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Ballet San Jose, Fancy Free | Review | SFCV

Ballet San Jose Sharp in Season Debut

February 24, 2015

(from left to right) Rudy Candia, Walter Garcia, Grace-Anne Powers, Ommi Pipit-Suksun and Joshua Seibel; Photo Alejandro Gomez

Fancy Free, whose company premiere Friday highlighted Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley’s first repertory series, would seem a natural for the troupe. Now a close ally of American Ballet Theatre, its artistic director, stellar ABT alum Jose Manuel Carreno, was known for his macho participation in Jerome Robbins’ classic romp about three sailors on shore leave, the bones of which were to lead to the smash musical On the Town, now in Broadway revival, and thence, via Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra, to the movie version and immortality.


Fancy Free, created when Robbins was still dancing with Ballet Theater, remains one of his greatest works, also paving the way for landmarks by its young and brilliant composer, Leonard Bernstein.

So entertaining, debonair and practically perfect was Friday’s performance that what it took to get it on its feet might well be left in the dust. That would be a shame. Robbins, for all his genius, was never a fancy-free choreographer, and without the precision he dictated, from inception through its passage from Ballet Theater, as the company wasthen called, down to the present, when it remains a staple of the New York City Ballet, ABT, and dozens of fortunate troupes around the world, Fancy Free would be oh, less than nothing.So entertaining, debonair, and practically perfect was Friday’s performance that what it took to get it on its feet might well be left in the dust.

But, like most great choreographers, Robbins left orders in place to guarantee that his work would be staged the way he wanted it staged. We also see this, of course, in the work of George Balanchine and Twyla Tharp among many others; both of them were also represented Friday in Theme and Variations, a BSJ standard, and In the Upper Room, which joined the rep last year.

The way staging happens is in part through the sharing of dancers’ physical and performance recollections – dance being very much a “body to body” art form, as Edward Villella says – as well as film and notation (and pointed remarks) directly from the creator. So the stagers for these three ballets, designated by the respective artists and their trusts, worked with Ballet San Jose’s dancers to make everything the way it ought to be. They were (Fancy Free) Philip Neal, who danced for Robbins when he was co-ballet master-in-chief (whew) at the New York City Ballet; (Theme and Variations)Sandra Jennings and Stacy Caddell for the George Balanchine Trust, also at City Ballet, and (In the Upper Room) two former Tharp dancers, the great Shelley Washington, and Gil Boggs (now Colorado Ballet’s artistic director).

Of the three, Fancy Free was the standout, rising way above the tinny, taped music (Ballet San Jose, still woefully short of funds, could not reach an agreement for the services of Symphony Silicon Valley). Richly nostalgic with its angular Oliver Smith bar-room set design and Bernstein’s score, its keen rhythms evoking his fascination at the time with things Latin, plus the entire notion of carpe diem or, dare we say, dame – it was, after all, shore leave in the middle of World War II; everything, particularly the rhumbas, the moments of boyish brooding, the fights, the flirts, the resilience, the friskiness of the chase, all of it came together at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts so precisely, with fine technique and such wonderful, readable nuance.

In the small cast, the great performances abounded: Rudy Candia, Walter Garcia and Joshua Seibel as the gobs; Grace-Anne Powers and Ommi Pipit-Suksun as their leggy quarry, and, in smaller roles, Emma Francis as a last-minute distraction, and James Kopecky as the long-suffering bartender.

Theme and Variations, all satin, tutus, Tchaikovsky (Suite No. 3 for orchestra) and chandeliers, went off without many hitches, though this taxing and stunning opener needed a few moments for the company to hit its stride. In the leads, principal dancers Junna Ige and Maykel Solas were prodigies of durability and grace, drawing in all viewers for the central ballet, Balanchine’s wonderfully intimate, tender yet frolicsome pas de deux.

Again, not to beat a dead horse, this company desperately needs, absolutely requires, live music. I can’t think of a ballet company that doesn’t. The likely exception would be for In the Upper Room, whose Philip Glass score might really demand the ministrations of a full-time and totally unaffordable company orchestra. On Friday, the audio sounded as good as anyone else’s, which isn’t really as grudging as it sounds, if you love Glass as much as this viewer.… this company desperately needs, absolutely requires, live music. I can’t think of a ballet company that doesn’t.

As noted here before, this – thanks in no small part to Glass – is one of the great creations of Tharp or anybody else. It flies by, and the minute it’s over, you want it all again. Is it the dry-ice fog, the lights, the Norma Kamali black-and-white prison pj’s contrasted with red tops and toe shoes, or white sneakers and shirts? Nah. It’s Twyla, first, last and always. Nobody has ever pointed up as viscerally what it means to dance and perform, in so many ways, as she does. (Oh, we could perhaps argue that her Push Comes to Shove is equally brilliant in this argument, plus it came equipped with Mikhail Baryshnikov at its premiere. But no.)

At any event, Ballet San Jose, even on its uppers, gets and represents In the Upper Room to the marrow of its bones. This company needs – and all of us need it – to keep on dancing.

Janice Berman was an editor and senior writer at New York Newsday. She is a former editor in chief of Dance Magazine


Pleasant Stuff: Understanding How Ratmansky Reminds Us of “The Art of Ballet”

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Cendrillon, Théâtre Mariinsky, 2002

Crédit : Iouri Belinski / ITAR-TASS

The Bolshoi is a hit on the big screen

En commandant à Ratmansky ce ballet en trois actes de Prokofiev, le théâtre a porté le chorégraphe de 36 ans du rang de débutant à celui de professionnel de haut niveau. Seul un maître peut donner vie à ce genre de partitions, et Ratmansky l’a fait comme l’un des plus grands. Il a invité d’autres artistes, Ilya Outkine et Evgueni Monakhov, qu’il aurait été auparavant impossible d’imaginer sur la scène académique russe.

By ordering Ratmansky ballet in three acts by Prokofiev, 
theater choreographer brought the 36 years of the rank beginner 
to high-level professional. Only a master can give life to this kind of 
partitions, and Ratmansky has done as one of the greatest. He invited 
other artists, Ilya Utkin and Yevgeny Monakhov, it would have been previously 
impossible to imagine the Russian academic scene.

Ensemble il ont conçu un hommage à l’utopie soviétique du ballet, avec une « valse des étoiles » citant subtilement la « valse de Mochkov » et les « études de Glier », que les ballerines adoraient danser avant la guerre et au son desquelles marchaient avec enthousiasme les jeunes du Komsomol.

Together they designed a tribute to the Soviet utopia of ballet, with a "dance 
of the stars" subtly quoting "Mochkov Waltz" and "Glier studies" that 
worshiped ballerinas dancing before the war and marched to the sound which 
enthusiastic young Komsomol .

Le Clair ruisseau, Théâtre du Bolchoï, 2003

Crédit : E.Fetisova / Bolshoï

L’idée de faire renaître un ballet soviétique réprimé sur la vie dans les kolkhozes a été accueillie avec scepticisme par plus d’un. Mais Ratmansky a choisi de se concentrer principalement sur la musique colorée et grotesque de Chostakovitch. Cependant, sous le voile du kolkhoze était caché un véritable vaudeville français, où le mari-agronome n’a aucune idée que sa femme du kolkhoze a étudié à l’école de ballet, ce qui donne lieu à de nombreuses situations comiques.

The idea of reviving a Soviet ballet repressed about life in the collective farms 
was greeted with skepticism by many. But Ratmansky has chosen to focus primarily 
on the grotesque and colorful music of Shostakovich. However, under the veil of 
the kolkhoz wa hidden a real French vaudeville, where the husband - agronomist 
has no idea that his wife kolkhoz studied at the ballet school, which gives 
rise to many comic situations .

Le clou du ballet est le solo d’un danseur classique avec un vieux paysan, qui doit jouer le rôle d’une partenaire-Sylphide. Dans cette scène le chorégraphe a finement joué avec le style du vieux ballet, la danse sur les pointes par un homme, et la psychologie masculine même. Contre toute attente, le spectacle a rencontré un grand succès lors de la tournée du Bolchoï à Paris et à Londres, et l’American Ballet Theater a même monté ce ballet sur la scène du Metropolitan Opera de New-York.

The ballet of the nail is the solo of a ballet dancer with an old peasant who 
has to play the role of a partner - Sylphide. In this scene the choreographer 
finely played with the style of the old ballet, dancing on the tips of a man, 
and the same male psychology. Against all odds, the show was a great success 
during the tour of the Bolshoi in Paris and London and the American Ballet 
Theater has even mounted this ballet on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera 
in New York.

Saisons russes, New York City Ballet, 2006

Crédit : New York City Ballet

Loin des réalités russes et des querelles de ballerines, Ratmansky a monté un ballet mordant basé sur la musique des chants du Nord russe, recueillis et revisités par le compositeur Leonid Desyatnikov. La musique de ce dernier sera, pour le chorégraphe, au moins aussi importante que celle de Chostakovitch.

Far from the Russian realities and ballerinas quarrels Ratmansky 
staged a bite ballet based on the music of the Russian North songs, 
collected and revisited by composer Leonid Desyatnikov. The music of the 
latter will, for the choreographer, at least as important as that of 

Malgré le nom du ballet, on n’y retrouve pas de détails ethnographiques : ces danses rappellent les rondes traditionnelles de manière subtile, comme les tuniques des ballerines les sarafanes, et la coloration nationale du spectacle ne vient pas des couvre-chef des danseurs mais du jeu irrégulier des rythmes.

Despite the name of the ballet, we do not find ethnographic detail: these 
dances are reminiscent of the traditional round subtly, like tunics ballerinas 
the Sarafan and the national color of the show does not come from hat dancers 
but the irregular rhythm game.

Ces combinaisons semblent très claires et le mouvement est facilement reconnaissable. Tantôt le festin, tantôt la grande nostalgie, sont incarnés par cinq couples de danseurs, et chacun de ces dix personnages conduit, à un moment, le reste du groupe.

These combinations seem very clear and movement is easily recognizable. 
Sometimes the feast, sometimes great nostalgia , are played by five pairs 
of dancers, and each of these ten characters leads at a time, the rest of 
the group.

Opéra, Théâtre La Scala de Milan, 2013

Crédit : Teatro alla Scala

Ce spectacle créé dans la maison d’opéra la plus connue d’Europe a dévoilé que Ratmansky était plus qu’un simple connaisseur et admirateur du passé du ballet soviétique. En collaborant de nouveau avec Leonid Desyatnikov, il a voulu rendre hommage au grand art d’avant-Mozart.

This show created in the most famous opera house in Europe revealed that 
Ratmansky was more than a connoisseur and admirer of the past Soviet ballet. 
By collaborating again with Leonid Desyatnikov, he wanted to pay tribute 
to the great art avant- Mozart.

Dans ce spectacle, les majestueux dieux et héros antiques se livrent à des festins baroques sur les textes de Metastasio et en paraphrasant Gluck. La chorégraphie conserve également tous les paradoxes subtils des rythmes de Ratmansky et la densité diabolique des mouvements de chaque action musicale.

In this show, majestic ancient gods and heroes engage in Baroque feasts 
on the texts of Metastasio and paraphrasing Gluck. The choreography also 
retains all the subtle paradoxes rhythms Ratmansky and diabolical density 
movements of each musical output.

Paquita, Ballet d’État de Bavière, 2014

Credit: Bavarian State Ballet
Crédit : Ballet d'État de Bavière

This former ballet by Petipa is another love of Ratmansky. 
When he headed the Bolshoi Ballet, Ratmansky was mounted it 
in collaboration with Yuri Burlak's luxurious Corsaire. 
Paquita is another rare piece of the ballet repertoire. 
To reconstruct this lost work after the Revolution, 
he had to study the Harvard University Archives. The 
ballet creates a perfect harmony of the past and present.
Cet ancien ballet de Petipa est un autre amour de Ratmansky. Quand il dirigeait le ballet du Bolchoï, Ratmansky avait monté en collaboration avec Yuri Burlak un luxueux Corsaire. Paquita est une autre pièce rare du répertoire de ballet. Pour reconstituer cette œuvre perdue après la Révolution, il a dû étudier les archives de l’Université d’Harvard. La ballet crée une harmonie parfaite du passé et du présent.
All the vicissitudes of fate of high French aristocrat in a gypsy camp in Spain
are told by expressive pantomime . Ballerina legs do not go up to the ears 
but gently raise a little above the waist.

Toutes les péripéties du destin d’une aristocrate française élevée dans un campement de bohémiens en Espagne sont racontées par des pantomimes expressifs. Les jambes de ballerines ne montent pas jusqu’aux oreilles mais se soulèvent délicatement un peu plus haut que la taille.


Leurs partenaires n’essaient même pas de lancer les danseuses au-dessus de leur tête mais touchent à peine leur ceinture, en les retenant dans des positions pittoresques. La bohémienne se permet d’accepter la proposition de l’aristocrate épris d’elle seulement quand elle découvre ses origines nobles.

Their partners do not even try to start the dancers over their heads but barely 
touch their belt, holding them in picturesque positions. It is only possible 
to accept the proposal of the aristocrat in love with her only when she discovers 
his noble origins.

The Mikhailovsky Ballet’s GISELLE – reviewed

BWW Reviews: The Mikhailovsky Ballet’s GISELLE – BWWDanceWorld.

The Song of the Body – a new book/thinking about Holiday giving to dancers et al, already!

A new book, singing the praises of dance health and education for ALL ages and stages:

by author, Dr Anne Hogan, with a preface by RAD President Darcey Bussell CBE, The Song of the Body celebrates dance.

Order here:

The Song of the Body – a new book from the RAD — RAD.

Titian Metamorphosis Art Music Dance A collaboration between The Royal Ballet and The National Gallery Hardcover



Titian Metamorphosis Art Music Dance A collaboration between The Royal Ballet and The National Gallery Hardcover.

Darkness in the Arts; Darkness in literature: Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler | Books |

Darkness in literature: Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler | Books |

My Life, by Isadora Duncan

My LifeMy Life by Isadora Duncan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are a lot of books about people, but I always feel that autobiographical works are interesting to read. Once read, you can be moved to read everything else you can get you hands on about the author; this book inspired me to both read and write about Isadora. You can read part of what I wrote here…

If you have danced, have connections to dance, are a woman, an artist, or are another creative type, you would probably find this book interesting , too. I think it would appeal on many levels, and it has also been (loosely) used as the basis for a movie. If I told you why I liked the book, it would spoil the book for you, but I will say that the time period in which the book is set provides a good historical backdrop for the story, it can be funny, as well as highly informative, sad, witty and is filled with anecdotes, including antics by illustrious characters of the day.

View all my reviews


Tendus Under A Palm Tree |

Tendus Under A Palm Tree |

Great interview with Stephen Manes, author of Snowflakes Dance and Swear.


Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear: Inside the Land of Ballet | The book that reveals how ballet happens . . . | Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear: Inside the Land of Ballet

Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear: Inside the Land of Ballet | The book that reveals how ballet happens . . . | Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear: Inside the Land of Ballet.


dance book discussion et al

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