SF Ballet Unbound: Program C

Unbound C
SF Ballet, Opera House
April 24, 2018

Three down: one to go!

Program C of the Unbound series offered some very pleasant forays into ballet’s technical demands, strange but incomplete story telling and a dance essay on Picasso’s painting,”Guernica.” The overall impression offered by the three choreographers, Stanton Welch, Trey McIntyre and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa is that today’s dance demands technical accomplishment and that drama and musicality, though attempted, is not the primary concern of these artists, or if they are, they are not accomplished.

Welsh’s “Bespoke” was pure skill displayed to Bach’s “Violin Concerto in A Minor” very familiar and a well played by violinist Cordula Merks. Alexandre Cagnat, Jaime Garcia Castila and Carlo Di Lanno provided the high energy jumps, leaps and partnering for Francis Chung, Sasha De Sola and Isabella DeVivo. They were joined by Angelo Greco Esteban Hernandez and Lonnie Weeks partnering Mathilde Froustey, Ellen Rose Hummel and Jennifer Stahl. They all danced brilliantly demonstrating ballet’s “now” vocabulary: multiple lifts with stretched legs, superb ‘ballon,’ and an infinite number of turns by both the men and women. As a colleague pointed out, it was just fine but there was no counterpoint! Rhythmic variety keeps a dance’s pulse exciting.

Your Flesh Shall be a Great Poem” concerned a family story choreographed by Trey McIntyre. Last year’s eclipse which coincided with the start of rehearsals, helped McIntyre recall his grandfather and “the contrast of dark and light” that shapes a life. The title is a quote from Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.” An outstanding duet between two men (Benjamin Freemantle and Steven Morse) becomes a poignant interaction as imagined and remembered. Freemantle ends as soloist with a step stool that becomes more than a prop: it is a fixture of memory. Many other incidents inform this piece, but they are not always clear as performed. Other cast members were Isabella DeVivo, Jaime Garcia Castilla, Jennifer Stahl, Sasha De Sola, Lonnie Weeks, Esteban Hernandez and Alexandre Cognat. Memory is a tricky business to bring to life on stage. Songs by Chris Garneau provided musical accompaniment.

Accompanied by a variety of musical selections, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa choreographed “Guernica” with reference to Picasso’s famous painting. To echo the bull’s image and recall bull fighting, a national sport of Picasso’s Spain, the dancers wear bull horns, symbolic of the “violence, power, aggression and victim” that is demonstrated in the painting. Many recall the terrible bomblng that destroyed the Guernica village. Influenced by these elements and some of the romance surrounding Picasso (Dora Maar and Marie-Theses Walter,) Ochoa centers her work on a long ‘pas-de-duex” that ultimately concludes the work. Through group poses and ‘tableaux’ she attempts to bring a cubistic shape to the work as well as through constantly rotating bodies in the space. It is not always successful but the flamenco elements in the arms help to ‘color’ this work. It is masterfully danced by Doris André, Vitor Luis, Julia Row and Myles Thatcher with other corps dancers. Ochoa is to be congratulated.

Alexander Nichols deserves praise for his scenic design; Mark Zappone for costumes. James Ingalis provides brilliant lighting for all the numbers on the program

Now on to Program D and the evaluations of Tomasson’s adventures of “Unbound.”

Joanna G. Harris

Dores André and Vitor Luiz in Lopez Ochoa’s Guernica. (© Erik Tomasson)
© Erik Tomasson