Thursday, April 03, 2008

A Tribute to SF Ballet, Program 6

San Francisco Ballet
Program 6


The National Ballet of Canada, New York City Ballet, and Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo
Tuesday, April 1

San Francisco Ballet’s Program 6, billed as an international salute to the company’s 75th ann
iversary, doesn’t even showcase SF Ballet. Or at least not directly. Three companies have traveled to San Francisco with the goal of honoring SF Ballet, presenting works reminiscent of its rich and varied history while also showcasing their own strengths. Probably unintentionally, the evening also focused on relationships.

Traveling the farthest yet almost making the greatest audience impact, Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, hailing from the tiny yet regal country of Monaco, presented the U.S. debut of Jean-Christophe Maillot’s “Altro Canto,” a smorgasbord of shapes, pairings, and dramatic imagery set against a never ending backdrop of rising and falling candles. Haunting baroque music played on as the 20 dancers explored ideas of loneliness and tension of relationships. Gender didn’t appear to be much of an issue at first, but as half of the dancers (male and female) were wearing trendy bubble skirts and the other half are wearing corsets and pants (all designed by Karl Lagerfeld), the androgyny question took on the role of white elephant. Maillot likes a show, and there’s no middle ground here. The choreography focuses on relationships of friends and lovers. Chris Roelandt, Jérôme Marchand, and Ramon Gomes Reis crossed and linked hands, creating a fluid wave motion reminiscent of scenes from “Winged Migration” with their arms, producing a beautiful and tender moment on stage. Later several of the men propelled Bernice Coppieters into the air, and she soared, doing an aerial worm up and over the men below. Coppieters and Reis also had a touching yet anger-filled duet: he trying to figure out just how to let her be while still being with her. It’s something we all wrestle with every day. That idea of self, of who we are alone, and who we are with others. Is there compromise or can we continue on this path, never yielding to anyone but ourselves? There’s a downside, though. Maillot tends to rely on big ideas, repetition and canon, and “Altro Canto” feels recycled after the first few sections. Reduce, reuse, and recycle would have worked wonders here, potentially transforming a barely simmering ballet to boiling. The majority of the audience, though, seemed to enjoy it.

The National Ballet of Canada journeyed south of the border to present Matjash Mrozewski’s “A Delicate Battle.” NBC’s dancers displayed strong technique and commanding stage presence, and “Battle” illustrated this well. With white flakes floating from the rafters, seven dancers (including Brett van Sickle, a former apprentice with SF Ballet), dressed in white dancewear, socks, and shoes, piqued into arabesque, flicked their wrists, and turned on a dime. This was crisp and honest ballet, even without pointe shoes. Alejandra Perez-Gomez, Heather Ogden, and Sonia Rodriguez rushed through the stage in 19th century gowns, and Etienne Lavigne, Patrick Lavoie, and Christopher Body chased them through people and falling pieces of white paper until each woman found herself facing the question of who they were and how they were supported: physically, emotionally, and relationship-wise. Perez-Gomez expressed anger and suppression in her pas de deux with Lavigne; she tensed her shoulders but furrowed her brow, and even with the enormous, billowy skirt and high neck of her dress, nothing could constrict her elegant presence or poise.

New York City Ballet brought George Balanchine’s “Duo Concertant,” a pas de duex of fancy, intrigue, and love. A lovely study of romance, opening night featured Yvonne Borree and Jared Angle being inspired by Anton Delmoni playing the violin and Cameron Grant on the piano. Borree projected innocence and coy well, and as she batted her eyes for the first time, you couldn’t help but not like her. But she didn’t quite measure up to Angle’s stage presence. He just projected a certain calmness that, even in his little sauté entournant (jumps in a circle), made him look much more well at ease up on the Opera House stage.

For the most part, the program worked. Plus, it’s a nice change to see other companies here in San Francisco, which is a rarity because if they visit the Bay Area at all, it’s normally in Berkeley. I just wish the end of the program achieved what the first few portions promised. One of the biggest positives of this program is that it offers the company’s own dancers a short but well deserved performance break while rehearsing for the grueling 10 new repertory pieces that are part of the New Works Festival. So here’s to the company’s past successes and future achievements. Salud!

Ramon Gomes Reis and Bernice Coppieters in Maillot's Altro Canto.
Sonia Rodriguez and Christopher Body in Mrozewski's A Delicate Battle.
Yvonne Borree and Jared Angle in Balanchine's Duo Concertant.

All photos © Erik Tomasson


Anonymous said...

I myself could not understand the link of this grouping of ballets to SF's 75th. However, I could not disagree more about Altro Canto. Along side of others spread out here and there I gave them a standing ovation. I can't remember doing that in decades.

jolene said...

gosh, I guess I'm the only one who didn't really like "A Delicate Battle". Anyways, I agree with you about "Altro Canto", I found it all flashy but repetitive.