Opening Gala at SF Ballet
Opening Gala of the SF Ballet 2019
This year’s opening Gala of the San Francisco Ballet was a huge change from the past. Rather than a stream of almost numbing short ballets, one after the other and often ending with a grand finale including dozens of little darlings from the ballet school, the gala was pared down to eight works, longer and more in depth than the earlier snippets, all designed to bring in an audience for the rest of the season.
Picking these eight works was, I’m sure, a challenge. How to interest the old guard of supporters and to entice the younger audience with different tastes, attention spans and background, into the world of ballet. Helgi Tommasson, the Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer did a fine job as usual.
Two of Thomasson’s ballets and two by Balanchine, his mentor, to which he contributed additional coaching were half of the program with his Pas de Deux from “Handel — a Celebration” featuring two of the most important dancers in the troupe, Mathilde Froustey and Tilt Helmets. His “Soirées Musicales” to the music of Benjamin Britten was danced by Misa Kuranaga , a Guest Artist from the Boston Ballet, and Angelo Greco. The Balanchine excerpts were from “Rubies” and “Agon”, two beloved works.
The opening work “Ètudes” with a large corps backing Sasha De Sola, Aaron Robison and Ullrick Birkkjaer substituting for Luke Ingham recreated the choreography of Harald Lander that was set to the music of Knudåge Rilsager inspired by the piano studies of Carl Czerny. l
After the intermission the spectacular Yuan Yuan Tan and Carlo Di Lanno with six corp members danced a beautiful work by Yuri Possokhov’s “Diving Into the Lilacs” with music by Tchaikovsky. Justin Peck’s “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming” was a fitting final piece because it had six dancers and the corps dressed as teens from the 60s — pony tails flying, sneakers, shorts and electronic music. I’m sure this was to attract the younger crowd used to disco.
But the highlight of the evening was the World Premiere of “UnSaid” by Danielle Rowe to the music of Ezio Bosso provided by pianist Natal’ya Feygina and cellist Eric Sung. Sofiane Sylve and Aaron Robison describeS a passionate couple whose affair waxes and wanes and as intellectual and understated as it was, the young audience loved it and gave it a standing ovation. The simple costume design was also by Danielle Rowe who chose a long, backless dress for Sylve and a black shirtless suit for Robison. The San Francisco based Rowe is a choreographer to watch.
The pre-ballet dinners and cocktail party and lively after party at City Hall made this evening a sold-out affair. The gorgeous gowned damsels and tuxedoed swains were celebrating and so were the spectators who enjoyed see the beautiful young people in their get-ups.
The SF Ballet season 2019 begins now with eight different programs running through May 12. SFBallet.org or 415 865 2000.