Wednesday, June 27, 2012

On pointe

Sun Valley prepares for San Francisco Ballet


By JENNIFER LIEBRUM
Express Staff Writer

Maria Kochetkova and Taras Domitro in Tomasson/Possokhov’s “Don Quixote.” Courtesy photo San Francisco Ballet

The Sun Valley Pavilion stage has an extra spring in its step since its founders secured an evening performance by one of the world's best ballet companies.

More than a dozen dancers from the San Francisco Ballet will be in town a week before their Sunday, July 8, appearance to rehearse and get acclimated. Their production team includes a master carpenter who will build two special bouncy stages, one for rehearsal and the other to be installed at the pavilion.

Just as organizers had hoped, the neighbors by the bay are taking advantage of being in a top recreation area at its most accommodating season by booking bike and hike excursions and tee times, making restaurant reservations and otherwise planning to get to enjoy the area.

The vision is coming together, said Dan Drackett, chair of the Sponsors Committee of the San Francisco Ballet in Sun Valley and a member of the team that planned the pavilion's construction as well.

"We're always looking for ways of creating a sense of vibrancy here—the sense that there's always something happening," Drackett said. "We wanted to provide a big enough event to kick off the cultural season sooner, to scoot back the habit of a slack season, to hopefully eliminate slack all together."

Box office sales have been tremendous with most of the 1,600 pavilion seats sold. There is room for an additional 2,500 guests on the elevated amphitheatre lawn, who can enjoy the performance shot by a team of videographers using six robotic cameras aimed around the stage to capture all angles of the performance, which will be simultaneously projected on a large outdoor screen.

For months, the public has been buzzing from both ends of the valley about the upcoming ballet.

Bellevue Elementary School social worker Beth Citron, for one, rearranged her vacation plans so she could be back to see the show with her daughter, Keyle, 8. Sponsors haven't been hard to recruit to the cause either. In fact, if there is more money left over in the end, it will be donated to local arts organizations for their programming.

"It's been very gratifying," Drackett said. "It really proves that we can deliver on the whole Sun Valley vibe of being inclusive and open and warm rather than just a place to line up and pay top dollar."

As America's oldest professional ballet company, San Francisco Ballet has enjoyed a long and rich tradition of artistic "firsts" since its founding in 1933, including performing the first American productions of "Swan Lake" and "Nutcracker," as well as the first 20th-century American "Coppélia."

San Francisco Ballet is one of the three largest ballet companies in the United States. Guided in its early years by American dance pioneers and brothers Lew, Willam and Harold Christensen, San Francisco Ballet currently presents more than 100 performances annually, both locally and internationally.

Sun Valley is one stop on its summer tour, which includes the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, Sadler's Wells Theatre in London, the Hamburg State Opera House and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Under the direction of artistic director and principal choreographer Helgi Tomasson for more than two decades, the company and its international roster of 71 world-class dancers has achieved an international reputation as one of the preeminent ballet companies in the world.

The July 8 performance will include seven works set to varying musical pieces. Tomasson's "7 for Eight," set to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, premiered in 2004 and was hailed by the San Francisco Chronicle as "a dance dedicated to pure movement and even purer passion."

Other works include Forsythe's contemporary "in the middle, somewhat elevated" and Bintley's critically acclaimed "The Dance House," set to Dmitri Shostakovich's first piano concerto. Van Manen's "Solo," accompanied by the music of Bach, is a charming, six-minute tour de force for three male dancers, and Wheeldon's lyrical "After the Rain" is set to the music of Arvo Pärt. "Don Quixote" is set to the music of Ludwig Minkus and based on the famous novel by Miguel de Cervantes. For this performance, a pas de deux from the full-length work will be performed.

Dancers will be housed at the Sun Valley Resort and bused to a private rehearsal spot each day.

Drackett said his long-term goal is to see the San Francisco Ballet make Sun Valley a summer home away from home, and he's pulling out all the stops to ensure that company members have a complete experience.

San Francisco Ballet

What: America's first professional ballet company performs.

Where: Sun Valley Pavilion at the Sun Valley Resort.

When: Sunday, July 8, at 7 p.m.

Tickets: Almost sold out in the pavilion, still lawn space open for $25 where blankets and picnics are welcome and guests will be served by the enhanced large screen.

How: Until the Friday before, call 415-865-2000 or visit www.sfballet.org/sunvalley. Walkups are welcome at the pavilion on Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday, early birds can place blankets and return at show time.




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