Monday, April 16, 2012

San Francisco Ballet - Program 7

Balanchine Masterworks
War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco
April 14, 2012

A visit to the San Francisco Ballet during Program 7 (Balanchine Masterworks) is like a journey to the neoclassical royal courts.  The King (Balanchine himself) lives in the choreography; the Crown Prince (Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson) brings the ballets to fruition; and the court (the entire San Francisco Ballet company) flawlessly interprets "Divertimento No. 15", "Scotch Symphony" and "The Four Temperaments".  Yet, when viewing these three dances, it becomes equally clear that Balanchine is also the predecessor of today's contemporary and 'fusion' ballet.  "Divertimento No. 15" , "Scotch Symphony" and "The Four Temperaments" all speak of both neoclassical fervor and contemporary risk.
Sasha DeSola and Hansuke Yamamoto in Balanchine's "Divertimento No. 15"
Photo: Erik Tomasson

From the very beginning of "Divertimento No. 15", one can see Balanchine's commitment to egalitarianism.  Yes, there are dancers who have leading roles and those who are dancing corps parts, but each group are equal contributors and participants to the look and structure of this ballet.   A common denominator for every member of the cast is the attention to and command of petit allegro - each staccato sequence attacked with vigor and precision.  Another thread running through the whole of "Divertimento No. 15" was the emphasis on the 'up' in every movement.  In each relevĂ©, echappĂ©, and the end of each pirouette, you could feel a breath before the closing or landing; it was almost a little hint of Cecchetti mixed in with Balanchine's neoclassicism.  Courtney Elizabeth was an absolute delight, and corps member Sasha DeSola (who was cast in one of the five leading female parts) glowed with an intoxicating innocence and hopefulness.

"Scotch Symphony" had a bit more narrative to it than the other two works on the program.  The opening group scene was visually stunning with the Scottish backdrop and costumes - Balanchine injecting bits of Scottish flair into the ballet vocabulary, again focusing on footwork, beats and petit allegro sequences.  Vanessa Zahorian and Taras Domitro danced the romantic leads, portraying the excitement of love mixed with the tragedy of that which you cannot have.  Both concepts were present throughout the twenty-five minute piece, and the underlying theme of desire informed all the movements and choreography.  "Scotch Symphony" is a wonderful ballet, though this performance was affected somewhat by the pairing of Zahorian and Domitro.  Both danced beautifully on their own, though together, they seemed to be having some balance issues and just didn't look particularly comfortable with each other. 

Kristina Lind and Daniel Deivison-Oliveira in Balanchine's "The Four Temperaments"
Photo: Erik Tomasson
A fitting close to program seven was the masterpiece of "The Four Temperaments".  First performed in 1946, "The Four Temperaments" is both the oldest of the three ballets in this Balanchine evening and also the most contemporary, in terms of its choreography.  Everything is off-balance, counter-balanced and off-center, with a plethora of complex partnering.  The entire San Francisco Ballet company is made for this work, but the quiet stand-out performance for me was Kristina Lind - with her captivating and articulative feet, she is a star in the making.

As the 2012 season comes to an end, I find myself wondering if there will be some new female principal dancers in the company come next year.  The current female principals are great and I certainly don't mean as a replacement for any of them, but rather, in addition to them.  With 12 men and only 8 women in the principal tier, it seems that the current group of women has been shouldering more than their share this season. 

1 comment:

Pherank said...

I went to the final night of Program 7 (Divertimento No. 15, Scotch Symphony and The Four Temperaments). One of the Corps dancers that stood out for me that night was, I believe, WanTing Zhao – she was very elegant, and regal in her "deportment" - she danced with an almost Russian precision that I liked. Hopefully I’m not identifying the wrong person, but that is my best guess. At any rate, the Corps dancers looked well-rehearsed and were really in the spirit of things, and the pairing of Sarah Van Patten and Tiit Helimets in Sanguinic was just wonderful. I think Mr. B would have been pleased.