Monthly Archives: August 2009

Vail International Dance Festival: Sofiane Sylve and Simon Ball in Forsythe’s in the middle, somewhat elevated

A huge thanks to Tonya of Swan Lake Samba Girl, who posted this video, as well as others, from the Vail International Dance Festival, seemingly an Olympic-caliber showcase of dance with the best varied dancers from around the world. From capoiera to ballroom to ballet, kudos to the Vail International Dance Festival for making these videos available for everyone to see. It’s nice to see the dance world catch up to what the internet has to offer. (For more videos, check out the link to Tonya’s blog.)

It just happened that this weekend, I was showing my aunt (an ex-ballet dancer) Forsythe’s in the middle, somewhat elevated, with Svetlana Zakharova and Andre Merkuriev of the Mariinsky. Being trained in classical ballet with very little exposure to modern ballet, she admitted she didn’t know what to think of it.

Ok, summer break homework for my blog readers – what differences do you see between the two interpretations of the same duet (Sylve and Ball, Zakharova and Merkuriev shown below)? The Mariinsky version really gets going in about a minute or so. I find differences in gravitas and split-second reaction time. There’s a sharpness in both, but a very different kind of sharpness.

If you like these pieces, remember SF Ballet will be performing this piece in its 2010 season. Check it out, here.

Also found: Sofiane Sylve and Simon Ball in Giselle. Can SF Ballet fans hope to see Sofiane’s Giselle some day?? Vail International Dance Festival, you guys are awesome!!

Taken from the Vail International Dance Festival a href=

Taken from the Vail International Dance Festival blog. Photo © 2009 Erin Baiano

Review: 2009 San Francisco Ballet at Stern Grove

There’s something so idyllic about the idea of watching ballet in the park. Yesterday, I spent most of the day at the beautiful Stern Grove in Golden Gate Park to watch a San Francisco Ballet performance in the outdoor venue. Surrounded by tall majestic trees, it was a picturesque setting for anything, really, and a great chance to spend some time outdoors. Such an experience is never about watching the ballet itself, and it requires a certain sense of composure and flexibility in the bright outdoors with lots of distractions to be had, including people milling about with hats blocking your view. It was a great day for a picnic, and a particular highlight was watching little girls dressed up in tutus – future dancers of the San Francisco Ballet, perhaps??

The drawback to being in such an environment is the onstage theater will compete with the nature of its surroundings. Everyone smiled when a pair of screeching scrub jays began to compete for attention with the onstage birds in the second act of Swan Lake.

The opening piece of Helgi Tomasson’s On a Theme of Paganini however wasn’t magnetic enough to rival the distractions of the outdoors and its crowds. Its crystalline elegance was a bit muted for this environment, and a piece like this is best showcased like jewels that sparkle when held up against black velvet in a quiet room where people talked in hushed tones. In addition, the smaller dimensions of the stage cramped the flying bravura that characterizes the choreography, especially in the men, notably Jaime Garcia Castilla and Pascal Molat. The only moment that stood out was a particularly lovely melody in Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, with pianist Roy Bogas singing a plaintive, heart-tugging melody that fueled Maria Kochetkova and Davit Karapetyan in a dramatic duet that swept the audience up in its phrasing. In a dark theater, the choreography in this duet came off as too blatant for my taste, but in this environment, it captured the audience’s attention and held it.

In the second act of Tomasson’s Swan Lake, the audience immediately gets catapulted into the middle of the action with Prince Siegfried, danced by Ruben Martin Cintas, running around the forest holding a bow and arrow. Anthony Spaulding made an all-too-brief appearance as the imposing Von Rothbart, complete with impressive soaring jumps. The swan corps de ballet were in top-form, portraying both fragility and the intimidating nature of a group of wild birds in unison. Swan Maidens Elana Altman and Lily Rogers embodied bold drama with their tall lines and big movements. Vanessa Zahorian danced the lead as Odette, and I saw a softer side of her dancing in the white swan adagio. Her arms whispered of tragedy and surrender, yet she always seems to come truly come alive in faster tempos, especially a series of small, quick turns that were breathtaking and seamless. Dancing with clean lines, Zahorian favors pristine refinement over doomed vulnerability in her portrayal of Odette.

The show ended with Balanchine’s Stravinsky Violin Concerto, a veritable crowd pleaser that pleased both ballet lovers and newbies alike. I was struck by how differently I perceived this piece from my first viewing, and I attribute this to the difference in casting choices. The razor-sharp tension that I saw in my first viewing transformed into mercurial resilience and tongue-in-cheek humor with Sarah Van Patten, Katita Waldo, Pierre-Francois Vilanoba and Ruben Martin Cintas in the leads, dancing with unguarded transparency and witty camaraderie. The Stern Grove performance of the Stravinsky Violin Concerto had more joy – a quirky, celebratory romp. Van Patten and Vilanoba perfectly captured the chaos of the moment, embodying a beautiful mess in a flash of desperately reaching arms and sexy sashaying hips. Their timing and chemistry was impeccable. Waldo and Martin brought a propulsive energy, a touch of lean austerity and a keen sense of musicality to their pas de deux, with Waldo’s legs unfolding for days. The group finale, Capriccio, was a rousing folk dance that brought the audience to its feet and a fun way to end an afternoon at Stern Grove.

The Stern Grove Festival ends next week, with an appearance by the San Francisco Opera. Click here for more information.

San Francisco Ballet at Stern Grove

Vanessa Zahorian and Ruben Martin in Tomasson's Swan Lake. © Erik Tomasson

Vanessa Zahorian and Ruben Martin in Tomasson's Swan Lake. © Erik Tomasson

Hi everyone! I hope everyone’s been having a nice summer. Sorry this blog has been rather quiet lately – it’s the usual summer lull with the ballet and symphony not performing their usual season material. It’s usually a time when other things in my life ramp up, including work and even a little summer romance! The only theater I’ve seen lately was at my friend’s wedding in Hawaii just last weekend. The scenery of the outdoor wedding was art in itself, but the bride did a solo Polynesian dance for her new husband that brought tears to everyone’s eyes. Her movements were warm and inviting, and even though I didn’t know the meaning behind her arms’ gestures, it made you want to believe every word she was saying.

Sunset in Hawaii. ©

Sunset in Hawaii. ©

Well one big event IS coming up, and it’s free! This Sunday, San Francisco Ballet will be performing at Stern Grove at 2 pm for the annual Stern Grove Festival. Admission is FREE – it’s advised to get there a few hours early. At noon, there will be an event for kids put on by the San Francisco Ballet’s Center for Dance Education, as well as a pre-performance talk with Bruce Sansom, Ballet Master and Assistant to the Artistic Director of the San Francisco Ballet. Click here for more info. Be on the lookout as there have already been some cast changes. It’s a great program, and it should be a lot of fun to see the ballet before they leave for their tour in China to and a long hiatus until the Nutcracker.

Stern Grove Festival