Breaking the glass ceiling
The women of San Francisco Ballet are good. Very good in fact. They sliced their way through Balanchine’s tricky Divertimento No.15, Edwaard Liang’s attractive Symphonic Dances and Christopher Wheeldon’s funky little Number Nine with a consistently superior display of musicality and picture-postcard technique.
The footwork in Divertimento No.15 was particularly strong and there was a stand-out performance of poise and elegance from the charismatic Sofiane Sylve in Symphonic Dances. Across the board the women floated, entranced and delighted. The bouquets that never came would have been more than well-deserved.
The men, however, the men. They made superb partners; powerful, reliable and thoughtful, they truly allowed their ballerinas to flourish. The sequence of duets towards the end of Divertimento, for example, were wonderful to watch. But as soon as the ladies left them to their own devices they struggled in the spotlight, appearing to yearn for the shadows instead. Steps, leaps and turns were generally perfunctory, reticent even, and there were several big mistakes, including some untidy falls (as also happened in the performance on Saturday 15).
It wasn’t until the 1980s acid-house gym club extravaganza of Wheeldon’s Number Nine that they injected some fizz into their work but even that was not sustained through the whole of the piece.
To be fair, the problem may have been exacerbated by the embarrassment of having to wear Karinska’s badly dated costumes for Divertimento – baby-blue jackets with fake yellow bow-ties? And people wonder why they can’t get boys interested in ballet.