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SAN FRANCISCO BALLET LAUNCHES NEW DANCE FESTIVAL IN PARIS

 

By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 30 August 2005—An admirable version of Don Quixote by the San Francisco Ballet, with staging and choreography by Tomassin and Possokhov after Gorsky and Petipa, marked the first year of a new summer dance festival in Paris, Les étés de la danse. Held in the magnificent gardens of the hotels de Rohan -Soubise, in the Rue des Francs-Bourgeois in the Marais area of Paris where the country's historical records are kept, the open-air theatre offered a perfect setting for this lively ballet. The company, eighty members in all, full of energy and pulsing with life, threw themselves into the work.

Don Quixote, which might be thought an excellent choice to take on tour, is nevertheless a show piece with high technical demands, and the company's two Cuban stars, Lorena Feijoo and Joan Boada, lived up to their reputation, glittering brightly at the centre. It is a work where style, elegance and artistic interpretation can take a second seat to firework displays, so perhaps it didn't bother many that these two principals rarely looked at each other so engrossed were they in their own virtuoso feats. And feats there were, not least the phenomenal one-armed "Russian" lift, where Boada lifted the sturdy Feijoo not once, but twice, the second time carrying the Cuban ballerina halfway across the stage with the greatest of ease.

But both lacked the sense of fun and sparkle so closely associated with these roles. Bravura displays of classical technique might please many audiences, but in between this pair was just boring.

 
San Francisco Ballet: Don Quixote
Photo: Jacques Moati 

There was, however, consistently enjoyable dancing from the corps de ballet in their pretty dresses, on loan from Danish ballet, in the first act. The steps showed off their lovely line and clean fast footwork, although they were not quite so homogeneous in the vision scene. As far as the other soloists were concerned, casting proved very uneven.

The show was stolen by Australian-born Damian Smith in the role of Gamache, normally a rather crude , poorly danced character. He was brilliant. Tall, elegant and handsome, with long curling hair, he was reminiscent of photos of the late Errol Flynn, and was full of the humour and charm one normally associates with Basilio. Affected and foppish but so entertaining. Boada cut a somewhat empty figure next to such a colourful dancer. All praise too, to the graceful Yuan Tuan Tan as the queen of the Dryads, and to French ballerina, Muriel Maffre as a light, bouyant, stylish Mercedes. The Paris Opéra's loss is proving San Francisco's gain. Hansuke Yamamoto, with his high, virile leaps, also left his mark as the gipsy king.

However, Espada, Sancho Panza, and Don Quixote, a deceptively difficult role, were sorely miscast.

San Francisco Ballet, one of the most prestigious American ballet companies, presented three well-balanced programmes including a Balanchine evening and three creations as well as the traditional Don Quixote from 7 July to 23 July 2005.

Patricia Boccadoro writes on dance in Europe. She contributes to The Observer and Dancing Times and was dance consultant to the BBC Omnibus documentary on Rudolf Nureyev. Ms. Boccadoro is the dance editor for Culturekiosque.com



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