Friday, January 23, 2009
The San Francisco Ballet Gala and Isaac Hernandez
On an impulse, I threw on a tuxedo Wednesday evening and bought a $25 standing room ticket for the Opening Night Gala of the San Francisco Ballet's 76th season.
Standing behind the orchestra rail can be fun and comfortable for the ballet since the programs are fairly short, though the practice of making the standees wait in yet another line in the lobby for a half hour before claiming a spot makes one feel rather like cattle.
It didn't matter, though, as we were surrounded by excited young people, most of them ballet students...
...and free bubbly was being offered to the crowd as part of the pre-performance "Champagne Promenade."
The box bar had been sheathed in white fabric, though most of the rich people were across the street in City Hall having their pre-performance dinner interrupted by immigration protesters, which is a scene I wish had been captured on film.
The program consisted of ten short pieces, some self-contained and others bleeding chunks from larger works.
Musically, the evening ranged from the pleasant silliness of Louis Gottschalk and John Philip Sousa to forbidding modernists such as Gyorgi Ligeti and Thom Willems. My only complaint is that the Philip Glass music for the "Double Evil" excerpt was recorded rather than live which is missing out on at least half the fun of the piece.
The choreographers were similarly eclectic, from George Balanchine to William Forsythe, and the dancing was mostly wonderful, and in a few cases downright phenomenal.
Tina LeBlanc, who is retiring this year after a long career with the company, was partnered in a Balanchine choroeographed "Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux" by a new 18-year-old member of the Corps de Ballet named Isaac Hernandez (above).
The Guadalajara born "prodigy" was in a class of his own on Wednesday, making the most fiendishly difficult dance moves look smooth, effortless and musical. This young man is going to be a superstar, and you read it here first. He also has an amusing website which you can get to by clicking here.