SF Ballet at Stern Grove

Sunday, July 20, 2017 2 pm

It is always a pleasure to see the SF Ballet at Stern Grove.

Somehow, even though the park is full to capacity with people of all ages and sizes and the paths are difficulty to navigate, the event is joyous. On this particular Sunday, the weather was wonderful. Even the musicians found the temperature and the surroundings, as one said, “perfect.”

The dancing was very good too.

Five ballets were offered, each a slightly different style and musical offering. The program opened with Helgi Tomasson’s “Haffner Symphony” to Mozart music (Symphony # 35 in D major). This work has been a favorite in the repertory since 1991. It was delightfully danced by Sasha De Sola partnered by Angelo Greco and members of the corps de ballet.

The brilliant ‘Pas de deux” from Balanchine’s Agon followed. This 1975 was an innovative breakthrough in ballet vocabulary and partnering. No “classical” pattern here: the male dancer falls on the stage floor; the woman creates acrobatic stretches while still holding him. The Stravinsky music in this neoclassical piece demands invention. Sofiane Sylve and Carlo De Lanno executed this challenging work with acute skill.

Tomasson’s work appeared again as event three. This time, his “Concerto Grosso” to a work by Francesco Geminiani after Corelli played by a featured string quartet and danced by five men was an energetic delight. The gentlemen dancers were Max Cauthorn, Jaime Garcia Catilla, Eseban Hernandez, Wei Wang and Lonnie Weeks. Bravo to all. But the solo hit of the afternoon was “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (of Company B) from the dance of that name by modern dance choreography Paul Taylor. Sung by the Andrew Sisters, the work recalls the jazzy dances of World War II. The bugle boy entertains the troops; alas, at the end of his dance he is shot.

Company B, though lively and entertaining, but reminds us of the downside of war. Joseph Walsh, who has done admirable solos during this past 2017 season danced “Bugle Boy” with great animation.

The afternoon concluded with the complex and admirable “Within the Golden Hour,” choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, music by Vivaldi. Three duets, accompanied by the corps, made this a rousing success. The duets were danced by Mathilde Froustey with Myles Thatcher, Sara vanPatten with Luke Ingram, and Maria Kochetkova with Vitor Luis. Each duet had a varied sense of phrasing; each were exacting in execution.

The San Francisco Ballet Orchestra under the direction of Martin West played clearly. The sound filled the huge space that Stern Grove offers; hillsides to the top with devoted followers of the San Francisco Ballet.

Joanna G. Harris