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Subject: "Program 7, San Francisco Ballet's 2002 Spring Season" Archived thread - Read only
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Conferences What's Happening Topic #2669
Reading Topic #2669
Renee Renouf Hall

26-04-02, 08:02 AM (GMT)
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"Program 7, San Francisco Ballet's 2002 Spring Season"
   If no one was aware of it before this, Dance Magazine has featured Joanna Berman on its cover and an article about her, since she will retire from active performing May 11 with her
final Giselle, a role which she used when she was the youngest competitor in Moscow before she started studying at San Francisco Ballet and joined the corps de ballet.

Program 7 featured Yuri Possokhov's balletic gift to her, titled Damned, using the music of Ravel to spin the story of Medea in remarkable fashion. Possokhov also had two additionally fascinating Medeas waiting in the wings whom I made it my business to see before assessing the ballet.

The work was sandwiched between Helgi Tomasson's Silver Ladders, premiered in 1998 and Mark Morris' Sandpaper Ballet which British audiences saw last year I believe.

Possokhov utilized his two collaborators for Magrittomania,
Thrya Hartshorn for costume and set design and Kevin Connaughton for his lighting designer. Roy Bogas was the pianist for Pavane for une Infante defunte and Concerto in D Major for left hand.Jean Louis LeRoux, long associated with the late Denis de Coteau, was the conductor. And did they all provide the support
for this interesting, interesting blend of Possokhov's innate dramatic instinct, his Bolshoi schooling and experience, grounding in Euripedes, and what he has absorbed from his sojourn in San Francisco.

First, let me say that San Franciscans with a dance memory saw
Anita Paciotti as Medea when Michael Smuin used Samuel Barber's
Medea Suite which originally was commissed by Martha Graham. But with Possokhov's musical choice, he has lifted the mayhem and motivation into a realm beyond simply the physical reality. Ravel's lyricism
provides Possokhov a far greater range of subtlety for his story telling.

While there are great moments of naturalism, Possokhov works within the classical vocabulary and well within the system of his formative schooling. He uses children in the role of children, a practice long established in Russian academies, and not just for
Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty, thank you. It heightens the tension in the story and the tugs in any portrayal of Medea's struggle.

He employs a chorus of men and women, white skirted,using white masks and wigs which look like tidy dreadlocks falling to the base of the neck. The Princess is garbed in saffron-to-orange drapery, flowing in the lifts. Jason is dressed in a rusty red shirt and close fitting trousers, and Medea is given a deep, dull brown laced in black - just the very short of hue one expects in a mourning, depressed Greek village woman.

The ballet opens silently as the chorus walks on stage to gather in front of low,weed-covered earth and a great jagged tree trunk with several jagged remains of branches. It is fall,or
perhaps a field suffering from draught, a bleak landscape.

Jason and The Princess dance a lyrical, ecstatic pas de deux in
which early postures in turning remind one of bas reliefs where
Greek women or men grasp their tunics in profile.

There are lovely lifts, and a heroic variation for Jason. The Princesses were Yuan Yuan Tan; Nicole Starbuck (attaining official soloist status July 1) and Julie Diana with Jasons Roman Rykine; Gennadi Nedviguine and Cyril Pierre. The Medeas were successively Joanna Berman; Lorena Feijoo and Muriel Maffre.

After the pas de deux is completed and the couple leave the stage, the light slowly rises on Medea down stage left with her
two sons on either side, staring fixedly at the audience. She sends them off stage and bends forward pressing her body forward on her spread palms and fingers, and the right leg shoots out, quivering in protest and rising a la seconde, the exclamation
"OW!!!!" Medea rolls in semi-contraction, semi-infantile across the stage. Her body demonstrates the vocabulary of anguish, the face remains an bleached mask of studied stillness.

When Jason appears, Medea attempts to carress him, but he disengages from her attempted embraces. They gradually begin
to argue. What a towering exposition of conjugal confrontation;
despite the uneven odds, Medea as stranger may be desperate, but she matches him. One moment Jason grasps her skirt and she raised one foot and yanks her hem away. Whew! The children come on stage, Jason acknowledges them, and Medea sends them away before they can really hear the ugliness.

Medea calls upon her occult powers and a brilliant red swath of cloth floats to the stage. She gathers it in her hands and sends
the sons off to deliver it. We see her down stage left waiting while the Princess comes from upstage right to accept the gift. As she examines the scarf, Medea goes through the motions of having the Princess wrap it around her. So doing, stage flames engulf The Princess.

Then the children return, which she lays down to sleep before going through a pathetic torment working up her resolve. To accomplish this she draws a cloak from the blasted tree trunk and beckons the children to enter its folds. Raising its folds you see Medea's stabbing motions in silhouette, and ever so slowly Medea emerges from the shroud as a thoroughly sober Jason comes on stage from upstage left,grasping the body of his sons as Medea slowly turns and walks up stage arms slowly rising as the curtain falls.

Possokhov was working well within the classical tradition in his solutions. In Greek drama murders never take place on stage or viewed by the audience. I also suspect that use of drapery is far more common in Russian ballets. With another gesture in the opening pas de deux, I glimpsed references to Possokhov's years at the Bolshoi, used sparingly and very effectively.

I felt the three casts moved from humanistic to passionate to the classical roots of Possokhov's dramatic inspiration. He has given the company a work which should endure many revivals and inspire many different principal dancers. Berman, Tan and Rykine provided a warm outline, Berman looking astonishing like some of the images of Plisetskaya. Feijoo was passionate, believably a Mediterreanean character with enormous resolve. It was left to Maffre, adapting her length to what is more fluid in a smaller dancer, to remind me of the classical dramatic roots,the etching of inevitability. She reminded me this bereft creature was indeed a goddess, driven beyond a few brief years of human happiness, to demonstrate to the Greek community and her opportunistic husband, the price of discarding someone responsible for his survival.

It would be terrific if the company took the work to Athens in May. That would be an encounter I would love to witness.
At any rate, bravo to everyone and most of all to Yuri Possokhov.

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