My review of San Francisco Ballet’s all-Robbins program hit the stands in the Chronicle today; the paper’s website gives it the unfortunate headline “Mediocre Faun.” That sounds harsher than what I wrote, which was simply that Yuan Yuan Tan was not the best pick for the part:

“These are famous roles boasting a long line of illustrious interpreters; small wonder Tuesday’s cast looked tentative. Ruben Martin made a solid first effort, fittingly naive as the beguiled boy, arching languorously into the poses that recall Nijinsky’s orgasmic faun. But Yuan Yuan Tan’s interpretation stressed narcissism over vulnerability, and the full risk of Martin’s impulsive peck on the cheek missed its impact. I’m keen to see Rachel Viselli and Sarah Van Patten try the part. ”

I saw Van Patten in the role last night opposite Moises Martin; the pair was ravishing, the “fragile atmosphere” of the ballet, as Deborah Jowitt called it in her lecture last night, was restored, and I felt confirmed in my disappointment on opening night. With her impossibly long, lithe lines and elegant reticence, Tan is too much an idealized creature to be believed as a flesh-and-blood young dancer. Her gymnastic developpes at the bar made you gawk at her flexibility, not feel the tension of the story unfolding. Whereas Van Patten, one of the most naturalistic dancer-actresses I’ve ever seen, was a rich character: naive, self-absorbed, even a little bobbling in her unsupported developpe a la seconde. She and Moises Martin had wonderful chemistry, and when he kissed her you felt the shock of the idealized sexuality of ballet made corporeal. This was truly the cast to see.

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