Tag Archives: Val Caniparoli

Diablo Ballet’s “Celebrated Masters”

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The dazzling world of the imagination; an exploration of the mythic through movement; Shakespearean drama lushly interpreted – these are the worlds revealed in “Celebrated Masters,” Diablo Ballet’s final program in their 22nd season. Saturday afternoon’s performance at Walnut Creek’s Del Valle Theatre reminds me how worth the effort it is to catch one of this troupe’s shows.

Gary Masters’ Mythic Place conjures a sense of sacred ritual and community. Set to a percussion score by Carlos Chavez, arranged and performed onstage by Greg Sudmeier, it delivers its message in movement that’s both primal and contemporary. Masters, founder and Co-Artistic Director of sjDANCEco, has long been associated with the Limón Dance Company, the foundation and its projects, which shows in the angular yet fluid choreography. There are turns with arms in square shapes, long, emotive reaches, leaps that lunge. The cast of five dancers connects in center, touching, before reeling outward in turns and jumps. Memorable was the way Tetyana Martyanova threw her whole body into a curve, and how Rosslyn Ramirez colored her movements with a powerful focus and gaze. Three newcomers to the company this season—Raymond Tilton, Jamar Goodman and Jackie McConnell completed the quintet. The men’s strong presence, in particular, seems to have raised the bar on this boutique company’s high standards. Saturday afternoon’s performance wasn’t flawless; unison movements sometimes fell short of synchronicity, but the live music and Renee Rothmann costumes—leotards in vivid colors of red, orange, yellow, green and blue—helped the dancers achieve a satisfying end result.

Christian Squires and Amanda Farris; Photo by Bérenger Zyla

Hamlet and Ophelia; Dancers Christian Squires and Amanda Farris; Photo by Bérenger Zyla

Val Caniparoli’s dramatic Hamlet and Ophelia pas de deux provided a distinctly different flavor, right down to the dappled, dreamy lighting (Jack Carpenter after Dennis Hudson), and lush orchestral music by early 20th century composer Bohuslav Martinu. Sandra Woodall’s elegant costumes completed the theatrical statement. Christian Squires and Amanda Farris executed it beautifully, under the guidance of stager Joanna Berman, on whom the 1985 San Francisco Ballet premiere was set. Both dancers were well suited to their roles, and gorgeous to watch. This is a dramatic, and highly athletic pas de deux. Caniparoli, former principal and resident choreographer of the San Francisco Ballet and in great demand worldwide since, keeps his choreography thoroughly classical, yet fresh, propulsive. The piece ends as it began, Ophelia bourréeing on Hamlet’s long, long cape as he walks, which is, in and of itself, artful, imaginative, mesmerizing to watch. In the closing moments, the end of the cape becomes paler, more diaphanous fabric, like clouds, or the froth of churning water—the waters in which Ophelia will drown.

Here’s a taste for you:

The program closed with resident choreographer Robert Dekkers’ Carnival of the Imagination, set to Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Le Carnaval des Animaux.” Its opening moments feature Our Protagonist, a boy (Christian Squires), and the Imaginary Friend he has just dreamed up. Behind them, an open wooden treasure chest oozes fog and mystery, all against an orange lit backdrop. It promises exciting things ahead, and boy, it delivered. Raymond Tilton’s Dragon was powerful, impressive. Tilton filled the stage with his dancing, his fine technique, his presence. Formerly from the San Francisco Ballet, his skill shows it. Aiden DeYoung’s Panda grin felt a bit too slapstick, but boy, did the kids love his dance. Jackie McConnell’s portrayal of the Imaginary Friend grew more nuanced as it went on, manic glee replaced by other emotions, such as her sorrowful withdrawal when the Protagonist began to ignore her. Squires, throughout, entertained as he cavorted, pranced, engaged, resisted, conjured up, and shrank from these vivid creatures borne of his imagination. It was darling. Even his dull pajama onesie costume worked, the other, splendid costumes outshining him, of course, because when doesn’t imagination outshine reality? All the costumes—thirty in all—superbly designed by Squires himself, were full of color and imagination. Tetyana Martyanova stole the show not once but twice, as the Unicorn and later as the Butterfly. Gasps of delight could be heard from younger audience members, when Martyanova emerged as a gleaming, sparkling unicorn, in a sleek, opalescent unitard that made her look as though she’d been dipped in liquid pearl. And again, appearing as a butterfly, carried on and emerging from its chrysalis, to the unforgettable cello strains of “The Swan,” she dazzled, with her clean, beautiful classical lines.

Dancers from L to R: Christian Squires, Jamar Goodman & Tetyana Martyanova; Photo by: Bérenger Zyla

Dancers from L to R: Christian Squires, Jamar Goodman & Tetyana Martyanova; Photo by: Bérenger Zyla

Rosselyn Ramirez charmed as the Tortoise, with wonderful attention to detail in moving precisely like a reptile, steps measured and exact. “Constellations” was gorgeous and inventive, the females sporting pale costumes topped with a web of tiny LED lights, glowing under Jack Carpenter’s lighting. Jamar Goodman, Mayo Sugano and the aforementioned DeYoung, Tilton, Martyanova and Ramirez, made this piece pure magic. Amanda Farris danced a compelling “Phoenix” and In “Raindrop/Drip,” Mayo Sugano and Jamar Goodman, a former American Ballet Theatre dancer, shone. The whole crew assembled for the finale, now clad in animal onesie pajamas, like kids at a sleepover, running in with pillows in hand. It was so gleeful, infectiously fun, it was impossible not to grin through it all. A pillow fight, feathers flying, pillows thrown in the air, timed to the millisecond as they landed on the ground in unison and eight heads followed. What a clever, fun ending to a clever, fun ballet.

I am doubly appreciative of companies like Diablo Ballet in the wake of Ballet San Jose’s recent demise after thirty years in the South Bay. It’s no surprise or stroke of luck that Diablo Ballet is going strong as they finish their 22nd year. Credit goes to Artistic Director Lauren Jonas, her dedication, intelligent programming, insight into what works and what won’t, and the way the company reaches out and supports the community that, in turn, supports them. Their outreach program, PEEK, should serve as instruction and inspiration to arts organizations and businesses everywhere. The success of a recent expansion of the PEEK program into the juvenile hall system is so impressive and uplifting, I’m going to save that story for a blog of its own. (Which, in 2017, you can find HERE.)  In the meantime, hats’ off to Jonas, Diablo Ballet’s extraordinary dancers, and all who collaborate to keep this company thriving. Another performance, program and season done right!

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San Francisco Ballet heads into 2016

 

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So, I got to attend a second performance of San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker this past week, which confirms my hunch that, literally, I can’t get enough of this company and this production. Opening night or weekday matinee, it doesn’t matter. It was all brilliant. And watching a second performance is great fun because you get to enjoy things from a second perspective, both spatially and mentally. Different casting allowed me the opportunity to observe more new faces in new places. Artistic director Helgi Tomasson likes to distribute solo opportunities more broadly, likely as a test drive for casting choices he might make during the 2016 season. What’s more, since the company doesn’t perform locally during the fall months, this is our first glimpse of the roster of company dancers announced back in July. Exciting times.

But before I go into 2016 and the new faces you might see on the War Memorial Opera House stage, allow me to recap some of my Nutcracker musings.

© Erik Tomasson

© Erik Tomasson

I’ve raved about this production before, HERE  and HERE, and you can see my Bachtrack review of this year’s opening night HERE. I won’t duplicate my words, nor my efforts. Really, review writing can be quite exhausting. To say as much as possible, using detail and not feeling-laden description, all squeezed into 800 words – whew, hard for me. Far easier to produce 80K words, particularly if I’m allowed feeling-laden description, which is why I write ballet novels as well, and thank goodness there’s a place for both in this world. A quick shout-out here to worthy opening night performers I mentioned in my Bachtrack review: Val Caniparoli, Sienna Clark, Gaetano Amico, Francisco Mungamba, Lauren Parrott, Davit Karapetyan, Jennifer Stahl, Luke Ingham, Vanessa Zahorian, WanTing Zhao, Ellen Rose Hummel, Jahna Frantziskonis, Ami Yuki, Maggie Weirich, Rebecca Rhodes, Diego Cruz, Lonnie Weeks, Frances Chung. You all rocked.

And the Dec 28th Monday matinee was equally full of noteworthy dancing. Benjamin Freemantle and Emma Rubinowitz as the dancing dolls were a hit; these always are. It’s our first view of dancing in Act I, which is not to say Act 1 is in any way dull. The party scene, with its sumptuous period costumes (Martin Pakledinaz) and opulent set (Michael Yeargan) are magically effective. As I myself enjoy it, as an adult, I can’t help but imagine how wowed out the little kids in the audience must be. I never saw Nutcracker as a little kid (although I knew every note of the score by heart; cultural exposure in our household amounted to listening to records on the stereo versus attending live performances, which makes more financial sense when you are a family of ten) but I can appreciate how freakin’ magical the whole thing must be to them. Especially the SFB’s superior production, like when the Christmas tree grows tenfold amid climactic music and in a matter of seconds, the furniture and wrapped presents get whisked away, replaced by wildly oversized counterparts, thus completing the living room’s transformation into a fantastical dream world. Spine-tingling, every time I see it. It must have blown the little kids’ minds.

If I had to pick one number out of the whole production that consistently wows, it would have to be Land of Snow. The choreography, the lighting, the costumes, the two tons (no exaggeration) of falling snow, the music—it all works so wonderfully, and every time I see it, I marvel anew. On Monday afternoon, Jennifer Stahl and Luke Ingham were the Queen and King of Snow. I saw them opening night, as well. Normally I’d prefer to see all new dancers in the roles so that I can run a comparison, but this served to confirm that this couple looks very, very good. It’s great to see the way Stahl keeps upping her game. Wow, the way her back leg rises so high in partnered leaps and sisonne lifts. (For you non-dance readers, be aware that anyone can get that front leg high. It’s getting—and keeping—the back one high that elevates it to an art form.)

Jennifer Stahl in Tomasson's Nutcracker. (© Erik Tomasson)

Jennifer Stahl © Erik Tomasson

Sofiane Sylve was a last minute casting change as the Sugar Plum Fairy, which disappointed me at first, because I’d been looking forward to seeing Mathilde Froustey in the role. But these things happen during a thirty-performance run, particularly toward the end, when bodies are running down and are prone to injury. Sylve is a technically flawless, nuanced dancer who maintains a certain sense of mystery and distance in her dancing, which at first I felt detracted from the role. (I mean, the name “Sugar Plum Fairy” describes it all: sweetness and bubbles and pastels and accessible smiles and darling fairy-ness.) But what seemed a bit spare in Sylve’s first solo became the perfect touch later, during Waltz of the Flowers (Tomasson’s production uses the Sugar Plum Fairy as the soloist here, and saves the Grand Pas de Deux for another lead dancer.) Sylve’s dancing reminds me of a good Bordeaux wine, that seems beautifully constructed but a little spare at first, even austere. You don’t think the end result is going to be wow enough but then it warms, opens and releases what makes it extraordinary, so that by the end you are thinking yes, yes, that understated interpretation works really, really well.

I said I wasn’t going to write another review, but here I am, writing another review. And yet, before I cease writing another review, I have to mention the thrill of watching a perfectly executed Russian dance on Monday afternoon. It’s such a crowd-pleaser, the way the three dancers burst out Faberge-esque eggs at precisely the same instant, and surely that’s no easy feat. I visualize the three of them, in their respective little egg capsules, mentally counting, praying their timing is in synch. Opening night it was the tiniest hair short of perfect synchronicity. How often, I wonder, do they get it perfect? Anyway. On Monday, they did. Another fun thing: soloist James Sofranko, I recognized, but not the other two dancers, David Preciado and Victor Prigent. Riffling through the company roster pages afterward brought no answers either. It turns out they are students at the San Francisco Ballet school. To which I can only say WOW. Well done, gents! The trio of you were spot-on, technically impressive, and looked great.

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Thumbs’ up, as well, for Grand Pas de Deux couple Koto Ishihara and Gennadi Nedvigin’s performance. This was a big role for Ishihara, promoted from corps to soloist last season. I sense I wasn’t the only one holding my breath as she worked her way through the “harder than it looks” opening adagio, a little wobbly on a first set of partnered pirouettes but admirably rebounding with the support of her Nutcracker Prince partner, veteran principal Nedvigin. He has never before seemed like such a prince, in every sense of the word. High leaps and tours, solid landings in perfect positions, a noble stage presence, strong, unobtrusive support to Ishihara. There was this perfect moment, toward the end of the adagio, when Ishihara, in an arabesque en pointe, having just completed a partnered promenade, released Nedvigin’s hand, and thus his support (very much like Aurora’s “Rose Adagio” arabesque in Sleeping Beauty) and held the balancing pose, and held it, and raised that back leg even higher, and stretched everything out, and wow, it was so impressive, so rewarding to watch. You just know it had to have been an exhilarating moment for her, sort of an, okay, I was nervous before and my foot didn’t go all the way up to passé for those first pirouettes but I will nail this balance, I will. And she did. And the audience just loved her for it. We loved her before; we all like to watch and support new dancers in new roles. But from that moment on, everything seemed to go that much better. It was a delight to watch. Brava, Koto.

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As I mentioned above, Tomasson likes giving his younger, newer dancers an opportunity to shine in solos. Here are castings that I wish I could have seen as well. (Not all dancers are new and/or new to big roles, but you get the idea…)

Sugar Plum Fairy:

  • Jahna Frantziskonis
  • Norika Matsuyama
  • Julia Rowe

Queen and King of the Snow:

  • Lauren Strongin, Hansuke Yamamoto
  • WanTing Zhao, Carlo Di Lanno
  • Koto Ishihara, Max Cauthorn

And since this blog was intended to be a glimpse of what to expect and who to see in 2016, here’s a list of new company members:

  • Lauren Strongin, joining as a soloist this season (from Houston Ballet)

Corps de ballet, new to the company

  • Kamryn Baldwin
  • Kristine Butler
  • Jahna Frantziskonis (From Pacific Northwest Ballet, mentioned in Dance Magazine as “On The Rise”)

Corps de ballet, promoted up from apprentice

  • Thamires Chuvas
  • Benjamin Freemantle
  • John-Paul Simoens
  • Maggie Weirich
  • Ami Yuki
  • Samantha Bristow

Apprentices

  • Grace Choi
  • Blake Kessler
  • Anastasia Kubanda
  • Chisako Oga
  • Francisco Sebastião

A congratulations to Dores André, who has been promoted to principal from soloist. And a “great to see you dancing again” to Sasha de Sola who was out much of last season with an injury. I missed her in this round of performances; hoping I’ll get to see her soon!

A final “well done” to the other dancers I wasn’t able to mention in my review-but-not, above. Well done, Spanish dancers Kimberly Braylock-Olivier, Jillian Harvey, Sean Bennett, Steven Morse, Alexander Reneff-Olson; Arabian dancers Grace Shibley, Benjamin Freemantle, John-Paul Simoens; Chinese dancer Max Cauthorn; French dancers Kristine Butler, Maggie Weirich, WanTing Zhao, and all the lovely, lovely ensemble dancers in Land of Snow and Waltz of the Flowers. The success of any Nutcracker is a collaborative effort, and Helgi Tomasson is fortunate indeed to have such a wealth of talented dancers to choose from. (And one last additional, final-and-this-time-I-mean-it “brava!” to WanTing Zhao for her opening night performance in Arabian. My words of praise surpassed my 800 word maximum word count on my Bachtrack review and, alas, I had to cut them. You were gorgeous!)

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In closing, here’s a summary of what you’ll see from the San Francisco Ballet in their 2016 season (in their own words). The season commences on January 24th and continues through to May 8th. I will be attending and reviewing Program 1’s opening performance; check back here for a link to my review. ((And on January 27th, here’s that review!))

Highlights include world premieres by Liam Scarlett and Justin Peck; three full-length story ballets: Swan Lake, Coppélia, Onegin; the North American premiere of William Forsythe’s Pas/Parts; and the SF Ballet debut of Alexei Ratmansky’s Seven Sonatas. The season also includes the return of last season’s hit Swimmer by Yuri Possokhov, as well as audience favorites by George Balanchine, Christopher Wheeldon, and Mark Morris.

Lambarena versus Lambaréné

San Francisco Ballet dancers in Caniparoli's "Lambarena"
San Francisco Ballet dancers in Caniparoli’s “Lambarena”

I never thought I’d get the chance to mention San Francisco Ballet and my two-year African experience in the same breath, much less blog about it, but here we are. Tuesday night I attended San Francisco Ballet’s 2015 season opener, a program that featuring Serenade, RAkU and Lambarena. Balanchine’s Serenade has been praised, reviewed, analyzed, waxed lyrically over since its premier in 1935, so I’ll say no more. RAkU, choreographed in 2011 by Yuri Possokhov, I loved, even more than I’d expected to. For Val Caniparoli’s 1995 Lambarena, it was the reverse. Not that it was bad in any way, mind you. It was great: spirited, joyful, beautifully choreographed, impressively performed. It’s just that it felt Caribbean, Brazilian, when I wanted more Africa, more Lambaréné. Can you blame me? I lived there.

Jungle (1 of 1)

My friend Missy, accompanying me Tuesday night, loved Lambarena. Most people do. The music is a fusion of Bach and African traditional music (arranged by Pierre Akendengue and Hughes de Courson) and the choreography is accessible: classical with African movements incorporated (with consultation by African dance experts Zakariya Sao Diouf and Naomi Gedo Washington). Here’s an excerpt.

Now, Lambaréné, as in the Gabonese city. Oh, to capture what was so powerful to witness, living there in my early twenties. They didn’t have ballet classes, even in Libreville, the capital city, cosmopolitan and French-oriented as it was. To the Gabonese, the term ballet meant a performance, a play with music and dance. There was no studio for me to go to and pay to dance. Dance was outdoors, and free.

You danced at friends’ houses; you danced at outdoor gatherings. You danced in church, you danced in bars, you danced any time someone put on the right music. Dancer that I was, I still couldn’t move like the Gabonese. Something in me was too rigid and had to break down, not just physically but psychologically. Call it a ballet dancer genetic defect. The Gabonese moved with a freedom within their bodies I couldn’t even imagine. Relaxed energy flowed from all parts of their body: the legs, the torso, the arms. Sometimes the movement would be so small, just this gentle, rhythmic shifting from one foot to another. And, like most white people, I couldn’t duplicate it.

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There seemed to be a different on/off mentality, to boot. For me, dance was like a light switch. Like jumping into a swimming pool versus standing on the side. No middle ground. That wasn’t the case with Africans. An innate flexibility in the hips (when you see toddlers learning to dance in tandem with learning to walk, you understand the source of this intuitive movement) allowed them to have a more fluid stance. A micro-bend in the knees contributed too. Once I caught on to these two un-ballet-like adjustments, practicing them over and over, I learned to find that middle ground, at least as much as my white-girl, ballet dancer’s body was going to find.

On YouTube I found a music video that’s the perfect example of African dance found in everyday life, even (especially?) amid an argument. Wow, a different kind of pas de deux. A fun fact: the singer, Patience Dabney, was once First Lady of Gabon, married for thirty years to [former] president Omar Bongo, before taking on a new persona as a professional singer and performer. She rocks. Here’s the flavor of Africa, of Gabon, that I’d been seeking. Ahh….

Back to Lambarena. Here’s what I had to say in my Bachtrack review of the night’s performance: http://bachtrack.com/22/296/view/7010. A shout-out to the dancers I found to be especially good in the ballet: Lorena Feijoo, Kimberly Braylock, Ellen Rose Hummel (the three dancers featured in the above photo), Daniel Deivison-Oliveira and Joseph Walsh (a new principal this season, coming from Houston Ballet). Really nice job, all of you, as well as the dancers I didn’t mention.

And RAkU, which left such a powerful impression on me. The set, costumes, gorgeous music composed by Shinji Eshima (a longtime musician with the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra), the whole phenomenal cast. Great job, Gaetano Amico, Steven Morse, Sean Orza, Myles Thatcher as the four warriors who opened the ballet with such power and energy. Yuan Yuan Tan, as the princess, Carlos Quenedit as the prince, Pascal Molat as the psychopathic monk intent on destroying both the temple and the princess. What a riveting performance by all of you. What a ballet. What a great night of great dance.

Carlos Quenedit and Yuan Yuan Tan in Possokhov's RAkU

Carlos Quenedit and Yuan Yuan Tan in Possokhov’s RAkU

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PS: A humorous aside. Spell Check kept insisting that, instead of Lambarena, I surely wanted lamb arena. Since then, I’ve been visualizing lambs in an arena. It makes me smile.

PPS: The Backtrack review covers both Serenade and RAkU more extensively, so give it a peek if you’d like to learn more. http://bachtrack.com/22/296/view/7010

San Francisco Ballet’s Program 6

Looking for more recent and/or specific dance reviews? You can find all those links HERE

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When you’re a mixed-bill sort of ballet patron and not a devotee of the full-length story ballets, performances like San Francisco Ballet’s Program 6 give you everything you could ask for. Saturday (April 20, 2013) afternoon’s first ballet, the third act of Nureyev’s Raymonda (restaged from Pepita’s 1898 original) dropped me right into the dazzle and intoxicating festivity of a story-ballet wedding day. The set was opulent and mesmerizing, a medieval Hungarian palace brought to life onstage, all creams and gold, ornate columns, candles and icons. The dancing commenced with an enormous ensemble, corps de ballet couples that filled the stage in appealing Hungarian-style attire, the women’s skirts gorgeous and flowing, all the costumes detailed with fur, feathers, gold. Glazunov’s sweeping score, further, is just plain fun, and the orchestra played it wonderfully.

“Exuberant” best describes the dancing, from the opening ensemble through the solo variations, the Pas de Trois, the Pas de Quatre, all the way to Raymonda’s famous and famously difficult “clap” variation. It’s a damned busy ballet, in truth. In doing a little research, I learned the Act III excerpt is more commonly performed over the full-length ballet, and that Nureyev, in his 1969  restaging, pulled three solos from other parts of the full-length ballet and inserted them into Act III. Makes sense to me. And it explains better why Act III feels so packed with dance, so relentlessly driven (Nureyev liked to make his dancers work), from start to finish.

Much of the choreography remains carefully stylized, the epitome of Mariinsky classicism, and requires a different skill set for the San Francisco Ballet dancers who divide their repertoire equally between the classics and contemporary ballet (the latter of which they are peerless at). The character of Raymonda, in particular has very specific challenges in her solo variation. There are tons of bourées, easy on the eye but deceptively hard for the dancer, not to mention the passage of lightning-quick passés to fifth position. There are little hops en pointe, the occasional Anna Pavlova-esque glance over the shoulder, the arms coyly folded. Coming out of a tour-jeté, Raymonda’s focus shifts downward, toward the floor beneath her feet. If you’ve ever done a tour-jeté, focusing your spotting across the stage to maintain balance after the 180 degree revolution, you could appreciate the challenge, the quirky nature of this landing. Raymonda’s gaze remains downward, her body folding into a demi-plié afterward as if she’s sort of wilted. It’s vintage Pepita, Old World classical, with a touch of earthiness and sensuality injected by Nureyev in his restaging.

Principal Lorena Feijoo played the part of Raymonda flawlessly, nailing the distinct nature of the czardas-like reposes, her chin held high, her hand touching the back of her head, as well as producing the decisive claps punctuating the pirouette passages. She was proud, sassy, noble, spirited. My admiration for Feijoo is compounded by the recently-learned news that she is a new mother and has just recently resumed a full onstage presence after time off for maternity leave. Wow. So very impressive.

Here’s a link to the production: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73P6rotSRkw


The second piece on the program was Val Caniparoli’s Ibsen’s House, which portrays five female characters taken from iconic Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s best known plays. Ibsen, in his work, liked to challenge rigid Victorian conventions about respectability, marriage, women’s place in society, and the ballet highlights the pathos and angst of these five women. Bold, dramatic, decisive female dancing, starting with Frances Chung, whose steely muscularity and determined expression and body language served the role well. Her greatest competition for my attention, however, was the music: Dvorák’s Piano Quintet no. 2. Oh, my goodness, this piece of music is a favorite of mine. Being a classical music lover and a violin student, not to mention having an excellent view of the quintet, well, it sort of upstaged the dancing in my heart. In the best of ways, mind you. And as musicians for the ballet rarely get the shout-out they deserve, allow me a moment to say thank you, Loma Mar Quartet* and pianist Roy Bogas. Their performance was so very good; it was hard to know where to focus my attention.

Three corps dancers shared the lead roles alongside Frances Chung and Sarah Van Patten, which always gives me a frisson of pleasure to see. They were Marie-Claire D’Lyse (used in a soloist capacity, as well, in Raymonda), Kimberly Braylock and Ellen Rose Hummel. Particularly memorable was D’Lyse, with her striking lean, elegant lines (long limbs, long neck, and works them well). The five women took their turns dancing solo and with partners (Sarah Van Patten and Daniel Deivison were especially mesmerizing). When dancing together, the quintet of women produced a wonderful ensemble effect. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the corps dancers of this company are among the best in the business. I’d love to see them all promoted to soloist. (Speaking of corps dancers with tremendous merit, I was sorry to learn that lovely, talented Madison Keesler will be leaving the SFB corps at the end of this season to join the English National Ballet. Our loss!)

And finally, Symphonic Dances, choreographed by Edwaard Liang, set to Rachmaninov’s music of the same name. Beautiful, diaphanous costumes in autumn hues. Grouped up couples, six principals, four soloists, eight corps de ballet couples. So very pleasing to the eye, the ear, this ballet. Really enjoyable to watch and again, as a classical music lover I was over the moon, relishing both sight and sound. I didn’t want the ballet to end. I didn’t want the afternoon to end. Among the dancers, I particularly enjoyed the partnership of Yuan Yuan Tan and Luke Ingham. I haven’t seen Yuan Yuan Tan onstage in a while, and she is as lovely and compelling as ever. Luke Ingham, new to the company this year, coming in as a soloist, likely had a tough bill to fill, partnering up with the iconic Tan (joined as a soloist in 1995, made principal in 1997), but his performance drew no complaints from me. He made his partner shine and never upstaged her: that, in truth, is a big part of the male dancer’s role. (I’m thinking I should duck about right now, dodging the hurled tomatoes for such a comment.)

A lovely ballet, and with its agreeable choreography, gorgeous costumes, lush, cinematic music, I would have thought this one would hold onto “favorite ballet of the show” status for me. But here we are, a week later, I’m composing my final notes, and darned if it isn’t that story-ballet Raymonda Act III that I’m remembering. I wonder if this means it’s time for me to go beyond my mixed bill preference. Hmmm.

Until next season, San Francisco Ballet!

*Members of the Loma Mar Quartet performing on Saturday: Krista Bennion Feeney, Anca Nicolau, David Cerruti, and Myron Lutzke

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PS: A good story here, on how I got to see this performance for only $14: http://www.theclassicalgirl.com/?p=350

PPS: if you enjoyed this you might enjoy my review of Program 4 http://www.theclassicalgirl.com/?p=160 and Program 3 http://www.theclassicalgirl.com/?p=143