Company: San Francisco Ballet
What: Programme 3: Prism, Night, Chaconne for Piano and two Dancers, Sandpaper Ballet
Where: London, Covent Garden
When: 16 August 2001
The most 'SFB' programme of the week with 3 pieces originating from within the company and Mark Morris's fun Sandpaper Ballet to send everybody home with a smile. Dancers continue to thrill...
SFB unveil their third and final lot of four new works in this week’s residency at the Opera House. Relatively high seat prices and a conservative audience have meant that SFB are not playing to the packed houses they deserve. They remain a class company to see and there are some seat price reductions on Saturday to ease the way a little.
Prism & Chaconne for Piano and two dancers
The trustees of SFB have many reasons to be very thankful to their Artistic Director, Helgi Tomasson. He has drawn together some fabulous dancers, their standards are high and he has a diverse repertoire which he seems to reinforce with new nuggets each year. As a choreographer and bringer together of pieces he has a good ear for music and the designers he uses are very tasteful and the costumes luxurious. His movement is incredibly balletic and rises and swoops with the music most... most... most... nicely I suppose. But it moves me not an iota and the more I see the more my mind tends to drift at the sameness of it all.
Tomasson creates the balletic equivalent of Muzak I think. It’s good tempered, courteous, innocuous. You get the felling that he could just extemporise forever. I have come to think of it as Shopping Mall Ballet or Readers’ Digest Dance. Perhaps in 30 years’ time, if I'm still doing anything like this, that will probably be the highest accolade I can bestow, but for now it's not I'm afraid. I tend to think of myself as a bit of an old dance conservative at times, but 'nice' stuff like this I've found too dispiriting as choreography. It’s lifted of course by the dancers - Lucia Lacarra and Cyril Pierre in Prism looked captivating and Gonzalo Garcia as the solo man pushed hard. But I really did switch off (save the Prism Act 2 pdd) I'm afraid. For more uplifting and very possibly more balanced views of these pieces it’s worth reading Renee Renouf's reviews of when she saw them in SF.
A interesting piece of dance, based on dreams, by company ballerina Julia Adam. I found this much more interesting than the other dancer’s work (Yuri Possokhov) in Programme 1, though possibly it was desperately welcome after a long spell in Prism (sorry for that). There is dance, as opposed to balletic, invention here and a searching for new vocabularies. Much use of the floor as the diminutive Tina LeBlanc has a pretty strange time of it being moved and assaulted by a variety of strange beings that huddle, squirm or explode into life to a score that seemed to nod strongly in the direction of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra. I hope the company continues to develop her.
This was a tremendous hit last time SFB came over and they are right to bring it back. There is something incredibly incongruous about listening to Leroy Anderson's popular Christmas piece "Sleigh Ride"... in the Opera House... in August. And then the curtain goes up to show the company completely dressed in pea green apart from shoulders in light blue and all lined up as if for a strange 19th century production. Nostalgic and silly tunes bring forth an avalanche of happy, fun movement from Mark Morris, and many chuckle their way all through the 30 minutes. It might not be high art, but this is a great piece to restore a flagging faith that ballet can still surprise and move on.
Does it work?
Yes. After the ballyhoo of their last visit - the passion of first love etc - we now seem to have entered a more stable period in our relationship. We love them to bits but that doesn't means we don't disagree about the odd wayward bit of repertoire for goodness’ sake! I very much hope they become regular visitors.