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 Post subject: San Francisco Ballet 2009: Program 1
PostPosted: Wed Jan 28, 2009 7:37 pm 
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Joined: Thu Mar 25, 2004 12:01 am
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Location: San Francisco
San Francisco Ballet
Program 1: "Prism," "Diving into the Lilacs," "The Four Temperaments"
Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The city may be experiencing a slight chill, but last night, San Francisco Ballet opened Program 1 with sizzling pizazz. There was nary a tutu in sight, but the dancers onstage displayed classic technique combined with a refreshing sincerity, providing the perfect warmth to melt any cold winter’s night.

Yuri Possokov’s “Diving into the Lilacs” provided the evening’s subtle dash of royalness. Set to Boris Tchaikovsky’s hauntingly beautiful “Sinfonietta for String Orchestra," Possokov played with dark, wintry moods and full shapes, reminiscent of his youth in Russia. He succeeded in highlighting the women in “Lilacs”; adorned in Sandra Woodall’s flowing chiffon dresses, they looked to be in full bloom, and the men complimented them as supportive stems. The dancers jogged, tiptoed, and skipped backwards, sweeping their bodies in arc-like ways, and partway through the third section, Anthony Spaulding leaped through the gaggle of women like a child running through a garden on a warm spring day. Maria Kochetkova, in a pale pink-purple, resembled a coy butterfly, fluttering effortlessly between the traditional ballet steps and contemporary movements with Pascal Molat. Yuan Yuan Tan, adorned in an almost-white purple, graced the stage with her lean, long limbs, a stunning contrast to Spaulding’s protective demeanor. And while Lorena Feijoo looked lovely in deep purple, she didn’t seem to be in sync with her partner, Joan Boada; but this was a minor glitch in what was otherwise a lovely build over 25 fast-paced minutes. Not to be outdone, former principal dancer Benjamin Pierce collaborated with lighting designer David Finn to create a kaleidoscope of copious blossoming lilacs against the backdrop that, depending on their lighting, simmered vividly in varying pastel hues. With numerous intricacies and tiny details, this is a special work that easily deserves multiple viewings. It’s just that good.

Helgi Tomasson’s “Prism” and George Balanchine’s “The Four Temperaments” bookended the evening. “Prism” uses neoclassical ballet to reflect on space and light, and the large corps de ballet acts as reflections or echoes of the principal dancers; this is unison used wisely. Kristin Long sprightly turned on a dime, and Sofiane Sylve looked positively regal as she weaved herself through the adagio with an underwhelming Ivan Popov. Clara Blanco and Isaac Hernandez stood out in the corps, their technique and presence easily surpassing their peers. But the “breakout star award” goes to Taras Domitro, a Cuban-born dancer. While his technique sometimes seemed iffy, this guy offered a wow factor, especially when he’d turn in the air and whip out a massive 210 degree straddle split. The orchestra played Beethoven’s “Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1” admirably, and throughout the evening, pianist Roy Bogas has never sounded better.

“The Four Temperaments,” set to an evocative score by Paul Hindemith, showed a more steely side of the company. This is neoclassical ballet at its truest. Elana Altman, in the second theme with Brett Bauer, danced with amazingly strong assurance and commitment. Over the past few years, she’s slowly come out of her shell, and now performs with a wonderful newfound musicality and radiance. Davit Karapetyan, debuting in ‘Phlegmatic,’ danced with such unaffected lushness; he's proved that he’s the epitome of a dancer’s dancer, having impeccable technique while also moving with fresh honesty. There’s no pretentiousness here. Ruben Martin and Sarah Van Patten partnered together in ‘Sanguinic,’ but while Martin looked to be back to form, Van Patten moved with awkward, and unexpected, stiffness. Sofiane Sylve, followed in the final variation, ‘Choleric,’ and was a dream to watch.

The company is lucky to have Sylve return this year. She’s a dancer unlike anything else SF Ballet has to offer. She’s athletic yet supple, and every time she’s onstage, she’s focused on the performance. The way she uses the muscles of her back, her legs, her eyes, her entire body, shows a confidence that only comes with years of practice, dedication, and experience, and as a dancer is never done learning and improving, I bet she has a lot to offer the company.

Last year, San Francisco Ballet celebrated its 75th anniversary, and the elephant in the room over the summer may have been how do you top a season of new works, large-scale celebrations, and world-renowned visiting companies. The answer, at least for SF Ballet, is to keep plugging away. And they have.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jan 29, 2009 11:58 am 
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Location: San Francisco
S.F. Ballet's dancing outshines choreography
Rachel Howard, Chronicle Dance Correspondent
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Quote:
How valuable will former San Francisco Ballet principal dancer Yuri Possokhov prove as the company's resident choreographer? The jury's still out after the world premiere of his "Diving Into the Lilacs" on Tuesday night at the War Memorial Opera House.

"Lilacs," his third work for the Ballet since retiring from the stage in 2006, provides a sweeping showcase of lush dancing for three ravishing couples and a corps of eight. But it's unlikely that much beyond the strong performances will prove lasting.

As happens often with Possokhov, visual design and theatrical flair overshadow choreographic depth. Benjamin Pierce's scenery suspends a sort of lilac diorama within a wall of black. Sandra Woodall's costumes dress the men in swashbuckling vests and boots, the women in slim gossamer gowns.

Possokhov has said that the music, the Sinfonietta for String Orchestra by Shostakovich-influenced Boris Tchaikovsky (not Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, though few would confuse them), evoked memories of boyhood Moscow with lilacs in bloom. And indeed, no shortage of nostalgia and passion permeates "Lilacs," with its busy abundance of swirling lifts, swooning melts and devastated clutches. But much of the high emotion feels unearned.

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Last edited by RaHir on Thu Jan 29, 2009 2:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 29, 2009 2:40 pm 
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Location: Where little cable cars climb halfway to the stars
Could sycophancy and misanthropy be kissing cousins? Any psychologist-balletomanes out there who are qualified to weigh in with an answer?

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 Post subject: Not a full house!
PostPosted: Fri Jan 30, 2009 12:50 am 
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Location: Boston
I was able to snag a ticket for opening night (Dancing was great. Yuri's ballet was really good.) and the big surprise for me was the number of empty seats. I hope this isn't a harbinger of the season, or of ballet attendance in general. Ballet struggles in the best of times, a falloff in attendance could hit a lot of companies very hard.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Feb 02, 2009 12:59 pm 
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Location: El Granada, CA, USA
A review from the Contra Costa Times.

Quote:
Review: SF Ballet's season-openers succeed, if not soar
By Ann Murphy
Contra Costa Times

With three big, structurally complex works Tuesday evening in Program 1 and three bittersweet studies of romance in Program 2 Thursday at the War Memorial Opera House, Tomasson showed us again that he is a director who shapes his programs with understated yet fierce curatorial care. As admirable as this is, the result is often uneven — sometimes sublime and at others uptight. This week produced a bit of both.


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 Post subject: Sunday matinee
PostPosted: Mon Feb 02, 2009 1:14 pm 
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Sunday had a full audience, and an afternoon where all three pieces satisfied. Prism is not the most inspiring choreography, yet the dancing was consistently committed and enjoyable. Zahorian, not a personal favorite of mine, sparkled with her precise steps and expression of sheer joy. Sylve so dominated that I hardly noticed the others during her section. Domitro's powerful command took the performance up yet another step. What fun, he seemed to be saying, imagine you are me!

Following Rachel Howard's dismissive review, I was not expecting much from Into the Lilacs. We heartily disagreed with her conclusions. The motif of small repeated gestures worked well, and the contrast of emotion from one piece to another was clear. My husband said, "I don't get the Lilacs part, but I connected with it throughout." I noted the choreographer said he didn't care whether we connected with the Lilacs, but that we left with some emotional resonance. He then remarked how expressive Tan was with Spaulding, how she is dancing now and not just offering perfect steps. Of course, this change was noted last year, and is one reason being a subscriber is so satisfying, the observation of performance maturity in gifted dancers. The followed Kotchetkova and Molat, well-matched. Feijoo seemed a bit less energetic than usual with Boada--perhaps struck by the nasty cold affecting the audience. Yet even with fire toned down, she managed spectacular turns on heel and crisp footwork. We welcome viewing this one again.


Four Temperaments took me back at times to NYC Ballet in the 60s. At times I was comparing Vanessa Zahorian to Suzie Farrell and others of that day, unfairly of course, wanting tall forms with long, lithe limbs. Once I shut that voice down and settled into these bodies, the glory of the choreography in SFB interpretation rose up. Molat furthered evidence of versatility in Melancholic. Karapetyan repeated his opening night control of Phlegmatic. Lily Rogers gave her first performance of Choleric, which was fascinating for its seeming new to me through her somewhat haughty and detached expression of the theme, an attitude that worked well in relation to the other dancers. And oh that ending; who can outdo Balanchine's conclusions?


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2009 12:35 pm 
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Due to a scheduling quirk I always see Program 2 a week before Program 1. I finally saw Program 1 Saturday and frankly liked it a lot more than I did P2.

I can't recall if I've ever seen Prism before. I doubt it since I would have remembered. I found it the most enjoyable I've seen of the young season to date. It was, literally, day and night. In the first movement, bright light and costume framed sunshiny Tina LeBlanc flirting alternately with Hansuke Yamamato and Pascal Molat in a joyful pas de trois. The second movement was a sensual, passionate night with Yuan Yuan Tan dancing exquisitely with Damian Smith (during intermission I heard someone, obviously not a regular attendee, comment "that woman in red was amazing"). And capped off by Taras Domitro, a wild force of nature. This was my first look at Domitro and judging by audience reactions I am not the only one who wants to see a second, third... (Dare I say, two, three, many looks at Domitro? Bad paraphrase, I know).

Also a shout out to the three corps men in the first movement, the Steward brothers and Diego Cruz, for their turn.

Lilacs was OK. A nice little ballet but not one I would be desperate to see again. I did not enjoy Four Temperaments as much as I did at Stern Grove several years ago. I think some of the dancers were just miscast; Lorena Feijoo is a great classicist but not really a Balanchine ballerina and Lily Rogers is perhaps a bit too nice for choleric.

Another shout out to Dores Andre and Charlene Cohen, who danced in all three numbers Saturday afternoon. I think Andre is definitely a comer.


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