Category Archive for: ‘Michael Ferguson’
7 for Eight, Magrittomania, Pas/Parts
San Francisco Ballet Performance
January 26, 2016
This San Francisco Ballet performance was in three segments. The first, 7 for Eight, by Helgi Thomasson, is a very lightweight ballet set to Bach piano concertos. It is graceful and pretty, outstandingly performed by the San Francisco Ballet dancers, of course, but does not have a lot of substance. Conceptually, I think this ballet leaves a lot to be desired. It is set against Bach piano concertos. I have played some of these myself, and I know what challenges they present and what powerful pieces of music they are. The Bach piano concertos are very strong dominating pieces. They are forceful and energetic. That light, ethereal ballet that was set against them didn’t have a chance. The music dominated the ballet. With that music they didn’t even need the ballet. Mungunchimeg Buriad did a superb job performing the Bach concertos. One of them was performed on a harpsichord, which I think only underlined why the harpsichord is an archaic instrument that is seldom used today. The Bach concertos sound so much better on the modern piano. I don’t have too much to say about this one. It was rather insubstantial and unimaginative.
The highlight of the evening was the second ballet, Magrittomania. This one was choreographed by Yuri Possokhov and set against music by Yuri Krasavin that was adapted from Beethoven. This ballet worked really well. The music and the ballet complimented each other. The ballet was interesting and imaginative. The sets were interesting and colorful. It was visually appealing and engaging. I am not sure what the relationship to the Belgian surrealist painter Rene Magritte was supposed to be other than inspiration. It did not attempt to depict his life or his work in any great depth. The imagery and colors and costuming hearkened back to some of Magritte’s most famous images and paintings. That is about all you can say about it. The dancing was excellent and fit well with the music. This one I liked.
The third ballet on the program Pas/Parts by William Forsythe and composer Thom Willems started with some high pitched, shrill whistles that let you know right from the beginning that you were in for something unpleasant. And it never let up all the way through. It was harsh, grating, percussive music, if you want to call it that. Train whistles and the metallic grinding of machinery. They sent the orchestra home for this one — and they were probably glad to get out of there. It was recorded sounds from an electronic industrial junkyard. Stark, bare sets and bright, hard, bland light. It was more of an assault than a performance. I felt that the sound track would have been well suited an auto body shop. They could have made the set had a bunch of wrecked cars up on hydraulic lifts waiting to be worked on, have the dancers dressed up like auto mechanics leaping and cavorting between stacks of automobile tires and disembodied engines and transmissions. That might have worked. The interesting thing was that the dancing was classic ballet movements, poses, and steps that seemed far removed from the strident cacophony of the accompaniment. The movements were more like what you would expect with Tchaikovsky or Debussy. Think of a ballet taking place in front of a forest fire. It was the kind of surreal scenario Magritte might like. So much for Program 1. If this is the low point of the season, then we can look forward expectantly to better things to come.