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The San Francisco Ballet has become, perhaps, the world's premiere company, and it shows nowhere more than in Repertory Program 4, entitled "Sound In Motion." The depth and breadth of this program ranges from the almost slapstick "Con Amore," to the multidimensional, pulsating ensembles of "Silver Ladders," culminating in the entire vocabulary of dance as shown in "Etudes." Helgi Tomasson has done with the San Francisco Ballet what James Levine has done with The Metropolitan Opera. He has assembled a company that brings the highest level of performance not only to the major roles but the smallest individual and ensemble parts and the orchestra itself.

The program opens with "Con Amore," choreographed by Lew Christensen. This is a comic piece patterned after the Opera Buffa made popular by Rossini, and danced to three of his overtures. It's divided into three scenes and was inspired by 19th century dance engravings. It opens in the camp of the Amazons where the captain, Evelyn Cisneros, is putting her troops through their drills. They have flowing white skirts, her two Lieutenants have swords, and the soldiers, muskets. The Thief, David Palmer enters looking like a Pirate, and is captured. He jumps, spins, kicks, and twirls his way to the Captain, but is taken captive anyway. He throws out his chest, and puts himself at their mercy. The Captain takes a liking, though, and he manages to survive. Scene Two is danced to the "IL Signor Bruschino" Overture and is chaotically hilarious. At each of the knocks, a different suitor knocks and enters to entice the Mistress, as her husband and the previous men hide. The characters from the first two Scenes mingle with Elizabeth Miner's Amor in the Third Scene as chaos reigns and all live happily ever after.

The reason we chose to see this particular program was because of Helgi Tomasson's "Silver Ladders," danced to Joan Tower's music of the same name. It was everything we hoped for. The dramatic opening shows Claudia Alfieri, Peter Brandenhoff, and Michael Eaton on silver ladders halfway up to the ceiling behind a scrim. They slowly descend, spread their arms like birds, and leap and fly around the stage. The guys lift the girl high in a pyramid and carry her around. We have a group of ten dancers, in silver tops and short black skirts, and six black clad men. The multi-layered ensembles pulsate in black and silver, front to back, up and down, and side to side. We have an amazingly sensuous pas de deux. Lucia Lacarra seems boneless as Roman Rykine lifts her over his head and rolls her over his back. He holds her so that her back is against his front, her legs are folded up and you can't really tell how she is being supported. There's a lovingly fluid tension as he tosses her in the air, catches her, and lifts her upside down. He spins, kicks, and leaps to a vibraphone solo, and she flies into his arms and enfolds him with her legs in this exquisitely layered celebration of love and movement.

The program concludes with "Etudes" choreographed by Harald Lander to music by Knudage Riisager after Carl Czerny. This celebration of dance is a series of classical studies that show the ballerina from the very beginning at the bar, through every stage of development. The gold curtain rises only around a single ballerina who dances to a simple run of a musical scale. The entire curtain rises on two columns of ladies. The stage is dark and only their legs are lit as they move in cumulative groups of three, until the entire group of twelve are moving their legs. The back is lit and we have a group silhouetted at the bar against the background. There's an elegant solo as Joanna Berman dances on pointe, with her feet turned inside out. We have groups of 12 ladies in white, fourteen ladies in black, and twelve men in light blue. We move from simple basic scales, to the organization of small groups, ensembles, and soloists. There is a czardaz type number with leaps, twirls, and running splits, as dancers move across the stage from right rear to left front, left rear to right front, then criss cross. The tension builds relentlessly to the pulsating, rhythmic climax of thirty-nine dancers.

Emil de Cou led the orchestra in this outstanding program by America's premiere dance company, The San Francisco Ballet. The season continues through May 9, including Helgi Tomasson's "Giselle" from April 8 - 18 at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco.

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