For me, seeing San Francisco Ballet Friday at the David Koch Theater was like going to a new restaurant and not having any idea what to expect. The old standbys (ABT and New York City Ballet) are like Columbus Avenue restaurants that I frequent before performances and can recite the menu by memory. For San Francisco Ballet, except for Maria Kochetkova and Sophiane Sylve, I hadn’t seen any of the dancers before and was not familiar with any of the newly created mixed rep pieces performed that evening. Happy to report that I liked my dishes that night and hope San Francisco Ballet makes a return trip.
First was Alexei Ratmansky’s From Foreign Lands (2013), a dance suite with six pieces representing dances from various countries: Russia, Italy, Germany, Spain, Poland, and Hungary. Most of the pieces had four dancers; my favorite was the Italian dance in which Pascal Molat had a nice series of turns in second position, switching focus from front, side, back, side, and back in front. The Spanish dance with two couples was also interesting with high-energy, playful dancing throughout. It was fun to watch, but not the best Ratmansky work.
Mark Morris’s Beaux (2012) defies Balanchine’s philosophy women should be the focus of any ballet. The piece has nine men wearing military camouflage patterned unitards, in un-military pink, yellow, and red colors designed by Isaac Mizrahi. Not sure of the symbolism but there are many possibilities. The men dance below a large painting in this motif to classical chamber music by Bohuslav Martinů dominated by the harpsichord. The nine men dart in and out in various formations in this modern piece, generally in trios. The steps were generally basic, but combined in a tightly wrapped package. Some partnering took place among the men and in several sections two dancers supported a dancer imitating a glider. Following the patterns and group dynamics developed by the men was intriguing; their short bursts on stage followed by another trio was like multiple shifts used by hockey teams.
My favorite pieces of the night were Classical Symphony (2010) and Symphonic Dances (2012). Yuri Possokhov choreographed Classical Symphony set to music by Prokofiev. It opens with a nice classical pas de deux from lead couple Vanessa Zahorian and Gennadi Nedvigin. I enjoyed his double tours to a grand plié (reminded me of Vladimir Malakhov as Lankedam in Le Coursaire), brisé volé, and pirouettes. Vanessa had a nice fouetté section that changed focus, similar to Pascal Molat’s section above. They made a nice pair with several intricate partnering sections.
Former New York City Soloist Edwaard Liang choreographed Symphonic Dances to music by Rachmaninov. The work, which premiered in 2012, featured the wonderful dancing of Sofiane Sylve, a former New York City Ballet Principal Dancer who left for San Francisco in 2009. She was elegant, even glamorous with her great classical technique and line. She was richly supported by Tiit Helimets. Several times, Sylve danced alone and Tiit rushed from off stage to support her on turns or a lift.
The piece featured two other couples, Yuan Yuan Tan and Luke Ingham, and Maria Kochetkova and Vitor Luiz. In addition, there were eight corps dancers in red that moved in and out of the action with the principal couples, dressed in a tan color. The action was a bit too busy at times and unfocused.
San Francisco Ballet reviews of these works:
The New York Times-Macaulay
The New York Times-Macaulay
The New York Times-Sulcas
The New York Times-Seibert
SF Classical Voice
California Lit Review