SF Ballet Program 3 “In Space and Time”
The San Francisco Ballet keeps bringing us marvelous dance. It is one of the finest ballet troupes in the country. Program 3 “In Space and Time” is a testament to its excellence.
Three contemporary ballets with two intermissions start with “The Fifth Season” choreographed by the Artistic Director and Principal Director Helgi Thomasson, the man responsible for this world wide acclaim. He has been in charge since 1985 and has brought the best choreographers in the world of ballet to the San Francisco stage.
During the season he inserts many of his own works as now his “The Fifth Season”. His ballets are always pleasant and reflect the influences of his former teachers such as Balanchine. He is most inspired by the music that he loves and this ballet is no exception. He chose the music of the welshman Karl Jenkins who composed five short dances in which the stars of the ballet perform in solo, duet and ensemble. The music is like-wise pleasant, almost like that in movies of the 40s and 50s. There is something retro about the cinematic music, especially when it briefly hints at film noir.
The music for first duet danced by Dores André and Vitor Luiz, stars of the Ballet and backed up by the corps de ballet, is wistful and romantic. “Waltz” danced by two couples, Ballet stars Sofiane Sylve, Luke Ingham, Yuan Yuan Tan and Tilt Helimets is gracefully swaying. Doris André and Vitor Luiz dance “Romance” and continue the pretty scene. The sets and costumes were created by Sandra Woodall, an Oakland native who designs many for the Ballet and in her own right is an artist whose abstract panels decorate the stage.
Sofiane Sylve, Tilt Helimets, Luke Ingham and Vitor Luiz present a fiery “Tango”. Yuan Yuan Tan and Tilt Helimet’s “Largo” is gracefully romantic like a movie scene and the ending with the principals and corps moves into an allegro dance with a Gaelic touch. Thomasson always assembles the best dancers and technicians for his lovely ballets.
The second work is a reprise of what was a world premiere in the 2018 Unbound Festival series of new work at the Ballet. Too bad we don’t have another such showcase of so many wonderful new works like this “Snowblind” choreographed by Cathy Marston. It t is a narrative ballet from Edith Wharton’s stark and brief novel “Ethan Frome”. The novel, almost like a long short story, tells of a sickly wife Zeena convincingly danced by Jennifer Stahl, her husband Ethan by Ulrik Birkkjaer and the home helpmaid, the young Mattie (Mathilde Froustey). This ménage à trios comes to an ending filled with pathos after a wrenching incident. Marston combined the music of Amy Beach, Philip Feeney, Arthur Foote and Arvo Pärt for the short scenes of a snowstorm and the domestic drama.
Martin West, conductor of the fine Ballet orchestra was joined by the Ballet pianist Mungunchimeg Buriad in a touching solo. Patrick Kiinmonth’s scenic and costume design and the lighting by James F. Ingalls are stark like those in the novel. The corps sometimes played the dire New England townspeople and sometimes even the snowflakes. “Snowbound” is a moving and original work that I hope will be performed again here.
The last piece “Etudes” first appeared at the Royal Danish Ballet in 1948. It is timeless in its grandeur. It takes a cast of 37 to dance the choreography of Harald Lander who chose the then contemporary composer Knudåge Rilsager who in turn took the music of Carl Czerny,. Czerny is noted for his exercises used in ballet classes. “Études”, or “studies” in French, is a series of exercises being practiced in a ballet classroom setting. At first it is amusing as only the legs of the dancers at the barre are illuminated (Craig J. Miller) and their synchronicity is a joke. Then other dancers, all in tutus, enter and perform spectacular feats from classical and romantic technique. Sasha de Sola, Angelo Greco, Joseph Walsh and Carlo di Lanno are the amazing soloists here. Making a ballet about the making of ballet is an interesting and educational topic.
Program 3 “In Space and Time” is a terrific combination of ballets. It runs through February 24. SFBallet.org or 415 865 2000.