San Francisco Ballet, Program 4

San Francisco Ballet, Program 4

Spring Rounds

Choreography: Paul Taylor

Composer: Richard Strauss

Music: Divertimento for small orchestra, Op. 86 (after Couperin)

World Premiere: July 5, 2005- San Francisco Ballet, les étés de la danse de paris: Paris, France

British choregrapher Wayne McGregor began creating works for ballet companies before he knew anything about ballet. That’s why the work looks so fresh. Eden/Eden, the 2005 cyborg Adam & Eve ballet he has set on San Francisco Ballet, is utterly stunning. McGregor creates a complete theatrical universe using video, text, music and lighting to envelope movement that is extremely virtuosic and at the same time, bizarre. With this dance, which was originally created for the Stuttgart Ballet, McGregor sets down a choreographic benchmark for the company as it heads into the new century. Should they invest in young choreographers, like McGregor, or stick to work that is lovely and bland, like Paul Taylor’s pretty, Spring Rounds, or the vanity exercise, Chi-Lin?

The dancers in the McGregor piece, 9 of them, included Muriel Maffre, who goes for broke, as usual, using her storkiness to create some very amazing robotic, quirky dancing, clearly want to be dancing this kind of work, where everyone gets a chance to go all-out.

What could come across as hopelessly gimmicky, with the electronic voiceover , shiny astronaut costumes, dancers wearing dresses and bald-caps(which they later peel off) and jerky, robotic movement styles — is saved by the movement, theatricality, and the way McGregor takes over the space. Very exciting work which I would pay to see piece again. At least.

Spring Rounds is PaulTaylor, 76, on his best behavior. Taylor is a chameleon as a choreographer, one minute obeying the rules and making lovely (if bland) images to pastoral-sounding classical music. Other times he is depicting nuclear holocaust or lampooning social conventions. This is the pretty Taylor. Costumes by Santo Loquasto and lighting by Jennifer Tipton create a yellow-green palette that makes you want to find a maypole and start dancing too. Vanessa Zahorian and Garrett Anderson, the main couple, are unconvincing as lovers. This dance has been cast with chorus members rather than soloists, as if to say that modern dance is for the less accomplished. That’s exactly the problem with the piece, the bodies never get down into modern-dance weightedness because these dancers are themselves spring chickens, they have yet to discover the joys of gravity, they’re flying around, high on youth, loving to jump still, not wanting to come down. Taylor dances, for all their balletic shapes, are not ever about that floating world of nymphs and fairies. These dancers needed a little primalism, some Rite of Spring in their bones. Then they might be able sit down to these Spring Rounds.

Chi-Lin has a loose narrative about the four mythological creatures of good omen: the chi-lin, or Chinese unicorn (earth), a dragon (air), a phoenix (fire) and a tortoise (water). According to the tradition, they work together to symbolize harmony. Company director Helgi Tomasson created the piece in 2002 in order to highlight the qualities of Chinese principal dancer Yuan Yuan Tan. This year, Tan is back, looking serene and confident in her own part. She was joined by Pierre-François Vilanoba as Dragon, Tiit Helimets as Tortoise, and Hansuke Yamamoto as Phoenix. Sandra Woodall’s scenic and costume design created an earthy, warm environment for the piece, and the dancers did their best with this almost vaudevillian effort at multi-cultural story-telling by Tomasson. Music, by Bright Sheng, was rich and orchestral, and its use of Asian motifs and colors seemed more authentic than that of Tomasson.

Eden/EdenClick Here

Santa Fe, NM
Mr. Simpson has a BA in Journalism from the University of Southern California and worked as an advertising writer in Los Angeles before moving to New York to pursue a different passion: dance. He danced professionally in New York and Boston before founding a community-based modern dance company, Small City Dance Project, in Newburyport, MA. His fiction has appeared in literary journals and anthologies. He was a teaching fellow at Smith College, where he received his MFA in choreography. While living in the Bay Area for 15 years, he wrote about dance for the San Francisco Chronicle and other periodicals. In 2005, he was a NEA Fellow at the Dance Critics Institute, American Dance Festival. For culturevulture.net, he reviews dance, theatre and film. He moved to Santa Fe in October, 2008. He writes for "Pasatiempo," the Arts magazine of the "Santa Fe New Mexican."