A Look Back: Val Caniparoli’s Lambarena (Part 1)

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Evelyn Cisneros in Caniparoli's Lambarena (1995)

Evelyn Cisneros in Caniparoli’s Lambarena (1995)

I was first approached by Helgi Tomaason in early 1994 to create a new commission for San Francisco Ballet for the 1994/1995 Season.  It was then that I started my search for music, concepts and ideas for a new work.  Dan McGarry, who at that time was on staff with San Francisco Ballet and a good friend, mentioned to me that I needed to create a big hit.  He jokingly, or maybe not, mentioned that I needed to create a work especially for Evelyn Cisneros and a lot of men without their shirts on.  He was not too far off, but I did like the idea of creating a work for Evelyn and to capitalize on her strong technique, amazing stage presence and to celebrate her extraordinary career.

My search for music was not working as well as I expected.  Of course there was some backup plans, but nothing was really resonating.  I was getting a bit nervous as there were only two weeks left before I was to start creating in the studios with the dancers.  I happened to be talking to Eda Holmes, who was at the time living in Paris and was an amazing dancer herself with San Francisco Ballet.  I mentioned to her my predicament and that I couldn’t find that right provocative, sexy and powerful score that I really wanted for Evelyn.  She said that she had the perfect CD for me to hear that was given to her as a wedding gift in Paris.  She sent it immediately and I received it in the mail about three days later.

It was the CD of Lambarena.  I fell in love with it within seconds.  A week later I was in the studios starting the creative process.

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