above: San Francisco Ballet in Wheeldon’s Bound To. (Bound To© by Christopher Wheeldon; Photo © Erik Tomasson)
San Francisco Ballet opened their final programs of the season on April 20,2018 with their Unbound Festival of creative experimental works by 12 international choreographers. In two full weeks, the Unbound Festival offers three world premieres in each of the four programs set on the San Francisco Ballet’s dancers.
The first program, Unbound A comprises the 2018 world premieres of The Collective Agreement, choreographed by Alonzo King, Bound To, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, and Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, choreographed by Justin Peck.
Wheeldon’s Bound To, set to music composed by Keaton Henson is futuristic yet very much in the present. Dancers with a cell phone delicately lighting their faces at the beginning show how we are connected to technology and it’s effects on people – for good and bad. It’s certainly a curious take on the topic to express through dance, and the piece is sensitive and impactful.
Individuals connect in small groups, then large groups, moving with bare feet in modern movement motifs. Dores André and Benjamin Freemantle perform a wonderful duet, dancers take selfies as they cross the space, to electronic music, with the SF Ballet Orchestra conducted by David Briskin. Dancers turn with high lifts of discovery.
The movement and use of space is complemented by the design creating a beautiful transporting filmic experience. A male quartet sequence with Jaime Garcia Castilla, Benjamoin Freemantle, Angelo Greco and Lonnie Weeks is sublime. A duet with Yuan Yuan Tan and Carlo Do Lanno’s intimate lifts that defy gravity Is lovely. Solos by Greco and Weeks are strong and muscular and the quartet with André, Sasha De Sola, Isabella DeVivo, and Jennifer Stahl is poignant and beautiful. The entire ensemble is outstanding and the final message about the issues of today’s youth is so meaningful.
Lighting Design by James F. Ingalls, scenic and costume design by Jean-Marc Puissant with projections are dramatic and very effective.
Alonzo King’s The Collective Agreement opened the evening, set to music by Jason Moran. The movement is fresh and energetic, and well danced by the ensemble. The wide range of choreography and ideas combines a dancer en pointe in a spring like flute section, which is muscular and visceral with outstanding extensions. Another section is romantic without over-sentimentality, with musical changes of pace such as bubbly rippling sounds with undertones. Highlights are the well danced duets and solos by Sofiane Sylve, Tiit Helimets, Jahna Frantzikonis, and Joseph Warton, and there is a curious male solo in a skirt with fast turns and changes of directions. The collage of movement is interesting when small groups perform variations of King’s choreography around the space. Costume design by Robert Rosenwasser includes black and white pants, and leotards with beige designs.
Outstanding lighting design of three large square panels of colored lights lower and tilt by James F. Ingalls. The SF Ballet Orchestra conducted by Martin West.
Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, set to music by Anthony Gonzalez, Yang Gonzalez, Bradley Laner, and Justin Meldal-Johnson is full of energy and based on Peck’s exploration of the life-cycle of dream states. Set to songs by electronic band M83 the piece focuses on shapes in movement, shifting patterns and transitions that influence and connect the themes. Wearing white sneakers and combinations of silver, black and gold tops, shorts and leggings, costume design by Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung, dancers run and fly, in lines, holding hands, and perform jazzy solos and then three duets at once (Dores André, Wei Wang, Sarah Van Patten, Luke Ingham, Gabriela Gonzalez, and Ulrik Birkkjaer).
There’s a beautifully choreographed duet to melodic music with lovely dance quality, next, five men bounce off each other. Five female dancers run across – then a duet glides in, as the lights change to blue and green, lighting design by James F. Ingalls. Intriguing fleeting random relationships merge and separate – statuesque images and slick transitions come and go, quick as a flash!
The Unbound Festival is exciting and innovative – and it’s an opportunity to see the excellent San Francisco Ballet dancers performing these new works.
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