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San Francisco Ballet

"Othello"

Orange County Performing Arts Center, Costa Mesa, California

September 28, 2002
By Basheva


I did not like this ballet. I loved it. But, perhaps 'love' is not the correct word. This is a difficult ballet to love. It's more like an imposed seduction. In the first act, despite the fulsome beauty of the pas de deux for Desdemona and Othello, I steadfastly refused its proffered hand. During the second act I refused even more adamantly, but mine was a futile refusal. At the end of the third act, I silently screamed "YES!"

Elliot Goldenthal's music blared nonsense, raucous and jarring. I longed for sweep and song to birth the glory of Yuan Yuan Tan and Yuri Possokhov's Act I pas de deux. Instead, it was noise. The pas de deux, however, refused to be overwhelmed and found life beyond the music. Gone were the choreographic formulaic repeats from side to side or other predictable nostrums. It was just one long melody of movement. Not since Gelsey Kirkland have I seen a ballerina with the singing grace of Tan; seamless, effortless, a stream of shapes. She was well matched by Possokhov's positive partnering. His strength, her delicacy, reached the perfection of polarity meeting on the other side of the circle.

Maynard Parrish's portrayal of Iago as a cold, dark crevasse of evil was well done. But the herky-jerky choreography of Lar Lubovitch for Iago is too overt for my taste and would be better tweaked with subtlety. Gonzalo Garcia danced the foolish Cassio well.

Katita Waldo as Emilia technically matched her mistress, Desdemona, and while exhibiting her care and concern, she also maintained the difference in hierarchy between them. It's a fine line to hone, cradling her lady while still being her servant. In the first act she exhibits understanding of Iago, knowing when to approach him and more importantly when to walk away. But she underestimates the depth of his dark soul.

When Cassio asks to dance with Desdemona at her wedding to Othello, the turn of events is sent on its way. And when Cassio and Desdemona dance off out of the view of Othello they foolishly set up their own doom. If Iago had not used this as a prologue to his plan, someone else at another time would have.

Choreography for the corps de ballet was at one pace frenetic. Though well danced, it threatened to grow tiresome. The corps became the visible seething from the cauldron of Iago's jealous hatred, but sometimes even evil has a quieter moment.

Scenic designs by George Tsypin were creative. Etched sliding glass panels defined space without enclosing it, sometimes separating characters out for our attention. The second act's stormy sea projected on a back screen was innovative. It added life and movement to the storm. The echoing choreography for the female corps, lying in rows; arms, legs and bodies became living extensions of the ocean. This was inspired cohesion between choreography and set design. They danced with hair down and in whipping about it became the visible wind of the storm. And then a ship crosses projected on the waves, again very creative. The dancers pulled the ropes as the ship warps into the shore and so a three dimensional quality was added to the whole.

Bianca, danced by Lorena Feijoo, gave wild abandon a good name. She never lost control, she simply hid it. This was a lusty woman willingly involved. The frantic choreography for the corps de ballet behind and around her amplified the turmoil of both Bianca and the storm.

It was the third act that brought me to truly appreciate the preceding two. Suddenly, though I still longed for more memorable music to match Othello and Desdemona's final deathly pas de deux, it didn't really matter any more. The entirety of the ballet was more important than its several parts.

Pat Collins' lighting underlined the story, never intrusive, but blending the various segments. Ann Hould-Ward's costumes added flow to dance movement, never heavy or strained. Occasionally the bloused midriff of Desdemona's dress threatened line during movement, though not in repose. The Pacific Symphony Orchestra, ably conducted by Neal Stulberg, used multiple speaker amplification that brought the volume to the edge of discomfort.

The San Francisco Ballet has talent in depth. The dancers are distinctive, yet intent on fitting well into a composite picture. They are energized and passionate about what they are doing. I would look forward to seeing this ballet again as I have the firm impression that upon subsequent viewing new layers as yet unrealized would be revealed.

 

Please join a discussion of this performance in our forum.

Edited by Marie.


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