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Michael Ferguson

San Francisco Ballet Performance, Program 1

By February 4, 2013No Comments

SF Ballet Performance, Program 1

February 2, 2013


There were three ballets on this performance program. The first was Suite en Blanc Composed by Eduoard Lalo, and choreographed by Serge Lifar. This is a very conservative, traditional ballet. Light on substance, but strong on aesthetics and technique. If you like pretty pictures and dainty, picturesque movements of agility and grace, then you’ll love this. Superbly performed by the SF Ballet dancers. This is visually pleasant to watch, but basically light entertainment. Nothing challenging or particularly interesting to my taste.

In the Night was the second ballet. Choreographed by Jerome Robbins, it uses four Chopin Nocturnes as a back drop to four male-female duos. Despite the fact that the four Nocturnes vary somewhat in character, the four dances were all very similar. It struck me that the dancing did not fit with the music. These Nocturnes are introspective pieces. They are narcissistic rather than romantic. The choreographer treats them as love songs with a happy ending. I don’t think so. I think the choreographer misunderstood the Chopin Nocturnes. The second one against Op. 55 No. 1 was particularly offensive in this respect. This opening section of this Nocturne is tender and delicate, but the middle section is rather distressed and contentious, in high contrast to the sweet calm of the framing segments. None of this was reflected in the dance. The dance was rather bland and had a sameness throughout. The final one, the famous E-flat Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2, is a dreamlike reverie, a lullaby almost. It is reflective and somewhat nostalgic. But the dancing didn’t come anywhere near that kind of feeling. It’s weird watching a dance performance where the dancing seems to have nothing to do with the music that is backing it. I think this one needs to be rethought.

The final segment, the World Premier of Borderlands, by composers Joel Cadbury and Paul Stoney, and Wayne McGregor as choreographer, scenic and costume designer, and Lucy Carter as lighting designer, was by far the most interesting of the three pieces. The style was very different from the first two selections. This was hyperactive, with frantic, discrete movements emphasized by strobe lights that seemed to reflect a temperament, and perhaps a lifestyle, of the modern era that is atomized, choppy, jerky, and abrupt. The soundtrack — it wasn’t exactly music — is too loud. It’s rather assaultive. Perhaps that is the object to blast the audience with harsh sounds and oppress them into a kind of unpleasant resistance. It fits with the anxious, staccato, discontinuous movements, but it draws attention away from the dancers, overwhelming the audience with obnoxious sound. Differentiation between the genders is much reduced. Distinct genders are still discernible but very much blended. Identity of gender becomes indistinct. However, the sexes are very much interactive, touching, embracing, well engaged with one another. The middle section cast in orange light is a man apparently trying to invigorate a woman who keeps falling away from him in a kind of lethargy. She doesn’t seem to have the will to keep up with him and remain connected with his interest. But in the succeeding segments she casts off the deadness within herself and becomes a much more alive and responsive partner, and they become a more involved couple with smoother, more fluid movements. The ballet ends on a positive note with the couple dancing with energy, and mutual engagement. It was by far the most interesting of the three selections of the evening, and all were superbly presented by the San Francisco Ballet dancers at their usual top level of performance.