Following the premiere of choreographer-in-resident Yuri Possohkov’s RAkU a few weeks of ago (did I get the capitalization right?), it was an interesting study to see the contrasting Possohkov’s Classical Symphony in San Francisco Ballet’s program 3 last Thursday evening. In contrast to the drama created in RAkU through a violent and passionate storyline (and equally enchanting music), Classical Symphony creates drama and excitement through high-flying movements at breakneck speeds. Classical Symphony made its premiere with the company in April 2010, an abstract ballet deeply rooted in classical ballet vocabulary with modern touches – shoulder shimmies, tossed limbs, and leans, giving the classical vocabulary a fresh and flirty sex appeal. Balanchine comes to mind, with the speed and precision of the steps and the musicality of the choreography following Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1. Vanessa Zahorian and Gennadi Nedvigin spun and jumped to the music with ease and style, with long poetic phrases in a duet later in the piece. Last year, upon the first viewing of the piece, a middle section of an ensemble of men leaping in time to the Gavotte stood out as a low point of the piece, and even on second viewing, this section appears musically simplistic and predictable. But Isaac Hernandez stood out in his solos with crystalline clarity in his footwork and a noble bearing. The ensemble in Classical Symphony also looked top notch, with the women dancing with elegance and clear articulation and the men dancing with bravura. In all, Classical Symphony a fresh and exciting abstract ballet that sparkles.
The drama took a different turn with the next piece, Tomasson’s darkÂ Nanna’s Lied. Created in 1993 with then principal Elizabeth Loscavio in mind as the lead role, Tomasson creates a dramatic storyline of a woman’s journey from girl to womanhood in prewar Germany, backed fittingly by the cynical and taunting melodies of Kurt Weill and Friedrich Hollaender (sung live by soprano Melody Moore). The central figure is Nanna, danced with complete abandon by Sarah Van Patten, filling every moment with tension and despair after betrayal and violence. The choreography for the men was especially commanding, particularly for Garen Scribner and James Sofranko as pursuers crackling with fire and hot temper in their pursuit of Nanna. Anthony Spaulding was a handsome Johnny, embodying the cruelty and charisma of his character with cool elegance. The audience seemed a bit subdued in response, and my guess is because since it’s not an uplifting piece.Â The story is a familiar one told in an intriguing way, a particular departure from Tomasson’s recent offerings.
The evening ended with William Forsythe’s fascinatingly weird Artifact Suite. It’s a difficult piece to describe – it’s pure physicality pushed to the limits, bare industrial sets propelled by the music of J.S. bach and Eva Crossman-Hecht, with a mix of innovation and a dash of Andy Kaufman-esque dark humor. Soloists Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith stretches and pulls with sharp, alien beauty and Pascal Molat and Lorena Feijoo dance with athleticism and animal grace. There are more than a few surprises which I won’t reveal here, but if you stay with the weirdness and disjointed nature of it, you’ll be rewarded by the power of a full ensemble being stretched, powerfully and magnificently.
San Francisco Ballet’s Program 3 runs through March 9. Program 4 is also currently running, and continues through March 8. Click here for more info.