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San Francisco Ballet Program 5: The Sublime and the Absurd

by Joanna G. Harris
March 20, 2016
War Memorial Opera House
301 Van Ness Avenue at Grove Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 861-5600
Joanna G. Harris Author, Beyond Isadora: Bay Area Dancing, 1916-1965. Regent Press, Berkeley, CA, 2009. Contributor to reviews on culturevulture.net
“Dances at a Gathering” the Jerome Robbins work premiered at the New York City Ballet in 1969. San Francisco Ballet first offered it in 2002. Unlike some of the elongated story ballets that fill the season, March 16-22, 2016 at San Francisco Opera House, “Dances at a Gathering” should be on the program every year. It is brilliant in design, plan and execution. SF Ballet's dancers performed it with joy and accomplishment.

To several Chopin etudes, mazurkas and waltzes, (delightfully played by Roy Bogas), the ten dancers in various color-coordinated costumes, wandered, flirted, interacted, attracted, rejected one another and then just danced/danced/danced. Mathilde Froustey, in yellow, provided humor; Sasha de Sola was a flirt; Loren Feijoo (in green), conquered with lyricism; Vanessa Zahorian (in mauve) with bravura and Yuan Yuan Tan (in pink) was, as usual, the splendid star.

The men, Vitor Luiz, Steven Morse, Davit Karapetyan and Caro Di Lanno, and especially Joseph Walsh (the wanderer), delighted us with their challenging technique and dazzling expansive energy.
“Dances at a Gathering” is a masterpiece to which one can bring one’s own story. Robbins said, “Let the music make you dance.”

“Swimmer” on the other hand is full of confusion. Loosely based on John Cheever’s story “The Swimmer,” the ballet seeks to reconstruct the story’s events: a man swims through his neighborhood swimming pools; time passes; he arrives finally to his empty house.

These events are reconstructed on stage by means of electronically projected water scenes, desultory "night out" events, contact with young boys and packs of fierce, intense young men, and finally drowning. In between the projections, the special effects and the various group numbers, Taras Domitro dances frantic repetitive solos across the stage dressed in a blue bathing suit. Maria Kochetkova, Tiit Helimets, Lorena Feijoo, Vitor Juiz and Yuan Yuan Tan contribute small roles to the mayhem. There is so much to follow that even these principles roles are obscured. The pack of young men prevail since there are so many of them and their energy is intense. Yuri Possokhov, the choreographer says, “There’s never a resolution.”

Alas, there is not strong "though-line" to help us comprehend. “Swimmer” becomes a succession of events that creates confusion.

The scenic design by Alexander V. Nichols is fascinating as is the costume design by Mark Zappone, the lighting by David Finn, the video by Kate Duhamel. The choreographer must integrate it all.
Jerome Robbins: “Dances at a Gathering” Photo: Erik Tommasson<br>(L-R) Sasha de Sola, Yuan Yuan Tan and Joseph Walsh.

Jerome Robbins: “Dances at a Gathering” Photo: Erik Tommasson
(L-R) Sasha de Sola, Yuan Yuan Tan and Joseph Walsh.

Photo © & courtesy of Erik Tomasson

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