San Francisco Ballet “Lyric Voices” Program 5j
“Lyric Voices” Program 5 at SF Ballet
The San Francisco Ballet is good at many things but most of all is their ability to stage exciting new works. Program 5, “Lyric Voices”, revives two works from last year’s wildly successful “Unbound Festival” plus The Ballet adds a world premiere. For aficionados of modern dance, this is the program to see.
The program starts with a dance entitled, “Your Flesh Shall be a Great Poem”, a line from Walt Whitman. American choreographer Trey McIntyre was inspired by photos of his grandfather from the 1920s wearing his football uniform, high waisted short pants and white shirt, so well recaptured by Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung, costume designers.
Ethan Chudnow dancing as the grandfather is tall and thin and dances first like a rambunctious boy and later in his last years as a befuddled old man with dementia wandering around in his underwear as McIntyre imaged him from family stories about the former undertaker. Chris Garneau’s music is a series of lovely short songs in a mournful key when needed. The mood is of loss and remembrance, with both joy and anguish. The small male corps plus the grandfather and a few women replicate the ancestors. This is a beautiful and moving ballet.
The second piece, “Bound To”, is also a reprise of last year’s “Unbound Festival”. The famed English choreographer of dance, opera and Broadway Christopher Wheeldon created a dance with eight parts to the music of Keaton Henson. The idea behind the ballet is that the dancers are more focussed on their cellphones than their mates. It opens with the corps staring at their illuminated devices and performing fantastic dancing. The second part “Open Your Eyes” has Dores André vying for the attention of Benjamin Freemantle who is not to be diverted from his phone. Other dances follow featuring stars of the Ballet including Sasha De Sola, Jennifer Stahl, Jaime Garcia Castilla and others performing the short pieces. The message is clear: get a life.
The last piece “…two noted in a single soul…” is a world premiere by Yuri Possokhov, former principal dancer of the Ballet and now successful and much sought after choreographer. It is danced to music of George Frideric Handel with updated electronic touches added by composer Daria Novo. The unusual feature of this ballet is the onstage singing of now famous young countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen who takes the part an observer of the action. Too bad his almost invisible microphone did not allow for the full expression of his wonderful voice but he will star in “Orlando” in the San Francisco summer opera season where his full power will be without a microphone.
The story here is that of the god Narcissus (Esteban Hernandez) who falls in love with his own image. He rejects Echo and the other women who vie for his attention and the corps, male and female, form intricate patterns around him on a stage with a sci-fi feeling (scenic designer Ben Pierce) that is emphasized by the brightly colored uni-sex costumes (Christopher Read).
A large formation similar to Sir Anish Kapoor’s shiny “Cloud Gate” in Millennium Park in Chicago dominates the stage as it is the mirror into which Narcissus often gazes. This is a wonderful ballet with a story to tell about the tragic consequences of self-absorption.
Program 5 brings together the best dancers in the company while giving the corp members a chance to shine as well. It runs through April 7, 2019.