The Dede Wilsey Dance series
July 19th, 2013
The Lincoln Theater, Yountville
Every year, balletomanes and ballet novices (and those who fall somewhere in the middle) join together at Yountville’s Lincoln Theater, in eager anticipation of the Napa Valley Festival del Sole’s Ballet Gala. This year’s program featured nine excerpts from eight different ballets, including Raymond Rodriguez’s reconstruction of ‘suite’ from Michel Fokine’s “Paganini”. A bicoastal cast, sixteen members of Ballet San Jose were joined by three phenomenal guest artists – San Francisco Ballet’s Tiit Helimets and American Ballet Theatre’s Stella Abrera and Sascha Radetsky. With variations from “Swan Lake”, “Leaves Are Fading”, “Giselle” and others, the variety and beauty of classical ballet was heralded to the packed house. The evening’s only downfall was that curtain time was delayed for nearly thirty minutes.
Three variations from “Swan Lake” opened the program. First a musical overture by The Russian National Orchestra under the direction of George Daugherty, followed by the pas de cinq and lastly, Act II’s pas de deux. While the pointework was stunning throughout the pas de cinq, much of the choreography had to be shortened and compressed. The Lincoln Theater is beautiful, but the stage is small and so a five person divertissement was a bold choice for this event. A truly sublime pairing, Ballet San Jose’s Alexsandra Meijer and San Francisco Ballet’s Tiit Helimets were up next with Act II’s pas de deux. Meijer and Helimets’ technical and narrative interpretation of this well-known duet was a highlight of the entire evening. The pas de deux from “The Toreador” (choreography by Flemming Flindt after August Bournonville) journeyed to Spain, with dramatic choreography and stylistic flair. In addition to the expected lifts, poses and balances, some delightful side by side unison was danced by Ballet San Jose’s Maria Jacobs-Yu and Alex Kramer. American Ballet Theatre’s Stella Abrera and Sascha Radetsky followed with the pas de deux from Tudor’s “Leaves Are Fading”. A conceptual duet, Abrera’s willowy grace and Radetsky’s robust strength captured every nuanced moment of suspension and release. Act I closed with the aforementioned reconstruction - ‘suite’ from “Paganini”. Again, the cast of ten was very squished on this particular stage, but despite that, no one can deny that as the Divine Genius, Amy Marie Briones (Ballet San Jose) stole the show with a rare combination of strength, flexibility and fearlessness.
The shorter Act II brought a collection of famous pas de deuxs from “Giselle” , “Le Corsaire”, “Méditation from Thaïs”, and “Don Quixote”. Ballet San Jose’s Karen Gabay was striking in “Giselle”, truly otherworldly. A nice complement to their lyrical duet in Act I, Le Corsaire’s ‘pas d’esclave’ was all about Abrera and Radetsky’s technical acuity. The entire variation was about as close to perfect as is possible. The complicated and sometimes awkward lifts in “Méditation from Thaïs”, were easily and effortlessly handled by Meijer and Helimets. And Ballet San Jose’s Junna Ige and Maykel Solas closed the gala in style with the dynamic and technical tour de force that is Don Quixote’s final pas de deux.
Because Ballet San Jose danced the lion’s share of the varied repertoire, the Napa Valley Festival del Sole’s Ballet Gala was a unique opportunity to see the South Bay company outside of their home theater. This group can jump and turn with the best of them and their batterie is incredibly intricate - the enunciation and articulation is really quite something. Having said that, there were some basics that weren’t given the same attention and focus. In terms of pointed feet, the transitional steps and petit allegro sequences were not consistent. So, when it comes to technique, it was kind of an odd mix from this ballet company. On the one hand, undeniably detailed skill and on the other, some missing fundamentals.