"Moving the Compass" Gala
San Francisco Ballet
War Memorial Opera House
San Francisco, CA
January 24, 2013
by Rita Felciano
copyright © Rita Felciano, 2013
If women's fashions are any kind of economic indicator, we are well on the mend. It's been a while since so many elaborate ball gowns have been seen at a San Francisco Ballet Gala, always a glamorous, elaborately choreographed event. At times this year you had watch where you stepped in order not to trip over some rouched train or floor-dragging skirt. But whatever their efforts to make an impression, these patrons had nothing on the elegance, eye-catching presence and sheer physical beauty that were pouring from the stage all evening.
Deliciously, Pascal Molat gave his part in "Tarantella" more than a touch of Commedia. Dancing with spunky Sasha DeSola, fleet feet, strong but light attacks and bubbling flirtatiousness made this Balanchine sparkler a cheerful opening. But it was Gennadi Nedvigin who brought the house down in "Flower Festival" with the ease and height of his leaps and the softest of landings. He also solicitously partnered Clara Blanco, who has been stuck as the Doll in "Nutcracker" for too long. Blanco is a fine allegro dancer but she could have brought more charm to role.
When I first saw the second movement of Tomasson's "Trio", it struck me is as having a "Death of the Maiden" perfume to it. I still think so. The trio, one of Tomasson's most felicitous choreographies, showed a refined sense of flow and such intricately structured give and takes between an anguished and conflicted Sarah Van Patten, sliding in and out of the arms of a loving Tiit Helimet and the coolly intruding Vito Mazzeo. The world premiere of Corps dancer Miles Thatcher's "In the Passerine's Clutch" -- referring to "perching birds" -- showed a young choreographer trying out every possible variation for four dancers. The piece may have been inspired by composer Wojceich Kilar's chattering score for strings. Thatcher's imagination and daring are impressive; better control over the movement material has yet to be developed.
Two excerpts from works to be seen in their entirety this season paid tribute to 19th century ballet. Lorena Feijoo, in her first appearance after her maternity leave, danced the solo from "Raymonda Act III" with great care and authoritative pacing. What I missed was some of the hauteur. In the Grand Pas de Deux from "Don Quixote" Frances Chung made the role her own. She has often been described as a "sunny" performer but her Kitri glowed with joy. In addition to an impeccable technique, she brought exuberance, wit, and an impish sense of showmanship to her Fan variation. Taras Domitro partnered her.
The Gala's second half offered two more contrasting pas de deux. Maria Kochetkova and Vitor Luiz reprised the Mirror duet from "Onegin, Act 1." Without context, it did not make much sense; choreographically it remains problematic though Kochetkova danced it ardently, almost like a Juliet. Vanessa Zahorian and Davit Karapetyan brought a cheeky edge and brilliant dancing to the duet from "Stars and Stripes'" Fourth Campaign. I always like the egging on by those teasing trumpet and tuba contributions, under the baton, as was the fine playing all evening, of Martin West.
I don't know how Wheeldon's "After the Rain" got its name but, particularly in the beginning of their mesmerizing pas de deux, Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith moved as if they were finding their way through the depth of the sea or some kind of dream. Theirs was building an organic relationship as mysterious and natural as a life process that is growing, changing and, perhaps, dying. On first encounter, the oddly shaped excerpt from Lifar's "Suite en Blanc"-- with a lot of black for the men -- looked strong on style but emotionally neutral. It had two things going for itself: whetting the appetite for the entire work's SFB premiere on January 29, and watching an astounding Sofiane Sylve take control of the stage.