• Dores André and Joseph Walsh in Peck's Hurry Up, We're Dreaming. (© Erik Tomasson)
  • San Francisco Ballet in Balanchine's Divertimento #15. (Choreography by George Balanchine © The Balanchine Trust; Photo © Erik Tomasson)

Kaleidoscope, San Francisco Ballet

Who captures Mozart in motion better than neoclassical grise eminence choreographer George Balanchine? The lines of dancers from every rank who opened Tuesday night’s Kaleidoscope program with a frothy “Divertimento,” gave their definitive answer. Koto Ishihara and Julia Rowe step confidently out of the opening tableau to set an elegant tone for deft footwork, steely stamina, and a spumatic delivery. Sasha De Sola reigned beatifically.

In tea rose yellow tutus, De Sola, Isabella Devivo, and Mathilde Froustey, arrived to broaden the chromatic spectrum. Mastery of tempo, intricate footwork, discretely timed balances, and cleverly-configured pas de trois were so “just there” that if you were new to the women’s roster, it would have been hard to distinguish principals from soloists. There is no reason to scant male dancers Benjamin Freemantle, Lonnie Weeks, and Angelo Greco, who navigated the stage kaleidoscopically and hospitably (#themtoo!)

Benjamin Millepied’s San Francisco Ballet premiere work, “Appassionata” forecasts intrigue, perhaps promising more mystery than the piece manages to sustain. It opens with a lone female figure peering out from the shadow of one of three arched recesses between three cerise drapes (set design by Camille Dugas). After dancers filter through arches in ones and twos, Ulrik Birkkjaer moves abruptly stage left, grabbing hands and pulling the entire assemblage with him, whereupon you are all eyes for what happens next! How much of a direct hand Millepied applied is unclear: stagers are listed as Sebastian Marcovicci and Jane Taylor, a duo leveraging heft.

Costumes by Alessandro Sartori reprise the set hues’ intensity, where couples are color coded in indigo, carmine, and violet. The colorized mood licenses a rough-edged shaping of steps in a narrow lexicon at first, especially in the adagio pas de deux, where one expects more refinement. They realign into a more variegated palette, and the color mix and odd shapes begin to harmonize, oxymoronically.

I suspect that the Beethoven Appassionata score undermines the concept Millepied was going for; it is most successful in advancing the cause of the steps in the allegro parcels toward the end of the work, notably when De Sola enters running, in a black and gold costume, hair streaming, and soars into a presage lift. This is something amazing when you consider that she has just danced her heart out in the previous piece. Maybe a miracle (in the beatific sense) has endowed her with an extra heart!

Elizabeth Powell is the evening’s secret scribe, making the most of her partnership with Jaime García Castilla, to stamp the work with a stage presence that spells “theatrical,” yet in a cleanly sans seraph font.  Dores André and Ulrik Birkkjaer create long leaning lunges that succeed in spite of the slender tonality of Beethoven’s piano support. Speaking of piano, in spite of the lack of suitability of the music, accompanist Mungunchimmeg Buriad deserves props for not only soldiering through, but applying herself more than admirably.

Justin Peck’s “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming” returns with a joy and forcefulness that make you wish that everyone could drink a draught from its fountain of youth,  adorned, however fad-like, with  sneakers and active wear. Heading the cast are Dores André, Joseph Walsh, Elizabeth Powell, Luke Ingham, Gabriela González, and Ulrik Birkkjaer. Their prior associations with the piece and choreographer have juiced it up for a second coming. Powell sets a steadying tone that limns a pathway for unjumbling any excesses. For André, this is the kind of no-holds-barred style she  was born to dance; it invites a correlative genuineness in her finale duet with Walsh, who clearly “gets” her, and luxuriates in every shared gambol, bounce, press, and swing. The ensemble is unstoppable (in a good way!), having collectively caught Peck’s dynamic bauble of energy and run (every which way) with it!

Toba Singer, author of “Fernando Alonso, the Father of Cuban Ballet” (University Press of Florida 2013), and “First Position: a Century of Ballet Artists” (Praeger 2007), writes for international dance journals and websites, and has served as an advisor to the San Francisco Museum of Performance and Design. She was the University Press of Florida author representative at the 2013 Miami International Book Fair. “Fernando Alonso, the Father of Cuban Ballet” was nominated for the Latin American Student Association Bryce Award, the de la Torre Research and Dance Scholars Award, and the Commonwealth Club California Book Award.