Sunday, February 23, 2014

San Francisco Ballet

Program 2
War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco
February 21st, 2014

San Francisco Ballet’s second program of the 2014 season joined three contrasting works - the premiere of Val Caniparoli’s “Tears” alongside two of last season’s favorites, Alexei Ratmansky’s “From Foreign Lands” and Wayne McGregor’s “Borderlands”. Another testament to the repertory breadth and artistic diversity of this company, program two was the perfect triple bill. 

While the title of Val Caniparoli’s newest work for San Francisco Ballet may imply sorrow and despair, “Tears” is actually about healing. A dance for three couples and a chorus of four men, this contemporary ballet reveals that the cleansing of the soul is an active process requiring constant and forward motion. As the main featured couple, Lorena Feijoo and Vitor Luiz gave a passionate yet solid performance. Certainly a difficult artistic intersection to maneuver, they approached each moment with full authentic emotion, while still maintaining textbook technical integrity. Next, Sasha De Sola and Tiit Helimets took the stage with a partnering variation that spoke of abandon and vulnerability. This duet said that there is no half way; each lift and balance required complete commitment, utter surrender and ultimate trust. Well-suited partners, De Sola and Helimets were a strong casting choice; I hope to see more of their partnership in the future. The male quartet (Gaetano Amico, Sean Orza, Benjamin Stewart and Myles Thatcher) provided the fluid foundation for Caniparoli’s “Tears”. Unobtrusive, yet crucial, their choreography was peppered with suspension and release, serpentine vocabulary, and tours en l’air that melted into the floor. Daniel Deivison and Ellen Rose Hummel served as “Tears’” third couple. The established passion and abandon of the other two pairings was still alive, but it was different, and in a good way. Deivison and Hummel embodied a reserved and gentle knowing, almost as if they shared a private secret. Caniparoli’s “Tears” is a beautiful ballet suite; a set of constant moving pieces that did not stop until the curtain came down. And two truths reigned supreme: being in the moment and the expression of process.

San Francisco Ballet in Ratmansky's "From Foreign Lands"
Photo© Erik Tomasson
Adding a different flavor was Alexei Ratmansky’s “From Foreign Lands”; a quietly sweet and delicately tender ensemble composition. A dance on the theme of fours, full cast variations bookended multiple different quartet groupings: two pairs, one man and three women; one woman and three men; and four couples. Ratmansky’s choreography in each of the movements was delightful - the Italian quartet, playful, fun and highly energetic; the Spanish sequence, dramatic and humorous. Though at Friday night’s performance, some of the unison was problematic from time to time in a few of the sections. Simone Messmer gave a standout performance in the German dance. Messmer sparkled onstage, literally lighting up the space. At the same time, she maintained an aware and authentic presence with everyone around her. The resulting picture was truly luminous, and an audience can discern a manufactured version from a case like this one, where it was absolutely real. “From Foreign Lands” is a lovely light-hearted ballet; no fanfare, yet still dynamic and compelling. 

The evening’s final ballet contributed yet a third stylistic genre, Wayne McGregor’s contemporary assay, “Borderlands”. When I saw this piece last year, the formal and structural concerns took focus, so, this time, I opted to take a content approach, looking at it through the lens of abstract imagery, general concept and deconstructed narrative. “Borderlands” does not tell a linear story at all, but there are a number of interesting narrative ideas present. A sense of having to endure uncertainty and adapt to different circumstances definitely underscores the entire work. As well, the juxtaposition of individual physicality against a vastness of space and scope is another ongoing narrative theme. Though she did not take center stage until the two-thirds point, Dores AndrĂ© stole the show. With her unique combination of extreme flexibility, innate strength and spatial instincts, she was meant to dance McGregor’s choreography. And though seldom used, the unison in “Borderlands” was really quite something; so much so that it deserves a special accolade.            

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