San Francisco Ballet’s Program II, February 14 and 19

26 Feb

Moving to two programs of three one-acts from full-length as opener,  San Francisco Ballet’s  programming is gauging story ballets’  value to pull audiences in to the variety programs.  Judging by the two  Program II performances, it seems to be working.

With Wayne MacGregor’s Chroma, the premiere of Mark Morris’ Beaux and Christopher Wheeldon’s Nine in Program II, the company displayed three contemporary choreographers whose patterns and  diagrams provide distinct, differing moods.

On first glance last season and again this season, MacGregor’s Chroma displays parallels with  San Francisco choreographer Alonzo King but with two salient exceptions: MacGregor’s casts look each other in the eye, making connection, and the akimbo body movements are direct, more  forward moving than King’s, where  vibrato leads up to a posture, a lift or a plunging, supported arabesque possesses a distinctly jazz-like riff on a main theme. Also, MacGregor’s women dance in soft slippers, instead of pointe shoes. Moritz Junge’s flesh-like toned costumes were modest, if short, sleeveless slouchy tee-shirts over trunks.

The dancers appear before a neutral lit backdrop, framed, stepping over to dance before stalking off mostly to stage left or going to mid center on the same side or appearing again in the frame. Duos and trios start out singly, later dancing simultaneously when all ten dancers become frantically engaged at the finale.

In the first cast Pascal Molat and Frances Chung led off with the initial athletic pas de deux, but a model of tempered sensuality. Anthony Spaulding’s leading leg thrust up in jetes, a signature touch, while Maria Kochetkova affirmed her acrobatic training. Taras Domitro, Jaime Garcia Castilla and Isaac Hernandez adapted to the off balance style and  Garen Scribner made his movement seem geometric.

In the second cast Vito Masseo and Sofiane Sylve continued their  remarkable partnership; Daniel Deivision  his kinesthetic delivery; Sarah Van Patten her consistently strong attack. Koto Ishihara and Tiit Helimets lent strong visual contrast, Vanessa Zahorian’s musicality subdued by the choreographic demands.

Mark Morris’ Beaux chose nine male dancers to dance to Martinu’s Harpsichord Concerto. Exaggerated color spots by Isaac Mizrahi on both backdrop and the sleeveless unitard shorts for the dancers, showed off the finely-tuned male musculature handsomely, though the colored daubs did distract  This ballet possesses a similar timbre as Morris’ “A Garden,” something pleasant, seemingly off-hand, but actually sly, complex.

Morris used twos, threes, and quartets in phrases one normally associates with women, particularly women in a Balanchine ballet. Eschewing virtuoso turns, jumps, pirouettes, he relied on an
occasional gesture suggesting comraderie, mixing principal dancer and corps member  equally. The ensemble paused like men at a fancy ball, minus formal attire, though slight, enormously subtle.

Vito Mazzeo stood out like a signal tower,  Molat for his double duty for two consecutive ballets along with Castilla, and Joan Boada for his willingness to merge as part of the ensemble.

Christopher Wheeldon’s Number Nine launched with the sense of British martial music. With the startling ending where the women lept into the men’s arms, four sets of principals and eight pairs of corps members, Michael Torke’s score reeks of spit, polish, formations and parade grounds .  The dancers wore a yellow worthy of Van Gogh’s Provencal canvases, Holly Hynes echoing the ambiance by covering, rather than exposing the women’s bodies. Full strength was the order of the ballet with Dores Andres, Sofiane Sylve, SarahVan Patten, and Vanessa Zahorian joining Daniel Deivison, Vito Mazzeo, Ruben Martin Cintas and Garden Scribner rising to the occasion as if Admiral Nelson had sent an off stage signal, “England Expects Every Man To Do His Duty.”

This front and center delivery was repeated February 19 with Elana Altman, Frances Chung, Maria Kochetkova and Yuan Yuan Tan, partnered by Pascal Molat, Gennadi Nedvigin, Carlos Quenedit and Anthony Spaulding. In a first glimpse of  Quenedit, he presented himself as calm, cheerful with effortlessly good partnering skills.

It will be fascinating to see what Quenedit does with his assignment in Yuri Possokhov’s Francesca da Rimini.

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