At San Francisco Ballet, Program 8 is an evening of three world premieres. It opens with Julia Adam's "Imaginal Disc." This is an elegant piece, like fine diamonds with music by Matthew Pierce. The music is baroque, very reminiscent of Couperin. The movement is like the figures on Greek vases or Egyptian hieroglyphs. It's the first ballet that Adam created after the birth of her child, and the name is the same as the bag of cells that allows a caterpillar to morph into a butterfly.
man is joined by another and another, until there are six. They represent the
eggs. Six women are behind a giant piece of net at the back of the stage in
vague, dimly lit shapes. This netting is present throughout the ballet. The
women are visible for the second movement. They are joined into a single shape,
apparently asleep. It represents the egg cracking. When they come apart, Leslie
Young and Rubin Martin do a beautiful pas de deux. He holds her against him,
and she fully extends her arms and legs out, as he supports and spins her. She
bends down in a position like a praying mantis. They do an almost ceremonial
dance around her, lift her straight up in that position, lay her out entirely
flat over their heads, roll her over, and put her back down in that position.
They do a pas de deux with the extension and spin with the two figures centrally
lit, and alone on the stage for the conclusion of "Imaginal Disc"
by Julia Adam.
"Le Carnival des Animaux" is a comic piece choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky to the music of Camille Saint-Saens. It has some incredibly smooth and sassy laughs. It opens with a Lion lying on the floor. Other dancers/amimals survey him as he rises up. The head and skin slide off the front and his wild hair flies around. He plays with the other animals, they run off, and one falls down. That's his kill and he sheepishly shields it from three ballerinas who sneak up and steal it from him.
The Elephant, Amanda Schull, is a curious creature who kicks, extends, and pirouettes against the bass strings of the orchestra. It's a strange combination and her exaggerated movements are great, even as she holds her nose like a trunk. A pas de deux follows and she throws herself into the guy's arms, stretching out parallel to the floor about one and a half feet off it. The cast lists a lot of barnyard animals, like hens, a cockerel, and horses, but it seemed like a gloriously funny parody of "The Nutcracker" to me. Black Snowflakes danced around a central figure. There's a spritely pas de quartre, and seven men kick and jump, while two women laugh together and mock them. The women are each surrounded by a group of men, lifted and carried before a large group of women surround, conquer, and stand on the men. Finally, there's a wildly funny spoof on "The Dying Swan." Katita Waldo's movements are grossly exaggerated. The other dancers lie on the floor waving their arms. The Swan stumbles, gracefully, in the melodramatic conclusion that's worthy of the sappiest opera in this outrageous "Le Carnaval des Animaux. This along with "Tu Tu" will be reprised next season.
"Tu Tu" is the final world premiere choreographed by Stanton Welch to Ravel's "Piano Concerto in G." The background is black with a big column of light cut in the backdrop from which many dancers enter and exit. A single dancer opens this work, and she is joined by several others from the back. Then women are held high and carried off the stage. One couple do a delicate frilly pas de deux. There are three sets of partners: Kristen Long with Gonzalo Garcia, Muriel Maffre with Parrish Maynard, and Yuan Yuan Tan with Damian Smith. Eight or so couples join the partners with lively kicks and lifts before giving way to another pas de deux. It's like a waterfall as he lifts her high, spins her, and she wraps herself around him and slides down and around.
"Tu Tu" is a work with a lot of smooth, subtle transitions. One couple is replaced by the ensemble, and just fades out through the dusk, before being replaced by another couple, while the ensemble fades to the back or off to the sides. These transitions provide some of the most charming effects of the work. Muriel is surrounded by four men before giving way to another pas de deux with Yuan Yuan and Damian. He lifts and carries her. She turns and spins with sweeping arm movements, and it's like cascading bodies over fast river rapids. Four ballerinas do slow deliberate turns and bends in a supremely romantic passage with the ladies lifted high. Yuan Yuan is carried in from the back in a dramatic entrance as the others float on point and fade off at the back, fading into the darkness. Muriel does a sensuous solo on point; the ballerina spins in between two lines that cross and mesh, with a line of men at the back. One ballerina spins while four others fall off to the sides in this supremely elegant finale to "TuTu," the conclusion of Program 8, world premiere night. The San Francisco Ballet season continues through May 14 at the Opera House.
San Francisco Ballet Website