Helgi Tomasson enthused briefly over Sergio Torrado's dancing as the Dragon in Chi-Lin, so I managed to get a single for the April 7 performance and the announcement that Muriel Maffre would assume Yuan-Yuan's role as Chi-Lin provoked my getting an off-side right orchestra ticket on April 11. Added to the interest on April 11 was Hansuke Yamamoto's debut in the role of the Phoenix. Pierre-Francois Vilanoba was scheduled to debut as The Tortoise, but did not.
With these performances I also saw A Garden, Joanna Berman's
solo, Later, and Black Cake. I continue to enjoy items one and three in this recitation, but my relative dislike of what
Morris gave Berman to dance Later was echoed by Marni Wood, a
former Graham dancer who, with her husband David Wood, started the Dance Program in the Theatre Arts Department of U.C.,Berkeley. Marni was a coming soloist with Graham's company at the time David decided to return to California, and possesses a sure sense of theatrics, dynamics and staging.
I don't know if I mentioned having seen Peter Brandenhoff
in A Garden. He has alternated with Gennadi Nedviguine, and however much I enjoy Nedviguine's dancing, Brandenhoff takes it for style.It's in the head, the particular incline of the body, the arch of the arms in the port de bras - all the Bournonville schooling, which we know comes from the French. Along with Damian Smith, who is really dancing a lot this season, he has the most unerring sense of the quality of the ballet he's assigned to, whether it's Death of a Moth, a Garden,Raymonda, or whatever. Brandenhoff undoubtedly will be Hilarion in the upcoming production of Giselle, and he will be in the period and of the style par excellence.
The other delight was to see Muriel Maffre in a role normally essayed by Tina LeBlanc, a veritable Mutt and Jeff contrast. Again, there is that European schooling and sense of form and protocol. Maffre couldn't have been more correct in her style if she had been given a wig and a garment with panniers. Her size alters the dynamics, but she is there, on time, in spirit and
correct, if not a dimunitive whiz of speed.
Now to Chi-Lin. Yes, Terrado was a young, energetic and vibrant
Dragon, where Yuri Possokhov does it for maturity. Possokhov seemed stronger last night, as if he had found how to characterize the first third of the Dragon's variation.
Muriel Maffre is a paragon of intelligence and fidelity to the spirit of the work. One could feel the example of Yuan Yuan around her like a gentle aegis, even to the bows. If the work is to live, alternates need to be found and who better than Maffre.
One of my happiest memory of the interregnum when the company was out of the Opera House was to see Maffre and Tan in Concerto Barocco as first and second violins, a performance of tremendous stature even when Tan was still a fledgling soloist.
The other happy note was Hanosuke Yamamoto's debut as The Phoenix, assuming the costume and role created by Parrish Maynard. I really liked his dancing. It is precise, not so
edgey, more the feeling of the symbol than an individual performance, which dominates Maynard's presentation,
such as the spread hands behidn the head and back which Tomasson used as emblematic of The Phoenix. Yamamoto's fingers are spread, alive but simple, rather than tensile spread nerves. Maynard makes you feel he is auditioning for Fokine's Fire Bird. And to my view that's not Chinese in spirit. With Yamamoto one feels there is a soaring, rather than nervous flight,symbolically correct if the Phoenix comes as a herald of peace and prosperity. There also seems to be slightly more contact with the five women flanking him.
Here is ballet encounters a problem. The energy, the contact drops after the pas de deux between Chi-Lin and The Tortoise, so that the last two variations, even Chi-Lin's with her cohort of four with flags, is in the European mode of a ballet with variations. Let's hope that Tomasson continues to refine the makings of a wonderful work.
Black Cake is still a hoot. San Francisco Ballet usually gives a work a two-season exposure and then retires it for a time. So it will be hard to think that La Carra will not be there to glitter in her black dress when it is revived, or Cyril Pierre with his pop-eyed dead pan. I can think, however, that Feijoo might assume La Carra's role, to advantage.
I've seen Julie Diana, Feijoo and Zahorian in the first variation with Roman Rykine,Damian Smith and Gonzalo Garcia respectively.
Having enjoyed Zahorian in Two Bits and debuting in Adams Night, it's hard to reconcile what I have seen in Zahorian's ensemble work with principal dancer status. She simply doesn't seem to emerge from the ensemble unless she is clearly in a conventional
ballerina/soloist/corps set up such as Balanchine delivers in Theme and Variations.
I suspect she will be cast in Giselle this time around. That should be an interesting essay.
Let me go on record to praise Damian Smith for his versatility, and the nuances of his dancing. You can see him work with his port de bras to have it conform to the spirit of the work, and the head follows it, so that the image is one of an entire figure in space enhancing the evanescent message of a given work. Nice to see.