Saturday, March 12, 2011

a night at the ballet

a few weeks ago i had the pleasure of attending San Francisco Ballet's Program 3, consisting of Yuri Possokhov's "Classical Symphony", Helgi Tomasson's "Nanna's Lied", and Forsythe's "Artifact Suite".  while the evening itself was totally magical, some of the ballets were not.

the program starts off with "Classical Symphony", which i must say was amazing.  from the music, to the costumes, to the superb and surprising choreography, possokhov choreographed a serious winner.  vanessa zahorian danced the lead role, and while she is an incredibly strong and precise dancer, i felt her movements were a little jerky.  sometimes you see those dancers who forget to connect every single one of the steps, pausing and breaking from the fluidity, which seemed to happen a few times.  but her footwork and precision definitely made up for it.  that small critique aside, it was absolutely stunning and inspiring.

Maria Kochetkova and Frances Chung; Classical Symphony
after a brief intermission we came back in for "Nanna's Lied", which i can without a doubt say is by far the worst ballet i've ever seen.  ***warning, i'm about to rant.

the choreography was as literal as possible; i don't speak german, yet i know 100% that the choreography did nothing but directly act out the words to the song.  it may just be my opinion, but there is no need for both choreography and music if they fail to tell the story in new or interesting ways.  it was like watching the same boring television show twice in a row; as if it wasn't bad enough the first time, there was nothing new or exciting to hold my interest.

and it was all surprisingly erratic; after a series of weird poses and walking, the dancers would finally start dancing, and right when you're almost intrigued then the song would end, along with the dancing...and my interest in the piece.  then the audience would wait, as the dancers blandly repositioned themselves on the stage, waiting for the next song to begin, accompanied by their obvious and predictable musical cues.  adding to this was a ridiculous and frustrating set, composed of 3 large grey slates concrete walls, which had nothing to add to the story line.  and with every pause of the music, they would dramatically switch the direction the walls were tilting, as if it had to be done in order for the audience to follow the ballet.  in reality, all it did was distract me and cause me to spend more time wondering why they were necessary as opposed to trying to enjoy the ballet.

Sarah Van Patten and Anthony Spaulding, Nanna's Lied
the one bright spot in this ballet was the lovely sarah van patten.  no matter how ridiculously predictable the choreography, it was impossible to take your eyes off her.  every movement was rich and luxurious and i enjoyed every second she was dancing.

it was a shame to see the amazingly talented anthony spaulding dancing in a role where he wasn't actually dancing, rather just acting as a piece of scenery, occasionally lifting van patten (which of course he still did perfectly).  i guess for me, spaulding is so incredible because even though he is not as technically skilled as some of the other principles, when he moves he has complete command of the stage.  he has that special je ne sais quois that keeps the audience wanting more; so having him simply strolling across the stage was insanely frustrating.  he never got the ability to actually dance, and a ballet that wastes men's talent is to me totally pointless.

overall, "Nanna's Lied" left a terrible taste in my mouth, and i was not the only one.

what better way to restore my faith in sf ballet then ending it with the amazing and fantastic Forsythe piece "Artifact".  if i've said it once, i'll say it again; Forsythe on sfb is a match made in heaven.  between the unmatchable perfection of the dancers and the stunning choreography of Forsythe, i could watch "Artifact" all day long.  while many of my audience members found the dramatic dropping of the curtain, which happens sporadically through out the piece, to be a little overwhelming, if you keep an open mind you'll find that the intensity of the ballet is literally moving.


for more info on Program 3, visit san francisco ballet's website here.

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