Monthly Archives: August 2010

Preview for the movie Black Swan

Is there a weirder premise for a horror movie than the world of the New York

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City Ballet? Cue the cliches, and let the Rodarte-costume viewing begin!

Stephen Sondheim’s Music

Happy Thursday, everyone!

I’m loving these videos from NY Times critic Anthony Tomassini, including the one explaining counterpoint. The video below made me itch to see Company and Sweeney Todd again. I love the tension in the dissonances in Sweeney Todd, as Tomassini points out.

There was a barber and his wife… and she was beautiful…

Review: San Francisco Ballet at Stern Grove 2010

Yuan Yuan Tan and Tiit Helimets in Tomasson's Prism. © Erik Tomasson

Last weekend, I made my annual trek to Stern Grove for the opportunity to see San Francisco Ballet perform in the gorgeous outdoor setting there. One of my favorite things about this performance is that it’s never just about the performance itself. It’s impossible to talk about this performance without mentioning the gorgeous outdoor setting and the huge audience spread out all over the hillside, all enjoying themselves and having a good time in this more casual atmosphere. Also competing this year for the stage, however, was the weather. Not only was the temperature in the upper fifties/lower sixties, there was a heavy mist that would fall occassionally, delaying the performance and then stopping it once in the middle. The stage was fortunately tarped overhead, but the orchestra in front were the unwitting victims. As an ex-flute player, I kept on imagining flute keypads swelling as they filled with water, and conductor Martin West tactfully stopped the performance in the middle of the first piece, Helgi Tomasson’s Prism. Despite a layer of tension that couldn’t be helped, still it was all done very seamlessly, and it seemed to add to the audience’s appreciation.

The dancers flew in Tomasson’s Prism with only a few signs of the weather by resorting to half-pointe. Despite the distracting circumstances, the pristine elegance of the piece shone through, backed nicely by Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1, played by Roy Bogas. Vanessa Zahorian was as untouchable and as perfect as a ballerina sparkling in a jewel box. Yuan Yuan Tan showed more generosity of spirit with the same clean lines but a lingering expression in her long arms, partnered tenderly by the princely Tiit Helimets. The smaller ensembles were breathtaking in the way that they matched each other to a tee; Jaime Garcia Castilla and Isaac Hernandez breathed as one with a lovely stretch and lightness. New corps member Daniel Baker fit right in with Myles Thatcher and Matthew Stewart as they flew through the air with the exactness of trapeze artists. Hansuke Yamamoto was the generous master of ceremonies, as if welcoming the audience to his domain with a smile and virtuosic fireworks.

Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith in Wheeldon's After The Rain. © Erik Tomasson

Right when the worst of the mist seemed to past, the audience laughed at the irony of the next piece, After the Rain. I wondered how Wheeldon’s pas de deux would fare in such a distracted audience. The piece started with a restless audience, but the simplicity of Arvo Pärt’s music soon cast its spell, played by Heidi Wilcox on violin and conductor Martin West at the piano. With Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith on the stage, vulnerable, they quickly cast their hypnotic spell over the audience and held them spellbound in a moving journey. In its awkward beauty and tension filled with regret, Tan and Smith’s partnership spoke of something beyond the steps, but of a deeper relationship of trust and strength. It was moving to the core, and absolutely gorgeous to watch.

Lorena Feijoo and Vitor Luiz in Tomasson/Possokhov's Don Quixote © Erik Tomasson

Lorena Feijoo and Vitor Luiz followed with a truncated version of the pas de deux from Don Quixote, Act III, which I had seen them dance at Napa Valley a few weeks before. It really got the audience going with their technical fireworks, but way too brief. And the lovely afternoon ended with Mark Morris’ irreverent and very funny Sandpaper Ballet. Is it not the equivalent of Mark Morris giving the stuffy institution of ballet, in all its technical rules and pretty floofiness, the middle finger? He has the dancers rolling on the ground, arms hanging loose and being flung wildly about. Not to say that there isn’t a structure or a master plan to this masterpiece, which happens to be one of my favorites. Morris does it with such ingenuity and humor that you can’t help but to laugh. It’s difficult to imagine anyone else dancing this with as much joy and wit as San Francisco Ballet, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

San Francisco Ballet heads to Copenhagen next for their tour on August 21-27.

The Stern Grove Festival continues on through August 22. Click here for more info.