Program 2: Opus 19/The Dreamer, Ghost, Company B
San Francisco Ballet
War Memorial Opera House
San Francisco, California
By Catherine Pawlick
As couples all over the Bay Area prepared for special celebrations on Valentine’s Day, a considerable number of die-hard balletomanes instead chose to spend the day of hearts attending to their passion inside the War Memorial Opera House. San Francisco Ballet’s Program 2, a mixed bill of three works by various choreographers, was a short afternoon with a mixed palette of moods and styles.
Jerome Robbins’ “Opus 19/The Dreamer,” a unique ballet in both its movement style and atmosphere, opened the performance with Maria Kochetkova and Taras Domitro in the leading roles. Domitro’s role as that of the Dreamer, a man searching for an indefinable “something” came across in sporadic spurts. His Dreamer seemed at times more controlled by his vision than racing after it, more tortured by his inner world than aware of that around him. But if dramatic elements eluded him, Domitro’s technical approach could not be faulted. A gifted dancer, he made the most of the elastic tension in much of Robbins’ choreography; in fact, the piece’s only drawback was the lack of vehicle for Domitro’s bravura capabilities.
As the object of his vision, Kochetkova fully immersed herself in Robbins’ dance lexicon. Fluid, emotional, and precise in her execution, she mastered the off-balance elements, and added a layer of drama which pulled the entire ballet forward. Kochetkova, the company’s resident Russian ballerina, trained at the Bolshoi School, is by far the greatest gift San Francisco Ballet has on roster.
On the heels of Christopher Wheeldon’s Morphoses company performances at Yerba Buena Center for the Performing Arts just several weeks ago, Wheeldon’s “Ghosts,” premiered this week at San Francisco Ballet. Set to a recorded score by rock musician Kip Winger, the dancers are clothed in gauzy, disheveled Victorian clothing, all in dim hues of green, immediately setting a macabre tone that is echoed in the dark lighting and the presence of a shifting metal sculpture that hangs from the ceiling.
Sadly, the ultimate level of racehorse-caliber dancing seen by the Morphoses dancers was not replicated in this new ballet at the Opera House. Nor did the dark undertones aid the ballet’s focus. The choreography had moments of sheer inspiration – sweeping lifts, hints of Russian folk dance, and an aquatic “swimming” theme throughout. Yuan Yuan Tan and Vitor Luiz etched lovely lines in their dancing interludes as the second couple; Sofiane Sylve, supported in a trio by Brette Bauer and the golden Tiit Helimuts, were also pleasing to regard. Sylve’s own solo had an urgency and depth to it that added a nice dimension to the work. The ballet itself, however, raised more questions than it gave answers, but maybe therein lies more food for future development.
Paul Taylor’s “Company B,” a ballet created in 1991, concluded the afternoon on a slightly more upbeat note. Set to songs sung by the Andrew Sisters, with a curiously juxtaposed underlying theme dedicated to the loss of life due to war and/or AIDS, “Company B” nonetheless maintains the optimism of 1950s Americana with only silhouetted reference to death and destruction. The infectious music and jitterbug humor create a nostalgic atmosphere at once serious and playful as dancers dressed in saddle shoes, headbands and ‘50s attire scoot around the stage in playful fashion. Highlights included Gennadi Nedvigin as an utterly slick Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, and Sofiane Sylve in a lyrical rendition of “I Can Dream, Can’t I?”, where she pines after one of two men more interested in each other than in her. Particularly touching was the “Rum and Coca-Cola” section with Pauli Magierek being drooled after by at least seven men as she danced alone in center stage. Taylor’s themes of loneliness and partnership, love and loss, longing, and dreaming were apt for this holiday. If at times weighted, the realism, playfulness and reflective nature of the ballet seemed an appropriate conclusion for the afternoon.
Author, "Vaganova Today: The Preservation of Pedagogical Tradition" (available on amazon.com)