Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Smuin Contemporary Ballet - Dance Series 1

Smuin Contemporary Ballet
Dance Series 1
Lesher Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek
September 15, 2023

A stylistic collage, an arresting drama, a brilliant union of music and dance – what an opening performance for Smuin Contemporary Ballet! For thirty years, this special company has been a force in the Bay Area dance scene and Friday evening’s mixed rep, triple bill tapped into the group’s essence and power. Their commitment to technical excellence and artistic fervor. To simultaneously pushing boundaries and honoring history. To challenging audiences while providing moments of joy and escape. It was a night to remember at the Lesher Center for the Arts!

Smuin in Caniparoli's Tutto Eccetto Il Lavandino
Photo Chris Hardy

As the title indicates, Val Caniparoli’s Tutto Eccetto Il Lavandino (everything but the kitchen sink) provides the utmost in choreographic variety from start to finish. The ensemble 2014 suite, set to Vivaldi, really does have a bit of ‘everything’ movement-wise; it’s anyone’s guess as to what’s up next on the menu. There’s Celtic footwork passages and traditional ballet lines. Contemporary partnering and courtly pedestrian sequences. Full throttle running and Pilates-style mountain climbers. The work is quite dazzling. Costumed simply in shades of olive, nothing distracts from Caniparoli’s physical vocabulary or from the dancers’ performances, including a fiercely determined pas de deux from Brennan Wall and Brandon Alexander. It was exciting to see some new faces join the company veterans; and I can only imagine that the artists will continue to gel together over time. Tutto Eccetto Il Lavandino does call for a fair bit of unison, and that occasionally proved challenging.

Smuin in Kudelka's The Man In Black
Photo Chris Hardy

There are several constants in James Kudelka’s 2010 quartet The Man In Black. The two most powerful being the sober atmosphere and Johnny Cash’s haunting voice covering six luscious tunes. Danced on opening night by Alexander, Ian Buchanan, Terez Dean Orr and João Sampaio, another constant was the stage perimeter. Unhurried and unassuming, the dancers pivoted around the space, carving out circuit after circuit. With their gazes often on the horizon, an undeniable sense of purpose and forward motion washed over the space, as did a plethora of Western dance traditions. Percussive step dance. Line dancing. Contra dance. And then the final constant - a strong sense of togetherness, of community, and the palpable pain that emerges when that kinship is fractured.  

Sarah Jordan in Moultrie's Salsa 'Til Dawn
Photo Chris Hardy

Dance Series 1 closed with an epic party. The kind of event that you hope to be invited to, especially knowing that a VIP is on the guest list. A much-anticipated world premiere by Darrell Grand Moultrie, Salsa ‘Til Dawn was wholly exuberant. Fun. Infectious. The stage was awash with grand leaps, huge lifts and staccato accents. Spines, hips and torsos undulated from every corner, new company dancer Sarah Jordan schooling the group as to how things should be done. Such monumental confidence and freedom of movement! Sampaio also had his moment mid-way through the piece; it was impossible to take your eyes off him, his airy suspension and his long, stretchy limbs. Charles Fox’s marvelous, sexy Cuban jazz score perfectly framed every second of Salsa ‘Til Dawn. And it was Fox who was the VIP guest. While most of the composition was recorded, Fox took to the piano bench to provide spectacular live music for the fifth chapter of the dance, City Lights. It was simply magical to hear his genius in person, while Tessa Barbour cycled through Moultrie’s stunning phrase material. Again, unison in this dance was sometimes tricky, but to be honest, I doubt anyone really noticed. Salsa ‘Til Dawn was such a successful bash and I’m sure each viewer was thrilled to have been at the party.

Dance Series 1 travels to Mountain View and San Francisco over the next two weeks.

Monday, May 08, 2023

Smuin Contemporary Ballet - Dance Series 2

Smuin Contemporary Ballet
Dance Series 2
Blue Shield of California Theater at YBCA, San Francisco
May 5th, 2023

Last Friday, Smuin Contemporary Ballet landed at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts for the San Francisco stop on their current regional tour. Led by Artistic Director Celia Fushille, the company brought a sensational quadruple bill for this last program of 2022-2023. Though what transpired on stage was anything but final. Yes, Dance Series 2 closes the company’s 29th season, but if you were in the audience on Friday night, you can attest to the feast of beginnings. A world premiere from the newly named Associate Artistic Director, Amy Seiwert; a roster of dancers who are not only individually impressive, but seamlessly gelling together as a group; and an organization on the cusp of its 30th anniversary. What a night!

A perfect welcome into the theater space, Dance Series 2 kicked off with a pair of shorter ballets, Katarzyna Skarpetowska’s Sextette (2021) and Founder Michael Smuin’s Dream (1999). Danced by four women and two men and set to a stirring Bach concerto, Sextette is a joyful study in stage patterning and cannoned timing. Movement phrases had staggered starts, like much Baroque music. A delight to watch, the choreography was lush, melty, legato, and incredibly intricate. The Smuin dancers were lovely in this chamber work, with just a few partnering moments proving tricky. 

Moving out of the Baroque era into the Romanticism of Chopin, Smuin’s Dream took the next spot in Dance Series 2. A gorgeous duet framed by a dark starry backdrop and superbly danced at this performance by Brennan Wall and Ricardo Dyer, we could have easily been watching a pas de deux from Romeo & Juliet (with a few costume tweaks). It was that sweet; that tender; that romantic. But unlike many classical ballet duets, Dream was not at all fussy. It was full of giant, overhead lifts, and an undeniable sense of searching – both for something and someone.

Tessa Barbour, Cassidy Isaacson and Terez Dean Orr
in Caniparoli's Swipe
Photo Chris Hardy

With multiple choreographic chapters coming together to create a cohesive whole, contemporary suite structure took center stage in the last two pieces. Deliciously unpredictable from one moment to the next, Val Caniparoli’s full throttle Swipe (2012) had the best technical dancing of the evening. Performed by seven dancers over seven sections, staccato, angular movement gave a decidedly mechanical, robotic feel. Hips jutted out in space, ribs hyperextended and arms flew at spectacular speeds. Movement influences ranged from the catwalk to disco to African dance, all while Gabriel Prokofiev’s score pulsed and drummed through the air. Swipe was a crowd-pleaser, to be sure, though for me, the score stayed more or less in the same dynamic range when compared to the changeable and unexpected choreography. And the work did feel a little on the lengthy side. 

Dance Series 2 closed with Seiwert’s new playful, spirited, colorful suite, French Kiss, set to a beautiful collection of music from Pink Martini. As the lights went up, the large ensemble (fifteen dancers!) cycled through a winning series of mannequin-esque poses and gestures. These initial moments set the tone for the rest of the piece. While there were some purposefully reflective sequences, overall French Kiss was sweet, happy and fun; you couldn’t help but smile when looking at the stage. Actual mannequins made an appearance mid-way through, as did some other theatrical props. But it was never too crowded or too busy. There is much to love about Seiwert’s choreography and for me, her treatment of pointework is most intriguing. She combines full pointe and non-pointework together. She explores demi-pointe in pointe shoes, revealing new choreographic vocabulary and possibilities. French Kiss was a hit. I’m sure it won’t be every long before Smuin’s audiences see it again.

Smuin Ballet in Seiwert's French Kiss
Photo Chris Hardy


Monday, April 24, 2023

San Francisco Ballet - "Romeo & Juliet"

San Francisco Ballet
Romeo & Juliet
War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco
April 21st, 2023

Whether the ballet, the stage play or the original text, when you spend time in the world of Romeo & Juliet, a complex narrative unfolds. It’s a tragic love story. It’s a cautionary tale about hate. It unpacks how human beings value each other. It shows the consequences of rash actions. It’s about trajectory; about timing. On Friday night, as San Francisco Ballet opened the final program of 2023, all these themes percolated throughout the War Memorial Opera House. This is another ballet that SFB audiences are very familiar with – choreographed by former Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson and premiering almost thirty years ago. As was the case with earlier full-length works this season, fresh interpretations gave the established work new energy. And opening night’s cast went a step further – they turned this known production into something astonishing, something sublime. Together, Jasmine Jimison, debuting as Juliet, and Angelo Greco, returning as Romeo, made this one of the best R&Js I’ve seen. Ever.

Angelo Greco and Jasmine Jimison in
Tomasson's Romeo & Juliet
Photo Lindsay Thomas

Important narrative frames are established early in Act I. First is the hatred between the Capulets and the Montagues. Seething, violent and deep-seated, the charged environment brews in the very first village scene. It’s electric, angry and one wonders how anything beautiful can grow in such a hostile environment. Also, Act I shows a change of romantic trajectory. Originally, Romeo thought Rosaline to be his future and Juliet thought the same of Paris. How things would dramatically shift over the course of a masked ball. Romeo and Juliet meet and each of their paths are altered forever. 

Much exposition happens in Act II – it’s short and full of many compact scenes, but a lot of action brings us to R&J’s final chapter. There’s more village antics, which feel a little superfluous to be honest. Romeo and Juliet are married, privately and secretly by Friar Laurence (Jim Sohm). And then we return to the town square, where two people are slain, including Tybalt (Luke Ingham) at Romeo’s hand. Romeo is banished and the curtain falls. As the ballet reaches its conclusion, Juliet hatches a scheme to fake her own death and sends a message to Romeo revealing that it is all a charade. She will wake and then they can run away together. Missed connections mean that Romeo does not learn of her plan, and in the end, they both perish.

The above synopsis details the events of the story, but more is needed to communicate the magic that happened onstage. To impart the mood, the atmosphere, the emotion and the triumphs of opening night. Though the production’s visuals and design need some updating, there was much brilliance to behold.

Greco’s Romeo, Max Cauthorn’s Benvolio and Esteban Hernández’ Mercutio were not only technically impressive but how they related to each other made you believe that they were like brothers. That connection must be there in order to explain the tragic events that happen later. Jimison was superb as Juliet, capturing every aspect of the nuanced character - from joy and innocence to fright and defeat; from youthful excitement to mature determination. 

Timing and trajectory intersect in Act I’s balcony pas de deux, if only for a moment. This sweeping duet of arabesque slides and circular spins was explosively passionate and both Greco and Jimison’s characters seemed overcome with budding love. While the entire cast was one of the best I have seen, this particular balcony scene was indeed the best. Act III opens back at Juliet’s bed chamber, and again, we see the love between the pair, though this time, intense grief is also part of the picture. They desperately want to be together, and yet, circumstance, trajectory and timing are against them. This truth remains constant until the final moments of the ballet, where the War Memorial stage undeniably saw some of its best acting in years. Bravi!

Angelo Greco and Jasmine Jimison in
Tomasson's Romeo & Juliet
Photo Lindsay Thomas

Romeo & Juliet runs until Sunday, April 30th, with Greco and Jimison back in the titular roles on Thursday and Saturday evenings. 

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Cal Performances presents
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley
April 15th, 2023 (matinee)

Pictured: Jacquelin Harris
Photo Dario Calmese
Spring in the Bay Area has much to offer. Generally, the weather is pretty good. Flowers are blooming. The farmer’s markets are flush with new, exciting produce and longer days equal more time outside. It is also one of the best times of the year for the performing arts, especially dance. San Francisco Ballet is usually in the final programs of its season, Smuin Ballet is into its second dance series and there’s a plethora of contemporary work to take in. But by far, my favorite thing about Bay Area spring dance is the annual return of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to Cal Performances. Every year, their weeklong residency absolutely wows and delights the UC Berkeley community. And this year was no exception. As has come to be the custom, the company brought three unique programs to the Zellerbach stage. I was lucky enough to catch Program C, an epic, iconic quadruple bill of work by Founder Alvin Ailey and current Artistic Director Robert Battle.

Program C opened with Ailey’s Night Creature, a 1974 mini-suite set to Duke Ellington selections. The nocturnal atmosphere was undeniable – a constellation lighting effect projected across the back psych framed sparkling costumes of layered purples, greens and blues. The movement followed that same sense of collage with different vocabulary coming together to form a complete whole. Over Night Creature’s continuous three movements, many styles and genres were mined. 70s jazz with its sultry hips, slinky step-ball-changes and layouts; modern contractions, spirals and Horton laterals. Soft shoe influences. Classical ballet petit allegro and pas de chat. And while very different physicality, everything worked together so well. From lights up to the final cluster pose, Night Creature both mesmerized and captivated. And the Ailey dancers more than delivered in this technically challenging work. The music could have been a little quieter at the beginning, but it seemed like the booth adjusted as the piece wore on. 

Battle’s 2021 For Four also had music front and center. A compact, effervescent quartet, danced at this performance by Alisha Rena Peek, Xavier Mack, Deidre Rogan and Hannah Alissa Richardson, For Four celebrates the musical genius of Wynton Marsalis. At first, I wondered if each of the dancers might be following the line of one particular instrument, but as the piece developed, it seemed that their choreography, entrances and exits were more tied to specific musical phrases. Like the score, motifs recurred. Pointed fingers, knee falls, chaîné turns with goalpost arms. And while there were duets and trios throughout, each dancer also had a chance to solo mirroring the keyboards, saxophones and brass sections in Marsalis’ composition.

The iconic moments continued as Jacquelin Harris performed Ailey’s 1971 Cry, a haunting, potent solo made famous by the incomparable Judith Jamison. The program note for Cry shares this, “For all Black women everywhere-especially our mothers.” And the dance that Ailey crafted with that inspiration is both formidable and layered. Emotional tones varied – despair, hopelessness, realization and suffering met with resiliency, perseverance and at the end of the piece, joy. Harris reached along the diagonal before contracting inward; she strode forward in power before slowly curling down to the floor. Circular movements of the arms and upper torso took the focus towards the heavens. Cry communicates deep spiritual prayer and the brave act of remembering and on Saturday afternoon, you could have heard a pin drop in the theater. 

Revelations (1960) closed the afternoon at Zellerbach Hall and it was no surprise that applause rang out before the curtain even went up. Like many AAADT fans, I’ve seen Revelations many times and have commented on multiple aspects of Ailey’s modern masterwork set to a collection of spirituals. Rather than repeat some of those thoughts, it seems fitting to revisit just a few of Revelations’ extraordinary, iconic moments. The opening wedge formation with its arm and palm choreography is simply thrilling. As are the gravity-defying back hinges that pepper much of Revelations’ first chapter. The écarté promenade and the final partnered pose are just two of the reasons why Fix Me, Jesus is so special. There’s the boat pose progression of I Wanna Be Ready; the double stag leaps of Sinner Man; and the bright yellow sun that ushers in that last scene. And truly, every instant of the finale, Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham transports the audience to an entirely joyous plane.


Monday, April 03, 2023

San Francisco Ballet - "Cinderella"

San Francisco Ballet
War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco

San Francisco Ballet in Wheeldon's Cinderella
Photo Lindsay Thomas

April 1st, 2023 (matinee)

When a ballet has been part of a company’s repertoire for quite some time, there is an upside of familiarity. Audiences know the story, the visuals, the choreography. The downside is that the work can start to feel stale after a while. But one full-length narrative that will never fall victim to time is Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella. A co-production of SFB and Dutch National Ballet, this Cinderella has vibrancy to spare. Stunning landscapes, humor, a wild cast of characters, innovative design and the choreographic backbone that this familiar fairy tale needs. Cinderella saw its US premiere at SFB on May 3, 2013, and even though a decade has passed, the work’s ingenuity has rendered it ageless.

Like many story ballets, Act I has much narrative exposition. We meet the main characters; come to understand their respective situations and learn what motivates them. In Wheeldon’s version, that begins with a prelude of sorts, where the viewer encounters the leads as children. We see Cinderella lose her mother, and the onset of her protection by the four Fates (the Fairy Godmother character reimagined). We meet her new family and witness how their jealousy dominates and decimates Cinderella’s life. We are transported to the palace where Prince Guillaume and his friend Benjamin are, as children, already battling notions and assumptions of duty and responsibility. And as the Act moves on, and the leads grow up, there’s mistaken identity. Invitations to a ball. A forest bubbling with color, energy and animation. 

There were several special moments throughout this initial Act, especially from SFB soloist Isabella DeVivo, who debuted in the titular role on Saturday afternoon. Cinderella’s first solo at her mother’s grave is one of my favorite dance moments in the ballet, and DeVivo displayed such command and range. It feels like an intimate conversation between Cinderella and her mother – an opportunity to share about her life, her dreams, her fears. As such, the choreography is thematically and tonally nuanced. There’s joy, wistfulness, longing and grief and DeVivo delivered on all fronts. 

Elizabeth Mateer was fantastic as the severe, unforgiving (and in Act II, the drunk) stepmother, perhaps the best portrayal of that character since the ballet’s premiere. And Kamryn Baldwin and Jasmine Jimison were delightfully cringeworthy as Cinderella’s stepsisters. In the forest, before transforming for the ball, Cinderella happens upon a mélange of characters, led by the seasonal variations. Spring sparkles with buoyancy and spirit, while Summer’s circular, swinging choreography floats with vastness. Fiery and dramatic, Autumn’s footwork is all spice, and Winter closes things out with elegant coolness. Cinderella’s transport to the ball is a phenomenal visual effect, concluding an Act where much happens, and maybe a few too many characters appear in the final scene.

Next, we arrive at the palace’s grand ballroom for more action, fun and romance. The churlish stepsisters desperately try to one up each other to impress the Prince (Joseph Walsh), the stepmother has her gloriously tipsy solo and sparks fly between Jimison’s Clementine and Hansuke Yamamoto’s Benjamin. But what makes Act II special are the duets and solos by DeVivo and Walsh. Innocence, grace and curiosity informed all their partnering. Relevés were confident and secure. Each phrase had an undeniable ‘swept off your feet’ tone – DeVivo skimming the stage with every lift, turn and gentle hop. Act II does drag a bit from time to time and the corps’ segments needed some attention. Their opening waltz sequence is another favorite dance moment of mine in this ballet, but on Saturday afternoon, coordination and timing was a bit elusive for the group. 

The final Act of Wheeldon’s Cinderella is all about finding the foot that fits the golden slipper left behind at the ball. After many humorous attempts, it is discovered that Cinderella is the owner of that shoe, and the love story is fully realized. Cinderella and the Prince’s final pas de deux celebrates that love, certainly. Though it also reveals another layer or level to their journey – freedom and choice. In the end, their triumph is that they have the freedom to choose each other; to live the life they want and to be happy on their own terms. 

Monday, March 20, 2023

San Francisco Ballet - "The Colors of Dance"

San Francisco Ballet in 
Tomasson's 7 For Eight
Photo Lindsay Thomas
San Francisco Ballet
The Colors of Dance
War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco
March 18th, 2023 (matinee)

San Francisco Ballet’s 90th season has been epic thus far. First, an astonishing festival of new works; next, an injection of fresh energy into Giselle. Later this season, audiences can look forward to two more mammoth full-length classics: Cinderella and Romeo & Juliet. Sandwiched in the middle of all this deliciousness was Program 3, a mixed repertory collection dubbed The Colors of Dance. 

First up on this charming triple bill was 7 For Eight, a 2004 composition by former Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson. 7 For Eight is the epitome of a neo-classical suite, very Balanchine-esque in both flavor and look. It emits soothing, pleasant tones, never asking too much of the audience (other than to bear witness to the lovely movement). Neo-classical tenets abound throughout the thirty-minute work. There is no linear story, though the ballet still had emotive tones of drama, playfulness and spirit. The choreography has speed, particularly prominent in the second episode’s pas de deux, danced on Saturday afternoon by Julia Rowe and Mingxuan Wang. Physicality converses deeply with J.S. Bach’s Baroque score, sometimes even matching a strong chord or a staccato accent. Delightful surprises peppered the choreographic language, like double attitude jumps, upper body contractions, partnered slides and sudden, sharp directional shifts.

Esteban Hernández’ solo variation (the 5th chapter) was by far, the star of the piece. Crisp, clean and resolute, every motion, every step sparkled. Lofty briseés, elastic sissones, textbook batterie and jumping turns that seemed to defy gravity. As expected with a neo-classical work, the design elements were pared down, so as to not distract from the movement. Though at the same time, it was unexpected that this piece was chosen as the opening for The Colors of Dance program. Overall, 7 For Eight is missing much visual color, making that choice somewhat curious. 

San Francisco Ballet in Thatcher's Colorforms
Photo Lindsay Thomas

In contrast, Myles Thatcher’s Colorforms was an explosion of vibrancy, particularly Jim French’s lighting design and Susan Roemer’s costumes. The film version of Colorforms (filmed in and around the SFMOMA) originally premiered as part of SFB’s 2021 virtual season and was adapted to the War Memorial stage for this program. French’s scenic design was phenomenal and accomplished two important goals. His large frame structures and movable viewing benches not only captured the sense of place (the art gallery), but also helped solidify the layered theme of the viewership lens. We, the audience, certainly had a lens into what was happening onstage, but his set also allowed the dancers to have their own unique experience as both performer and viewer. Like 7 For Eight, Colorforms doesn’t appear to be telling a story, though it does have several tonal throughlines that come across in the scenework and choreography. First and foremost was joy. Every moment was so full of delight. And, befitting the art gallery container, there was also a sense of noticing, of curiosity, of exploration. Several choreographic moments shone, like the picturesque vignettes that the cast had to create as a collective, and the stunning unison near the end. 

Nikisha Fogo and Joseph Walsh in
Forsythe's Blake Works I
Photo Lindsay Thomas
William Forsythe’s Blake Works I (2016) held the final place in The Colors of Dance, the largest ensemble piece on the program. The suite of dances is set to a James Blake score, a recorded collection that oscillated between R&B, jazz, hip hop and electronic dance music. Against that changeable frame, Forsythe introduced classroom ballet exercises with a twist. While dancers (clad in beautiful light blue costumes) cycled through the positions of the body, a hip might swivel. The transfer of weight in temps lié investigated both external and internal rotation. Port de bras was embellished; one sequence even had a distinctively macarena feel to it. It was academic phrase material, re-imagined. Blake Works I was fun and dynamic, save for the number of internal stops and starts. And while there were leads and featured sequences, the ballet is definitely an ensemble piece, and so, not surprisingly, it was strongest and most captivating when most of the dancers were onstage.


Sunday, February 26, 2023

San Francisco Ballet - Giselle

Sasha De Sola and Aaron Robison in 
Tomasson's Giselle
Photo Lindsay Thomas

San Francisco Ballet
San Francisco, War Memorial Opera House
February 24th, 2023

San Francisco Ballet fans know Giselle. More specifically, they know this particular Giselle. Choreographed by former Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson, the two-act narrative premiered almost twenty-four years ago (April 8th, 1999). Since then, the ballet has frequently been part of the company’s season; so, Bay Area audiences are very familiar with the story, the costumes, the sets and the movement variations. Even the major roles have been similarly cast in recent years. 

Yet, with all those layers of familiarity, if you were present on opening night, you can attest that something special happened on the War Memorial stage. Something unexpected. Perhaps even magical. It was the newness that Sasha De Sola and Aaron Robison brought debuting as Giselle and Count Albrecht. The fresh atmosphere was undeniable – energy, technique, dramatic portrayals – and it brought such life to the knowable choreography. The performances that follow (Giselle is onstage until March 5th) will also feature new Giselles and Albrechts, so it’s good bet that this updated spirit will thrive throughout the ballet’s run.

At the start of Act I, Robison injected complex notes of curiosity, mischief and defiance into his Albrecht, while De Sola was the embodiment of innocence and joy. Her famous balleté sequence had such levity, and anytime Robison jumped in the air (whether batterie or a full split jump), he defied gravity. All footwork was delicate, precise and so evocative of Romantic ballet.

As Act I’s village scene continued, the nobility of the land joined the festivities, leading way to the Peasant Pas de Cinq. This collection of enchaînments was truly glorious. Certain. Confident. Especially the solo variations by Max Cauthorn and Hansuke Yamamoto. Then, the mad scene. De Sola’s approach to this difficult moment in the ballet was different, and for me, better and more believable. She had a way of keeping the innocence and naivete of the character, while letting her unravel. Other portrayals tend to morph Giselle into another being entirely. The throughline that De Sola established in that instant was so effective; it was creepier, to be sure, but that part of Act I should be somewhat creepy. 

The first half can feel a bit lengthy, and as a dog enthusiast, I have to say that it seems a good idea to leave the dog out of the picture. The dog looked scared. I realize the pup is there to reinforce the state of the nobility, but I think their costumes and general air make it clear who they are. 

Onto Act II, the forest, the Wilis and their Queen, Myrtha (another SFB debut by the phenomenal Nikisha Fogo). Myrtha’s every arabesque had a decidedly darting quality to it, like her entire being was transformed into an arrow or sword. Fogo wowed as this relentless, almost mechanical character. I’ve seen her primarily dance ‘sunnier’ roles with SFB, but here, her commanding, domineering presence showed viewers she has the range to do it all. De Sola and Robison continued to impress, technically and dramatically, every moment they were on stage. Choreographic extremes abounded. Loftiness and ballon met with an intricate celebration of the lower leg extension. The abundance of assemblé (a step that means ‘to join’) in Giselle and Albrecht’s pas de deux was poetic. And it was fantastic to see how Robison let his movements and phrase material respond to the Wilis' snare.

The corps was solid and convincing as this ghostly group. Boureés positively floated; poses were appropriately sober, yet dynamic. The famed arabesque crossing was well-done, save for a few extensions that were too high, compared to everyone else.