Program II of San Francisco Ballet’s 2016 season, seen at the Jan. 31 matinee, is unexpectedly cohesive: given works by three very different choreographers, using music by composers unlike each other, the event has a consistent sense of rhythmic excitement and raw energy – all with athletic elegance. Performances continue through Feb. 6.
Styles range from George Balanchine’s gorgeous 1967 “Rubies,” an enchanting neoclassical masterpiece with Igor Stravinsky’s jagged music; to Mark Morris’ 1988 “Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes,” Virgil Thomson’s piano pieces performed on stage by Natal’ya Feygina; and the world premiere of Liam Scarlett’s “Fearful Symmetries,” set to John Adams’ orchestral work of the same name.
Adams’ 1998 composition is more jazzy than his previous ostinato-bound Minimalism. The Ballet Orchestra, led by Martin West, was doing better in the Stravinsky (with Roy Bogas’ effervescent piano solo) than with the Adams score that is demanding breakneck precision and liveliness.
“Rubies” everything going for it, with the exception of a few inconsistencies in the small corps (just a dozen dancers, all looking splendid in Karinska’s costumes), as Mathilde Froustey and Pacal Molat (replacing Davit Karapetyan), performed with both elan and precision, joined by WanTing Zhao, an exceptional Corps de Ballet member, featured while still in school in the film “First Position”).
Virtuoso dancers performed with exactly the right sense of freedom and joy that characterizes Morris’ works. Principals, soloists, and Corps members had their turns to Feygina’s performance of short but powerful Thomson etudes. Gennadi Nedvigin, Hansuke Yamamoto, Vanessa Zahorian, Norika Matsuyama and Jennifer Stahl were first among equals in performance.
“Fearful Symmetries” – the title taken from the William Blake’s “The Tyger” (“What immortal hand or eye… Could frame thy fearful symmetry?”) – gets some weighty subtext and interpretations in the program notes, but what you may actually see is athletic, energetic individual movements, very much from William Forsythe’s book, in the sense of what dance critic Sarah Crompton once described as dancers “propelling themselves through the work’s off-center balances, its pulsing, shifting symmetries and casual but charged encounters.” (The “symmetries” reference is coincidental in her review of Forsythe’s “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated.”)
A spectacular cast, which included Dores André, Frances Chung, Lorena Feijoo, Sofiane Sylve, Yuan Yuan Tan, and Joan Boada among others, performed “Fearful Symmetries” with well-practiced precision, but giving the impression of almost improvising the new work whose choreographer gave them a great deal of latitude.