Last Saturday night I attended SF Ballet's 3rd Program of the season, a triple bill that featured Trio by Helgi Tomasson (the artistic director), the world premiere of Francesca da Rimini by Yuri Possokhov (the resident choreographer), and Les Carnaval des Animaux by Alexei Ratmansky, which was made for the company several years ago.
SIDE NOTE: There is a very generous alum of the Mills College Dance Department who keeps a box at the ballet and donates tickets to every program to current Mills students. I had the extreme privilege of using one of those tickets last night, and, whoa dang, if I never had to sit anywhere else that would be fine by me. First of all each box has its own door that leads to a small powder room with a mirror and very comfortable chair, a place for you to hang you jacket and accoutrements, as well as menus for dessert and champagne should you feel so inclined. Then you pull back a curtain, and blamo! you have your very own box with six seats, and this one was right in the center. The most perfect place in the whole theatre to view dance. Everything is gilded with gold leaf and the seats look very Rococo. I felt like I was in Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, and let me tell you it was awesome. My apologies for the tangent, but I felt it was necessary to explain my superb vantage point in viewing these ballets. And back to the ballet....
Tomasson's Trio set to Tchaikovsky's string sextet Souvenir de Florence is a three part ballet that sandwiches a partnering heavy pas de trois with the classical style pas de deuxs with male and female variations and corps de ballet. The set and costumes were stunning. The ballet was very strong in structure and drive, but choreographically thin. Neither of the pas de deuxs had discernibly interesting or novel partnering, and though the pas de trois was danced beautifully, the way that the woman was constantly being tossed back and forth between the two men left me wishing the men would partner each other and mix it up a bit, also I couldn't stop thinking about a very similar part of Cooper Nielsen's ballet in Center Stage.
Francesca da Rimini by Yuri Possokhov
This ballet was a world premiere by choreographer in residence Yuri Possokhov based on the story of Francesca da Rimini as told by Dante. In the story Francesca cheats on her husband with his brother, they are caught, the husband kills both of them, and they all spend eternity in hell. Very Dante. Set to a Tchaikovsky symphonic poem Francesca da Rimini: Symphonic Fantasy after Dante, Op. 32, the ballet was a one act drama that brought the house down. The title character was danced by Maria Kotchetkova, one of my new favorite primas, who technical ability and grace was equally matched by acting and musicality. In addition to the love triangle the ballet featured three denizens of the underworld, making their presence sporadically known by sliding in and out of the set with undulating choreography, and seven ladies-in-waiting who served as a sort of Greek chorus, either mimicking the actions of the main characters or continuing the plot with transitions. It was stunning and the reaction from the audience was as passionate as the ballet itself.
Les Carnaval des Animaux by Alexei Ratmansky
The program ended with a ballet as comical and cheerful as Francesca da Rimini was dramatic. Ratmansky's Les Carnaval des Animaux was created for the company in 2003, and features inventive and smile-inducing choreography to each of Saint-Saen's animal-character sketches. Particularly satisfying was the "Aquarium" section with Sofiane Sylve as a jellyfish, and the elephant section danced by a young ballerina in a pink tutu.