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San Francisco Ballet Program 3: Distinctly SF Ballet – Elegant, Dramatic and Provocative!

Photo above: Esteban Hernandez and Max Cauthorn in Thatcher’s Ghost In the Machine. (© Erik Tomasson)

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson’s On A Theme Of Paganini. (© Erik Tomasson)

San Francisco Ballet presented Program 3: Distinctly SF Ballet on opening night February 15, 2018 at the War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco. This program comprises an evening of three different works, all created for SF Ballet by current SF Ballet artists, and runs through February 25, 2018.

The first piece, On a Theme by Paganini (2008) is choreographed by Helgi Tomasson, Artistic Director & Principal Choreographer of SF Ballet and is set to music by Sergei Rachmaninov. A large ensemble of dancers perform courtly mannered arm movements and gestures then they break out of the formation – a group of male dancers do sequences of leaps and jumps while female soloists do a series of effortless pirouettes. The piece – based in neoclassicism and romanticism – develops with ever changing combinations of dancers, all wearing ice blue tops, with short black skirts for the women and ice blue tights for the men (Costume design by Martin Pakledinaz). Much is owed to the beautiful music of Rachmaninov, offering a sultry mood for the trio of two male and one female dancer in a lovely dance with lifts, twists and intricate choreography with solos and a duet.  Next, the tone becomes soulful, then wistful and ephemeral during an emotive duet. Solos, duets and trios are beautifully performed by Sasha de Sola, Maria Kochetkova, Max Cauthorn, Vitor Luiz and Wei Wang. Piano by Roy Bogas. Conductor: Martin West.

Dores André in Caniparoli’s Ibsen’s House. (© Erik Tomasson)

Ibsen’s House (2008) choreographed by Val Caniparoli and set to music by Antonin Dvorák is a fascinating piece, beautifully staged and danced. It is based on a pair of main characters, each from a series of Ibsen’s late nineteenth century plays about women in society – Hedda Gabbler, A Doll’s House, Ghosts, Lady from the Sea, and Rosmersholm. This work has a rich yet contemporary look and feel – an extremely tall window draped with a long white curtain is surreal and dramatic, illuminating characters behind it. The costumes are outstanding – the female characters wear long sleeved black blouses with fitted bodices and cleverly designed calf length skirts in dark red, emerald, black and blue that flow with the movement, and the men wear equally stylish overcoats and suits (Scenic and costume design by Sandra Woodall). Mainly about the difficult lives of the women, Dores André plays Hedda with a range of emotions in an arc that requires strong emotion and power – in vibrant solos and duets with her husband George Tesman played by Vitor Luiz. The four other pairs take turns to dance, expressing their often troubled relationships through visceral physical storytelling and expansive movement – Sofiane Sylvie and Tiit Helimets, Jennifer Stahl and Myles Thatcher, Kimberley Marie Olivier and Luke Ingham, and Ellen Rose Hummel and Sean Orza.  Dvorák’s music is played live: Piano – Roy Bogas, Violins – Cordula Merks and Craig Reiss, Viola – Yi Zhou, Cello – Eric Sung. The choreography draws exceedingly fluid movement from each of these excellent dancers, and the mood becomes very dramatic – Ibsen’s House is a dark creative work wonderfully produced.

San Francisco Ballet in Thatcher’s Ghost In the Machine. (© Erik Tomasson)

Ghost in the Machine (2017) choreographed by Myles Thatcher is set to music by Michael Nyman, conducted by Ming Luke. This is a piece with striking muscular movement and an equally striking scenic design by Alexander V. Nichols comprising many long taut wires that are lit suspended from high above the stage at two different angles, with lighting design by Jim French. The choreography includes flying leaps in to the arms of partners, confrontations and athletic lifts. This piece has moments when fast-moving dancers enter on and off stage swiftly – or slowly with more sustained movement. The ensemble of ten dancers is realistic to theatrical in their reactions as they may freeze, look at each other or watch the solos, perform intricate duets, or as groups come together and support each other. Costume design by Susan Roemer comprise combinations of leotards, sleeveless tops and leggings in shades of gray. Highlights are a wonderful duet by Dores André and Carlo Di Lanno and the magnificent catlike moves of Frances Chung. Nyman’s mesmerizing music has its own storytelling quality driving the dance piece through variations of  time and atmosphere as the entire ensemble explore being part of a community – and transport us into their world. Distinctly SF Ballet (Program 3) offers a fascinating look into these three provocative works, each different with distinctly different music and mood. Highly recommended! More Information, Upcoming Productions & Tickets:


Jo Tomalin, Ph.D. reviews Dance, Theatre & Physical Theatre Performances
Member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA)
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Jo TomalinOriginally from England Jo Tomalin is currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she is a reviewer for Dance & Theatre at www.ForAllEvents.com & www.FringeReview.com - she works in the performing arts as a freelance movement & voice specialist, director + actor. She is also a Professor in the School of Theatre & Dance at San Francisco State University, teaching Movement for actors, Voice, Storytelling, Business of Acting and Acting and directs. Jo Tomalin studied Classical Acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), London; and holds a teacher's diploma (ATCL) in Voice and Acting from Trinity College of Dramatic Art, London. She studied Classical Ballet for 12 years; Graduated from London University's Laban Centre Teaching Credential program in Modern Dance, Art of Movement & Choreography; Trained in Physical Theatre, Masks, Scenography and Devised theatre at the renowned professional acting school "Ecole Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq" Paris, France. Jo holds a Master of Science degree in Educational Technology from Boise State University and a Ph.D. in Education with a specialization in Instructional Design for Online Learning from Capella University, MN.View all posts by Jo Tomalin →