Monday, March 26, 2007

Steve Reich at the Ballet

The San Francisco Ballet just finished a two-week run of a pair of "mixed repertory" programs this weekend, and I caught the final performance of Program 4 on Saturday night, which was highlighted by "Eden/Eden," an astonishing ballet by the newly appointed director of the Royal Ballet Company in London, Wayne McGregor.

The music is by Steve Reich, taken from the the last piece in a trilogy of "video operas" he created with his wife Beryl Korot that was finished in 2001 and called "Three Tales." The pieces are about iconic moments in Technology in the Twentieth Century, namely the Crash of the Hindenberg, the Diaspora of the Bikini Islanders before the Atom Bomb, and the Cloning of Dolly The Sheep.

It is written to be performed by an ensemble of ten instrumentalists, five singers, and tape loops of speakers being interviewed, along with Ms. Kortot's "video art" on a big screen. I saw the first Hindenberg section performed by the San Francisco Symphony close to a decade ago during their American Mavericks Festival, and loved the music but found the "video art" a rather uninteresting and pretentious use of Adobe After Effects.

The British choreographer McGregor divorced the "Dolly" score from the "video opera," coming up with a few inspired visual projections of his own, and has created one of the wildest dances I've ever seen on the San Francisco Opera House stage. It was so good that many of the dancers who were finished after the first two pieces on the program (Paul Taylor's "Spring Rounds" and Tomasson's "Chi-Lin") snuck into the back row of the orchestra section so they could watch the piece for themselves, a gesture of respect I've never seen before.

The ballet will undoubtedly be repeated next year, and I can't recommend it highly enough. For the record, the great dancers Saturday evening were Jaime Garcia Castilla, Hayley Farr, Dana Genshaft, Gonzalo Garcia, Rory Hohenstein, Muriel Maffre, Moises Martin, Pascal Molat, and Katita Waldo, all of whom looked like they were enjoying themselves immensely with the fiendish choreography. The live vocalists were Christa Pfeiffer, Heather Gardner, Thomas Busse, Keith Perry, and Dale Tracy, with Gary Sheldon as the conductor. If I knew the names of the ten instrumentalists, they'd be in here too, because the performance was a corker.


pjwv said...

When I was at Program 5, I heard a number of raves for Program 4 -- now I know why. . . .thanks

Anonymous said...

Wayne McGregor is Royal Ballet’s Resident Choreographer, not Director (that title belongs to Monica Mason :)