Ballet San Jose
San Jose Center for the Performing Arts
February 17, 2002
Music: Ernest Bloch Concerto Grosso No. 1
Choreography: Dennis Nahat
Costumes: David Guthrie
Lighting: Dwight Oltman
Music: Igor Stravinsky
Choreography: George Balanchine
Lighting: Kenneth Keith
Apollo: Alex Lapshin
Terpsichore: Alexandra Koltun
Polyhymnia: Sayaka Tai
Calliope: Marie Jacobs
Leto: Patricia Perez
Nymphs: Julia Cherlow, Jenni Chiarelli.
Music: Johann Strauss, arranged by Antal Dorati
Choreography: David Lichine
Decor: David Guthrie after Alexandre Benois
Lighting: Kenneth Keith
Junior Girl: Dalia Rawson
Headmistress: Dennis Nahat
The General: Raymond Rodriguez
Junior Cadet: Shingo Yoshimoto
Ceremonies: Tiffany Glenn
Drummer: Stephane Dalle
Pas de Deux: Maria Jacobs and Ramon Moreno
Competition: Patricia Perez and Sayaki Tai
Two or three shades of blue to green punctuated the Milliskin and chiffon for this Nahat essay, which seemed one of his better abstract essays, dated from 1988. The hardest section seemed to be the Prelude with its demands on the men, tumbling and making somersaults to the brisk tempo as busy as the gurgling small rapids Nahat was attempting to emulate visually. The smaller dancers seemed to come off best in this number with Le Mai Linh and Shingo Yoshimoto high on the list.
The pas de deux had Alexandra Koltun and Alex Lapshin as last minute replacements. If they did not seem brilliant, knowing they would be in the next ballet compensated from an all out effort.
The Pastorale and Rustic Dances displayed the women nicely, but the overall impression was the work was intended as the forerunner to what follows. That's a pity because Rivulet made one conscious of its structure and how well Nahat knows how to move groups and devise movements which enforce the musical line.
It was good to see something reasonably close to the first Balanchine Apollo I remember seeing when New York City Ballet was still at City Center. Unfortunately Leto was in a bright blue, shiny bathing suit at the top of stairs which looked as if they were designed to do double duty with Agnes de Mille's Fall River Legend. I'm not certain paper mache rocks would have made much difference. The principal charm was seeing Apollo bound in stylized swaddling cloth and unwound by attendants, all giving punch to the early movements of exploration of the god for whom all things are deemed lyrical and filled with form.
Alex Lapshin's program credits state he is originally from Moscow and his dancing reveals obvious Russian training. Beautifully proportioned, he possesses a pale blondness like Baryshnikov's. Lapshin is much taller, and not altogether silent when landing from a jump. Apparently, this was his fourth go at Apollo in the set of five, and while he seemed at ease, I found a certain authority as well as wonder lacking. Form and correctness Lapshin possesses a plenty, but I recall a performance with Charles Jude as Apollo, gathering in his Muses with a warm enveloping gesture, a definitive expression.
With Sayaka Tai and Maria Jacobs as Polyhmnia and Calliope, Alexandra Koltun was the third, most beloved muse, Terpsichore. All three brought clarity and correctness, aware of their assigned roles in one of Balanchine's most hallowed works. Tai has made quite an impression in the brief time she has danced with San Jose. Her body is not a classical ideal, but intelligence and focus informs a strong technique and she is interesting. Maria Jacobs is a young, American-born dancer with a lyric bent but not yet so focused as the other two muses. Koltun, who was a prize winner in Jackson about a decade ago, possesses a technique which married well with Lapshin's Apollo. A strong-jawed dancer, she seems to stretch at the neck, a Russian dancer mannerism. I kept wondering about her shoulders, though she dances with ease and was an obvious choice as Terpsichore. My memory may be faulty, but I remember some equally fine performances when San Francisco Ballet first mounted the work in the early 50's when Conrad Ladle was the youthful Apollo and Nancy Johnson danced Terpsichore.
Oh, that the dance world had more works like Graduation Ballet to end a program. Like Gaits Parazoan and Jerome Robbins' The Concert, Lichine's 62 year old work (premiered in Sydney February 28, 1940) still bubbles with charm and perennial theatrical expertise, "plain old hambone" to some. Nahat, a dance theater man par excellence, selects revivals testifying to his sagacious appraisal of the tastes of San Francisco's South Bay plus his eye for the expressive dancer.
Dalia Rawson gave us effervesence as the Junior Pigtail Girl, created by the incandescent Tatiana Riabouchinska and Shingo Yoshimoto was utterly right as the Junior Cadet, a role originally danced by David Lichine. The Pas de Deux I remember as longer, nicely delivered by Maria Jacobs and Ramon Moreno. The cake, the champagne and the pizzaz remained for Nahat as the Headmistress and Raymond Rodriguez as the gimpy-legged General with his semi-bald scraggly faded yellow and white shoulder length locks, a semi-blank fixed look and pop eyes plus a moustache to match. To see Rodriguez' slender silhouette cavort with the robust matron of Nahat's Mistress, arch, twitching with eagerness, nervously commanding her excited charges to be more sedate than she personally feels, was one of the season's dance theater gems. Nahat's swishing torso, the flexing of the ankle and weight shifting on to the outer part of the leg made one believe that the onnagata tradition had leaped across the Pacific to nestle near one of the historic California missions.
While Lichine created an evocation of an innocent time long vanished, it is a theatre piece rich in the reflection of youthful and middle-aged ardor. Ballet San Jose's rendition made me want to stand up and cheer, a clear playing field, touchdowns the entire way.