January 18, 2018 SF Opera House
It was a cold and rainy night, but the SF Ballet was glowing with its 2018 Gala!
All the events, except the opening and the finale were brilliant examples of “pas de deux” from a wide history of that unique ballet form. From the early 19th century “La Sylphide” to a premiere of “Letting Go”…from the “Bluebird” (excerpt from the season’s opening “The Sleeping Beauty,” to this. year’s “Children of Chaos,” the company’s leading dancers displayed their wide variety of skills in the many textures these works demand.
I was particularly delighted with Frances Chung and Joseph Walsh in “Children of Chaos“, (music by John Kamel Farah, choreographer by Robert Binet). The work was premiered last year in Toronto, Canada. Chung is an exquisite lyrical dancer; Walsh is a major dancer and a great partner. The two created a magical movement quality, a unique dimension of contemporary ballet. I hope we can see the entire work on another program.
Sometimes, the oldest is also best. Maria Kochetkova and Ulrik Birkkjaer danced the 1936 Bournonville pas de deux for “La Sylphide,” probably one of the earliest fantasy ballets ever created. In those days Scotland was an exotic place for sylphs. We were able to see how ballet energy, style and range of movement has changed, comparing “La Sylphide” to the energetic, lively “Stars and Stripes” (Balanchine, Kay) of 20th Century dance. Kochetkova captured the magic of the sylph; Birkkjaer was drama of the infatuated Scotsman, while Ana Sophia Scheller and Vitor Luis tore through Balanchine’s 1958 work like soldiers on parade.
Sasha De Sola and Angelo Greco danced the 1899 Petipa “Le Corsaire,” and Yuan Yuan Tan and Caro Di Lanno performed the recent Liang/Richter work “Letting Go.” Again it was admirable to see and contrast the history of ballet style through the centuries.
Since this is a centenary of Jerome Robbins’ ballets, it was delightful to see “In the Night.” performed by six dancers, Mathilde Froustey, Benjamin Freemantle, Jennifer Stahl, Tiit Helmets, Sarah Van Patten and Luke Ingham. Roy Bogas, as usual, played the Chopin admirably. Although we remember the jazzy work of Robbins, in this ballet, he is at his lyrical best.
The program opened with “Little Waltz” danced by Students of the San Francisco Ballet School. It was a charming introduction to those future performers. The finale was Justin Peck’s “Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes” which we will see again later this season. The work uses the glorious talents of the men dancers of the company; Sofiane Sylve was the solo ballerina.
It was a triumph.
The “Celestial“ Gala evening brought the splendid audience much delight. It will be an exciting 2018 season with both historical memories and “Unbound” new works.
Joanna G. Harris