There isn't much crossover at all (it's been tried by mixing it up as a season ticket come-on, but failed miserably). The classical ballet crowd considers anything 'new' as not truly classical, even though it is ballet.

Frankly, there haven't been in many years (since the 1970's) very many major companies that come here (mostly because of a dearth of available theater dates - another story). So the audience hasn't been exposed to the mixed bill type of programming as a steady diet, like SF has been. When a major company does come - they want to see MAJOR ballet which translates into the well known full length classics.

Also, both in this county and Orange County there has been a large growth in minority and/or immigrant populations - from all over the world; SE Asian countries, Hispanic countries, Moslem countries. We have some of the largest of these communities in the US. For the most part, people from these cultures are not as familiar with the ballet. But, when they do hear of it, it is mostly the classics with which they are more familiar.

It's just easier to sell a Swan Lake than a mixed bill of ballets that are unfamiliar. Since the prices are quite high also, people more willingly spend their dollars on something with which they are more sure of enjoying

The demographics in the Southern California area has changed dramatically in a relatively short time.


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet 2002 Orange County Appearance
PostPosted: Sun Sep 29, 2002 3:49 am 
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Well, I was going to upload another hasty set of notes, but “gaedea’s” review over in the Tulsa Ballet thread inspired me to do a more complete job.

“Othello”
San Francisco Ballet at the Orange County Performing Arts Center
9/28/02 Saturday matinee

Othello—Pierre-Francois Vilanoba; Desdemona—Katita Waldo; Iago—Damian Smith; Emilia—Sherri LeBlanc; Bianca—Kristin Long

I think we all learned from school that “tragedy ends in death” while “comedy ends in marriage.” But, I also learned that “comedy is tragedy interrupted” and “tragedy is comedy completed.” Perhaps nothing in the Lar Lubovitch “Othello” could be truer.

Lubovitch’s “Othello” starts with the marriage of Othello and Desdemona. It starts, in other words, at the moment where a comedy must end if it is to remain a comedy. What happens thereafter are the darker rhythms of the theater, distinctly modern in the intensity of its interiority, futility, and cruelty. It is as if, as Frederic Jameson has suggested, tragedy rebukes comedy.

Not that the choreographer says as much. In the program notes, he talks of the sense of artistic freedom he felt upon learning that Shakespeare’s “Othello” was itself based upon a tale from the Gli Hecatommithi by Giraldi Cinthio. By transforming Cinthio’s tale of Desdemona’s destruction by a spurned and jealous Iago into a story about the destruction of innocents, Othello and Desdemona, Shakespeare’s genius converted a banal story into a psychological drama anticipating the moderns’ preoccupation with character and psychopathology.

However, the ballet’s prologue tells us that Lubovitch has a different agenda in mind. Shakespeare’s “Othello” begins with Brabantio’s alarms that the Moor has stolen his daughter, Desdemona. Brabantio’s accusation is in the language of property ownership – property stolen.

Property, ownership, rights—of Desdemona, of name and honor, of the handkerchief … of the truth –- these become the major preoccupations of the Shakespeare. Basically Othello is an honest soldier and in a world of intrigue he is an innocent, clinging to belief systems and modes of knowledge that are archaic, obsolete. He trusts Iago. He trusts the “ocular proof” of the handkerchief. But, Iago is a modern, or rather, Elizabethan, and thus represents true power. It is the intrigue ridden world of the Elizabethan court that destroys the romantic world. In the Arthurian world, Lancelot’s distant love of Guinevere is the ideal, an incompatibility with the Shakespearean world of the Dark Lady.

The central passage of the ballet’s incredible opening sequence is Desdemona’s entry. In the chapel, the crowd, seething, parts for Desdemona, very pure and white, gliding forward on pointe to glissando-like notes towards an Othello who is kneeling before her as one would to a divinity. Othello stands and enfolds her in his cloaked arms before they turn and the entire assemblage kneels.

In addition to being a beautifully wrought sequence, here is what might be the basic insight of the ballet: For Othello, Desdemona is at once goddess (he kneels before her) and chattel (he enfolds her in his cloak). But, that is a very vulnerable position for any woman. To glorify, to worship, to sanctify, or (to use the ecclesiastical terminology) to beautify any mortal woman is to do a kind of violence to her. And, sexual violence accounts – in this interpretation at any rate – for the particular quality of this ballet’s theatrical power.

It seems tautological to say that “Othello” is a story of misogyny. The maltreatment of Desdemona and Emilia is merely one level. Movement motifs are another level. Its there in the Act I courtiers’ dances. The men handle the women by holding or handling their necks (a foreshadowing of Desdemona’s death). When Pierre-Francois Vilanoba’s Othello puts his large hands on both sides of Katita Waldo’s neck, you can’t tell whether he means to lean down to embrace her or to yank her up and throttle her. He will of course do both.

The rougher and more mechanical handling of women recurs in the corps choreography of Act II. A tarantella of waving arms and thrusting hips for Kristin Long’s Bianca and a corps of over a dozen dancers becomes by its third appearance a drunken band of men slinging, dragging, kicking the women wrapped around their legs.

But, the ballet isn’t content with conventional depictions of sexual violence. The ante is upped by sexual fetishism. Desdemona dances a short lyrical solo with the beautiful silk handkerchief and admires it during the Act I divertissements. But, so much attention gets heaped up on it by Othello, Emilia, and Iago, that soon we understand that the handkerchief itself begins to assume the proportions of Desdemona’s honor itself, her virtue … her sexuality. It has become a sexual fetish object in other words.

Soon, the handkerchief is transferred by Iago to Bianca and then to Cassio. It becomes mixed up with the Gypsy dancer’s easy virtue and Cassio’s manly desires. A kind of violence has been done to Desdemona by fetishizing her (it’s the operant deviance of fetishism—a body part or object sexually signifying the whole) and then passing it around like some bizarre kind of sexual currency.

But, perhaps the most extreme form of sexual violence is in the slashey sequences of Act III in Othello’s chambers. Iago is clearly corrupting, perverting Othello, turning him into one capable of monstrous acts. Iago torments Othello by whispering stories of Desdemona’s infidelities. We see Othello’s torments as his visions (hallucinations really) of Desdemona’s infidelities are acted out on an platform behind him on the stage.

But, what is really striking is the way the ballet shows Othello and Iago repeating the adulterous hand holding, caresses, and embraces of the hallucination Desdemona and Cassio. As he envisions Desdemona’s hand being kissed by Cassio, Iago holds Othello’s hand to his lips. Soon, Othello is being caressed by Iago just as Desdemona is being caressed by Cassio.

Yet, rather than just suggesting a sort of homoerotic tension between Othello and Iago (which it does in other places), these sequences seem to be saying something ominous about the gendered nature of evil and violence. Othello’s degradation isn’t just his being tricked. It’s in his being forced to submit to the position of the female. Iago’s crime isn’t just deceiving Othello. Its his forcing Othello to assume the submissive, secondary position of the feminine within the ballet’s structure of force and desire. The ballet doesn’t suggest that Iago loves Othello; rather, the ballet suggests that Iago loves power and the structure of power demands sexual domination.

It should become no surprise when Iago has become more powerful than Othello. Over the course of the show, as Iago has gained more and more control over Othello by the manipulation of Desdemona’s sexuality (by the fetish handkerchief, his deceptions, etc) his movements have become more assured, more powerful—sexual. His crimes bring him alive. Contrast that with Emilia. When she finally defies Iago to reveal the truth, she is only validated by Iago’s knife in her belly. It is as if the cost of truth is a woman’s own life.

Naturally, I’m not suggesting that Lubovitch had any sort of literal misogynistic agenda in mind, but in his interpretation of “Othello,” the boundaries of power, gender, and desire became so blurred, perhaps even disrupted, that his theater begins to approach what Artaud was describing in his Theater of Cruelty.

Sartre (was it Sartre? Or Camus?) had said that there are some crimes that become innocent, even glorious in their magnificence, splendour, and excess. Was he talking of Sade’s nightmarish castles of endless torture? I don’t remember. But, I can’t help thinking of this particular quality in the Lubovitch “Othello.”

In danger of making a too long post already longer, I do wish to add a few performance notes:

Pierre-Francois Vilanoba’s Othello retained a majesty despite the tendency of the choreography to reduce Othello to a type. Katita Waldo showed Desdemona’s suffering most poignantly. Damian Smith’s Iago and Sherri LeBlanc’s Emilia had a simmering, portentous quality to their folie a deux.

Kristin Long’s Bianca (with really big hair) took the scorched earth policy. The Commedia divertissement dancers were fun to watch. They were Megan Low (very youthful appearing--I wonder if the company ever has to worry about child labor laws ... just kidding--I do enjoy seeing her in these demi-soloist roles), Amanda Schull, Brook Broughton, Garrett Anderson, and James Sofranko.

Neal Stulberg conducted.

<small>[ 09-29-2002, 06:14: Message edited by: Jeff ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: San Francisco Ballet 2002 Orange County Appearance
PostPosted: Sun Sep 29, 2002 1:41 pm 
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Thank you so much for this review, Jeff. It is always a pleasure to read your views. And, it was an additional pleasure to meet you last evening.


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