San Francisco Ballet is well known for its innovative and creative programming, ably slotting contemporary and experimental works into its schedule between the traditional classical and ‘story’ ballets which form part of every season. The Company’s 2020 season provides as fascinating a mix of versatility as any we’ve seen in recent years, and this week sees the opening of two programs of mainly contemporary works – Classical (Re)Vision and Dance Innovations.
Classical (Re)Vision opens with one of the works which featured in the 2018 Unbound Festival. Bearing the simple title Bespoke, it was created by Australian choreographer Stanton Welch. He uses two of J S Bach’s violin concertos – the A minor and E major – to illustrate the theme of this work, which revolves around what he terms the “bittersweet” love of dancers for their art – the all-consuming passion with which they willingly devote their lives to it, even though the career of a performing dancer is relatively short.
The program goes on to feature a selection of works which fall under the heading of Director’s Choice, three of which will feature in different performances. These works are drawn from ballets already in the Company’s repertoire – Val Caniparoli’s Foreshadow, Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain pas de deux, Helgi Tomasson’s Soirees Musicales, Myles Thatcher’s 05:49, Danielle Rowe’s For Pixie, Gsovsky’s Grand Pas Classique, David Dawson’s Swan Lake pas de deux, and Tomasson’s Concerto Grosso.
Ending the program on a light-hearted and upbeat note is a ballet which Mark Morris created for the Company in 1999. Sandpaper Ballet is neoclassical in style, but set to the music of the hugely popular composer of light orchestral works, Leroy Anderson. The score includes some of his best-loved pieces – Sleigh Ride, Fiddle-Faddle, The Typewriter, A Trumpeter’s Lullaby and The Syncopated Clock. It’s a fun and entertaining piece, with costumes by American fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi.
Program 03 – a selection of both classical and contemporary ballets – is entitled Dance Innovations, and opens with a world premiere by American dancer and choreographer Trey McIntyre – one of the contributing choreographers to the 2018 Unbound program. The McIntyre work featured in this program is The Big Hunger, which the choreographer relates to the search for a purpose in life.
For the score, he’s selected Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No 2, a work which McIntyre describes as “…. complex and original, and somehow melodic and danceable, but also discordant and strange, and off-putting and embracing and lovely”. It will be played in these performances by Yekwon Sunwoo, winner of the 2017 Van Cliburn Gold Medal.
The Infinite Ocean is the third work created for San Francisco Ballet by Edwaard Liang – and it also premiered during the Unbound Festival. According to Liang, the setting of the ballet is that space in time between life and death, before a spirit crosses the infinite ocean of the title. The score is a beautiful violin concerto commissioned by Liang from contemporary British composer, Oliver Davis.
Completing this program is Études, a ballet by Danish dancer and choreographer, Harald Lander – Artistic Director of the Royal Danish Ballet from1932 to1951 – who was inspired to create this work by Danish composer, Knudåge Riisager. The work traces the progression of ballet from the basics with which every dancer’s day begins – a rigorous repetition of exercises – to the ultimate goal of the performance. For the score, Riisager arranged for orchestra a set of piano studies by Austrian composer Carl Czerny, which themselves mirror the increasing challenges faced by the dancer. Études is a grand opportunity for the Company to showcase the artistry of its principal dancers, as well as that of the corps de ballet.
San Francisco Ballet is accompanied by the Grammy Award-winning San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, led by Music Director and Principal Conductor, Martin West, sharing conducting duties with Ming Luke.
Classical (Re)Vision and Dance Innovations will be performed at the city’s War Memorial Opera House between 11th and 27th February. For more information and tickets, visit the San Francisco Ballet website.
Information sourced from:
San Francisco Ballet program notes