Category Archive for: ‘Michael Ferguson’

The Prodigal Son — San Francisco Ballet Performance — Review

The Prodigal Son

San Francisco Ballet Performance

March 7, 2017



I wanted to draw attention to the San Francisco Ballet performance of The Prodigal Son.  It is one of three ballets on their Program 4, sandwiched between Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto, and Diamonds, to a score by Peter Tchaikovsky.  All three ballets were choreographed by George Balanchine and the program can be thought of as a tribute to Balanchine.

The Prodigal Son is the most interesting of the three.  It is a narrative that is strikingly different in style from the other two ballets by Balanchine.  One would think that it was by a different choreographer.  The dancing is expressive and imaginative and conveys the story line very well.  Prokofiev’s score is perfectly suited to the dance.  It begins with the son being offered two young wives by his father.  However, he leaves them standing at the altar, so to speak, and strikes out on his own to achieve independence from his father and the old homestead.  He takes up with an alluring Egyptian queen.  The dancing between the son and the queen is some of the most erotic and brazenly suggestive I have ever seen the San Francisco Ballet do.  It is quite outstanding.  However, things seem to go wrong between the hero and the queen, for reasons that are not clear, and he gets thrown out, his wealth is confiscated, and he finds himself destitute and in shambles.  He struggles back to his father’s village and there he is received by his erstwhile brides to be and crawls back to his father and prostrates himself at his feet.  The father picks him up and carries him off the stage.  It is a beautifully presented show of forgiveness and reconciliation, and it is interesting to watch.  One of the better ballets that I’ve seen the San Francisco Ballet do.

I have nothing to say about the Stravinsky Violin Concerto.  It is a group dance in black and white  costumes, rather conservative.  I didn’t find it particularly interesting, but it was presented with the same high level of virtuosity that we take for granted with the San Francisco Ballet, but which takes a lifetime to develop and continual application to maintain.

The third ballet is Diamonds, a dazzling spectacle in glittering white, with the score by Peter Tchaikovsky.   It is a showcase of dance virtuosity and choreographic brilliance.  Nothing to think about here, just sit back and be mesmerized by the beauty and elegance of it.  This is a ballet where the dancers really get to show what they’ve got.  The gentle, delicate pas de deux is a particularly memorable highlight, as is a recurring male solo of great vigor and athleticism.  The finale is a showcase of magnificence with thirty-two dancers on the stage in glittering, brilliant white.  It is an assertive, proud display of ballet at its highest level of achievement, really a masterpiece of grace and splendor.