Friday, May 02, 2008

San Francisco Ballet's New Works Festival C

The third program started with "Thread," a take on the Ariadne and the Minotaur and the Labyrinth myth by local modern dance icon Margaret Jenkins in her San Francisco Ballet premiere.

This was another controversial love-it-or-hate-it ballet, and I found myself loving the set by Alexander Nichols, enjoying the costumes by local legend Beaver Bauer, and admiring the music by local composer Paul Dresher, but being profoundly bored by the choreography.

Jenkins is an old Merce Cunningham disciple, and doesn't use music to create her dances but adds it on afterwards. Unfortunately, the ballet I was hearing in my head to Dresher's music sounded a lot more interesting than what I was seeing.

The middle ballet was Val Caniparoli's take on five Ibsen heroines set to three movements from a Dvorak piano quintet that was so beautiful I wanted to watch the musicians on an elevated stage rather than the dancers, and the dancers were very good.

I knew three of the plays being referenced but it didn't really matter since I couldn't make heads or tails out of who was supposed to be Mrs. Alving and who was supposed to be Nora Helmer, which was probably a good thing because if Caniparoli had gotten too literal it could have become truly absurd, like "Hedda Gabler on Ice." In fact, the best part of the ballet is when he threw the conception out altogether in the third movement and basically made a ballet for the repressed men.

The final ballet of the festival, "Double Evil," choreographed by the Finnish Jorma Elo, was an absolute corker. It starts with trancelike minimalist music by Vladimir Martinov with very classical, beautiful gestures and then uses "mad music," as the choreographer puts it, by Phillip Glass from his "Fantasy Concerto for Two Timpanists and Orchestra."

When ballerinas in tutus use modern dance gestures, it's usually for comic effect, but in this ballet it's quite the opposite. These are fierce little ballerinas who can rock out with the best of the boys.

The ballet wasn't to everyone's taste but I found myself fairly stunned into submission within the first few minutes and the piece didn't let go until its completely over-the-top end. It was one of the most exciting things I've ever seen, and a perfectly fitting end to an amazing dance festival.


Anonymous said...

"Teletubbies Go Las Vegas" and "Hedda Gabler on Ice" are concepts just crying out for full realization. Remember when somebody did a parody of Gerald Arpino's silly "Sacred Grove on Mount Tamalpais" (for the Joffrey) called "The Sacred Laundromat on Potrero Hill"?

Civic Center said...

Dear rootless: I never saw "The Sacred Laundromat on Potrero Hill" but it sounds like a fabulous lampoon. If you can, do check out the festival this weekend because it's way exceeding expectations.