Critical Dance

The following is an article from our special section, San Francisco Ballet in London.

San Francisco Ballet
Julia Adam's "Night," Helgi Tomasson's "Prism" and "Chaconne for Piano and Two Dancers," and Mark Morris' "Sandpaper Ballet"

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London
August 16, 2001

By Christine

Ballet broke my heart about 10 years ago. Of course there were times when I missed Ballet dreadfully, but I never went back. As fate would have it, I found myself a decade later going to see Ballet again for the first time, at the same theatre we last said goodbye. San Francisco Ballet is probably the best company to go and see if you're a recovering Ballet addict.

Prism was athletic and sprightly, showcasing SFB's talent. Kristin Long had the ability to completely fill the Royal Opera House with her lively spirit and I found myself enjoying the piece vicariously through her dancing of it. Fantastically partnered with Zachary Hench and Vadim Solomakha, the pas de trois were great.

Lucia Lacarra's pas de deux in the 2nd movement showed off her absolutely gorgeous lines. However, it was a lacklustre performance; but she did come back in the petit allegro bits of the choreography -- as it was amazing to watch Lacarra's long and sinewy frame move so quickly with such ease and grace.

Finally, the corps de ballet were magnificent. What I love most about SFB is how each dancer is an individual, yet they move in perfect unison and dance so well together. Ironically, I found Prism difficult to watch because the movement is so stripped down of individual expression -- the work would better suit a company with more conformity about it.

The second piece choreographed by former New York City Ballet dancer Helgi Tomasson was Chaconne for Piano and Two Dancers. A lovely display of Joanna Berman and Yuri Possokhov's abilities, and a real electricity in thier duet considering there was little or no touching until the end. Possokhov is perhaps one of SFB's greatest assets. The man can DANCE. In fact, all the men at SFB are strong, graceful and wickedly impressive danseurs.

Julia Adam's Night was a welcome contrast to Tomasson's work, with its strong narrative and relatively elaborate design elements. Here, Tina LeBlanc, the focus of the piece, takes us through her nocturnal world. She is an incredibly deft dancer with great presence -- she is a stick of dynamite on stage. The choreography seemed langourous in parts, not for long, though as there were instances of quick darting, explosive movements and humourous quirky moments.

Finally, there was Sandpaper Ballet by Mark Morris. The treat, the after-dinner mint, the delicious pudding if you will. How can you go wrong -- Mark Morris, Isacc Mizrahi, Leroy Anderson, Royal Ballet Sinfonia and SFB all in the same room -- amazing.

The well-known Sleigh Ride tune got everyone in the mood for what was to come (most needed especially after the evacuation of the ROH at the interval due to a fire alarm backstage). Anderson's score is a medley of 1950s quintessential all-American show tunes. Mizrahi's bright green and white costumes (a bit like The Riddler in Batman, the classic 60s TV series), is set against the usually red or orange backdrop and instantly brought to mind an image of Mark Rothko's painting '212' (1966). I don't think this is by accident, because Morris brings it all to life with a certain magic. Through all these devices, he conjures up the nostalgia of apple pie, milkshakes and long drives down endless stretches of highways in a blue and white '65 T-bird.

The magic is in the flawless choreography and the execution of the simple, clean lines, the rythmic variations and the tongue in cheek humour by one of the finest ballet companies around.

I think I like Ballet again.


By Stuart Sweeney

Another evening which showed the Company on great form. Proceedings delayed slightly by an evacuation of the building at the second interval. See Alarums and Excursions.

Prism by Helgi Tomasson: a neo-classical work to Beethoven and the most enjoyable of the three Tomasson ballets I saw this week. Lucia lacarra and her fiancee Cyril Pierre made the most of the romantic central pas de deux with Lacarre's loving and assured interpretation with her favourite partner gaining much appreciative applause. Fully matched though by the reception for Gonzalo Garcia who danced with enjoyment, musicality, beautiful line and power in equal measure.

Night by Julia Adam: a series of dream scenes with Tina LeBlanc impressing the dancers sitting next to me. The dreamy opening flying sequence was enthralling, but it was not until the zippy final sections that my interest was fully caught again. I'll see Yuri Possokhov's Magrittomania again tomorrow and I think that that's going to be my favourite of the two recent works by Company dancers on show here.

Chaconne for Piano and Two Dancers by Helgi Tomasson: a charming showcase for Joanna Berman and Possokhov with variations of pace and much fancy footwork executed with aplomb by both performers.

Sandpaper Ballet by Mark Morris: the hit of the evening. Their relationship with the post-modern maestro is paying big dividends for SFB. If after seeing this you can't believe that the world is not such a bad place, then you really are a lost cause. Apart from all the fun with geometry and people being out of place, Morris makes this light music by Leroy Anderson sound great when normally we wouldn't give it a second thought. The post-coital section for Julie Diana and Possokhov was delicious, as was Lorena Feijoo's Spanish flavour dance and Guennadi Nedviguine's dancing throughout. The audience loved it.

Another evening of great dance from SFB. Their return tickets have been seized and they'll be staying here, now. Sorry to our American friends, but the Special Relationship can only go so far!


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Edited by Azlan Ezaddin.

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