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San Francisco Ballet

'Maelstrom,' 'Falling,' 'Company B'

Falling into place

by Toba Singer

February 11, 2005 - War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco

"Maelstrom": First there are the dancers dressed in aubergine—women bare-shouldered, men bare-chested. A quiet apocalypse is in the making as the sky presents itself—a genial blue hosting even gentler white clouds across the backdrop. Also present is that ensemble unisexual concentration that Mark Morris likes to bring forward in his work as the arms go angular, cutting diagonal swaths that then swirl into the preparations for turns. The dancers are spigot-like, the steps and accompanying Beethoven Trio in D Major “Ghost,” as fluid as the veritable “babbling brook.” Where’s the maelstrom?

Just as the question poses itself, the tempo changes, heralding the entrance of the men, now in pink shirts. There are poses and the turns that issue from them, held in the parentheses of gentle, pastoral balancés. Partnering is slight, and gives way to lines of dancers that alternate scissor-like across the stage.

In the second movement, the sky darkens almost to black, and the choreography becomes more legato. The phrasing is delicate, but at the same time, languorously powerful, punctuated by the briefest sprinkle of ronds de jambes en l’aire. A quartet of dancers challenges the mood, bringing in heavier weather, marking the highs and lows of the system, crashing to the floor in splits. Now it is the sky that is the color of eggplants, the clouds having gone to gray, as the dancers bound off the floor with flexed feet. There is a mood of supplication as one partner falls to the knee from arabesque and is then raised up by the other partner who goes to half penchée.

In the third movement, Katita Waldo is punctilious and focused, opening a new front against a red sky with clouds of white, and there is a bellwether duet by Frances Chung and Sarah Van Patten.  A male dancer joins them whose articulate footwork picks up the schema initiated by Waldo. She is now delivering a smile at the top of each jeté, and right on the music! The maelstrom is in the room, and the work is piston-like, with the dancers moving in and out of the phrases like a series of electrical relays.

"Falling": Falling is of course what one strives never to do in dance, and what everyone is given to expect in love. Choreographer Stanton Welch, ever the contrarian, has embraced the dancer’s worst fear, and the world’s greatest expectation, in a world premiere that explores the upside of gravity. Vanessa Zahorian, partnered by Guennadi Nedviguine (both in blue), executes a series of exaggerated fouettés, after which she folds herself into Nedviguine like a fetus into a womb. Muriel Maffre and partner Brett Bauer are minted in green. He helps her reveal the vast expanses of her rib cage and spine, which bend over backwards into amazing cambrés that have the audience falling in love.

Maureen Choi is dainty in pink, giving us a kind of winged movement with kewpie arms. Who would ever guess that she and her partner would end up falling flat on the floor, then belly to belly, one head popping up for air, and then the other? Moises Martín as the male half of the raspberry couple is showing a new-found strength and vitality, pushing past earlier boundaries in both technique and elevation. This is an off-kilter, brain-teasing vehicle for the company, and the dancers rise to the occasion.

"Company B": Paul Taylor’s swing choreography asks the proverbial question: “Can bunheads dance jazz?” Several certainly can, and among them are: Katita Waldo, who knows the character she is dancing—and therefore “gets,” as well as delivers, the period and mood; Brett Bauer ("Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh!"), who has a range of talents including dance, musicality (aka rhythm), comic acting, and enough height to be make him available to partner anybody; and the sizzling Pauli Magierek ("Rum and Coca Cola"), a dark horse, whose career could as easily have taken her to Broadway as the Beaulieu. Also coming from behind is Moises Martín, not normally given to showing much facial expression, but who along with Waldo totally has the requisite schmaltz and schvitz for the Andrews Sisters selection, "Bei Mir Bist Du Shön." Their partnering in "There Will Never be Another You" is mesmerizing. James Sofranko gives us a stylish, finger snapping Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. Costumes by Santo Loquasto, and artful period makeup and hair, all contribute to the endorphin-rich retrofest that brings the program to a close.

Edited by Staff.

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