SF Ballet Unbound: Program B

SF Ballet
Unbound. Program B
Saturday, April 21, 2018
San Francisco Opera House

Winners and Losers

This far we have seen two of the four “Unbound” programs that SF Ballet is proudly presenting to introduce audiences to relatively new choreographers and their choreography. On each program, two of the works seem to achieve superb performances; one fails although the audience cheers wildly whatever they have seen.

The achievement of Program B was shared between the dramatic work, “Snowbound,” a dramatization of Edith Wharton’s “Ethan Frome,” choreographed by Cathy Marston. Both she and composer Philip Feeny are British; she has choreographed dramatic works for many companies in Europe. This is her first work for SF Ballet.

Beside the very effective dramatic portrayals by Sarah Van Patten, (the wife), Mattie Silver, (the home help) and Ulrich Birkkjaer, (the farmer, husband), the company is beautifully engaged as the Snow, Neighbors, and Farmhands. They drift in and out of the dramatic action providing lyric qualities as Snow, and intrusive yet concerned fold as Neighbors and Farmhands. But it is the intelligent use of dramatic action, especially for Sarah Van Patten that makes this drama poignant and believable. It is a great achievement for Patten and the cast. Van Patten’s role as the sickly wife goes from resignation to protest to support in an amazing series of dance phases. Birkkjaer and Silver, caught in their love affair, enact the power that challenges and undoes them. Bravo to all! It deserves further showings and inclusion in the SF Ballet’s future repertory

The finale work on this send of the Unbound events, was David Dawson’s “Anima Animus” to music by Ezio Boss. The leading dancers were Maria Kochetkova and Sofiane Sylve accompanied by Carlo De Lanno, Luke Ingham Henry Sidford and Wei Wang. The dancers swooped, ran, circled the stage and were caught in brilliant lifts, turns, spacial designs that amazed the eye and use energy and dance vocabulary that kept pouring forth. It was a dynamic display of the best ballet technique dynamically achieved. What a joy to see Kochetkova! Since she will be leaving the company after these performances, it was a gift to watch her in this role. Of curse Sylve (though inches taller that Kochetkova) accomplishes her amazing skills. The men assist throughout and deserves superman credit. Perhaps that’s why the work is entitled
Anima, Animus.” Both men and women here achieve dance greatness.

Alas, Myles Thatcher’s “Otherness” did not please. Thatcher spoke before the show of the need to display the dancers’ bodies in gay roles; i.e. that men and women are capable of equal skill in ballet technique as they are in all roles in today’s society. The SF Ballet audience would hardly dispute this. Thatcher’s work cultivated the obvious.

There was a group in pink, and a group in blue. As the two leading men, Max Cauthorn and Sean Orza confront one another, their costumes display parts of both. They are confronted with each group and receive humiliating blows, real fisticuffs. As a finale, all shed the pink/blue costumes and appear in yellow-green. It is, as may be said today, “in your face.” Jahna Frantziskonis (dancing marvelously in new roles) and James SoFrako also provide solo parts. Even John Adams “Absolute Jest” music cannot save this wok of social propaganda. I would suggest Thatcher see Sean Dorsey’s work “Boys in Trouble” to see how dance on gay themes can be performed.

James F. Ingalls provided the brilliant lighting design for all three works. Martin West and soloists from the SF Ballet Orchestra did distinguished work for all numbers.

Now on to next week and Unbound Program C!

Joanna G. Harris