San Francisco Ballet Gala 2015: Infinite Romance

Hello everyone!

I’m still alive and kicking, despite having caught ‘the sick’ that seems to be going around everywhere these days. You would think that I would be taking things relatively easy considering, but no- I find myself just as busy, if not more than usual!

On the topic of being busier than usual, last week I worked all three jobs that I’m currently juggling, and had the pleasure of attending San Francisco Ballet’s opening night gala performance (you can find my review from last year’s here)! My father thoughtfully bought the whole family tickets for the evening as a Christmas gift back in December.

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We kicked off the evening with the sold-out performance at the War Memorial Opera House. I found this year to be quite different from past performances as it primarily consisted of duets including only the principal artists of the company, as well as student showcase.  While the student piece was choreographed by Helgi Tomasson himself, I was disappointed at how little dancing the students and trainees actually did. Quite honestly, it was five minutes of technically perfect walking, bowing, and standing in formation. The following piece, an excerpt from “Alles Walzer,” was a reprise from the year before, and a rather lighthearted way to begin the program. The majority of the pieces performed were highly romanticized duets, perhaps as a nod to the evening’s theme. From Act II from “A Cinderella Story,” to “Borealis” accompanied by a cellist onstage, we saw a number of tumultuous relationships unfold onstage. Albeit some of them, as with the pas de deux from “Onegin,” seemed melodramtic whe performed entirely out of context. Unfortunately, as Alan Ulrich pointed out in his review for SF Gate, because the program itself was shuffled around and performed out of order, I had a hard time figuring out who was performing what. I echo his sentiments that the two group pieces were the highlight of evening- I especially enjoyed the excerpt from “The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude.” The program concluded with the classic pas de deux from “Le Corsaire,” which less-than-subtly showed off Tara Domitro and Vanessa Zahorian’s dancing.

Now, for the fun part: After-Party in city hall!

Behold! The crowd:


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(Just in case you forgot you were at a ballet gala’s afterparty: pointe shoes/ballerinas everywhere!)




I asked my parents to take a few photos of me, which quickly turned into an amusing photoshoot in the corner by the bar. They were both pointing their smartphones at me, while I stood around and attempted to look nonchalant holding two glasses of prosecco. The above was the most flattering of the bunch. My mother and I then ended up taking selfies while I attempted to drink my ticket’s value in prosecco. I was determined to get my money’s worth, what can I say? With food, drinks, a great band, and multiple dance floors to keep you entertained, I think it would be impossible to attend this event and not have a good time. There’s always the possibility of running into very well-know figures in the ballet world, as well. My mother finally got to speak to one of her favorite dancers from the company, Yuan Yuan Tan, and I managed to meet some rather intriguing people myself! In case you were wondering, I ended up wearing a fabulous sheer chiffon mermaid-style skirt (from Urban Outfitters, see it here), along with a wrap that was admittedly dancewear. My studded Valentino look-alikes and my Marrin Costello bowzer bracelets made an appearance as well.

The evening was so enjoyable, we ended up staying until 1:30am, when the city hall security began to politely escort us out.

Black tie success.


An Afternoon with SFB

Hello everyone!


(The beautiful San Francisco Opera House)


(My program, in the dark. Yes, my ticket is for standing room. Can’t beat that deal!)


(My standing room partner-in-crime, my mother, on her birthday!)

I first set out for this post to be a review of the recent San Francisco Ballet mixed bill production I had seen this last Sunday. A program in three acts that combined a little bit of everything: Kingdom of the Shades from La Bayadère for the purists, Yuri Possokov’s Firebird for those who love a visually stunning storyline, and Christopher Wheeldon’s Ghosts, for the more contemporary tastes. Days later, all I can think about is Ghosts. 

When the curtain was dropped at the end of the piece, my mother and I turned to each other agape, and she exclaimed: “That was it?! I wanted it to keep going!” I felt much the same way, and even a bit of despair when the house lights came up. Undoubtedly, I would have sat through hours of Ghosts had it been longer. It was a contrast to La Bayadère in every way, from the flowing dip-dyed dresses, to the metamorphic set, to the eerie rolling music. It’s temperamentality fascinated me, as did the looming sculpture suspended above the dancers. What was it? The wreckage of a plane, a haunted ship, the ruins of an old building; it could have been anything!  I believe this was entirely the point. Like finding shapes in a cloud, we see what we want to see in this ballet.

Without a doubt, dancer-turned-choreographer in residence for the New York City Ballet at the early age of 27, Wheeldon has a flair for harnessing the metamorphic nature of choreography. From the initial process of creating a ballet, to the As Cheryl A. Ossola eloquently put it in the program, Ghosts is Wheeldon’s sixth commission for San Francisco Ballet and full to the brim with “rich […] imagery and connotations.” She describes it as being highly influenced by the poetry of Edgar Allen Poe, all thematically haunting, which Wheeldon used to “create an atmosphere of a mass gathering of souls, such as might occur after a tragedy. ‘It’s more like perfume than a heavy sort of ghost story,’ he says.” Despite Ghosts reveling in the ethereal, the movement is incredibly human; the dancers audibly gasping for air, reaching out for one another, and curling around each other on the floor. The piece went from short well-lit bursts of solos, to suddenly dark, foreboding multitudes of dancers. It never slowed entirely- it’s sections blending effortlessly together up until the moment the curtain comes down over the still moving dancers. In short, this ballet made me a huge fan of Wheeldon’s work. He has won my steady affection, as it were.

“What’s so great about his work?” you might ask. Well, in an effort to locate (and watch on repeat) sections of Ghosts, I turned to the good-old Youtube. While unfortunately not finding concrete clips of the ballet itself (you can see a preview here, however), I stumbled upon a wealth of interviews and rehearsal footage of Wheeldon and the dancers. Give them a watch and you tell me.

Until next time,


Hamburg Ballet: Midsummer Night’s Dream

Hello everyone!

midsummer1Photos: Holger Badekow, courtesy of SFGate

As a few of you know, I went on a quick outing to the San Francisco Opera House last night to see Hamburg Ballet perform John Neumeier’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” I have to admit my bias for this particular ballet straightaway, as I danced Titania myself when I was younger, and it had to be one of my favorite roles of all time.

Having initially premiered in 1977,  the ballet features Felix Mendelssohn’s classical composition starkly contrasted with Hungarian composer György Ligeti’s postmodern works for organ and harpsichord. The ballet opens on a striking scene: Hippolyta standing shy of center stage in her wedding veil, train extended behind her, framed by a rectangle of light. Soon, the wedding preparations are in full swing. The lovely costuming sets the scene in the early 1800s, the dancers’ empire wasted gowns complimenting their movements with a mere flutter about their ankles. Characters are introduced with little pomp, the scene unfolding rapidly, drawing the audiences focus all about the stage. With the wedding veil, the many seamstresses, and the men of the court rushing about  Helena, Hermia, Lysander, and Demetrius are woven in and out of the groups of dancers,telling their stories with quick couples interactions. Soon, the audience is whisked off to the fairy realm as Hippolyta falls asleep, clutching a red rose that reappears thematically throughout the ballet.

While we spend little of the ballet in the fairy realm proper, it leaves quite the impression on the viewer. The fairies are represented as alien creatures; their staccato movements and flesh toned unitards very reminiscent of  Merce Cunnigham, with deep plies and skittering angular movements across the stage. They struck me as almost insect like, with their king and queen in shimmering, fish scale unitards and matching skullcaps. Hamburg-trained Alexandr Trusch undoubtedly stole the show as Puck, embodying the mischievous spirit to a tea: hanging like a monkey from the sets, bumbling about, and comically wearing the articles of clothing lost by the lovers as they stumbled through the woods.  What I found most refreshing about this production was the abundance of laughter from the audience-  the story line was initially intended as a comedy, after all.

While the tension between Oberon and Titania is palpable, the ballet bypasses the source of the conflict (and most of Titania and Oberon in general), focusing instead on the lovers’ odd love triangle, and the character development of the rustics. Bottom’s transformation into a donkey has a lengthy and comical lead-up, but is quickly repaired, along with all of Puck’s intended chaos. The music fluctuates between the modern Ligeti and the classic Mendelssohn, creating a disjointed sort of atmosphere. Much of Act II revolves around the great wedding celebrations, that of Hippolyta and Theseus, as well as Helena and Demetrius, and Hermia and Lysander. The wedding is grand and romantic, quite appropriate for upcoming Valentine’s Day, yet admittedly had so many false endings the audience could not differentiate between dance and curtain call.

In all, I’ve decided that I admire Neumeier’s work, and though at times his artistic choices may not be my absolute favorite, they are bold and distinctly styled, for which I give him great credit. There is no confusing his work with anyone else’s, and while I longed for the fairies to be traditionally “fairy like,” his take on the ballet as a whole was distinct and enjoyable. One of my favorite moments happened to be the way he chose to end it: with Puck, emerging from the wedding party in secret, smiling with magic red rose in hand, as billowing clouds of fog collided behind him. The clouds parted, revealing Titania and Oberon having one last moment together as the curtain descended.

I so enjoyed this production of “Midsummer” and would recommend that everyone go see it, but keep in mind its final run is tonight (two days is far short a time, Hamburg Ballet, just saying)! I will be highly surprised if the performance does not sell out (if it has not done so already) as guest artist Alina Cojocaru is scheduled to perform the roles of Hippolyta/Titania. It’s highly anticipated, to say the least. Maybe I will see you there.


Phenomenal: A 2014 SFB Gala Review

sfbgala2014Photo courtesy of Sfballetblog; Talk to Her (Hable con Ella)

Hi everyone! I spent a cozy night in this Friday, because this last Wednesday was eventful enough. That’s right, gala season has begun. I attended this years’ San Francisco Ballet Opening Night Gala (appropriately entitled Phenomenal), which has to be one of my favorite events of the year. When else is it entirely appropriate to wear an evening gown on a weekday? Being a self-proclaimed ballet nerd, I, of course was altogether too excited to attend. I love the sense of tradition of it, from the prosecco promenade (aka drink as much free prosecco as you can in 10 minutes!) to the march to the city hall afterparty following the show. It also has some of  the best people-watching around, especially if you appreciate over-the-top fashion. It’s most definitely a see and be seen event.  Here’s a quick picture of myself and the lovely ladies I was with that night:

2gala14(Why am I so tan?! Oh, that’s right, I had a spontaneous week of summer recently…)

They were fantastic company, and both had never been to the ballet at the Opera House before! The grandeur of it is really something else, and I think it made ballet fans of them both. The program for the night was the typical mixed bill, featuring previews of programs for the season, as well as some gala exclusives. The gala performance began with a pas de cinq from Giselle, lovely “happy yellow dance.” Bear in mind that when I use this term, I don’t actually mean the dance involved an abundance of yellow, but use this generalization to indicate the the piece was cheerful, non-offensive and non-divisive; a lovely classic way to begin any performance. Following this was a pas de deux, “Talk to Her,” which initially premiered at the 78th Gala- one that I had also previously attended. With live accompaniment, this piece was exquisite and sensual. Lorena Feijoo and Vitor Luiz’s spiraling movements added to the drama, a beautiful game of tug of war if there ever was one. Frances Chung followed with the only female solo from “Lambarena.” Sufficiently lightening the mood, this quirky African-inspired piece along with it’s predecessor, provided some diversity in the evening’s relatively classical line-up. Simone Messner and Ruben Martin Cintas presented an excerpt from “Who Cares?” You really can’t go wrong with good old George, in this case, both Gershwin and Balanchine. Hans van Manen’s Variations for Two Couples was quite modern and abstract. A thin rope draped across the upstage portion of the theater, dividing the space above and below the dancers. Both the movement and music reminded me quite strongly of John Neumeier’s “The Little Mermaid,” yet the high-gloss unitards the dancers wore were dated and somewhat unflattering. Contrasting the modern with the classic, “Diana and Acteon” followed, a premiere for SF Ballet danced by Vanessa Zahorian and Taras Domitro. They danced spectacularly, despite the obviously slick floor. What perplexed me the most about the piece was, oddly enough, the audiences reaction. Yes, dancers are human, they are allowed to slip and do. When the woman in front of me exclaimed out loud “Oh my god! What happened?!” I started to think that there might be something wrong with the general public’s view of the performing arts. Ballet places an almost reckless amount of emphasis on the ethereal- athleticism to an inhuman extent. The dancers that you so often see on stage have been forcing their bodies in to entirely unnatural positions since they could walk. Does your leg go upside of your head of it’s own volition? Imagine attempting this and then having to make it look easy. The unfortunate thing is, ballet teaches you to be self-scrutinizing to a fault. From my experience, almost no one is as hard on themselves as a dancer is. So, dear audience, lighten up. Did you not just see someone fall, and then get up and continue to deliver a beautiful performance with ridiculous vigor? Please stand and clap for the artistry.

 Act II featured some of my favorite pieces: “Les Lutins,” a whimsical and engaging piece that integrated movement and music in more ways that one. With a pianist and a violinist onstage, the dancers, similarly clothed, engaged in some good-natured competition and flirtation. The audiences’s ensuing laughter was refreshing- it was a dance you couldn’t help but smiling through. The pas de deux from “Concerto” intrigued me. Set to the 2nd movement of  Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2, it’s impressive and thematic moments of stillness were complemented by three pairs of dancers hidden in the shadows upstage. Their movements echoing the featured couple, I found myself wanting them to engage more, but they were whisked offstage altogether too soon.”Grande pas Classique” showcased former Paris Opera soloist Mathilde Froustey (now SFB principal) and Davit Karapetyan with it’s quintessentially classic choreography. I believe my favorite piece was “Finding Light,” a San Francisco premier choreographed by Edwaard Liang, danced by Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith. It began and ended with a rectangle of light onstage, framing the dancers in their simple grey costumes. It’s movement was spiraling and quite modern, with dancers coiling around each other and sliding along the stage.

The performance itself was entertaining, but then again, so were some of the colorful characters in the audience. Apparently some people do not realize that attending a ballet involves sitting. Ladies, please be thoughtful in your dress choices. That skin-tight, elaborate red dress with the giant crumb catcher may seem like a good idea, but when you can’t sit down properly and consequently block everyone’s view, we have a problem. On another note, if you’re bringing your straight male partner/significant other/spouse, make sure he is filled with coffee. No one wants to hear him snore during the whole second act of the ballet. And lastly, do not, I repeat do not get up out of your seat during the final curtain call when everyone is clapping. It is beyond rude and disrespectful to the dancers, as well as your fellow patrons at the ballet. You are not deplaning an airplane or at the movies while the credits are running. The artists deserve to be acknowledged for all their hard work.

I’m so glad San Francisco Ballet raised a record $2.4 million dollars with this year’s gala. It’s so heartening to see so many people give so generously to the arts, because it’s such a rare thing nowadays. As a classic art form, ballet wouldn’t be around to appreciate without public support. When I entered the opera house on Wednesday evening, there was barely enough elbow room to make it through the crowd comfortably- it was a completely sold out show. Good job, everyone. And thank you San Francisco, for another amazing and memorable night out. I’ll see you again soon.


A few thoughts…

Hello lovlies!

After a weekend of watching many fabulous reruns (I love “The Help”!) and taking it easy, I realized there were a few things in the back of my mind that were bothering me, and, inevitably, need to come to fruition on my blog. In the aforementioned movie, the advice given to a young writer is to write about topics that disturb her, particularly if they seem to disturb no one else.


During my travel adventures, I purchased a copy of one of my favorite magazines: Marie Claire. I have a US subscription, but hoped that for almost 10 New Zealand dollars, the Australian version would have great content warranting the high price. I was not disappointed.


The magazine itself contained a fantastic mix of fluff (beauty, wardrobe advice, summer hair) but also contained some of the most controversial and informative articles I have ever seen in a woman’s magazine. Relationship advice making a case for couples having separate bedrooms was one of the more lighthearted topics. Also discussed were child organ donation between war-torn countries, the survivors of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, and surgical innovations reversing the damage of female genital mutilation. Instead of redundant “What I like about Me” articles, there was a seemingly uncensored survey on how the world views Australians. Don’t get me wrong, I love the lighthearted, self-esteem building articles featured in the American magazines, but reading something that combined both lifestyle pieces and current events on a equal level was refreshing. I wasn’t frustrated with this disparity until I received the latest issue of American Marie Claire in the mail. About half-way through the magazine, I noticed a number of articles specifically targeting young, single women. Most of them were written in a tone of encouragement, empowerment, even. “Choose Your Own Adventure!” some of them said, “Meet the New Single Girl.” And then, at the far back, was a piece thrown in that looked liked this:

20 – the best biological age for getting pregnant

27- the average age of first marriage in the US. When female fertility starts to decline.

 31- the best age to have your first baby

35- the best age to be done having babies

34- the age at which women are happiest with their bodies

74- when women are happiest

Please note that these selections are entirely verbatim from Marie Claire, February 2014

The title for this listing was “Sorry, Wrong Number” and cited differing sources following each number listed. I love that you encourage female empowerment and slap these arbitrary numbers on the back of your magazine. I guess my fertility is declining right now and my “new” single self  has some thinking to do. I understand that this information was included within the magazine to provoke discussion, but I can’t help but be disturbed by their cavalier attitude, carrying on about how being single is no longer “a layover on the way to (…)partnered bliss”  right next to big, bold red numbers of what the average female life is decidedly like. Please also note that these numbers were printed next to advice from “The Text Whisperer,” explaining convoluted texts from the opposite sex. Because how else will I know that the guy I’m speaking to is a total jerk who objectifies me?  I call your bluff, Marie Claire. You highlight beautiful, strong, intelligent women in your magazine, and I think you did them a disservice by publishing this. It was inappropriate, especially after all your articles praising real women and their bravery and intelligence. If you thought more highly of your readers, you would have realized that we appreciate being viewed as more than just a statistic. We already know these numbers, and we’re discerning enough to know better.