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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Ballerina Daydreams

The other day when I got to the dance center for my flamenco class, the hall was full of willowy people. They were waiting for a ballet master class next door.

Ballet dancers stretching. I love looking at them. I don't blame Degas for painting them over and over again.

They sprawl and stretch like cats.

When I see ballet dancers, I wish I was long-legged and tall and elegant like they are. But a willowy, delicate body is not in my genetic makeup, alas.

I tried very hard to take some photos without the dancers knowing, and I am too shy to ask for their permission. Or maybe I don't want to ask.

It is very difficult to be sneaky sometimes. Maybe I should just try being bold instead.


Last week, I was the recipient of quite a fantastic windfall: two tickets with primo seating (fourth row center, orchestra!) for An International Salute to San Francisco Ballet.

With the always effevescent and lovely Ms. Wellspring as my ballet buddy, we first enjoyed a lovely meal at Sauce, a restaurant we'd both been wanting to try. It's in Hayes Valley, and we had a cozy table at the bar (book ahead if you want reservations).

Soon, our little table was filled with lobster and crab sliders, baby arugula salad with blood orange and Point Reyes bleu cheese, sesame shrimp, spinach and artichoke brulee, and their signature dessert, which is not to be missed.

Called simply PB&J, this dessert is not like any peanut butter and jelly sandwich you've ever had: pan-seared sponge cake layered with homemade strawberry preserve and Frangelico peanut butter with a vanilla ice cream center...yummmmm...

I apologize that I do not have any decent photos of the food. First of all, the lighting was too dark, and second of all, we were too busy eating.

And then with full bellies, it was time to head for the ballet!


The San Francisco Ballet performs in at the exquisite War Memorial Opera House, directly across from City Hall. The building is designed in the magnificent French Renaissance style by Arthur Brown Jr., who also was the architect of Coit Tower and City Hall. It opened its doors to audiences for the first time on October 15, 1932, and served a very important historical function as the birthplace of the United Nations. In fact, when President Truman signed the United Nations charter on June 26, 1945, it was on San Francisco's very own Opera House stage.

I learned that the San Francisco Ballet is the oldest professional ballet company in America and was founded as the San Francisco Opera Ballet in 1933. Initially, the ballet's primary purpose was to train dancers to appear in full-length, lavish opera productions.

The interior of the War Memorial Opera House is gilded confection. I tried not to look too touristy as I snapped some quick photos.

And then it was time to get settled in and wait for the curtain to go up.

From the program notes: ... San Francisco Ballet regularly tours the world, delighting audiences with its passion and excellence. This season, three international companies—New York City Ballet, Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, and The National Ballet of Canada—take the Opera House stage to pay tribute to SF Ballet and its imprint on the world of dance.

Once the performances began, I was completely hypnotized by the dancers and the dance as it interpreted the music. I actually won't go into too much description because it's really not possible to describe how beautiful these performances were. I wish I could have taken you with me.

Instead, I've found some photos and an a small video clip. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words so hopefully in this instance I can share a little bit of the beauty I saw with you.

The first act, A Delicate Balance, was a thought-provoking juxtaposition between modern clad dancers and men and women dressed in suits and 18th-century ballgowns.

This piece was danced on a stage full of glistening, glowing snowflakes.

The second act, Duo Concertante, featured two dancers from the New York City Ballet, who performed magnificent pas de deux with a pianist and violinist onstage. Of the three performances, this was the most classical in technique.

The final act, Altro Canto, performed by Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, is impossibly beautiful and impossibly difficult to describe. All I can say is that it was like watching a dream but you happened to be awake.

The stage was hung with many candles that magically floated from the ceiling. Suspended against the black, the candles moved in and out of the dance, creating a very spiritual, almost cathedral-type setting. The music was a haunting choral singing that made the stage feel like a sacred place.

I cannot believe it, but there is a tiny bit of video of this performance. The music is not at all what we heard (in fact, this selection does not do the performance justice at all) but watch it to get a taste of what we saw--especially for the last few seconds with the tall ballerina.
She was pure and utter magic and breathtakingly etheral.


studio wellspring April 8, 2008 at 12:26 PM  

now i'm embarrassed i even attempted to post about this evening, since you're so much better at describing it all than me. but at least we found some different photos to share to give more beautiful perspective to the lovely evening. thank you so much for including me! i cannot wait to get back on the dance floor. i miss sfdc & la pista & odc!

tangobaby April 8, 2008 at 12:43 PM  

Oh no no no! I loved your post and it was so fun to see the evening through your pretty eyes.

And I have to post these things so my mom can keep up with my adventures.

When you're ready for dancing, you know I will be there with you.

Yoli April 8, 2008 at 1:10 PM  

I love this post! Ballet to me is my favorite of the arts after Theatre.

tangobaby April 8, 2008 at 2:09 PM  

Dear Yoli!

Welcome and thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment.

Who are you, lovely fencing mother of the tiny baby in the teddy bear outfit! I love fencing and hope to get back into it--your profile photo is lovely.

I have to read more of your blog right away.

If some day you can see that Alto Canto performance, you will be amazed and in love with it.

Relyn Lawson April 8, 2008 at 4:05 PM  

So, if I ever make it to SF for a visit, I want to go out to eat with you and Ms. Wellspring. And, I want you to choose for me. I am hungry just reading your wonderful descriptions.

What a wonderful evening - truly an evening to lift up your heart. I am so glad you two were able to have so much fun, and enjoy so much beauty! I am glad you have such a wonderful evening to recall and uplift you.

Debbi April 8, 2008 at 5:49 PM  

Ballet was my very first love. And I am convinced one of the reasons I took to tango so quickly (the discipline and the beauty of it, not the technique, goodness knows I had many ingrained behaviors to unlearn). But the feel of the floor through your slippers, the smell of rosin, the feel of the barre just under your fingertips.... there was the pain and the tears as well. But the swelling of Tchaikovsky filling the air, made it all too wonderful.

Sigh, your post made me very homesick for my ballet school and the age of 16....

tangobaby April 8, 2008 at 9:40 PM  

Wow, Debbi. What a wonderful recollection. I could see that studio reflected in your words.

Maybe it's time for a visit back to the ballet studio, just to say hello?

paris parfait April 10, 2008 at 9:03 AM  

Oh, how gorgeous! Sounds like a fabulous evening, from beginning to end. The San Francisco Ballet is always a treat! xo

miss tango April 10, 2008 at 12:06 PM  

If you ask, then it isn´t really candid anymore. Subconciously one starts to pose...

tangobaby April 10, 2008 at 1:47 PM  

Hi Paris Parfait,

Considering that I've only seen The Nutcracker (I almost am embarrased to admit that), this performance was not only a treat, it was a revelation.

I'm hooked, for sure. I want to go back, and often as I can afford to.

Hi Miss Tango,

You are entirely right. The photos would not have the same feeling if I had announced my intentions. The only problem is that the camera is not small, so I feel it's hard to hide what I am doing.