Silicon Valley Ballet

Director's Choice

Written by:
Toba Singer
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Choreographer: Ohad Naharin Piece: Minus 16 Photo credit: Alejandro Gomez

Choreographer: Ohad Naharin
Piece: Minus 16
Photo credit: Alejandro Gomez

With classical bravura and Jewish-inflected “shticklach” book-ending two resounding contemporary works, Silicon Valley Ballet showed that it could put its best foot forward no matter the genre. Now a mature company that has everything at the ready (except for an orchestra), it steps into the shank of its season with a perceptible restlessness to take on more.


The evening standout was Lahna Vanderbush, who danced a game-changing pas de deux with Rudy Candia in Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s “Prism.” The piece harbors an untold story within its broad paint-stroke motif. Set to a rogue version of Keith Jarrett’s “Köln Concert,” recorded when he arrived late to a theater, only to find a defective piano waiting for him. Vanderbush found its emerald pathos in her port de bras, head, and eyes, a counterpoint to the joyous palette of striking cobalt, yellow, turquoise and cerise, brought to the fore or finessed into thatches, by other jogging, grazing and glazing couples.


Vanderbush also gave legs to the serious mood in Ohad Naharin’s otherwise riotous “Minus 16,” a piece that strings together big hunks of Jewish lore or modern life—opening with the guy who is the last one to leave the Bar Mitzvah, the just-enough “shickit” loner who lives in his own head. He is the “forshpeis”. The next course is   elaborated through a series of mime-like movements spirited by male and female dancers dressed as men, sitting on folding chairs, splayed in a semicircle. Dancers strip down to the essentials, accompanied by rounds of a folk chant that keeps adding phrases to a core theme, a kind of “Twelve Days of Christmas” in reverse—and in the Hebrew lexicon. Then the professional dancers cruise the aisles fishing for amateurs to join them on stage. The contrast sends out rollicking waves of joy that sweep the audience of true believers into their wake.


The “Diana and Acteon” pas de deux opener from “Esmeralda,” was reworked to emphasize the Cuban academy’s penchant for show-stopping balances and lifts, and the male dancer’s virtuoso jumps and turns. It’s a selection we don’t often see in the U.S., and so, a rare treat. The two partners, Junne Ige and Maykel Solas, who are short, nonetheless made the stage their own, and powered through the classical turns, and hunter/huntress poses with style and aplomb.


Jorma Elo’s “Glow-Stop,” to a challenging score that marries Mozart with Philip Glass, is now solidly a warhorse in this company’s repertoire. In their Jewels knock-off satiny red costumes, the dancers took on the odd counts, pogo stick jumps, glides, abortive turns, and stiff-back tilts, favored by Elo, and dispatched them with a mastery that made the defiant choreography look easy.


Just back from a three-week tour of Spain, the company has gained a world of sophistication without sacrificing one iota of “ganas.”



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