Feb 6, 2014

SF Ballet's Giselle was one of the finest theatre experiences I have had in ages.

And, made me miss my old theatre days back in college.

Maria Kochetkova

I have seen a fair amount of ballet in my lifetime, but this was the first time I had seen this kind of world class talent before.  The Nutcracker (even by SF Ballet) just does not count.  It is a different thing altogether.

Giselle is basically the oldest classical ballet that is still a part of any company's canon of works. And, Helgi Tómasson, SF Ballet's Artistic Director and Principle Choreographer has made a special point of staging Giselle a few times now.  Moreover, Tómasson has consistently chosen to play the Giselle tragedy straight, without setting the tale in say, an insane asylum, or tacking on a happy ending.  Which satisfies me immensely.

All too often, folks that have perhaps a cursory knowledge of ballet, forget that ballet is theatre. Those dancers (in front of their exquisite and carefully rendered sets, and wearing their exquisite and sensibly built costumes) have an actual acting responsibility in addition to their dancing performance.  And, I believe, that Tómasson understands this, and relishes the fact that a piece such as Giselle also gives his dancers an extra layer of depth with which to communicate to an audience.

Maria Kochetkova's acting performance, as Giselle, was as exemplary as her sterling stunning technical prowess on display.  Which is what moves you.

But there were other splendid performances, as well:  Taras Domitro as Albrecht; James Sofranko as Hilarion; and (especially) Sofiane Sylve as Myrtha.  The corps de ballet had their moments, too.  The corps performing as the Willis spirits righteously earned three rounds of applause three separate times executing a swan like turn as a group.

Even though I had never seen this kind of ballet excellence before, it still left me with the feeling that I should just see more dance, period!

The SF Ballet is prohibitively expensive for the Wife and I.  It is a special treat.  Giselle (and the hotel, and the restaurants we ate at) were an Xmas present for her.  Renee was so thrilled from the experience that she expressed a desire that we see another SF Ballet program next month!


I used to root for the home team.

I can not tell you how much tooth pulling it took for my mother to get me to go see Ballet Austin back in the day when she used to work for them.  But, once I got to meet the dancers, and learn their stories, and see their stagings and performances, I was enthralled.  An actor by birth, I was immediately sucked up in to the whole theatre of it, and instantly became a balletomane for life. (Albeit one with lapsed tendencies.  I am certainly not in a latent phase re the ballet now.)

And Ballet Austin also reminded me of my own few walks across the boards as an actor in the Austin theatre scene.  And, how Michael Barnes, at that time the theatre critic of the Austin American-Statesman taught me that you should reserve your harshest criticism for the truly spoiled and enriched artists, and cut the little local guys a break; accentuate the positive, if you will, for the home team.

Which is why I told the Wife I would like to start seeing local dance companies perform, such as Diablo Ballet.  She said, "But did you not just tell me how amazed you were at finally seeing some truly World Class Talent?"

Sure.  But, the theatre-ness, the magic of art is not wholly exclusive to those of the greatest talent.  In fact, you can find it in a warehouse in Oakland, or a garage in Liverpool, or in a tiny space in Walnut Creek.  There are magical and mysterious experiences of art everywhere you look.  If you make a point of searching for them.


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