Month: April 2016

April 14th, “Program 6″

San Francisco Ballet, choreography by Helgi Tomasson, Alexi Ratmansky, and Christopher Wheeldon

Again

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This is the most I’ve seen of a San Francisco Ballet season since moving here in 2007 – 4 so far and 1 left to go.  Again, a mixed repertory program, and again odd programming.  These three pieces (Prisim, Seven Sonatas, and Rush) were very similar, almost too similar.  The program notes highlighted their differences in choreographic approaches, musical choices, and moods, but these differences didn’t provide enough differentiation between the three dances (for me).  Yes, I had a favorite, but it doesn’t really matter as I am not inspired to write about either of these dances.  Yes, there was good dancing, but there usually is good dancing with the San Francisco Ballet. I don’t mind spending time in the beauty of a dance.  I do mind, however, when that is all there is again, and again.  What is there to write or think about?

After I saw Program 2 in February, (Rubies (Balanchine), Drink to me with Thine Eyes (Morris), and Fearless Creatures (Scarlett), I wrote it was a pleasant surprise, but that I wanted more fearless.  

I am still waiting.

 

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April 10th, “Pilot 67, 22:16″

Choreography by Many

 Pilot 67 is a program by ODC that provides a performance venue and framework for emerging artists.  Each choreographer is mentored by a professional choreographer and ODC staff in their artistic work, production, and promotion.  I enjoyed this program last year, but it was a challenge to write about all six pieces presented.  I feel them same about this year’s Pilot 67.  So my responses here will be brief, but hopefully reflective and not merely reactive.

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Dolly would, Garth Grimball

I could sense the thinking in this piece, a commentary of sorts on the possibility and wish of connection.  Why not?  Why not a skinny ballet dancer and a not-so-skinny club dancer?  Why not a silent dancer and a singing companion?  These juxtapositions reminded of Miguel Gutierrez show last year at CounterPulse. The weaving in of Pat Benatar’s “Love a battlefield” made sense as well as the including “would” in the title; they highlighted the why not character of the dance and the sometimes struggle to find (and maintain) relationships with others.  Even though it was a little rough around the edges, I could see the possibility here.

Gen, Ryan, Inez, Dylan, Salome, or Quinn, hers and hers

The literal and metaphorical unpacking in this piece was very particular, but at the same time universal as a narrative of perfection and “in control” was read (and danced).  With the addition of song refrains like “you don’t own me,” the danced asked the audience to fill in the blanks, to supply the cultural assumptions about what makes (or marks) identity, which linked the dancing, narrative, and music.  Like Dolly would, I could sense the thinking in this piece.

Cora, Under and Above, Marika Brussel

The dance world needs more female ballet choreographers, and more female choreographers in general.  There is an on-going conversation out there that I will write about later as lately I’ve been spending a good deal of time watching the San Francisco Ballet.  So watching Brussel’s piece is complicated for me.  While the pieces by hers and hers and Grimball were thinking through or with ideas, Brussel’s piece didn’t articulate the same level of thinking.  I kept trying to figure out what I was watching – why did it matter?

Myth of the Manta, Amelia Uzategui Bonilla

Bonilla’s piece seemed to matter, but more to her than the audience.  I appreciated learning about the textile she used in the dance: “A Cusquerñan textile is the starting point for a ritual honoring the evolving stories of growing up within immigrant culture.”  I had hard time connecting with it, and I’m not sure why.  More story?  Less textile?  

weather // body, Arletta Anderson & Adam Smith

Anderson and Smith created an atmosphere of light and play with their piece.  Their particular mix of wit (sound, text, movement, & light) led me to think about different kinds of illumination that reveal and conceal our perspectives of events, stories, places, etc.

Motion Picture, Helen Wicks

Another piece of more or less.  Choreography that sits between extremes can work. This was not the case with Motion Picture, it’s aesthetic seemed obscured, not illuminated enough toward one extreme or another.  More camp?  Less reference?  Wicks’ idea to the use of movie scores from 1940-1969 has potential, however.

April 7th, “Program 7”

San Francisco Ballet, choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Justin Peck, and George Balanchine

Watching Dance with Dad

Some of my earliest memories of watching dance are with my Dad.  The most vivid was seeing Pilobolus Dance Theater when I was about 13 or 14.  At the time, it was the “newest” kind of dance I had ever experienced.  The dancers slid across a wet stage for their curtain call; they were mostly naked.  It was odd, and I loved it.  As a ballet dancer in training, I didn’t know dance could be so big and different.

So when my Dad came to visit in April and mentioned that he really wanted to see the ballet, we ended up at the San Francisco Opera House for Program 7.  My Dad is an artist – although he might not call himself that – so he sees movement differently and notices relationships between moods, colors, and music that I might tend to ignore while watching dance.  It was fun to notice how my perspectives on the 3 dances moved the more my Dad and I talked about the pieces we saw.

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My Dad really liked Christopher Wheeldon’s Continuum – there was something there to relate to.  Maybe it was the clean stage and lighting or the way the choreography embodied the music.  There was an ease to the dancing that made its abstractness relatable, the “art” in the dance.  In the program notes, Wheeldon states that “audience’s shouldn’t just be entertained.  They should be challenged.”  While I can’t say for sure whether or not I was challenged by Continuum.  I did enjoy watching it with my Dad; he didn’t shy away from bursts of happy.

People are talking about Justin Peck’s, In the Countenance of Kings.  Even Vanity Fair has something to say or rather ask: “Is Justin Peck Making Ballet Cool Again?”  I’m not sure how I would answer this question, but it seems to imply that there is something “uncool” about ballet or maybe that ballet is, as Jennifer Homans claimed in her 2010 book Apollo’s Angels, dying.  Does Peck’s  growing popularity serve as a refutation this claim?   

Underneath the question posed by Vanity Fair is a fear – or the perception of a fear – that ballet is becoming irrelevant or less relatable to our present moment, which begs the question: Is In the Countenance of Kings relevant?  How does it matter?

In the program notes Peck states, “it’s not a narrative, but it’s like a semi-story.”  There is a protagonist, foil, and hero.  The corps de ballet is “the school of thought” and there are three others, Quantus, Electress, Botanica.  I’m not sure the names of the “semi-story” matter, but should they?  In the Countenance of Kings is a “semi-story” of a present moment that is “cinematic” with “freeze-frame kodak moments.”  There is a relatable surface here, but it is just that, a surface that is just skimming the possible and ways of perceiving the possible.  I want Peck to be more than “be cool,” and I want this dance to matter more because I truly like how Peck cuts the stage with his choreography.  For the record, my Dad only liked the second ½ of this dance.

Last on the program was Balanchine’s Theme and Variations.  My Dad really liked this piece – the tutus, the symmetry, the classical lines – I wasn’t surprised.  The woman sitting next me asked her partner if they could leave: “Oh god, not Theme and Variations.”  This begs the question: is Theme and Variations relevant? How does it matter?  For me, it was enough that my Dad enjoyed the dance – it mattered enough at the moment.   

Thanks Dad.