San Francisco Ballet: Robbins

San Francisco Ballet: SF. Opera House
Robbins: Ballet and Broadway
March 20-March 25, 2018

The several facets of Jerome Robbins

I spent an unusual day at the Opera House. In the afternoon the company was rehearsing the evening’s program with some of the same cast and some alternatives.

Subscribers to the Ballet receive invitations to attend dress rehearsals and even though it was a wet, cold Tuesday, the very enthusiastic audience was present in numbers. It was a special treat to watch the ballet performers take corrections and notes from the various ballet masters.

Robbins work is best known for “West Side Story” and the jazz style of the 40’s and 50’s he made famous. This program concluded with “Fancy Free” to music of Leonard Bernstein. It was the first work of their collaboration in 1944. Benjamin Freemantle, Esteban Hernandea and Lonnie Weeks were the lively, playful sailors: Dores Andre´, Sasha De Sola and Maggie Weirich were the captivating ladies. It was captivating!

More interesting as choreography was the 1976 “The Dreamer” danced with great technical aplomb by Carlo De Lanno. In the rehearsal, that part was danced by Wei Wang, who, in my estimation, gave the more dramatic interpretation. De Lonna’s principal partner was the very effective Sara Van Patten. For me, “The Dreamer” represents Robbins’ lonely self in the complex, female dominated ballet world. He is able to display, not the jazzy side of his later work, but the expressive modern dance which was this first training.

The Cage,” another contemporary work features dancers as spiders or similar predatory creatures. The novice (Maris Kochetkoiva) learns from the queen, Sofiane Sylve) the ritual and necessity of male destruction after the fertilization ritual. Again this may represent some aspects of Robbins’ unconscious. The men were Lonnie Weeks and Steven Morse, whose parts are minor but effective. A large group supports the act.

The most lyric and charming of the works is “Other dances” to various piano selections by Chopin. The piece was made for Baryshnikov and Makarova who are worth seeing on youtube. But here Frances Chung and Angelo Greco gave a fine lyric performance with many folkloric qualities to the mazurka. They are worthy of the inheritance. Natal’ya Feygine was the fine accompanying pianist.

The Robbins program at SF Ballet, both rehearsal and performances was one of the 2108 season’s highlights. We are all anticipating “Unbound” the events featuring 12 choreographers whose works will be new for SF Ballet. But Robbins in the last century, brought freshness, innovations and a new dance vocabulary in his time.

Joanna G. Harris

Frances Chung and Angelo Greco
In Robbins’ “Other Dances
Photo: Eric Tomasson