Thursday, April 10, 2014

San Francisco Ballet - Program 6

War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco
April 9, 2014

San Francisco Ballet’s current mixed repertory evening, Program 6, brings together work by three of today’s great ballet choreographers. Mark Morris’ “Maelstrom”, Helgi Tomasson’s “Caprice” and Yuri Possokhov’s “The Rite of Spring” share this exciting triple bill - yet another testament to the artistic breadth and scope of both the San Francisco Ballet creative team and the company dancers.

Right from the opening sequence, constant motion was the name of the game with Morris’ “Maelstrom”. Morris has a gift for combining music and movement, specifically in his ability to punctuate staccato and accented moments in the score. This thoughtful physical emphasis was sprinkled throughout the neo-classical work: hands in a ‘stop’ position, sparkly temps de cuisse, quick directional shifts and a recurring tilt in second position. A ballet for seven couples, last night’s cast featured some of my favorites from the women’s corps de ballet. A long-time corps dancer, Shannon Rugani is always a joy to watch; solid, skilled and completely in the moment. Ellen Rose Hummel’s unique combination of authenticity and artistic depth is simply endearing. And Julia Rowe is a sublime dancer (well-paired with soloist James Sofranko), one likely to ascend quickly through the ranks. Morris choreographed “Maelstrom” in 1994, and considering the age of many classical repertory ballets, twenty years is not that long ago. But, this particular work looks a little dated; still lovely, but dated. 

Program 6’s second offering is the world premiere of Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson’s “Caprice”. A shining work of neo-classical brilliance, “Caprice” had all the hallmarks of this popular ballet genre: close relationship between movement and music, classical vocabulary
Yuan Yuan Tan and Luke Ingham in Tomasson's "Caprice"
Photo ©Erik Tomasson
re-imagined with a contemporary eye, modern design elements, and speed. Framing the entire five movement work was a mobile set (by Alexander V. Nichols, with lighting design by Christopher Dennis). As each new chapter began, columns of light shifted into new and different configurations. The pas de quatre in the second movement was filled with delicate, yet mature partnering – melty and sinuous at the same time. Yuan Yuan Tan and Luke Ingham stole the show with their highly lyrical pas de deux – the pair soared and floated through Tomasson’s gorgeous choreography. Tan and Ingham were truly ethereal and angelic. The finale brought speed to the table, with a petit allegro variation for the male corps – complex batterie along with unison double and triple pirouettes.

After a phenomenal premiere last season, Yuri Possokhov’s “The Rite of Spring” returned to the War Memorial Opera House stage in the evening’s final performance. Possokhov’s version of this hundred-year-old ballet is extraordinary in every sense of the word. The story of community anguish hangs in the air throughout the entire forty minutes. And Possokhov wove this narrative through every aspect of the ballet – choreography, design, costumes, hair. Stravinsky’s music underscored a palpable sense of precarious circumstance and terror, like a spell was being cast on the group. Dores André gave another standout performance as the sacrifice. Caught and trapped in the mania around her, her movements spoke of imposed positioning and intense manipulation. In an interesting twist, Possokhov’s “The Rite of Spring” actually concludes with a glimmer of hope. In the final scene, there is a brief blackout. Then the lights come back up to find André’s character gone. Whether she had been saved or not, there is a sense of relief; her ordeal is finally over.

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