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Dances at a Gathering, Swimmer — San Francisco Ballet Performance Review

Dances at a Gathering, Swimmer

San Francisco Ballet Performance

March 22, 2016



Dances at a Gathering is a soft, gentle, elegant ballet done to Chopin’s music: mostly waltzes, mazurkas, a few etudes, and Scherzo #1.  Most of them are in 3.  The ballet is a succession of vignettes done by small groups of solos, 2s, and 3s.  The largest ensemble was 6 to one of the Chopin waltzes and the last dance was a group of 10.  There is no theme, no story.  The dancing is very simple, but it is stately and elegant.  This is a tame, feel-good ballet.  I don’t have much to say about this.  It is well done and a little too long.

Swimmer is a very interesting, much more substantial ballet.  It is interesting visually, choreographically, musically, and conceptually.  Imaginative state of the art visual techniques are used throughout to great effect.  It begins with a series of visual sequences that set the stage in a 1950s Ozzie and Harriet style American household with a man who goes off to work while his wife is at home with the kids.  But after he leaves his model household, he goes to a mistress in a bright red dress and does an erotic pas de deux done to Tom Waits growly voice.  It is very sexy.  He moves on to another woman in a bar, perhaps a prostitute, followed by a group of girls in bathing suits.  He finally returns to his house, but it is dark, empty and deserted.  The anguished Swimmer then turns to men.  A group of 15 men dance with the swimmer in an exuberant, vigorous, affirmation of masculinity and youthful energy.  The ballet should end with this decisively upbeat finale, but it continues with a somber meditative sequence with a group of men in a clump.  This is followed with a visual series featuring the swimmer which closes out the ballet.  I thought the ending was weak.  It should have ended after the vigorous romp of the male dancers and the swimmer.  No need to worry about it being too short, Yuri.  We got our money’s worth.  Let it end with that strong, forceful conclusion.

This ballet has no narrative line, but it is unified by style and it has a discernible theme, namely the triumph of same sex bonding over heterosexuality.  None of the heterosexual pairings work out in this ballet, particularly the 50s style marriage and nuclear family.  They all give way to an almost triumphant wholly male conviviality.  The ballet is very imaginative, very well conceived, very well put together.  The choreography is interesting and the staging has great originality and imagination.  Yuri Possokhov is the most creative choreographer going right now.  We are privileged to have him at the San Francisco Ballet.  Everything possible should be done to insure that he remains in San Francisco.  Swimmer  is another in a long list of Possokhov’s outstanding achievements.