Magazine article Dance Magazine

Debut: Relishing Robbin's Faun

Magazine article Dance Magazine

Debut: Relishing Robbin's Faun

Article excerpt

In the bright rehearsal studio light of Jerome Robbins' classic Afternoon of a Faun, there is only movement and mood--and even these are stripped down to the most basic steps and the most primal emotions. Perhaps more than any other work, Faun is a window into the human side of the mercurial choreographer, and his deep feeling about dance and dancers. Certainly even' male star from Mikhail Baryshnikov to Peter Martins has wanted to perform it since Francisco Moneion premiered the role with Tanaquil LeClercq at New York City Ballet in 1953.

Lean and handsome, San Francisco Ballet principal Ruben Martin, 28, seems the perfect embodiment of Robbins' feline, self-regarding Narcissus, evoking a lazy, summertime encounter with an economy of movement. When the curtain went up on Martin's debut in the ballet last March, there was the palpable sense of a star-making performance in the offing. Few would have suspected it was the culmination of a year-long struggle to return from an injury that required the total reconstruction of his ankle, nor that Martin himself, whose name was not on the initial cast list because of his injury, felt anxiety about his ability to perform it.

For Jean-Pierre Frohlich, who set Faun on SFB, Martin seemed an obvious choice despite his injury. "He has a very good work ethic, good instincts, and is very open to trying different things and to learning," says Frohlich. "He leaves his ego in the hallway, which is wonderful."

Despite his focus, Martin, who was promoted to principal at the end of the season, initially worried if he could pull off the role. Now, he regards the ballet and the entire Robbins program (which included Glass Pieces and Dybbuk) as an artistic breakthrough. "When you come back from a serious injury, you lose a lot of confidence--you tend to dance more conservatively," he concedes. …

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