Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Canadian Alienation, Manhattan Modernism, and Eurotrash
As part of San Francisco Ballet's 75th anniversary season, three ballet companies from around the world have sent individual dances and dancers for an evening of international potpourri, and the program is being repeated this entire week.
First up is "A Delicate Battle" from The National Ballet of Canada, which is a bit of an overconceptualized mess by choreographer Matjash Mrozewski.
It starts off well enough with gorgeous dancers under a silver cloud and glittery snow coming down near the wings as they cavort to music from J.S. Bach's "A Musical Offering."
They are then joined by dancers in tuxedos and 19th century gowns performing some kind of hostile psychodrama mixed with a little dancing, and the glittery snowflakes take over the entire background for the rest of the ballet. The theatrical effect becomes so distracting, in a semi-psychedelic way, that it's impossible to concentrate on the dancers who in any case aren't doing much of interest. Plus, the music shifts from Bach to a contemporary piece by Gavin Bryars that sounds really boring after the Bach, which is certainly not Bryar's fault, it's just a bad juxtaposition.
The next company was none other than the New York City Ballet, who were a bit chintzy in their tribute, sending a simple complement of four dancers who alternate (on different evenings) a Balanchine pas de deux set to "Duo Concertant," a 1932 Stravinsky violin-and-piano work.
As it turned out, the performance was the highlight of the evening, and the two dancers, Sterling Hyltin and Robert Fairchild, were amazing enough they made me want to immediately move to New York.
Fairchild (above) in particular gave a performance that was the opposite of flashy, yet you couldn't take your eyes off him, there was such ease and balance and a magical kind of movement.
The buzz among the young dancers who'd seen the show the previous night was about the final piece, "Altro Canto," by a huge contingent from Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo.
(This is a parenthetical piece of advice to young heterosexual men. Take your female date to the ballet sometime. It makes them swoony and quite possibly horny. I've seen the evidence more than once.)
"Altro Canto" is an ambitious ballet to ten movements of miscellaneous Monteverdi (with additional tunes by Marini and Kapsberger, go figure). Maybe it was fabulous when danced with live singers and instrumentalists, as it was during its premiere in Monte Carlo, but the recording was so amped up that it sounded like Monteverdi on Steroids and threatened to turn into Enigma's "Principles of Lust" at any moment.
The choreography by the director of the company, Jean-Christophe Maillot, was hilariously godawful, sort of a combination of the worst of Maurice Bejart and the Joffrey Ballet. Even worse than the Eurotrash choreography, however, were the genderfuck costumes by none other than Satan's representative on Earth (according to Manolo the Shoeblogger, click here), Karl Lagerfeld. Do check out the program if you can this week. Even at its worst, it's lots of fun, and "Duo Concertant" is worth the price of admission.