Mixed Bill (Programme B) – San Francisco Ballet: Sadler’s Wells, 15 September 2012

No flowers hair

Who you gonna call? Some of Christopher Wheeldon’s Ghosts try to contact the living. Photo by Erik Tomasson

With a Triple Bill of freshly minted short works, all premiered within the last two and a half years, it was good to see San Francisco Ballet peering so successfully into the future.

Opening the second programme of their substantial Sadler’s Wells run was Artistic Director’s Helgi Tomasson’s beautiful 2011 piece Trio. It was elegance personified, with Mark Zappone’s lovely floated skirts for the women splitting open, well, right up to the pelvis. Set to Tchaikovsky’s string sextet Souvenir de Florence, Trio had a slightly dislocating structure in that the first, third and fourth movements were abstract while the absolutely stunning second movement was narrative driven. Sarah van Patten, Tiit Helimets and Vito Mazzeo were deeply affecting in the second movement as they unwove their tale of death stealing away young love.

Christopher Wheeldon’s Ghosts is a fantastic piece with brilliant lighting by Mary Louise Geiger that creates an invigoratingly spooky translucent effect. The choreography shows Wheeldon at his imaginative best, veering from insectoid groupings to lyrically swooning partnerings, and there are some robust lifts and athletic rolling which make this work stand out from his usual, more elegaic, oeuvre. There’s also a breathtaking duet towards the end, performed with uncanny synchronisation and emotion by Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith.

One of Wheeldon’s great strengths is producing pieces that work in tandem with the music, something achieved to tremendous effect in Ghosts. Ashley Page’s Guide to Strange Places, the piece that closed the evening’s entertainment, was quite the opposite; the dancing was constantly fighting against John Adam’s bombastic score so unfortunately all the dancers’ best efforts at high kicks, jumps and stabby limb jerks tended to get whacked into submission by rasping brass and whopping great thumps on the timpani. A strange way to end the programme but it demonstrated perfectly the company’s wonderfully eclectic talents and exciting approach to live performance.

Gerard Davis

This entry was posted in Ashley Page, Christopher Wheeldon, Helgi Tomasson, Sadler's Wells, San Francisco Ballet and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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