San Francisco Ballet devotes the fifth program of its current digital season to a triple bill by three contemporary choreographers – Helgi Tomasson’s 7 for Eight, Cathy Marston’s Snowblind and David Dawson’s Anima Animus.
Helgi Tomasson’s 7 for Eight – which premiered at San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House on February 26th, 2004 – is a series of solo and ensemble movements for eight dancers, set to seven movements taken from four of J S Bach’s keyboard concertos. These concertos – composed between 1729 and 1741 – were written for the harpsichord, but Tomasson – San Francisco Ballet’s Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer – opted to have them played on a piano, with the exception of the Concerto in C minor for Four Harpsichords – arranged in this instance for two harpsichords – for a male solo variation.
Clad in simple black costumes – designed by Sandra Woodall – the dancers perform against a plain black background, enhancing the pure classicism of this work. Recorded in January 2016 – the most recent occasion on which it was staged – the ballet features principal dancers Yuan Yuan Tan and Tiit Helimets, and former principal dancers Vanessa Zahorian, Gennadi Nedvigin and Taras Domitro. Lighting design is by David Finn.
The inspiration for Cathy Marston’s ballet Snowblind came from the 1911 novel Ethan Frome by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edith Wharton. This American classic, set in a fictitious town in Massachusetts, tells of the fraught emotional tangle which develops between a struggling farmer, his demanding, unappreciative and hypochondriac wife, and a beautiful young girl who arrives to help the ailing wife – three people trapped in a situation restricted by the times in which they live.
Cathy Marston has a special gift for narrative ballet, as well as a passion for literature, and she successfully combines both in her interpretations of literary classics – Ibsen’s Ghosts, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Chekov’s Three Sisters, Nabokov’s Lolita and Witch-hunt – inspired by the true story of Anna Göldi, the ‘last witch of Europe’.
Snowblind – which premiered in April 2018 during San Francisco Ballet’s Unbound Festival and was recorded at the time – is a highly emotional ballet, set against the vicious snowstorms of mid-winter Massachusetts. Movingly performed by Ulrik Birkkjaer as Ethan Frome, Sarah Van Patten as his wife Zeena, and Mathilde Froustey in the role of the young girl Mattie, Snowblind is set to a score arranged by Philip Feeney, created from works by Amy Beach, Arthur Foote, Arvo Pärt and Feeney himself. Scenic and costume design are by Patrick Kinmonth, and lighting design is by James F Ingalls.
The final work in this presentation is Anima Animus, by award-winning choreographer David Dawson – his first commission for San Francisco Ballet. He was awarded the Prix Benois de la Danse for his ballet The Grey Area – premiered by Dutch National Ballet in 2002 – and in 2005 was honoured as the first British choreographer to receive a Russian Golden Mask Award for Reverence, which he created for the Mariinsky Ballet.
Also premiered during the 2018 Unbound Festival, Anima Animus is, says Dawson, a reflection of the contrast between the male and female psyches – anima being Carl Jung’s term for the feminine part of a man’s personality, and animus being the reverse. The work is set to a violin concerto by the late Italian conductor, composer and pianist Ezio Bosso. Scenic design is by John Otto, costumes by Yumiko Takeshima, and lighting by James F Ingalls.
This recording, captured in April 2018, features former principal SF Ballet dancers Maria Kochetkova, Sofiane Sylve and Carlo Di Lanno, and current principal dancers Luke Ingham and Wei Wang, in a cast of ten.
This stream is available to view from 6.00 pm (Pacific) on April 22nd until May 12th. Further information on Program 05, and tickets to view this stream, are available on the San Francisco Ballet website.
Information sourced from:
San Francisco Ballet program notes