| Gennadi Nedvigin in Taylorâs Company B. PHOTO BY ERIC TOMASSON
Fresh, contemporary and ambitious. These words describe SF Balletâs shorter (2 hours) Program 2 for the 2010 SF Ballet season which features a rotating line-up of soloists during its run. Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson deftly curates this trilogy of works, eliciting reactions as widely divergent as each choreographersâ strengths.
Opus 19/The Dreamer â Set to Prokofievâs D Major Violin Concerto (delivered with thoughtful resolve by violinist Franklyn DâAntonio), last-minute replacement Davit Karapetyan expressively travels Jerome Robbinsâ space âtween sleep and wake (restaged by Lindsay Fischer). The upstage corps de balletâs slow-mo movements conjure night flights-of-fancy, immediately establishing this multi-part contemporary balletâs realm. Later, Karapetyan is joined by dynamic female soloist Maria Kotchetkova, and their qualities augment each other. If he borrows some of her earthy-assuredness, and she his air-awareness, they stand to be a stellar match.
The ensemble pulses breath and light throughout, elevating this subconscious world set against a Maxfield Parrish-esque cloudscape. Only in the second movement does the corps slightly bauble in their synchronization â placement of arms and plane of heads drawing brief, unwarranted focus.
Choreographer Robbinsâ clean lyrical athleticism is firmly-rooted in character/story-driven ideas. One passage features a more grounded jetĂ© which seemingly defies physics where the lower center of gravity sustains air-time, creating peaceful, energized suspension in this dream-altered state. The work ultimately drifts back to a slumber state that suggests the dreamer leaves the dream changed, yet the same.
Ghosts: Christopher Wheeldon continues his successful artistic alliance with the company with this world premiere. The sumptuous nouveau romanticist score by Kip Winger (rocker Alice Cooperâs former bassist; â80s hair-band âWingerâ) delivers waves of gorgeous, dimensional lushness that trickle away into sparse piano motifs. Though Wheeldon notes no ballet narrative exists, the music and movement nearly belie this â stories waft up then vaporize. Unfortunately, the unwieldy scenic monstrosity-mobile by Laura Jellinek steals focus and lends nothing to its essence.
What Wheeldon does with large groupings of dancers in Ghosts is breathtaking â bringing them together then pulling them apart with the fascinating wonder of a kaleidoscopic, floral time-lapse photography, unfurling, blossoming, then decaying. Each time he does this, the collective sighs in the audience bear witness to the impact of these strong, evocative visuals.
But Ghosts felt under-rehearsed, with principle and corps dancers popping out of the world ever-so-briefly, a handful clearly counting steps in their mind. Group movements were occasionally initiated too soon by a few, or some fell out of rounds ahead of count. But even with that, the spirit and attack each dancer gives allows the dance suiteâs more successful moments to lift. It merits returning to the studio and rethinking. An other-worldly pull for narrative exists, and to ignore it is to toss aside an opportunity for cohesive greatness.
Company B: The eveningâs closing suite by Paul Taylor was sweet, clean and fun, reminiscent of simpler times and aesthetics. Company B â in SF Balletâs repertoire since 1993 â employs the Andrews Sistersâ music in ten movements and provides an opportunity to display technique and acting to great effect. It showcases this refreshing, luminous, energetic company of dancers while indirectly resonating qualities of the other two pieces. Costumes by Santo Loquasto (Woody Allenâs production designer) hit the right light note, coordinating but with slight variations in color, line and material which delineates character while it creates a cohesive universe.
San Francisco Balletâs Program 2 continues until Feb. 20 at the War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco. For tickets call (415) 865-2000 or at sfballet.org.