Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky, courtesy of ABT
It was a gorgeous drive into Napa Valley on a Friday early evening. Amidst fields of vineyards, Napa Valley got a taste of big city fine arts with the Festival del Sole. Only in its fifth year with a focus on fine arts, food, and wine, this was the first year that this festival included a dance performance, with big names from the New York City Ballet to the Bolshoi. From the start of the performance, there was excitement in the air; the presenter announced his surprise that the full house proved that there really is an audience for dance in Napa.
The program was an eclectic mix of pieces ranging from classical ballet to modern, from the well-known to the more obscure. Not surprisingly, the audience favorites by far were the familiar and the virtuosic. Andrew Veyette and Megan Fairchild brought down the house with Â Balanchine’s Stars and Stripes. Veyette ate up the stage with his impressive lines and even more impressive charisma. In the midst of being awed by Veyette’s stretch and artistry, he made you smile with his playful attack and his grin. His chemistry with Fairchild was pure fun, in this glitzy rendition of Stars and Stripes, and it was perfect for the gala atmosphere of this performance. Later, Veyette and Fairchild’s Swan Lake didn’t fare as well; it felt like a more embellished and a slightly more muddled version of the classical ballet.
Petipa’s Don Quixote, danced with flair by San Francisco Ballet dancers Lorena Feijoo and Vitor Luiz, was another standout. I’ve always found Feijoo to be both a stylistic and stylish dancer, and she shines in Don Quixote. Every detail is colored with sass and flirty eyes, and Luiz flew through the air to the audience’s delight. Feijoo and Luiz also performed Forsythe’s in the middle, somewhat elevated with red-hot sensuality, the sexiest rendition I’d seen yet. I wished the music had been louder though; I hadn’t realized how much the heart-pounding beats of Thom Willem’s score was central to experiencing this piece.
The central billing of this evening was American Ballet Theatre’s Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky. Their transparent rendition of Balanchine’s Apollo added touches of humor and humanity amidst its stark angles. Every movement deliberate, Beloserkovsky distinguishes between the soft swoops to the pointed punctuations of quick footwork. Glances and smiles are shared between Dvorovenko and Beloserkovsky, and the expansive ending lingers with Dvorovenko and Beloserkovsky draped over each other looking up with hope. Their other two offerings for the night, however, didn’t fare so well – Jessica Lang’s “Splendid Isolation III” is several minutes of melodramatic posturing, and Anatoliy Beliy’s “Carmen Suite” is even more so, Â but more kinetic and even more over the top. Despite their program choices, Dvorovenko is positively statuesque, dancing beyond her diminuitive frame with glamor and dynamism, and Beloskerkovsky is pure elegant strength in various states of bare-chested costumes.
Bolshoi principal Marianna Ryzhkina and ABT soloist Gennadi Saveliev (a substitution for Bolshoi’s Dmitry Gudanov) were the epitome of control in excerpts from Raymonda and Giselle. They especially simmered in Giselle, with sadness and forgiveness in breathtaking balances and heartache.
One of the problems with this gala format is that each piece is so short, and it leaves you wanting to see more. There were some rough edges in the evening, with its stage that often left dancers in the dark practically in the wings when preparing for a set of leaps or turns, some sound fluctuations, and trouble getting people ushered into their seats on time. But these things are trivial; there was an adoring audience (including Rita Moreno and Helgi Tomasson), incredible dancing, and the buzz thanks to the visiting guest stars. Everyone left with something new and challenging, in addition to the familiar classics, and an anticipation for what the festival will offer next year. I hope that Festival del Sole continues to incorporate more dance offerings for the future.
Festival del Sole