SF Ballet Program 2

San Francisco Ballet
Program 2 February 13, 2018
Bright Fast Cool Blue

The title above was chosen for Program 2 of the SF Ballet’s 2018 season.

The program includes Balanchine’s 1948 NYC Ballet “Serenade”, Millepied’s 2017 “The Chairman Dances”, and Julian Peck’s (recently seen at the Gala) “Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes.” All were delightfully danced.

Seranade” was made for Balanchine’s earliest company. It was begun in 1934 and developed as the NYC Ballet came into being. Danced to Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade in C Major for String Orchestra,” it is a tribute to the art of ballet, its learning process, its ballerinas and (though not always clear) a drama that develops late in the work, a drama of fall and redemption.

Mathilde Froustey, Jennifer Star, and Yuan Yuan Tan took the major women’s roles partnered by Carlo Di Lanno and Luke Ingram.Costumed in blue by the famous Karinska, the ballet proceeds through the opening basic ballet foot and arm gestures, to brilliant group work and at least two quiet beautiful duets. It is a work to teach audiences how to see ballet.

Millepied’s “The Chairman Dances-Quartet for Two” offers a very different challenge. This work is in three parts; the first seems not quite related to the other two. Local composer John Adams expanded the music for this 2018 offering. Millepied has added two duets to the original “foxtrot” variation that starts the show. That section danced by principals Maria Kochetova and Carlo Di Lanno is a Broadway-like number, lively, fast, syncopated, jazzy and spectacular. Two duets change the mood. Two men, Ulrik Birkjaer and Benjamin Freemantle dance an intimate romantic duet accompanied by a spoken voice, tell of Jesus in Jerusalem. That Adams work is entitled “Christian Zeal and Activity.” The next duet is for Yuan Yuan Tan and Jennifer Stahl. It too is quiet and intimate. Millipied is this expanding and commenting on sexuality in ballet and its varied sensuality. The whole work is thought provoking and sometimes puzzling.

Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes” takes the Copland score well beyond what De Mille did to make it famous. The boys dominate here. DeMille made it a cowboy ballet. These fifteen dancers are divided into teams and all show great prowess and skill with their athleticism. The 3rd episode allows a pas de duex for Dores André and Ulrick Birkkjaer. Other than that time it’s all for the guys. They are superlative in their jumps, falls, amazing leaps and turns. There is an informality about the work that reflects its recent composition, 2015 in NYC and 2018 in San Francisco.

SF Ballet is off to a great season’s start. The company is proud too announce the ‘Unbound” season featuring 12 new choreographers at the end of April.

Joanna G. Harris

Benjamin Freemantle and Ulrik Birkkjaer in Millepied’s The Chairman Dances–Quartet For Two. (© Erik Tomasson)