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San Francisco Ballet - Program 5

Thirstquenchingly Good...

by Becca Hirschman

March 23, 2007 -- War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco, CA

San Francisco Ballet's season is quickly cresting past the halfway mark, and Program 5 swelled this Friday evening with four contemporary yet differing works.

The evening's highlight proved to be the debut of Christopher Wheeldon's "Carousel (A Dance)" to the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical of the same name. Sarah Van Patten and Pierre-François Vilanoba as the young lovers transformed the stage from sheer performance into an alluring story- and a well-danced one at that. Wheeldon, breaking out of his Balanchine-esque ways, choreographed an enjoyable vision to watch, and as the couple's relationship grows, you almost want to giggle giddily along with Van Patten as she realizes she's in love. The orchestra, conducted by Martin West, swayed confidently through the score.  The corps' human carousel at the end (oh, what a spectacle!) adds an extra "oomph" and gives all the more reason to relish and bathe in the sweet moment.

Mark Morris' "Pacific" glided to and fro with a freshness matched only by Lever 2000. Bodies leaped and arched in succession, reminiscent of the ocean on a clear day. Tina LeBlanc and Nicolas Blanc (filling in for an injured Gennadi Nedvigin) displayed warmth and intimacy as the red couple, him lifting her as though she were a continuation of his arms, and she graciously reaching to him as she twisted into a stretched out attitude. Elana Altman, as one of the four "green women," provided grandeur and tranquility as she jetéd and swirled about.

Not to be outdone, Helgi Tommason's "The Fifth Season," to music by Karl Jenkins, returned to the stage with a punch. Katita Waldo looked in fine form with her long limbs jutting forward and herself showing a cool demeanor as she tapped her foot. Gonzalo Garcia matched her well in both presence and style. Van Patten and Vilanoba moved their way across the stage with a ballet-based tango that would put "Dancing with the Stars" to shame. Yuan Yuan Tan and Tiit Helimets as the third couple connected softly throughout Sandra Woodall's art gallery-like space. The corps, though, was poorly costumed and unfortunately served no purpose other than to add eight more bodies to the already well-crafted space.

Rushing in like high tide, Jerome Robbin's "Fancy Free" progressed quickly and assuredly. The three giddy sailors (Gonzalo Garcia, Garrett Anderson, and Pascal Molat) had only two things on their mind: girls and girls. With all their might they competed in their own little dance-off: a battle of jumping, sliding, time-stepping, and posing all for the chance to get a girl. Erin McNulty, clutching a scarlet purse, had great attitude (even with an unfortunate stumble early on), and clad in violet, Vanessa Zahorian daintily humored the men in white. And yet just when the guys thought their shore leave had been a bust, in strolled Elana Altman to boost their egos once more.

Cool and hydrating, Program 5 quenches your thirst for edge, variety, and solid dancing. Let's hope the rest of the season lives up the bill.

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