The San Francisco Ballet's
Repertory Program 2 features two San Francisco premieres of works by Jerome
Robbins and the world premiere of Val Caniparoli's "Death of a Moth."
The program opens with Robbins' "Fanfare." This piece was premiered in celebration of the crowning of Queen Elizabeth II on June 2, 1953. It's a visualization of Benjamin Britten's " The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra." Heraldic flags with pictures of the instruments hang above the stage, and the company is divided into four color coded groups. The woodwinds are in blue, strings in orange, brass in gold, and percussion in black. The harp is in white. A Major Domo narrates from the side of the stage.
After the orchestra is introduced it's taken apart in groups of instruments with solos. The flutes and piccolos are very formal and elegant, doing pirouettes and kicks. The brass are male dancers. They do powerful jumps and scissors. Chidozie Nzerem's tuba injects some humor as he leans over to the side, moth wide open, and points with his whole arm he moves across the stage. The strings are rich and smooth, with a beautiful pas de six for female violins. Katita Waldo is sleek and silky in her solos as the harp. It's the first of her three major roles of the evening. Damian Smith's double bass shows power and grace as he leaps and kicks his legs up and under him, in one of the evening's most athletic moments. The orchestra is reassembled section by section. They mesh in spinning, kicking layers in the dazzling finale.
Robbins' second piece, "A Suite of Dances" is choreographed to selected movements from Bach's "Suites for Solo Cello." There's cellist Stephanie Cummins on stage with dancer Vadim Solomakha, to form sort of a pas de deux between musician and dancer. She's in a black dress, he's in a red jumpsuit. The work is one of Robbins' last, and was choreographed on the 46 year old Mikhail Baryshnikov.
The dancer uses the whole stage, front to back, side to side. The rich, lilting cello is reflected in the dance. The second movement introduces staccato rhythms. He somersaults, shakes it out, kicks, and pirouettes, as the tempo rises. The third movement is contemplative, introspective, and much more static and precise. Every movement has a purpose. No motion is wasted. The fourth movement is a gigue. He's supremely confident as he kicks and spins in big sweeping movements. He somersaults, cartwheels, and waves his arms almost in amusing disgust, at the cellist. "A Suite of Dances" is one of the most demanding sixteen minute solos I have ever seen, and Vadim Solomakha is outstanding.
William Forsythe's "The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude" Patrick Flynn leads the orchestra in the fastest performance of the final movement of Schubert's "9th Symphony" I've ever heard. It opens with the powerful male dancers dressed in red who are joined by three ballerinas in lime green tutus that look like they're made out of cardboard. The background is sky blue, and says it on the backdrop. This is a series of leaps, thrusts, pliés, and fouettés all done at 80 m.p.h. In a breathtaking solo Katita Waldo rises up on point, draws circles with her foot, slides it up and down her leg, kicks out front, back, goes up, and back down. She's joined by a guy who spins her, pulls her back, throws her out, and twirls her under his arm. It's almost like a touch of jitterbug meets classical ballet. "The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude" is a fun and exciting piece that provides virtually nonstop motion at breakneck speed.
final piece is the world premiere of Val Caniparoli's "Death of a Moth"
choreographed to Carlos Surinach's "Concerto for String Orchestra."
It opens with flashing strobes, and a ballerina/moth illuminated on the backdrop.
Five ballerinas are in long flowing multi-colored dresses, along with men in
black. This is very symmetrical, with everyone paired off in some of the best
partnering I've ever seen. These couples are fluid and they just melt into each
other and become extensions of their partners.
All evening there were no lifts to speak of until here. This piece is full of them. There are a lot of low lifts, some upside down, and in one, she pirouettes while he's lifting her over his head. He puts her down, and she spins around. He rolls her over his head. He grabs her from the back, spins her backward around him. They slide down, and he rolls over her. "Death of a Moth" is sensuously fleeting, chock full of evocative, flowing partners, and a few special effects to pull you out of your seat. It's the perfect conclusion to the San Francisco Ballet's Repertory Program 2 at The War Memorial Opera House.