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Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
Performance Reviews

A review of the San Francisco Ballet

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 11, 2002

About the Author:




Helgi Tomasson, Artistic Director and Choreographer
Glenn McCoy, Executive Director
Lesley Koenig, General Manager
Kyra Jablonsky, Public Relations Manager
Neal Stulberg, Guest Conductor
Roy Bogas, Company Pianist
Ashley Wheater, Ballet Master
Roy Malan, Concertmaster

City Center, 55th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues, NYC, 212.581.1212, www.citycenter.org

October 11, 2002, evening, October 12, 2002, evening,
October 13, 2002, matinee

Reviews by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower

October 11, 2002

A Garden: Composed by Richard Strauss after Francois Couperin, Choreography by Mark Morris (2001), Lighting by Michael Chybowsky. A Garden is a joyful compilation of dances, set to Couperin's piano works, with a rhythmic and bucolic quality. There were configurations of several dancers and solo artists, sometimes dancing in momentary silence, sometimes in lighting fadeouts. There were unique choreographed sequences, expertly designed by Mark Morris, with the escorting of dancers offstage, a seamless continuation of dancers appearing and disappearing. Costumes were casual and flowing to match the upbeat ambiance. Outstanding performers were Muriel Maffre and Guennadi Nedviguine. The entire Company was showcased in this production.

The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude: Composed by Franz Schubert, Choreography by William Forsythe (1996), Costumes by Stephen Galloway, Lighting by William Forsythe. The Company came to life in this piece, with the handing off of one dancer to another, like passing a baton, in amazing choreography by William Forsythe. There was a formal feel, a "Sky Blue" backdrop, and costumes that resembled cigarette girls, with stiff, saucer-like tutus. Lorena Feijoo and Guennadi Nedviguine were outstanding in balance and form, with elegant lifts and spins.

Chaconne for Piano and Two Dancers: Composed by George Frederic Handel, Choreography by Helgi Tomasson (1999), Costumes by Sandra Woodall, Lighting by Kevin Connaughton. The lighting and dancing in this piece were equally amazing, with the lighting appearing from within. Kristin Long and Yuri Possokhov were in perfect harmony to Roy Bogas' piano solo. During this dance, the audience came to life, with Bravura recognition of the well-assigned dance partners. Mr. Possokhov (also a choreographer) has a muscular quality to his dance and held Ms. Long upside down in frozen time. There was a dream-like quality to this dance, like a painting that comes to life.

Chi-Lin: Composed and Conducted by Bright Sheng (Interview with Bright Sheng), Choreography by Helgi Tomasson (2002), Scenery and Costumes by Sandra Woodall, Lighting and Projection by Clifton Taylor. When I first heard the music of and met Composer Bright Sheng last year, I was struck by his unique ability to transport the audience to the ambiance of China in such a way to share his rich heritage and improvisation. Mr. Sheng is a genius, and Chi-Lin is a collaboration between Mr. Sheng, Mr. Tomasson, Ms. Woodall, and Mr. Taylor, with the expertise and dedication of the dancers of the San Francisco Ballet. The opening sequence, of dancers emerging from Chinese medallions, which seem to float in space, as visual projections turned into saucers, which turned into smoking pots of fire, is a truly memorable experience. The stage transforms from an ethereal space to our space. There is a quality of ancient time traveling toward the present. Combined are golden costumes, strong percussion that emanates from the mouth of a Phoenix, a Dragon leaping across the stage, dancers freezing in time, and Soloists and Corps balancing each other in a mystical, magical series of staccato and elongated tones. Yuan Yuan Tan (Chi-Lin), Sergoi Torrado (Dragon), Damian Smith (Tortoise), and Hansuke Yamamoto (Phoenix) danced with animated perfection in the dynamic characterization of the ancient Chinese medallions. Roy Malan was the superb violin soloist. Kudos to Mr. Sheng and Mr. Tomasson for this remarkable creation.

October 12, 2002

Continuum: Composed by György Ligeti, Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon (2002), Lighting by Natasha Katz. Ligeti's music, strikingly dissonant, was matched by dissonant but symbiotic choreography, with dancers sensitive to the change in volume and tone. A dramatic black backdrop, with red or green baseline stripes, and lighting effects by Ms. Katz were effective in enabling the solo and mixed ensemble dancing to illustrate the stark musical qualities. Muriel Maffre, Yuan Yuan Tan, Kristin Long, and Gonzalo Garcia were all superbly effective in duets, solos, upside down fadeouts, collapsing into poses, with legs extending around themselves in ballet form, mixed with contraction-releases reminiscent of the Martha Graham style of Modern Dance. Michael McGraw was the principal pianist.

Damned: Composed by Maurice Ravel, Choreography by Yuri Possokhov (Principal Dancer) (2002), Scenery and Costumes by Thyra Hartshorn, Lighting by Kevin Connaughton. Kudos to all who collaborated in the creation of Damned. Ms. Maffre exuded crazed and impassioned anguish as Medea, the mythological woman, who murders her rival, a Princess, and her two young sons to revenge her adulterous husband, Jason. Ms. Maffre's entire body, wrapped in a long tight, grayish cloth, wracked in emotional turmoil, lifted itself from every joint and limb, from her stomach, from her back, from her lower torso, and from her head, which was bound in a matching skull cap. Her sinewy persona and posture enabled her to act out this tortured myth with compelling presence onstage. The audience was frozen and rendered silent, until the Bravura ovations at the final curtain. Sets of a haunting tree and brush, with a Greek Chorus of masked dancers emerging from the rocks, which later became a burning brush, were unusually designed. The targeted Princess (Yuan Yuan Tan), who was entirely in character as the ill-fated seductress, danced with emotional focus, even as she burned in a red, flowing fire. Pierre-François Vilanoba, as Jason, and the two sons embodied their roles with perfection. The Company as Greek Chorus was highly effective in its role, and Roy Bogas was the piano soloist.

Sandpaper Ballet: Composed by Leroy Anderson, Choreographed by Mark Morris (1999), Costumes by Isaac Mizrahi, Lighting by James F. Ingalls. To the music and lyrics of such memorable tunes as "Sleigh Ride", "The Girl in Satin", and "The Syncopated Clock", the entire Company was marvelous in green costumes with white torsos, green long gloves and green ballet shoes, like snow on a forest of pine trees. Kudos to Mr. Mizrahi for these splendid costumes. The green backdrop against the green costumes was highly effective. There was a playful quality to Mr. Morris' production, which, at times, had, in syncopated fashion, a dancer run from the rear of the Company to the front stage to take the place of another dancer, who then changed placement. This choreography was perfectly timed, with facial cuteness, as a recurring theme of abrupt, but corrected, confusion. It was almost like a tree falling in the forest (thus the sleigh ride) and another tree taking its place. The festive and tuneful sequences proved a remarkable collaboration between Mr. Mizrahi and Mr. Morris. Kudos again to both.

October 13, 2002

Paquita: Composed by Ludwig Minkus, Orchestrated by John Lanchberry, Choreography by Natalia Makarova (1980) after Marius Petipa (1847), Scenery and Costumes by Jose Varona, Lighting Recreated by Kevin Connaughton. A formal, classical ballet, Paquita was exquisitely performed, with an extraordinary cast, including Lorena Feijoo, Lorena Long, Gonzalo Garcia, and Vanessa Zahorian. The solo harp and flute were soulfully rendered in visual form in this confectionary production. The elegant gated lakefront as backdrop and the bright orange and red costumes were a delight and contrasted remarkable against the previous nights' programs. Paquita was premiered by the San Francisco Ballet in 2002.

Night: Composed by Matthew Pierce, Choreography by Julia Adam (2000), Scenery and costumes by Benjamin Pierce, Lighting by Lisa J. Pinkham. In scintillating, fringed gray costumes, with dancers prostate onstage, as undulating waves, a most unusual sequence of choreography engaged the audience in another Bravura performance. Most extraordinary was Vanessa Zahorian, another star in the works. Kudos to Mr. Pierce for costumes and to Ms. Pinkham for lighting effects.

Solo: Composed by Johann Sebastian Bach, Choreography by Hans Van Manen (1997), Staged by Mea Vanema (1999), Costumes by Keso Dekker, Lighting by Joop Caboort. Bach's lovely Violin Suite No. 1 in D Minor was the background for this energetic solo for three male performers, Peter Brandenhoff, Stephen Legate, and Michael Eaton. The three dancers were at once playful, exuberant, and dynamic, with solo and trio creations that illustrated bold muscularity that connected the audience with their magnetic presence. This piece was quite a surprise and a welcome addition to the Company's eclectic third program.

Rubies: Composed by Igor Stravinsky, Choreography by George Balanchine (1967), Staged by Elyse Borne, Additional Coaching by Merrill Ashley, Costumes by Karinska, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, SF Ballet Premiere, 1987. Rubies is an excerpt from Balanchine's full-length ballet, Jewels. This presentation was an opportunity for rising stars, Muriel Maffre, Kristin Long, and Yuri Possokhov, to return to the stage, for the San Francisco Ballet's final NY performance, in an amazing display of classical and polished choreography. The pointe balances and pirouettes, the lifts and elevations, the leaps and elongated arabesques were all performed with aplomb. Carrying her height proudly, Ms. Maffre, with sharply tuned eyes and her ever-present, elegantly turned legs, was engaging and effervescent. Mr. Possokhov again showed us his muscularity and dynamism, and Ms. Long was total perfection. Piano Soloist was Michael McGraw.

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