Brilliant Balanchine Divertimento from San Francisco Ballet

17/09/2012

 San Francisco Ballet (Programme A): Dancers and Orchestra of the San Francisco Ballet / Martin West (conductor), Sadler’s Wells, London, 14.9.2012. (JPr)

Balanchine: DivertimentoNo.15
Liang: Symphonic Dances
Wheeldon: Number Nine

San Francisco Ballet was last here in 2004 garnering great reviews and subsequently an Olivier Award for outstanding achievement in dance. They return for a 10 day residency with three programmes of mixed bills showcasing their pre-eminence in contemporary ballet. Much is made of the diversity of the dancers in both background and physique that their artistic director since 1985, Helgi Tomasson, has melded into an ensemble at ease in a breadth of choreography encompassing the Russian classics, as well as Balanchine and those of a newer generation. Having been founded in 1933 it seems its best years are now or even still ahead of them.

Tan and Mazzeo in Symphonic Dances (c) Erik Tomasson

Hinting about the size of the dancers leads me to two outstanding performers in Edwaard Liang’s new work Symphonic Dances, Yuan Yuan Tan and Vito Mazzeo. Tan had the fragility of her Chinese origins grafted onto the taller stature and slender body we are more familiar with in the West. Mazzeo had the most amazingly expressive arms I have seen on any dancer, Nureyev included. I don’t know if he has danced Fokine’s Le Spectre de la Rose but he seems born for it. Their duet was a highlight of this hyperactive work. I believe Sergei Rachmaninov’s always wanted this 1940 orchestral suite – his final composition – to become a ballet. It had to wait till this year for Edwaard Liang to realize this; it features six of the San Francisco Ballets’ soloists and apart from Tan and Mazzeo, gives Tiit Helimets, Sofiane Sylve, Maria Kochetkova and Vitor Luiz a chance to shine. Together with a glittery corps de ballet we saw men in shorts and women in flowing dresses, the principal colours being red-orange or yellow often against a red backdrop. The music is intense, restless and redolent of the composer understanding of his own mortality and Liang’s steps matched this in the athleticism it demanded in leaps, lifts and spins and empathy in the pas de deux that death might not just be an end but could be a beginning.

The evening ended with Christopher Wheeldon’s Number Nine, a 16 minutes trite but entertainingly sporty piece – something of a suitable tribute to the triumphant London summer Olympics. There were more shorts and this time gym skirts for the women and taking the lead were four couples in bright colours predominantly red, blue, lime-green and purple. According to Wheeldon it is ‘just a dance’ and was pleasant enough in the rampant kaleidoscopic gymnastic style of a physical workout. There was also a pleasant touch of humour as the dancers stopped briefly to conduct their own accompaniment of Michael Torke’s richly-textured Ash.

DivertimentoNo.15 (c) Erik Tomasson

In fact the best part of this first programme was over before the first interval and George Balanchine’s 1956 Divertimento No.15 to Mozart’s gracious music overshadowed all that came after it. This tutu ballet was the perfect dazzling synthesis of the choreographer’s Russian heritage and the contemporary energy of his new American homeland. Together with the corps de ballet everyone was in suitably pretty costumes and it featured five female dancers and three male ‘chevaliers’ in solo moments, duets and trios of harmonious, elegant, classicism: nothing is predictable and it is sublimely brilliant. What I admired most – apart from the company’s evident artistry – was the totally genuine smiles on all the dancers’ faces. They were enjoying themselves and so did we watching them. I am loath to pick anyone out from such an ensemble piece but France Chung caught the eye with her grace and precision here and in Number Nine.

These ballets could probably have been danced to recorded music but thankfully San Francisco Ballet did not go down this road, however their scratch orchestra will need a few performances to become totally at ease I believe. Their attempt at Mozart, Rachmaninov and Torke was a valiant one and I have heard worse ballet orchestras. Certainly the San Francisco Ballet’s experienced music director Martin West did his best to keep them all together and he was, as to be expected, suitably supportive of the dancers in front of him.

I am sure the other two programmes the company will be performing will attract full houses too and please catch one of their performances if you can.

Jim Pritchard

For more information about the San Francisco Ballet and other forthcoming dance events at Sadler’s Wells visit http://www.sadlerswells.com/.

Print Friendly

Comments

Comments are closed.

Recent Reviews

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Osipova Leaps into a New Programme of Contemporary Dance at Sadler’s Wells in June __________________________________
  • NEW! The Wiener Staatsoper Unveils its Programme for the 2016/2017 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Announces its 2016/17 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera Presents Double Bill of ‘Divine Comedies’ __________________________________
  • NEW! The Berlin Staatsoper and Berlin Staatskapelle Announce Their 2016/17 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! English Music Festival Celebrates First Decade with a Knight (May 27th-30th) __________________________________
  • NEW! From Satie to Sir Francis Drake: Preview of Cheltenham Music Festival July 6th-17th 2016 __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera Preview of 2016-2017 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Three Choirs Festival 2016: A Preview __________________________________
  • NEW! Norfolk and Norwich Festival 13-29 May 2016 __________________________________
  • NEW! V & A Museum Celebrates Choreographer Lea Anderson __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! Do I Repeat Myself? Very Well – I Repeat Myself __________________________________
  • NEW! When Boris isn’t Godunov – by Jack Buckley __________________________________
  • NEW! John Cranko’s Genius Remembered in Three Part Tribute __________________________________
  • NEW! Another Major Singing Competition at RNCM Discovers Names to Look Out For __________________________________
  • NEW! The Pursuit of Discovery: An Interview with Conductor John Storgårds __________________________________
  • NEW! ENB’s Emerging Dancer Finalists Are Announced for the Final on Tuesday 17 May 2016 __________________________________
  • NEW! London Brass and O Duo at Wigmore Hall – The 2016 Annual Jacqueline du Pré Charity Concert __________________________________
  • NEW! High Quality Singing at Major RNCM Vocal Competition __________________________________
  • NEW! The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra appoints Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla as Music Director __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month

    Search S&H