This July, San Francisco Ballet is performing a three week engagement at the Chatelet Theater in the heart of Paris as a part of the Les Etes de la Danse festival. I’ve been blogging about my experience for criticaldance.com as well as San Francisco Ballet’s open studio 455. Please click here to check out the posts:
I’m pleased to announce that after a very successful event in 2012, tickets are on sale now for Get in Front 2013, a dance performance and after party to benefit the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC), on November 12, at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts! I co-founded this event last year with my friend and former colleague, Garen Scribner, which brings together the Bay Area dance companies on one stage all to raise much needed funds and increase awareness for CPIC. Visit getinfront.org or call 415-978-ARTS to purchase. Check out our trailer here:
I apologize for the lag between posts, but I’d also like to announce the birth of my son, Jack Everett Sofranko, born April 7. Needless to say, life is busy between juggling SFB rehearsals, producing Get in Front, and being a new dad! But I am enjoying every minute of it, and maybe I’ll dedicate a post to the miracle of the human body which I am watching grow and change every day before my very eyes.
Back to the task at hand, Get in Front 2013 will raise much needed funds for cancer prevention research, while also uniting the dance community, dancers and audience behind a very important cause. Last year we raised close to $150,000 and we’re hoping to top that this year. Cancer is a disease that has become all too prevalent in our world. The chances of someone being diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime is now 1 in 2. That’s right, 50%! This is not something we just have to accept. I view this instead as a challenge to more fully understand the disease, and to educate ourselves and our fellow human beings about what we can do to prevent it from happening in the first place. I know that we all can agree: its better to prevent cancer than to have to treat it.
I look forward to a time when my son Jack will not worry about when cancer will strike, when he won’t have a memory of family members dying before their time. I hope that even if it’s in a small way, my actions today, and the actions of my colleagues and partners on the Get in Front project, and all the researchers who do amazing work for CPIC, will make a difference for many generations down the road.
I ask you to join me, as well as San Francisco Ballet, ODC/Dance, Ballet San Jose, AXIS Dance, Robert Moses’ Kin, Zhukov Dance Theatre, Renegade Rockers, Smuin Ballet, and Margaret Jenkins Dance Co. on November 12, to Get in Front of cancer!
Today is the last day to catch Yuri Possokhov’s new Rite of Spring at San Francisco Ballet. I am sad to see it go away as it was such a great ballet to rehearse and especially perform! As you can see from the photos, I danced a very unusual role, with an even more unusual costume. Designed ingeniously by Sandra Woodall, Garen Scribner and I become Siamese twin elders, presiding over the pagan society in which Yuri’s primal ballet exists. We become one entity, slinking in sync across the stage, partnering each other, stretching the fabric of the skirt between us, and using the recoil of the elastic to spin in and back towards each other. We brandish large sticks and ultimately choose the sacrificial victim. All while staying with the expansive Stravinsky score. I can easily say this is one of the most original and challenging roles (and costume) I have ever danced (or worn). And yes, it is a lot of fun!
People have asked me “what does it mean”, and my first answer is always to say, “what did you get from it?” because there are no wrong answers. I am happy to explain my take on it, but I always want to hear an audience member’s reaction first. Many times in human nature, we revere what we don’t understand. This is how I see the elders’ relationship with the pagan community. Garen and I are different and deformed and therefore treated with reverence and respect. When we mark Jennifer Stahl or Dores Andre as “The Chosen One,” everyone commits to the gruesome act without question.
Even her lover turns against her, which in my opinion is the true tragedy of the story. It brings up questions for me in regards to societal pressure, choosing to act on your own individual thoughts, or rather resorting to social norms. Maybe her lover has pangs of regret as he ties her up to send her to her demise, or maybe he does not. How would each of us act or feel in that situation? We make decisions on how to react to arguably less dramatic, but none less poignant situations in our society every day. What does it mean to be “civilized?”
The Rite of Spring can be experienced on so many levels, the music, Yuri’s primal (but somehow still classical!) choreography, the tour de force performances by Jennifer Stahl and Dores Andre and the whole cast, the costumes, the sets (by former SFB principal Benjamin Pierce), and the concepts behind what drives this community to extreme actions.
I hope you had a chance to see it, if not, I can only assume that we will bring it back again next year to afford everyone a second chance.
This post will be dedicated to Yuri Possokhov’s new ballet, The Rite of Spring, opening Tuesday, February 26th, at the San Francisco Ballet.
I am dancing in the ballet, but I also have had the unique opportunity to work closely with Yuri during this process as rehearsal assistant, along with Anita Paciotti, ballet master. It’s not often that a dancer is asked to do double duty so to speak, so I’m very honored that Yuri approached me about helping him with this project. It has been an extraordinary journey to see this ballet come together. From working one on one with Yuri in the studio, to watching his vision come to life in rehearsals with the dancers, this has been an amazing experience that I have learned a lot from, and one that I will always remember.
Rite of Spring was composed by Stravinksy in 1913, for Diagihlev’s Ballet Russes, with choreography by Nijinsky. The Parisian audience at the premiere was induced to near riots due to the shock of the unconventional music and choreography. Throughout the century however, Stravinsky’s score has been elevated to the status of masterpiece, and stands as a true example of modernism. After this intimate experience with it, I would now consider it one of my favorite pieces of music.
I obtained a copy of the score, so I could follow along and understand Stravinsky’s rhythms as much as possible while Yuri created the steps. I can read music from my days playing piano, but this is not your run of the mill score! The meter goes from 6 to 4 to 3 to 5 to 9, with unexpected accents all over the place! With Anita and Yuri, we would listen to the recording, refer to the score, and then decide the best way for the dancers to count each section. There’s a joke that dancers can only count to 8, (which is so not true!!), but what we do have is “dancers’ counts,” where we count our own version, usually different from what the orchestra is counting, mainly just because we don’t have the luxury of having the score in front of us while we’re dancing. We do have plenty of 11’s and 12’s, even an 18 in one spot!
The more I hear the score, the better it gets. I also find myself not having to count as much anymore, I just start to feel the rhythm in my body, and its hard to believe that I ever had problems knowing what accent went where. The SFB orchestra today played two run throughs, with additional players in the pit, and they sounded fantastic. This ballet will be a feast for your ears as well as your eyes.
Speaking of what you’ll see, I don’t want to give away too much, but it will be a full stage, with full production value! The cast is huge, and there were many rehearsals where I felt like a traffic cop! The story follows the original: a pagan society sacrifices a maiden to appease the gods. The movement is earthy and grounded, and Yuri keeps using the word brutal. I would also call this ballet: raw, primal, beautiful, and sexual. I’m excited to hear what other feelings or descriptions people will have for it…
(more to come on Rite of Spring…)
Video preview of the season…I talk about Yuri Possokhov’s Rite of Spring around 2:50. It opens on Tuesday Feb. 26th, you don’t want to miss it!