San Francisco Ballet
War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco
January 28th, 2014
The wait is over; San Francisco Ballet’s 2014 season has begun. Over the next four months, audiences will flock to the city to see this company’s profound technical skills and impeccable artistic talent in both classical and contemporary repertoire. Program one returns Helgi Tomasson’s incomparable production of “Giselle” to the War Memorial Opera House stage. Originally premiering in 1999, his “Giselle” is a haunting, hypnotic tour where love, pain, tragedy and destiny intersect over the course of two plus hours.
Sarah Van Patten is always a delight to watch, but she particularly excels as Giselle. Her balletés and penchée arabesques, sublime; batterie, delicate yet specific; and her circular series of piqué turns was quiet and calm, yet dynamic at the same time. Van Patten is the quintessential Giselle, adeptly capturing the character’s changing experience – naivete, infatuation, betrayal and Act II’s selfless heroism. Because I’ve seen Van Patten dance the ballet’s title role before, let us turn to some of the other main characters and featured roles.
San Francisco Ballet soloist Luke Ingham was just a wonderful Albrecht. His first entrance was appropriately regal, with an equal dose of humility. His attention to both sides of Albrecht meant that he looked right at home in the Count’s two dissimilar situations: as part of the Royal court and as a participant in the village merriment. From a technical perspective, Ingham is all about the jumps - his height and rebound are really quite something. Because he manages to get his feet flat to the floor in plié between every step (whether petit or grand allegro), every variation had immense power. Act II’s final batterie sequence goes on for ever and each jump was as high and as precise as the previous one.
Onto the peasant pas de cinq. A pas de cinq is very difficult to do well because the fifth person in the dance can easily look out of place. But Tomasson’s choreography has enough motion, variety and flow to keep that from happening. In fact, this particular quintet (Sasha De Sola, Isabella DeVivo, Julia Rowe, Daniel Deivison and Hansuke Yamamoto) had some of the best technical dancing of the night. Yamamoto’s opening tours en l’air were phenomenal and that excellence continued throughout his solo (including a stunning diagonal batterie sequence). Yamamoto has just a terrific combination of precision and phrasing. Deivison’s variation was show stopping with giant sissones and textbook beated jetés. And what a finale; the pas de cinq concluded with an amazing circuit of unison emboîte turns.
San Francisco Ballet’s casting of Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis, is always spot on but Sofiane Sylve may be the perfect Myrtha. Entering the space with floating boureés, Sylve readily established her ‘otherworldliness’ and then immediately revealed Myrtha’s unrelenting nature. Commanding and immutable, her scooting arabesques were straight and direct, never once wavering in intention.
“Giselle” continues until this coming Sunday – do not miss it!