San Francisco Ballet – Fanfare, A Suite of Dances, The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, Death of a Moth

The second program of the San Francisco Ballet season featured three premieres and a welcome revival, adding up to a very satisfying evening in the theater.

Choreographer Val Caniparoli, whose career began as a dancer with the company, has created an intense work for five couples and a corps of five men, Death of a Moth, once again defying our expectations of what he is likely to create. This is perhaps his most polished work to date, formal without sacrificing the unpredictable edge he brings to his dances. He has responded to the Carlos Surinach Concerto for String Orchestra with vivid movement full of intensity and energy. In the third movement, Surinach quotes de Falla’s La Vida Breve (the theme "Casadita, cierra con tranca la puerta"–Little woman, bolt your door), while Caniparoli has a woman pursued and captured. The interplay of emotions and allusions is rich and effective.

Designer Sandra Woodall, who has collaborated many times with Caniparoli, has clothed the women in long multi-colored skirts of a supple, iridescent fabric, that suggests the fluttering of moth wings. Her designs add immeasurably to the complete effect. The cast was uniformly excellent; the Latin intensity of Lorena Feijoo was particularly at home in this work. The piece is a fine addition to the Ballet’s repertoire.

Also new to the company were two pieces by Jerome Robbins: the 1953 work Fanfare and the 1994 solo created for Mikhail Baryshnikov, A Suite of Dances. Fanfare uses Britten’s A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra to demonstrate on a visual level the various elements of the orchestra. It is short, genial, and a charming way to be reminded of how orchestral sounds come together. The designs by Irene Sharaff betray their age, but their story-book silliness adds to the light effect of the ballet. It is a work that does not take itself too seriously, even though it is teaching us how to listen at the same time. It made a delightful beginning to the program.

A Suite of Dances bears Baryshnikov’s unmistakable stamp. These are his moves, combining his nonchalance with his complete control. The dance also contains quotes from ballets in which he appeared (he gets to do the whirling dervish turns in arabesque done by Giselle). Vadim Solomakha, whom this reviewer saw, executed the piece capably, but he does not yet command our attention the way Baryshnikov did.

The revival of the program was William Forsythe’s The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, danced with precision and intensity by a strong cast. This is a demanding work which flies by with incredible speed. Forsythe tests the limits of his dancers, and every member of the cast gave the work full value. It was particularly good to see Katita Waldo, back after maternity leave, resume this ballet, which she has always danced excitingly. Forsythe has given us his own interpretation of the Balanchine legacy (with touches of iconoclasm not unlike Twyla Tharp), and the San Francisco Ballet burns up the stage with it.

– Larry Campbell