Thursday, April 21, 2011

San Francisco Ballet - Program 6

War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco, CA
April 20, 2011

SF Ballet in Tomasson's "7 For Eight".  Photo by Erik Tomasson

Helgi Tomasson orchestrated a simply beautiful Program 6 for San Francisco Ballet, with three contrasting, yet complementary pieces: Christopher Wheeldon's “Ghosts©”, Tomasson's “7 for Eight” and the much anticipated SFB premiere of Wayne McGregor's “Chroma”. Mixed repertory nights need a delicate balance: dances that are the perfect length (not too short and not too long), a variety of choreographic styles, and ballets that showcase the strengths of the company. Program 6 demonstrates once again that San Francisco Ballet can truly do it all, and do it fantastically.

I am never sure what Christopher Wheeldon's ballets are supposed to be about (if, in fact, they are meant to be about anything). This was partly true with “Ghosts©”, though I did sense a theme of and comment on romance. Perhaps it was the hair and the costumes that alluded to an earlier time when propriety, chivalry and courtship reigned supreme or maybe it was the elegant, precise choreography. Maria Kochetkova and Courtney Elizabeth gave the two stand-out performances on Wednesday evening. They were both able to be appropriately dramatic without letting the drama overtake their technique. Their interpretation of Wheeldon's composition, especially the stunning footwork (intricate sissones and temps de cuisse) shone while these detailed choreographic touches were missed by others, who tended to get a little lost in the drama.

Having seen many Helgi Tomasson ballets, I can say without doubt that “7 for Eight” is my absolute favorite. His neo-classical treatment of the ballet lexicon provides spectacle, beauty and artistry and his creative partnering (lifts and balances) speaks to the limitless promise of two bodies moving together in space. Sarah Van Patten's turns into arabesque and her developp√© in second perfectly punctuated Bach's polyphonic music. Her promenade in the ballet's sixth movement was as quiet and exact as the trilling mordent that accompanied her. “7 For Eight” is a special piece; it defines Tomasson as a choreographic genius.

Delighted gasps filled the War Memorial Opera House as Wayne McGregor's “Chroma” opened to reveal a brightly lit stark white stage (floor and walls). McGregor has composed a work that brings the brilliant combination of future and past to life through dance. The setting was forward- thinking (modern minimalism meets a futuristic video game) while the movements looked back to 1970s/1980s jazz and modern (at times, very sexualized). The choreography was a completely different feel than the design, but the two worked together in harmony. This piece also showed a different side of Yuan Yuan Tan – her first sequence revealed the freedom, flexibility and expression that she has in her torso. So often, the focus is on her feet and extensions; what a treat to see other aspects of her dancing highlighted.

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