San Francisco Ballet Program 2

San Francisco Ballet Program 2

Helgi Tomasson, Artistic Director

War Memorial Opera House

San Francisco, Calif.

Opening night, Jan. 27, 2016

Jan. 27, 29, 31, Feb. 2, 4, 6

The Tyger (an excerpt)
by William Blake

“Tyger Tyger. burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye.
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat.
What dread hand? & what dread feet? . . .”

Liam Scarlett’s “Fearful Symmetries” looked to have picked up and sewn the shadow of William Forsythe’s Program 1 “Pas Parts,” to gender-insouciant costumes, liberated the dancers’ “dread feet” from their pointe shoes, and set them rocketing through a less insistent score, thereby swapping Forsythe’s Laws of Physics for a smoldering Law of the Jungle.

Taking inspiration from William Blake’s poem, “The Tyger,” the work tethers the poem’s imagery to a contemporary bohême style that might make Pirate Jenny blush, not to mention Frances Chung’s or Lorena Feijóo’s childhood ballet teachers.

White neon rods in a broken maze formation could have been the “immortal eye.” In any case, rather than frame them, it drew focus away from the dancers, such that the shadow obscuring them forces the mortal eye to see them as they see each other–darkly. They are wrapped in sex-neutral leatherette and net costumes (Jon Morrell) in maybe 3 styles and as many shades of grey-to-black. Rough trade fearless partnering has Lorena Feijóo as the tygress who brings it, with Luke Ingham twisting all his sinews to match hers. Whether probing the deeps or the skies, Chung is cast here in the unfamiliar role of a steamy temptress, and she commits fully to it, as her partner ignites moves for which there are no safe words in the jungle vernacular. All the dancers hit their marks, and at warp speed. This is ballet burning down the house!

Santo Loquasto’s dreamy pajama-white costumes set the tone for Mark Morris’s musical refreshment, “Drink to Me Only.” It’s a play date meditation to Virgil Thomson Etudes, ably acquitted by company pianist Natal’ya Feygin.

Circling jumps, side to side head movements, the fission of one group into two, and the frankly callisthenic movement that Gennadi Nedvigin put a fine point on, makes you feel that Morris’s practiced hand reached from East to West, to set dancer toys spinning in a contemporary, yet timeless, music box-without-walls.

George Balanchine’s “Rubies” from his “Jewels” suite was the evening’s opening treat. With the dynamic Sofiane Sylve as the bangle at the center of the baguette cluster of adoring swains, in her now-winking, now-cantilevered off-balance dalliance with them, she is herself not only a jewel, but also a gem. Joseph Walsh and Maria Kochetkova, in their pas de deux, were jubilant technicians. Walsh clearly found much to mine in this pairing, and transformed it into a musicale of pure joy and abandon. He shone so irresistibly as to invite a cascade of sparkling rejoinders from his deft partner. In the past, I have found the red satin jeweled Karinska costumes overdone and pendulous, but for some reason, not tonight!

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.