In the fifth program of the current season, San Francisco Ballet presents the World Premiere of Helgi Tomasson’s Harmony – his final creation for the Company as its Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer. Also featured in this celebration of in-house works – those created for San Francisco Ballet by Company members – is Tomasson’s The Fifth Season, and Magrittomania, a quirky piece by Choreographer in Residence, Yuri Possokhov.
In The Fifth Season, Tomasson uses Welsh contemporary composer Sir Karl Jenkins’ String Quartet No 2 to move his dancers through a contrasting range of moods and styles – such as a mesmerizing almost minimalist theme, a delightful tango, a Baroque-style air and an elegant waltz. The Fifth Season takes its name from the first movement of the quartet – and the adagio pas de deux is performed to the largo from Jenkins’ immensely popular Palladio.
Jenkins, who started out as jazz musician, has spread his talent over a number of musical categories – advertising, films, orchestras and festivals – and his String Quartet presented Tomasson with an opportunity for wider creative exploration – because of the diversity of the five movements. Tomasson selected Jenkins’ music on the basis that it’s both relevant to today, and also romantic. The fact that it isn’t often used for ballet gave Tomasson yet another reason to use this piece. Choreographed in 2006, the ballet is regarded as one of Tomasson’s best. Scenic and costume design are by Sandra Woodall, with lighting by Michael Mazzola.
Harmony, which had its World Premiere last evening, April 2nd, is described as a bouyant, joyful work, celebrating the Company’s return to the studios following the easing of shelter-in-place restrictions. A series of linked solos, duets and full cast gatherings onstage, the work is set to a keyboard suite by 18th century French Baroque composer and organist Jean-Philippe Rameau, his Pièces de clavecin. Opening with a darkened stage, the ballet has 12 dancers cautiously coming out from the shadows, along a diagonal ray of light, representing the emergence from the darkness of quarantine into the inspirational joy of harmony and peace that followed. Scenic and costume design are by Emma Kingsbury, with lighting by Jim French.
Magrittomania was commissioned for San Francisco Ballet’s Discovery Program in 2000. Inspired by the paintings of Belgian artist René Magritte, the ballet won an Isadora Duncan Dance Award for outstanding choreography the following year. This highly imaginative work which signified Yuri Possokhov’s choreographic debut for San Francisco Ballet, is not about Magritte, but reflects the surrealist world which influenced Magritte’s work – the green apples, the bowler hats, doves, the lovers wearing shrouds over their heads – bizarre but colourful and striking.
Possokhov has set his ballet to a score arranged by Yuri Krasavin from a selection of recognizable works by Beethoven – his Bagatelle known as Für Elise, extracts from concertos such as the First Piano Concerto and his Emperor Concerto, from his Symphony No 3 Eroica and No 7, and piano sonatas Waldstein and Appassionata. Scenic and costume design are by Thyra Hartshorn with lighting by Kevin Connaughton.
San Francisco Ballet’s Program 5 runs at the War Memorial Opera House from April 2nd to 16th. The San Francisco Ballet Orchestra is conducted by Music Director Martin West. Further information and details on ticketing can be found on the San Francisco Ballet website.
Information sourced from:
San Francisco Ballet program notes