Review: Celebrating at Festival del Sole Ballet Gala

Performance features outstanding dancers, classic choreography
2013-07-24T20:06:00Z 2013-07-24T20:13:30Z Review: Celebrating at Festival del Sole Ballet GalaL. PIERCE CARSON Napa Valley Register
July 24, 2013 8:06 pm  • 

Quickly becoming one of its most popular events, Festival del Sole’s sold-out Ballet Gala last Friday featured a wealth of pas de deux and a few faux pas.

Presenting dancers associated with American Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet and Ballet San Jose, the varied program featured classics originally choreographed by the likes of Marius Petipa, Antony Tudor and Sir Frederick Ashton.

The evening’s spotlighted work was a “lost ballet” with music by Sergei Rachmaninoff and choreography by Michel Fokine, dancer and choreographer who profoundly influenced the 20th century classical ballet repertoire. In 1905, he composed the solo, “The Dying Swan,” for the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. As chief choreographer for the impresario Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes from 1909 to 1914, he created “The Firebird” (1910) and “Petrushka” (1911).

Festival Executive Producer Charles Letourneau said more than two decades of “research” had gone into uncovering the lost “Suite from Paganini” by Rachmaninoff and Fokine. He said the work was produced several times prior to World War II “and then lost.”

The ballet story line is simple — a composer, violin in hand, finds it difficult to write a work. A Divine Genius swoops in with a gaggle of Divine Spirits to help with inspiration. Composer finishes work, the divine spirits sprawl at his feet and the mists roll in. The end.

Perhaps it would have been better for ballet fans if the work had remained in limbo.

American Ballet Theatre’s Stella Abrera and Sascha Radetsky offered star turns in the pas de deux from Antony Tudor’s “Leaves Are Fading” to a lovely Dvorak score, while San Jose Ballet’s Junna Ige and Maykel Solas dazzled with the wedding pas de deux from “Don Quixote.”

While “Don Quixote” is a full-length ballet, it is its spectacular pas de deux — dangerously fast and exceedingly demanding — for which the work is perhaps best known. This dazzling dance from the 19th century classic’s third act celebrates the wedding of the enchanting young lovers, danced by Ige and Solas. His wondrous tours en l'air were completed with total control and I stopped counting her fouettés somewhere past 30. They deserved the tumultuous ovation.

San Francisco Ballet’s Tiit Helimets and Ballet San Jose Ballet’s Alexsandra Meijer teamed up for the beautiful “Meditation from ‘Thaïs’,” in which Ashton complements the ethereal and romantic mood of Massenet’s music with a lyrical love duet. It was marked with both innovation and grace.

Exceptional dancing and the Russian National Orchestra in the Lincoln Theater pit — what more could we ask for. Only that the Dede Wilsey Dance Series Ballet Gala return next year.

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