By Patricia Boccadoro
13 June 2001 - Paris
and San Francisco, two art-loving cities, and two dance-loving
centres. The San Francisco Ballet, founded in 1933, is the oldest
repertory company in the United States. It was performing the
full-length classics as early as 1939, and today, despite the fact
that the dancers come from widely divergent backgrounds including
Spain, France, Cuba and Russia as well as America, there is a unity of
style and the troupe possesses a marked personality of its own.
a successful first programme of short contemporary pieces, where the
troupe showed off one of its strongest assets, home choreographers,
with recent works by Mark Morris and Helgi Tomasson, artistic director
since 1985, a second programme was given a few days later.
Choreography: Mark Morris / Photo: Icare
choreography Lar Lubovitch , was created by the American Ballet
Theatre in 1997 and by San Francisco the following year. It is a
powerful, full-length, narrative work. Bold and exuberant, it is a
strange mixture of clashing styles, alas neither classical nor
contemporary, although these days, that is hardly a criticism.
However, at the very moment
several people gave up and slipped quietly out of their seats, Bianca,
interpreted by the vivacious Alice Luan Lewitzke came on stage,
Desdemona lost her handkerchief, and the ballet began to have a meaning.
poor first act was not helped along by the discordant, strident music
composed by Elliot B. Goldenthal obviously intended to reflect the
emotional turmoil of the protagonists, but it was so loud it made the
amphitheatre vibrate. This time, I do not think the Orchestre Colonne,
bashing away and valiantly conducted by Scott Speck was entirely to
blame. Most of the audience knew it was a story of envy, greed and
jealousy, so there was no need to hammer home the message in this way
especially at the beginning .
However, the weakest moment
came at the start of act II, when it seemed Lubovitch was treating us
to a foretaste of Notre Dame de Paris, the work he created for
Walt Disney the following year. This, the programme said , was a port
full of anguished women , waiting for their men to come home, but for
those who did not have that information, it must have been most
confusing. It could have been anywhere. Poor use was made of what was
evidently a fine corps de ballet, with repetitive, clumsy and
unnecessary movements. Was all this intentional? To show us that this
was a love flawed from the start?
The Moor's wife was interpreted by the romantic and poetic
Lucia Lacarra, whose presence illuminated the stage. Pupil of Victor
Ullate and his Madrid school, Lacarra , who created the title role in
Tomassin's staging of "Giselle", is a ballerina in the same
class as Alessandra Ferri. She allies very great fragility and delicacy
with speed and beauty, and when on stage, it's difficult to keep your
eyes off her. Sublime throughout, she had an excellent partner in the
impassioned Cyril Pierre, a strong, but gullible and stupid Othello.
Damian Smith was a fiendish Iago, and Julia Adam, the ill-used Emilia
who betrays her mistress.
But in spite of
the colour, high theatricality, and brilliance of the principal dancers
who danced their hearts out, it seems rather a pity the company chose to
bring such an imperfect work to Paris, home of the traditional classics.
It was perhaps a fair gamble to bring a new ballet by a different
choreographer, but the first half was too full of faults. Despite the
claims in the programme of Lubovitch returning to Shakespeare's sources,
Hecatommithi, a series of stories by Giraldi Cinthio, and
finding 'buried treasure', there appeared to be nothing particularly
different from Shakespeare.
Yuan Tan in Othello
Choreography: Lar Lubovitch / Photo:
superb quality of the last act can only make one regret that Lubovitch
chose to make a two and a half hour work instead of a tautly knit one
act ballet or a series of tableau which concentrated on the principal
characters and their emotions. Othello in Paris was not an
Boccadoro writes on dance in Europe. She contributes to The Guardian,
The Observer and Dancing Times and was dance consultant to the BBC
Omnibus documentary on Rudolf Nureyev. Ms. Boccadoro is the dance editor