Monthly Archives: May 2008

Sex and the City: the Sequel

Sex and the City: the TV series is like watching Martha Graham perform her Lamentation - with a deep grounded internalization of being. Sex and the City: the movie is like watching someone else dance Lamentation, trying hard to look like Martha Graham doing it – an externalization of strife in imitating Graham’s being.

This video isn’t a good example of the externalization of Graham’s original internal emotion (this video is actually quite good), but that is what usually occurs when a standard is set so high and people aim to attain a stereotype of someone else, or in the case of SATC, a stereotype of themselves.

To see an excerpt of Martha Graham herself do it, click here. Click on Jordy’s locker handle, and then to Lamentation, then to Video.

Oh and for Sex and the City, throw in unabashed fashion montages and product placement, a charming smattering of Broadway actors’ cameos (Daphne Rubin Vega, Joanna Gleason, Sara Gettelfinger), a forcefulness in showing you how close the four girls are, and take out witty writing. I came out a little disappointed, but it still had moments of why we all love Sex and the City. I had to get it out of my system, and still glad I saw it as one of the few movies that I see.

The Aftermath of San Francisco Ballet’s New Works Festival

and the 2008 American Tour

David Arce and Lorena Feijoo in Caniparoli’s Ibsen’s House. © ErikTomasson

Wow, this got buried in my Drafts folder, but I figure better late than never! Especially now that the SF Ballet season is over, my blog muse has flit away and it’s been harder to blog these days, in addition to the craziness that is work. Post-New Works Festival (PNWF), it’s exciting to look back and to see that it just wasn’t the cherry on top of the 75th anniversary sundae for the SF Ballet, but it was much more than that. It symbolized the direction of ballet’s future, with its innovation, use of technology, and a brilliant showcase of gloriously solid dancing deeply rooted in ballet’s tradition.

Judith Mackrell (of UK’s The Guardian ) spoke glowingly of what the New Works Festival symbolized to the dance world, and wondered if ballet’s future is in America, where the festival “makes English ballet look secretive and cautious”. Mackrell refers to the open symposiums that SF Ballet hosted, and the openness and the willingness to speak with audiences about issues relating to the future of ballet. Sarah Kaufman of the Washington Post took a more cynical view of the New Works Festival and what it meant for ballet’s future saying, “in recent years, producing new masterpieces (not just new pieces) has become a challenge. As a result, ballet companies rely on a stupefying amount of recycling”. It’s possible to think this way if you walked into the festival expecting a movement vocabulary of steps never seen before that everyone loved unanimously. I’m in the school of thought that ballet will grow and change in the same way as evolution has shaped biology – adapting in increments in response to the culture of the moment, evolving almost imperceptibly so that in 50 years we’ll look back and be surprised that ballet will look as different as Bournoville is to Balanchine, and as Ashton is to Forsythe.

Even though the festival is over, the good news is that SF Ballet is going on their American Tour later this year. It’s almost guaranteed that they will be showing a huge chunk of their new works to the rest of America. Starting in September, SFB will be touring Chicago, New York City, Orange County, and Washington D.C. Be sure to check them out in your town!

San Francisco Ballet: Touring

The Future of Arts Criticism

Capitalism can be so cruel sometimes. Our financially driven society continues to ensure that the arts continue to get marginalized and pushed off to the side. This explains everything from poor arts funding, trickling down to unpopular ticket sales, failing ballet companies, cutbacks on arts education (which has sadly, become the norm now), and the cause of more recent rumblings, the firing of dance and arts critics. Shockwaves rippled when the LA Times fired its chief dance critic, Lewis Segal. It continued like a tidal wave when Deborah Jowitt got cut from full time to freelance status from the Village Voice. The cutbacks continued with critics leaving at the OC Register, and a whopping 85 journalists leaving the NY Times, including a brave but sharp-edged classical music critic Bernard Holland and dance critic Jennifer Dunning, along with a group of arts editors. It leaves people wondering how bad this is going to get, and what is the future of arts coverage and criticism?

It’s so much more than less importance is being placed on the arts. It’s that these people like Jowitt set the standard for the arts and arts journalism; it’s also the fear that the quality of arts criticism will begin to crumble, in addition to the symbolic (albeit unintentional?) message that arts journalism (and thus, the arts) is unimportant and expendable. I realize that many are saying that blogging will take over in return, but that thought scares me. Even as a blogger myself, I realize that my writing is more informal as a single enthusiastic audience member, and coexists with dance criticism but never in lieu of it. It is hard to ignore though, the bigger role that blogging is already starting to occupy. It’s already interesting to see how arts organizations are handling this alarming new trend.

Edwin Denby, a highly influential dance critic of all time, writes that there is a direct relationship between smart incisive dance criticism and the quality of dancing that is shown to the public. In lamenting the lack of great dance critics in newspapers, he writes, “If only another half-dozen specialized and intelligent dance critics were writing on metropolitan papers, the public all over the country would profit considerably. Not that well-informed critics would agree on all details – far from it – but they could with a sharper authority insist on an improved general level of current production”. If the addition of dance critics improves the quality of dance, would the removal of those said critics lead to dance’s deteoriation?

The UK Times writes in a fascinating article, “If there is no intellectual, aesthetic, political, spiritual, passionate argument about what gets made, then the only arbiters of value are the box office and the phone-in. Bad culture drives out good unless there is someone there to stop it. Look at cinema, which is now virtually critic-proof.” It’s interesting that this idea insinuates that arts critics were first installed in order to prevent the natural order of capitalism, where demand and profit drives supply rather than the quality of it. And now critics are losing the war against which they were installed in the first place.

What does the future of the arts and arts criticism look like, withouts its stalwart standards like Jowitt, Segal, and Holland? How will the decline in arts criticism impact the arts itself?

On a side note: with less and less coverage of the arts, it’s sometimes difficult to pick out what to read, and who to believe. My advice is, as an actively engaged audience member, read as much as you can about the shows that you just saw. Read criticism with an open mind, by both opening your mind to accept new possibilities of things you might have missed or not considered, as well as feeling free to disagree. There will always be people who you consistently agree with, but you’ll never find one person you’ll always agree with.There are reviewers that I trust more readily than others, but that only comes with reading their reviews in the first place. I’m also fascinated by reading other people’s thoughts of the shows I just saw; it sometimes changes my mind about things and almost always opens my eyes to view things in a new way.

Other than newspaper arts criticism, I still believe that the strongest way to keep interest in the arts is to encourage audience to think actively about things, form opinions, have discussions and continue reading arts criticism. And ultimately, keep attending events. Quoting the Times quote above, one of the goals of this blog is to encourage “intellectual, aesthetic, political, spiritual, passionate argument about what gets made”, whether you agree with me or not.

Someone brought up the good point that lots of people were complaining about arts critics anyways, and so this is a good time to fix what was broken. I’m not sure if I completely agree with the statement, but we can all do our part in continuing to support the arts. I just hope the art itself won’t suffer because of the media’s decision to cuts its arts critics.

And if they fire all the critics, who will we disagree with? :)

Lion King on Ice

This was my theater tonight! I went to check out a new ice rink tonight so I could get back into skating again after a year hiatus, except the lady on the phone forgot to tell me it was their RECITAL NIGHT. It reminded me of my ballet recital days – surrounded by parents in ski jackets, the recital was inspired by the Lion King (as from the background yellow sign), there were lots of little girls in various costumes skating in a line or a circle to “Hakuna Matata”. Very cute!! Check out their colorful rental skates.

Volti: Challenging Tradition

Man, choral music has come a long way since church-y hymns and requiems. I attended a concert this weekend with the Bay Area choral group, Volti, at the kind invite of Sid, the blogger of The Standing Room. I was immediately impressed with the premise of the group, which is dedicated to working closely with living composers and encourages risk and innovation. While I’m not always the biggest fan of modern music, I was entranced by this group that seeks to redefine music and challenge tradition, in addition to placing a premium on musicality.

Under the direction of Robert Geary, Volti is a group made up of about 20 supremely talented singers, with the agility and precision of a small group and the power of a much larger one. Almost nothing is acceptedly traditional, from its diverse musical repertoire to its placement (e.g. standing around the church around the audience singing in true surround sound, or the addition of a drunken walk into its choreography).

This program introduced a world premiere of a piece commissioned by Volti from a young composer, Eric Lam, with the riskiest piece, Words Become Unlatched. With stark piercing free form poetry written by writer Benjamin Rogers, spoken word was superimposed with singing in a Cunningham-esque manner, with the spoken words and the singing not necessarily relating. The effect was a little like listening to a speaker in a noisy room, where the audience could spend effort in discerning the words, or sit back and let it all wash over you in its cacophanous intricacy. Much thought was put into this composition as betrayed by its detailed program notes, yet most of its specific meaning was lost aside from a vague feeling of cerebral analytical organization amongst its complexity. A truly valiant effort in its innovation, especially impressive from such a young composer.

A mesmerizing plot-driven Eric Moe’s O the Flesh is Hot But the Heart is Cold (2005, commissioned by Volti) followed. There’s something enchanting about fairytales, where even adults can get lost in its sweeping metaphors and a belief that hope and love always prevails in the presence of oppression. Based on Matthea Harvey’s prose-poem “Baked Alaska, a Theory Of“, the story told through song of a group of imprisoned princesses being forced to listen to a demeaning country song on repeat (a jolly rollicking song with mocking stinging words) and being fed the same thing every single day. In order to feel something amidst the repetition, the princesses sneak away into the freezer to feel the blood drain from their limbs and to feel their heart pump, to feel love. Complexly layered with beautiful descriptive imagery (“the frost on the floor creep up the heels of their shoes”), a plotline, and music imitating the words with a powerful soaring conclusion, the overall effect was cohesively breathtaking. Cruelty only accentuates the poignancy of love, and our insane efforts to find it ultimately betrays our belief that love is always to be found.

The program opened with Steven Stucky’s Cradle Songs (1997) with its soothing gentle dissonance, and a solo sung by the smoky voiced Pamela Jane Igelsrud, which lent a lovely tinge of darkness to the sweet Polish Christmas Lullaby. William Hawley’s Two Motets (1981) was arranged with the singers placed around the room, where the audience was enveloped in more familiar but no less haunting harmonies. With nowhere for the eye to look, many audience members closed their eyes to savor the experience. The nature-inspired Ronald Caltabiano’s Metaphor (1994) where sounds were used to imitate natural creatures and using it as metaphors to humanity, and the exultant Aaron Jay Kernis’ “Effortlessly Love Flows” and “I Cannot Dance, O Lord”, completed the program.

How daring of Volti to even suggest that choral music can incorporate free form poetry, a mini-fairytale song movie, phrases like “dry ice sizzles didactically” sung to music, and purposes of choral music other than church music or drinking songs (I’m thinking of the rousing “Vive la compagnie”, a song that sticks out in my mind at the last choral concert I attended over 10 years ago when I snuck out with other members of the California all-state band during rehearsal breaks to listen to the all-state choir. Or how about “Funniculi Funnicula”, anyone?). Watching this group, you get the tingling feeling that you are witnessing something completely new, made thrilling by the fact that this group is equally committed to its musicality and to supporting new talent.

Volti: Singing Without a Net

SR, SRO, and $1200+

The Opportunities and Frustrations of a Theater Loving Student

While reading through the Cal Performances’ new 2008-2009 season, I ran across this notice for buying tickets to Yo Yo Ma’s concert:

Available only to $1,200+ Donors and above; see our Support Cal Performances section for full listing of donor benefits and to become a Producers Circle donor today.

Now Ma is an amazingly lyrical player, and he is playing the Bach suites – but this sort of blatant soliciting by opening up this concert only to $1200+ donors is sobering. I saw Ma play in Shanghai a few years ago, and I would actually rather fly to China and see him for the same amount of money than supporting this bold move. It’s not surprising that people call theater elitist and find it uninviting.

Note that even if you donate $1200, it’s an additional $150-250 to see the Yo Yo Ma concert.

Ticket pricing is an issue that’s near and dear to my heart, because it directly affects my ability to see shows. For a person who’s willing to devote time, gas, and effort to see as much theater as I can, ticket prices are the only obstacle to enjoying my favorite and notoriously expensive hobby.

I realize that it takes a lot of money to put on the quality theater that I enjoy. The San Francisco Ballet has reportedly poured in $3 million into the New Works Festival, with Silicon Valley royalty like Yahoo’s founder Jerry Yang sponsoring Elo’s piece, Double Evil. With this, I am eternally grateful to the many institutions in the Bay area that remember the peons the students and offer great discount ticketing options. My favorite is San Francisco Ballet, where you can buy tickets over the phone for same day discounts. It’s such a luxury, and one that I utilize often. (One small complaint: this luxury was yanked for certain days over the New Works Festival which prevented me from watching Program A twice – check out sfmike’s take on what he calls the “only serious misstep” over this decision.) San Francisco Symphony also offers Center Terrace seats (located behind the stage, great for a piano concerto but not so great for something like a violin solo where the soloist faces the front) and rush tickets for certain performances based on availability. Berkeley Repertory Theatre has the most aggressive program aimed at attracting younger audiences, with a great “Under 30″ program with half priced tickets and access to their great Under 30 parties. All these programs are great for reeling in new audiences otherwise intimidated of going to see theater, and hopefully keeping these audiences as salaries expand with age. These programs have allowed me to experience and to keep my theater hobby alive, and whereve I end up, I will be a season subscriber to as many of these venues (or similar ones) as possible.

Cal Performances doesn’t have a consistent general student rush policy except for Berkeley students, which I am not, and rare occasions when most of the theater is empty, which coincidentally don’t occur in the shows that I usually want to see.

It’s also impossible to completely boycott its ticket policies when Cal Performances is bringing Mark Morris’ new Romeo and Juliet and his L’Allegro this year, in addition to the Kirov Ballet, the Bolshoi Ballet, and Alvin Ailey. It just means I have to limit my support and keep away from the programs that I could live without seeing. It also means no running to the Berkeley campus for last minute viewings when an evening opens up.

(On a side tangent: more information on Morris’ new Romeo and Juliet production. Not only am I looking forward to Morris’ ingenuity in seeing what he’ll do to the sweeping Prokofiev score, but this show will be a premiere in itself using the original music that Prokofiev was forced to rewrite in order to accomodate the strict Stalinist regime. Check out the new website for Morris’ Romeo and Juliet, www.lovelives.net .)

I wrote briefly about this topic before, citing a NY Times article that when NYCB changed its cheapest tickets from $30 to $15, sales tripled. Sometimes I wonder why I couldn’t have cheaper hobbies than theater, like movies or hiking. But thanks to the great student programs out there, it’s really allowed me to see as much as I can without too being too much in debt. I can only hope that these student policies don’t change.

From the NY Times article, If You Discount It, Will They Come?

Updated: Are you a student at UCSF or the SF Conservatory? Check out the SF Performances Culture Card, where you can see over 20 shows for $25. It’s got to be one of the best deals that I’ve ever heard of.

Program C: San Francisco Ballet’s New Works Festival

Sarah Van Patten and Rory Hohenstein in Elo’s Double Evil

Program C rounded out the last of the new works for the festival. Equally diverse the rest of the new works, in my mind it stood out as the riskiest set of pieces. Margaret Jenkins’ Thread is being labeled as the riskiest piece in the entire New Works Festival, and I have to agree. It starts out with stirring anticipation, with a transparent screen with a maze and a video projection of a woman’s face and poetry being spoken over the music, commissioned for this piece and written by Paul Dresher. However, the anticipation fizzles out in a flurry of athletic physicality and drama, where the plotline gets lost in the action. It speaks vaguely of its inspiration, the myth of Aradiane and the labyrinth at Knossos, utilizing an athletic modern dance vocabulary to tell its tale. Damian Smith and Pauli Magierek danced the leads, with a Greek chorus-like ensemble that would often mirror and react to the soloists and their movements. There is a sense of seeking, as the dancers pointed – perhaps they were searching for a plot?? As always, the dancers were wholeheartedly committed to the movement, with a natural inhabitation of the movement in their bodies. The women stood out to me, in their gut-wrenching sweeping passion, where in ensemble dancing, looked like an alive moving organism, breathing as one.

Pauli Magierek in Jenkins’ Thread.

The second piece was Val Caniparoli’s vividly haunting Ibsen’s House, based on the writings of Henrik Ibsen who wrote about challenging feminist roles in Victorian society. This unique subject matter made for a series of fascinating sketches of couples with different stories – real life husband and wife Tiit Helimets and Molly Smolen danced the couple in an abusive relationship, where Helimets partners her threateningly by gripping her upper arms, where the wife tries to maintain a calm exterior by smoothing out her dress and her hair. Dana Genshaft and Garen Scribner portrayed more of an equal partnership, with Scribner showing a moving vulnerability as he grasps Genshaft’s waist as she’s moving away, yet there’s still a sense of the inability to connect as they struggle through awkward partnering moves with as much grace as possible. Scribner and Genshaft danced with a tender tortured transparency, speaking volumes about strife in Genshaft’s arching back and Scribner’s fervent reach. Lorena Feijoo and David Arce danced with fiery abandon, with Feijoo covering her mouth as if to stop herself from speaking her mind. The other couples – Courtney Elizabeth and Pierre-Francois Vilanoba, and Nicole Grand and Anthony Spaulding – were less clear in their specific situations, but no less entrancing as they represented different aspects of diverse relationships. The best thing about this piece was that this is the sort of movement that showcases the San Francisco Ballet company at their best, where you get the sense that the dancers felt completely at ease in this choreography, following through every moment to its fullest.

Tiit Helimets and Molly Smolen in Caniparoli’s Ibsen’s House

Dana Genshaft in Caniparoli’s Ibsen’s House

The evening ended with a bang with the much anticipated and the clear audience favorite, Jorma Elo’s Double Evil. With intrigue around every corner, this piece was all about two extremes. The movement merged lush classical ballet segments with hyperkinetic robotic angular jerking movements, and the music switched from the urgent Philip Glass’ Concerto Fantasy for Two Timpanists and Orchestra to the minimalist Vladimir Marynov’s Come In!, and the lighting switched from darkly mysterious to a cheery bright white. This use of polar extremes juxtaposed sharply against one another just felt too big of a jarring disconnect in the big picture. In my first viewing of the piece, it left me with a feeling of confusion without quite being able to put my finger on why I felt this way in an otherwise action-packed yet fractured piece. Also, Elo’s movement vocabulary is in itself innovative, but it’s also limited, not only within this piece but also resorting to reusing a memorable motif from a previous piece that I saw, in ABT’s “Close to Chuck” – a move where a female dancer reacts as a ricocheting pinball in response to her partner. In addition, this was the first piece that failed to showcase the company at its best, with lack of group unison and even timing being off by a full beat around every corner in this extremely difficult choreography. This clashed with the showy circus-like nature of the piece, which should have been more of a thrilling showcase instead of a flurry of arms perhaps in response to a suppressed fear of being left behind the music. This is not to say that it was all puzzling and conflicted; there is a pleasing arc to the movements that gets repeated, and the precarious lightning fast action in response to the insistence of the timpani adds to the overall excitement. There are some genuine moments as well, which includes my favorite moment in the piece which is the pose shown above, with Rory Hohenstein supporting Sarah Van Patten from the floor; there is an air of dangerously thrilling riskiness in this careful pose, with a moment of connection as Hohenstein looks up at her. It felt like everything paused in that moment, like an oasis in the middle of a desert storm. Standouts were Rory Hohenstein with his unbridled articulation, Jamie Garcia Castilla in his luxurious extensions, Lily Rogers with her noble lean lines and an increasingly growing confidence, and Maria Kochetkova with her weightless agility bringing a freshly modern sharpness to the choreography. Pascal Molat soared effortlessly, and Nicolas Blanc brought applause with his lively turns.

Sarah Van Patten and Rory Hohenstein in Elo’s Double Evil

Pascal Molat in Elo’s Double Evil

Program C was a risky program, yet thrillingly so. Risk in itself is always admirable, which was a hallmark quality of the entire New Works Festival.

Other notes – why are so many dancers leaving?? Superstar and company darling Rory Hohenstein danced his last performance this past week, with no less than four dancers dancing their last dance on the last day of the season. Principal Molly Smolen has been with the company since 2006, yet the first time I ever saw her dance was in Ibsen’s House. She danced with a multilayered complexity and emotional depth; it would have been great to see her dance more roles. Garrett Anderson, Courtney Wright, and Steven Norman also danced their last. They will all be missed!

The amazing 75th anniversary season is over. What better way to close out the season with the New Works Festival. Innovation is deep in the heart of the company, and it was a privilege to experience it and to get a glimpse into the future of ballet and the San Francisco Ballet company.

Other takes on Program C:

San Francisco Ballet Program C: click for a video preview

All photos © ErikTomasson

2008-2009 Season for San Francisco Ballet

Ratmansky, Balanchine, and Morris, oh my!

Yuan Yuan Tan and Ruben Martin in Balanchine’s Diamonds. © Erik Tomasson

Is it possible to be any more excited than this past groundbreaking 75th anniversary season for the San Francisco Ballet? Apparently so – I’m almost more excited for next year than for this year’s amazing programming! Although the new production of Swan Lake, complete with video and multimedia effects, is being touted as the crown jewel for next year, I’m thrilled to see a great sampling of Balanchine’s greatest works, including what I was holding my breath for, the full length production of Jewels; the last act, “Diamonds”, pictured above, was presented as a part of Program 1 this past year. Other Balanchine works I’m really excited about is The Four Temperaments and Stravinsky Violin Concerto.

Also, they are presenting a full evening of my favorite modern choreographer, Mark Morris, presenting his baroque The Garden to the music of Richard Strauss, his recently made Joyride, and his brilliantly humorous Sandpaper Ballet, which I’ve been itching to see again. Six out of the 10 new works that were presented in the New Works Festival, a new commission by resident choreographer Yuri Possohkov, and Alexei Ratmansky’s much touted Russian Seasons round out an ideal programming for the 76th season for the San Francisco Ballet.

Taken from the SF Chronicle:

Program 1: World premiere by Yuri Possohkov, George Balanchine’s “The Four Temperaments” and Helgi Tomasson’s “Prism.”

Program 2: Stanton Welch’s “Naked,” Val Caniparoli’s “Ibsen’s House” and William Forsythe’s “in the middle, somewhat elevated.”

Program 3: All-new production of “Swan Lake” by Tomasson, after Petipa, with costumes and scenery by Jonathan Fensom.

Program 4: Company premiere of Antony Tudor’s “Jardin aux Lilas,” an encore presentation of Tomasson’s “On a Theme of Paganini” and Jerome Robbins’ “The Concert.”

Program 5 (All Morris program): Mark Morris’ “A Garden,” “Joyride” and “Sandpaper Ballet.”

Program 6: Christopher Wheeldon’s “Within the Golden Hour,” Robbins’ “West Side Story Suite” and Balanchine’s “Stravinsky Violin Concerto.”

Program 7: Balanchine’s evening-length “Jewels.”

Program 8: Alexei Ratmansky’s “Russian Seasons,” Possokhov’s “Fusion” and Jorma Elo’s “Double Evil.”

It’s really going to be a great season!! It takes the edge off of the sadness that this season is ending tomorrow. :)

San Francisco Ballet

UPDATED: The official press release from the SF Ballet

Program B: A Second Look

San Francisco Ballet The New Works Festival: Program B

Frances Chung and Brett Bauer in Welch’s Naked. © ErikTomasson

I always learn a lot more when I watch something for the second time. This is especially true for hyped up events, or events with either no expectations or no knowledge, or events in which I have too much knowledge. The second time, I almost feel like since I know what’s coming, I can really enjoy it. It’s bad for my wallet since I have to see things multiple times, but I also get the additional pleasure of viewing different casts and their interpretations of the same roles. Welch’s Naked was not received well critically; on second viewing however, I still thoroughly enjoyed its sparkling musicality. Perhaps there is a little excess repetition in the end of the first central pas de deux with Katita Waldo and Tiit Helimets but it was hardly recognizable in my mind. The brilliant Poulenc’s piano concerto definitely propels this piece along. Vanessa Zahorian danced the lead female role, with such solid technique that often she was ahead of the beat; she is definitely more assured in her technique than in her ease in the beautiful music. Her feisty attitude was fun to watch. Clara Blanco held her own with her elegant upper body, with Frances Chung dancing surely with warmth.

Julia Adam’s A rose by any other name really separated the dancers into two groups – dancers who were comfortable dancing in this restrictive style, and those who weren’t. For the most part, the second cast wasn’t as comfortable and portrayed the striving behind actively restricting their normal comfort zones. The movements express more when danced with a deadpan irony where the movements speak for themselves, rather than when danced with obvious emotion. The exception in the second cast was Tina LeBlanc, as Princess Aurora, who was charmingly spry.

The key to Morris’ Joyride is knowing how to listen to the music. I should have known this, knowing Morris, but the first time around, I got lost in John Adam’s cacophanous pit of chaos. It’s a matter of personal taste and familiarity that I happen to prefer Beethoven symphonies to John Adams. Despite this, the stars seem to line up at every moment where I “get” it, and understand that he’s using the dancers’ movement to keep the beat here, and he’s using different dancers to follow different instrumental lines there. It speaks volumes of Morris’ ingenuity; the music near the end of the piece sounds like different instrumental melody lines are in completely independent time meters, and the dancing vividly reflects that, with different dancers following each instrumental line. Nicolas Blanc danced wholeheartedly in his solo, garnering well deserved applause midway for his energetic performance.

The biggest difference in the second viewing is the toll of the festival is beginning to show onstage. Maybe it’s because the initial excitement of the festival is over, but the raggedness of fatigue were beginning to show, with a slip here, a few nail-bitingly precarious and shaky lifts there, a missed developpe or a turn here, and a “tree” missing its branches on the hand of a dancer in the Adam piece. The mad, flailing arms in the men in Kudelka’s The Ruins Proclaim the Building was Beautiful weren’t nearly so desperate, and the hyperkinetic adrenaline of the wild Joyride was a tad muffled, which took away from the complete picture onstage. It struck me at how difficult the choreography is, and it must be a huge physical and mental challenge to take on 10 new works all at one time. There are also signs of injuries, as an announcement that Yuan Yuan Tan and Pierre-Francois Vilanoba replaced Katita Waldo and David Arce in Kudelka’s piece was made before the show. The SF Ballet has a monster weekend this weekend (four shows on Saturday and Sunday) but the season ends on Tuesday. Despite this, the company still brought its magic onstage and I left satisfied, happy to have gotten to see this program again.

Sadly, it’s the final home stretch! It’s been a great season, and what a fitting way to end the 75th anniversary season with a bang.