San Francisco Ballet goes to New York

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San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson’s ‘Trio’
© Erik Tomasson

San Francisco Ballet heads for New York City this coming week, with a showcase of mixed-bill programs, followed by the New York premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s spectacularly successful production of Cinderella.

Founded in 1933, San Francisco Ballet is America’s oldest professional ballet company and one of the three largest in the United States.  Having performed the first American productions of Swan Lake and Nutcracker, the Company can also add to its list of premieres the first 20th Century American production of Coppélia.  San Francisco Ballet has been under the direction of Helgi Tomasson since 1985, and regularly commissions new works by some of the world’s most creative choreographers – whether emerging talents or masters of their profession – to add to its diverse and sophisticated repertoire.

The mixed-bill programs, to be presented in New York from October 16 to 20, focus mainly on the works of contemporary choreographers, highlighting the versatility and flair for which this Company is known.

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Vanessa Zahorian and Vitor Luiz in Tomasson’s ‘Trio’
© Erik Tomasson

Helgi Tomasson’s Trio draws on the rich and dramatic melodies of Tchaikovsky’s gorgeous Souvenir de Florence, creating a series of what Tomasson refers to as “images or remembrances” – souvenirs, in effect, of three different episodes.  A work which captures the vivacity and emotion of Tchaikovsky’s music, it’s a sumptuous offering, both visually and choreographically.

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Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith in Wheeldon’s ‘Ghosts’
© Erik Tomasson

Ghosts, a Christopher Wheeldon ballet, takes its title from the score composed by C  F Kip Winger, and represents a mass gathering of souls, to create an atmosphere “…. more like perfume than a heavy sort of ghost story,” says Wheeldon. “You’re not quite sure where you are or whether these people are real.  Are they characters or are they not?”

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San Francisco Ballet in McGregor’s ‘Borderlands’
© Erik Tomasson

Wayne McGregor’s Borderlands is based on the concept of dancers embodying paintings – with the work of German-American artist Josef Albers influencing the connection which McGregor makes between dance and fine art.  He refers to the electronic score – created by British composer Joel Cadbury, in collaboration with Paul Stoney – as “sonic architecture” and “very analogous to the conceptual idea I had.”

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San Francisco Ballet in Ratmansky’s ‘From Foreign Lands’
© Erik Tomasson

From Foreign Lands, a ballet by Alexei Ratmansky, is set to Moritz Moszkowski’s eminently danceable Suite for Orchestra of the same name.  Incorporating influences from Russia, Italy, Germany, Spain, Poland and Hungary, Ratmansky delivers what’s described as an uplifting creation, “high energy, playful and showy”.  Known for the fresh and youthful style of his work, Ratmansky – currently Choreographer in Residence at American Ballet Theatre – nevertheless retains a sense of honor for the traditions and culture of ballet.

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San Francisco Ballet in Morris’ ‘Beaux’
© Erik Tomasson

Mark Morris’ Beaux is an unusual ballet in many senses.  With its striking costumes, backdrop by fashion designer Isaac Mizrahy, and a score by Bohuslav Martinů – which features the revival harpsichord – the work has been created for an all-male cast, and is “not just about what men are compelled to do in the ballet industry,” says Morris.  Aiming for a wider range of dancing, he describes his work as “difficult and virtuosic in a way that isn’t exploding in midair”.

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Maria Kochetkova and Hansuke Yamamoto in Possokhov’s ‘Classical Symphony’
© Erik Tomasson

Classical Symphony, by the Company’s Choreographer in Residence, Yuri Possokhov, is dedicated “to my school, to my teacher, my background” – the teacher in question being Peter Pestov, the “most beloved and respected” of his teachers at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow.  It was Pestov who introduced Possokhov to Prokofiev’s Symphony No 1 – the Classical – so not only is the ballet a tribute to Possokhov’s former ballet master, but it contains a number of personal links to Peter Pestov as well.

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San Francisco Ballet in Edwaard Liang’s ‘Symphonic Dances’
© Erik Tomasson

Choreographer Edwaard Liang chose Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances for his first work for San Francisco Ballet.  The score, he feels, is intensely spiritual, and his ballet portrays “a spiritual, abstract world, what you would call the in-between, where it’s neither this world nor the next”.  Because this 2012 commission was specifically tailored to San Francisco Ballet, Liang felt that this music, “although intimidating”, was perfect.  “It’s a huge orchestration, really just big, bold music, and that’s one of the reasons I was drawn to it.”

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San Francisco Ballet in Serge Lifar’s ‘Suite en Blanc’
© Erik Tomasson

Serge Lifar’s Suite en Blanc is a series of divertissements set to excerpts from Lalo’s 1882 ballet Namouna.  With its crisp, sparkling choreography and obvious sense of fun, this work has an air of Balanchine about it – hardly surprising since Lifar had created the title roles in Balanchine’s Apollon Musagète in 1928 and The Prodigal Son in 1929, as a premier danseur for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes.  Suite en Blanc was written in 1943, when Lifar was with the Paris Opera Ballet, and is rarely performed in the United States – a situation which might well change following San Francisco Ballet’s successful revival earlier this year.

San Francisco Ballet’s Mixed Bill Programs will run at the David H Koch Theater, Lincoln Center, New York, from October 16 to 20.  For further information and tickets, please follow this link http://www.sfballet.org/tickets/ontour where you’ll also find video clips of the New York season.

A preview of Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella will shortly appear on this site.

San Francisco Ballet 

Helgi Tomasson

Christopher Wheeldon

Wayne McGregor 

Alexei Ratmansky

Mark Morris

Yuri Possokhov  

Edwaard Liang

Serge Lifar  

George Balanchine

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