Dances at a Gathering and Swimmer
March 16-22, 2016 SF Opera House
The Sublime and the Absurd
Dances at a Gathering, the Jerome Robbins work premiered at the New York City Ballet in 1969. SF Ballet first offered it in 2002. Unlike some of the elongated story ballets that fill the season, Dances… should be on the program every year. It is brilliant in design, plan and execution. The dancers perform it will joy and accomplishment.
To several Chopin etudes, mazurkas and waltzes, (delightfully played by Roy Bogas), the ten dancers in various color-coordinated costumes, wander, flirt, interact, attract, reject one another and then just dance/dance/dance. Mathilde Froustey, in yellow, provides humor; Sasha de Sola was a flirt; Loren Feijoo, in green, conquered with lyricism, Vanessa Zahorian (in mauve) with bravura and Yuan Yuan Tan (in pink) was, as usual, the splendid star.
The men, Vitor Luiz, Steven Morse, Davit Karapetyan and Caro Di Lanno, and especially Joseph Walsh (the wanderer), delighted us with their challenging technique and dazzling expansive energy. Dances at a Gathering is a masterpiece to which one can bring one’s own story. Robbins said, “Let the music make you dance.”
Swimmer on the other hand is full of confusion. Loosely based on John Cheever’s story The Swimmer, the ballet seeks to reconstruct the story’s events: a man swims through his neighborhood swimming pools; time passes; he arrives finally to his empty house.
These events are reconstructed on stage by means of electronically projected water scenes, desultory ‘night out’ events, contact with young boys and packs of fierce, intense young men, and finally drowning. In between the projections, the special effects and the various group numbers, Taras Domitro dances frantic repetitive solos across the stage dressed in a blue bathing suit. Maria Kochetkova, Tiit Helimets, Lorena Feijoo, Vitor Juiz and Yuan Yuan Tan contribute small roles to the mayhem. There is so much to follow that even these principles roles are obscured. The pack of young men prevail since there are so many of them and their energy is intense. Yuri Possokhov, the choreographer says, “There’s never a resolution.” Alas, there is not strong ‘though-line’ to help us comprehend.
Swimmer becomes a succession of events that creates confusion. The scenic design by Alexander V. Nichols is fascinating as is the costume design by Mark Zappone, the lighting by David Finn, the video by Kate Duhamel. The choreographer must integrate it all.
Jerome Robbins: Dances at a Gathering Photo: Erik Tommasson
Left to Right: Sasha de Sola; Yuan Yuan Tan; Joseph Walsh