Critical Dance

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

San Francisco Ballet
Jerome Robbin's "Fanfare," Mark Morris' "A Garden," Yuri Possokhov's "Magrittomania," and George Balanchine's "Symphony in Three Movements"

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London
August 17, 2001

By Melanie Nix, special to

San Francisco Ballet, with Programme 1, dished up an equal number of pleasing and disappointing works.

The evening got off to a slightly bad start with Fanfare, a Jerome Robbins work first premiered in 1953. Unfortunately it hasn't traveled well. The dancers were exceptional, there is no doubt, but they looked a little peeved to be wearing peach and baby blue tutus sporting huge appliqued instruments across the bodice! There were some cringe-worthy moments of choreography, as two men, mirroring each other slapped first their thighs, hands, then each other's hands, and another poor soul was forced to do a roly-poly wearing a crown. Had the dancers been dressed in denim and leather the work could have taken on a West Side Story look and have become almost acceptable (not, I admit, for this company, programme or season but you understand my meaning?); for me this ballet simply did not work.

The second work, A Garden by Mark Morris, was a welcome relief after Fanfare. Its beautifully sculptured choreography showed the dancers at their best. This work is calm and soothing, set against a simple backcloth of sky and white clouds. Crisp and clean, it was a joy to behold.

Magrittomania, choreographed by principal dancer Yuri Possokhov, was for me the highlight of the evening. Visually rich with interesting costumes (the stunning Yuan Yuan Tan in a vivid red dress), and the occasional appearance of (growing) green balloons, the piece did not simply rely on gimmicks but also included some exceptional choreography. The movement highlighted the dancers' versatility, being very contemporary in style, as opposed to the earlier Fanfare and Symphony in Three Movements which was to come later. Magrittomania was intensely engrossing.

The last ballet, the aforementioned Symphony in Three Movements, choreographed by George Balanchine, ended the evening. If you like Balanchine, you would have loved it. If, like me, you aren't so fussed, then it probably seemed like one too many pieces to include in an evening's programme. I always do find quadruple bills a bit hard going. Once again it showed off these wonderful dancers well – they really are a talented company. I couldn't help but feel however that it is about time we focused a little more on the new, up-and-coming choreographers of our time rather than reaching for the oldies time and time again. especially in light of Magrittomania (Possokhov is definitely someone to watch out for). I'm certainly not advocating that we forget our dance heritage entirely, but its about time we started to create our own 21st Century legends; artists creating this type of quality work definitely deserve to be considered for the job . . .


By Stuart Sweeney

My second sight of programme 1 and I enjoyed it even more this time, partly because of the good mood I was in after a week of fine dance art and partly because of the excellent centre stalls seat.

I felt more benign towards Fanfare, although it's never going to be a favorite for me.

A Garden looked as good as the first time and from the centre I could see the use of geometry much more clearly. A beautiful, beautiful ballet, which did not get the applause it deserved from a fuller audience than we had seen since Monday.

Magrittomania impressed with its strong visual flair, the vigorous male dancing in the pas de trois which reminded me of Kletzmar and the slow pas de quatre. Yuan Yuan Tan and Roman Rykine were again electrifying. The applause at the end was very loud by London standards.

From my central seat, Symphony in Three Movements made far more sense and, as with the two Mark Morris dances on show this week, geometry is a crucial element. An additional bonus tonight was the presence of Joan Boada in his first large role of the week due to a niggling injury and I can understand why people are very excited by him. Julie Diana used her long, excellent legs to fine effect in the slow pas de deux, bringing wit and playfulness to the steps in a refreshing performance.

The dancer next to me was most impressed with the overall quality of the dancing throughout. This was my last night with SFB in London and it was a fine way to say goodbye. Hmm.... there is Othello in Spain in 2 weeks.


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Edited by Azlan Ezaddin.

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