San Francisco Ballet's Program 7 opens with Christopher Wheeldon's "Continuum." It's a neoclassical work for four couples, and set to keyboard pieces of Gyorgy Ligeti. About 3/4 of the backdrop is lighted, the rest of the stage is dark. A single man enters at the front in the darkness, a woman enters at the rear silhouetted against the light. The other six dancers join them. This work has a lot of upside down lifts, extensions, and makes very liberal use of the floor. The passages are, by turns, slow, sensuous, and lyrical against sharp staccato.

One memorable moment has the guy lifting the girl high, turning her in cartwheels, then doing one himself. He lifts her upside down; she slides slowly down wrapping herself around him. Everything's slow and sultry as she slides back to the floor. Vanessa Zahorian does a sensuous solo that hardly moves, except for the arms and hands. They seem to be slowly swimming, then slide down what appears to be a flat surface like a window. It creates an odd sensation, as you get the feeling that she's behind a pane of glass.

The work also has a number of passages where the woman is lifted in almost a backward arabesque before leaning back against her partner. In a spirited pas de deux, Zahorian and Damian Smith start on the floor. They roll to and on top of each other, they rise up, and he holds her high, upside down. She pirouettes, he brings her leg up in arabesque, and they go back down to the floor as they started out.

Four men are joined together with their hands, moving in a circle. One by one they are lifted, the group turns, and the women do it. There are elements of modern dance in the way the bodies meld and the in the shapes of the groups. Another beautiful passage is when Benjamin Pierce lifts Muriel Maffre straight upside down in a full split. All four couples return and their shadows are projected on the backdrop in various symmetrical sizes. The guys arms move in windmills and they pair off with the girls in the conclusion of "Continuum."

Next up is "Jinx" by Lew Christensen to Benjamin Britton's "Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge." This is a heartwrenching tragedy of circus people who just love, but nothing good comes of it. It's rich in symbolism with the captured superstition of the jinx. He's an outcast and simply wants to be accepted. He loves the Wirewalker, but she loves the Equestrian. The Bearded Lady loves Jinx, but he can't see past his own love.

Jinx sits on some boxes at the side of the stage. He's watching from afar as the Wirewalker and the Equestrian do a slow, romantic pas de deux. These two are in love, and express it in every movement. After he leaves, Jinx approaches, but she pushes him away, and runs off. The other dancers congregate in a lively number. The Equestrian is tossed, falls, and everyone blames Jinx. They all form a line, with him off by himself in opposition. The Equestrian pirouettes as the Ringmaster follows him around, cracking a whip. The other clowns carry Jinx around in a wheel barrow. The show must go on. He does a staccato number with a lot of kicks and turns.

The Wire Walkers do an elegant number on point. Jinx is off to the side. The star almost falls and Jinx runs to her. She recoils. Everyone is in a group against him. The Ringmaster chases him, knocks him down, and whips him to death as the Bearded Lady frantically tries to stop him. She's distraught at the slow funeral procession.

After Jinx is killed, another tragedy strikes them. They dance in a circle with Jinx in the center ruling over them. He has become a symbol of their guilt. They all fall down one by one, and he goes to each one. When the Bearded Lady grasps at him, he pushes her away. The Wirewalker also pushes him away and goes to her lover. He lifts her high, they embrace, and he falls dead. When Jinx grabs her, she falls dead on her lover, at the rear. Yuri Possokhov's Jinx is a powerfully forlorn figure. He didn't fit, and all he wanted was love and acceptance. Katita Waldo's Bearded Lady was a spectacular portrayal of grief. She was Jinx's true love, but he didn't see it. It's all just bad luck in this tragically powerful production of "Jinx."

The program concludes with "Paquita," choreographed by Natalia Makarova after Marius Petipa. The music is by Ludwig Minkus. The piece is simply a classical tour de force. Everything's perfect. The corps de ballet have a lightness and elegance in their orange and black tutus. Lorena Feijoo is magic as the silver, and partnered with Pierre Francois Vilanoba is lifted high as the corps forms a line in the background to set them off. There are a lot of fast, fluttering leg kicks, and one routine builds off the other, repeats, adds something, and moves on.

Next is a trio of reds with white trim as Joan Boada partners two women. Katita Waldo is as beautiful and graceful as you can be. Boada does powerful leaping kicks and splits around the stage, and Rachel Viselli is fluid and smooth with her fluttering kicks and turns. The action heats up with Vilanoba doing high kicks and turns like a corkscrew and Feijoo, a seemingly endless series of fouettes. The entire cast reappears. Feijoo leaps to Vilanoba's shoulder in the conclusion of this sizzling production of "Paquita."

Makarova's "Paquita" is the quintessential classical ballet. It's fast and elegant with supremely beautiful, alive, and extraordinary routines. One set builds upon another and creates this richly complex tapestry of motion. It's the perfect way to end the evening, and for me, the 2003 San Francisco Ballet Season. Once again, San Francisco Ballet demonstrates that they are as good as anyone in the world. The season continues through May 14.

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