Catching up on shows that continue this weekend. My review of Ballet San Jose’s “Swan Lake”:
“Turns out that during recent seasons of dancing mostly silly spectacles, a crop of credible classical dancers at Ballet San Jose must have been yearning to show us their true chops. On Friday at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, the 44-member company took “Swan Lake” – that warhorse that can be sublime in the right hands or self-parody in the wrong ones – and made it a nonstop showcase of movement artistry. Rarely have so many talents in the San Jose roster shone to such advantage. And, in Karen Gabay, they had a Swan Queen to inspire them to yet greater heights.
It can’t have hurt that Cynthia Gregory, one of the finest Black Swans of all time, coached this revival of Artistic Director Dennis Nahat’s 1987 production, continuing through Sunday. From the moment the four princesses delivered their first-act variations, everyone looked galvanized by Gregory’s influence: Beth Ann Namey shaping her small hops with extra lilt, Yui Yonezawa stretching confidently into long arabesques and whirling through clean turns, Catherine Grow giving everything flirtatious grace. Even the large corps of ensemble men jumped with extra power and finesse.
But it wasn’t technical skill that powered this performance, though Nahat’s choreography doesn’t skimp on real McCoy steps. Where “Swan Lake” soars or falters is in the company’s musical sensitivity to Tchaikovsky’s monumental score, delivered dependably, though with tuning troubles, by Symphony Silicon Valley under Dwight Oltman’s baton. These 20 swans breathed as one, led by Haley Henderson and Harriet McMeekin as the tall Swan Princesses.
Three Swan Queens are cast for this run, but the standard was set on opening night by Ballet San Jose’s de facto prima, Gabay. She has beguiling facial proportions for the darker side of the duo White Swan/Black Swan role, her huge triangle of a smile projecting devious delight as Odile, the impostor who tricks Prince Siegfried into pledging his love.”
Click here for the full review.
And my review of Robert Moses’ Kin:
“Robert Moses’ choreography, like his talking, tends to come out in blurts. So many ideas, so rapid fire – it’s as if Moses can’t contain what’s on the tip of his tongue. In the 13 years since he founded Robert Moses’ Kin, he’s given San Francisco audiences a lot to chew on: movement that combines punchy street energy with unexpected eloquence and socially aware dances taking on everything from James Baldwin to youth violence. His concerts have often had an enviable problem: It’s all too much.
So it was a surprise to show up at Robert Moses’ Kin’s latest home season, repeating next weekend at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco’s Kanbar Hall, and find such simplicity of programming. Four dances – two brand new, one new to San Francisco and one a work in progress – 60 minutes, no intermission.
It seemed a deliberate paring back, and in a post-show talk Sunday, Moses professed that he’s been restraining himself in other ways. After five years working on “The President’s Daughter” – which used Thomas Jefferson’s slave affairs as a prism to view race, sex and hypocrisy – Moses wanted to get away from “content-driven” dances, he said. These new dances are an effort to work more simply with pure movement and music.
The best is “Approaching Thought,” a six-person showdown that serves as a capsule of the inimitable vocabulary that’s propelled Robert Moses’ Kin to national attention in recent years: hard-hitting, jiving, deliberately ungainly one moment and lyrical the next. The music is by Moses himself, and it’s good: fast rhythms and a gung-ho Wild West guitar melody. One by one, the dancers cross from the stage corners to meet in the middle, trading rapid-fire gestures. Katherine Wells, a beguiling combination of grace and grit, has the last word.
But the middle dances suggest that Moses might be thinking about his paring back in hamstrung ways. The way I see a Moses dance, it’s not the content that needs weeding but the movement itself. His density of surprising steps is both his strength and his Achilles’ heel, and in the middle dances, “Hush” and “Rose,” I wish he’d let the movement breathe, and the content hidden inside its overwhelming rush emerge.”
Click here for full review.