Friday, April 17, 2015

San Francisco Ballet - Program 7

San Francisco Ballet
Program 7
War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco
April 16th, 2015

Mixed repertory nights are sometimes constructed around a theme – maybe works by the same choreographer, of the same era, to the same composer or of a particular genre. And just as often, there is no unifying motif; the program is simply a combination of different dances. But there is also a third category. One where a common through line exists but is less obvious. San Francisco Ballet’s seventh program is a perfect example of this. The theme of the night was design, with each piece speaking equally of vast visual scope and intimate visual intricacies.

The triple bill opened with a reprise of 2014’s Caprice, choreographed by Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson and set to a diverse Saint-SaĆ«ns score. As exquisite columns of light adjust and shift to frame each of the ballet’s five movements, Tomasson’s Caprice is all about elegance. In the first sequence, Mathilde Froustey and Vitor Luiz’s series of arabesque lifts floated through space with regal splendor. Chapter two brought some stunning but telling double cabrioles by Sarah Van Patten and featured the most lovely stage exit. As Tiit Helimets carried Van Patten into the second wing stage left, Daniel Deivison-Oliveira and Sean Orza knelt down, arms outstretched, faces lifted upwards. Van Patten and Helimets returned in the third movement with an unexpected duet full of split lifts and upper body curves. While Caprice really shone in these featured duets, the corps struggled with unison on Thursday evening. The elegance of Caprice requires clarity and because the unison was off, that clarity was compromised.

An iconic work of neo-classical brilliance, George Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments continued program seven’s design-based theme by exploring the physical possibilities within classical ballet vocabulary. From the opening themes to the final Choleric variation, Balanchine creates physical architecture in this masterwork. Examining the shapes that can be made, the images sculpted, the surprising steps (bent leg work on pointe, a vast presence of second position, flexed hands, hips and shoulders that are no longer square). Even today, almost seventy years after the work premiered, The Four Temperaments still pushes boundaries and seeks to understand what ballet can do and what ballet can look like.

Pictured: San Francisco Ballet in Possokhov's Swimmer
Photo © Erik Tomasson
Onto the only world premiere and the most designed dance of the evening, Yuri Possokhov’s Swimmer. A solo trumpet sang from the orchestra pit, a see through screen revealed a mid-century modern domestic scene and almost immediately, the scrim came alive with video (by Kate Duhamel). From that moment on, the choreography and the interactive videography worked in tandem to communicate a deep narrative – one character’s clash with circumstance and his journey through the reality of responsibility and the fantasy of youth. There was much to love about Possokhov’s Swimmer. Duhamel’s video design was used to connect the various segments, which gave an overall feeling of continuous motion. Choreographically, the quiet pas de deux between Sofiane Sylve and Luke Ingham was a statement of gorgeous nostalgia. The powerful men’s variation towards the end of the ballet drew audible gasps from the audience, and of course, Vitor Luiz gave a transformative performance as the central character. In modern dance, there is a lot of discussion about the genre of dance theater. It’s super trendy and happens everywhere in the contemporary scene. Possokhov’s Swimmer is not dance theater, but a wonderful model of something even rarer – ballet theater.

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