Rousing World Premieres Highlight San Francisco Ballet's Program 6

04/07/2022

April 7, 2022—San Francisco Ballet has been packing spectacular performances into the farewell season of departing Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson. Last night's opening of Program 6 was no exception, including one of Tomasson's audience favorites and world premieres by Christopher Wheeldon and Dwight Rhoden.

San Francisco Ballet in Rhoden's The Promised Land. Photo © Erik Tomasson
San Francisco Ballet in Rhoden's The Promised Land. Photo © Erik Tomasson

The evening opened with Tomasson's Prism, a neoclassical work in three movements danced to Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1. The energetic first and third movements were punctuated by the more tranquil second movement. Backed by the Corps, the pas de deux of Yuan Yuan Tan and Tiit Helimets were elegant and moving. Sasha de Sola was mesmerizing with her energy and gracefulness, especially her continuous pirouette across the width of the stage and her lithe port de bras. She was a pleasure to watch.

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson's Prism. Photo © Erik Tomasson
San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson's Prism. Photo © Erik Tomasson

In the program, choreographer Christopher Wheeldon describes his premiere piece Finale Finale as a farewell tribute to departing Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson, yet it was hard to see Tomasson's career in this clownish comedy. No matter, it's loads of fun. The costumes alone are worth the price of admission. Multicolored bodysuits, reminiscent of harlequin clown suits, by costume designers Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung, were a joyful feast for the eyes. The title of Darius Milhaud's Brazilian-ish musical composition "La Bouef sur la toit" (The Ox on the Roof) expresses just how fun and wacky this piece is. Isabella DeVivo was surprisingly comical, while Cavan Conley and Benjamin Freemantle were lovable, unabashed hams.

San Francisco Ballet in Wheeldon's Finale Finale. Photo © Erik Tomasson
San Francisco Ballet in Wheeldon's Finale Finale. Photo © Erik Tomasson

The Promised Land, the third new work by choreographer Dwight Rhoden for San Francisco Ballet, closed the evening with excitement and depth. An ensemble of seventeen dancers, eight partners led by Esteban Hernandez, danced on a darkened stage illuminated by rows of spotlights high behind them. Loose and shiny, metallic-looking costumes added to the bleak feel of the scene. Hernandez was a heroic figure desperately trying to escape the group to a better world. The program notes state that Rhoden says the audience members know everything they need to know going into this ballet from experiencing life in the past few years. The Promised Land is set to music by five composers because, as Rhoden is quoted saying, "There are a lot of different temperatures in [in the ballet], and I didn't find it all in one piece of music from one composer." Frances Chung and Angelo Greco were divine in their pas de deux, while Wan Ting Zhao performed her usual stunning extensions.

Frances Chung and Angelo Greco in Rhoden's The Promised Land. Photo © Erik Tomasson
Frances Chung and Angelo Greco in Rhoden's The Promised Land. Photo © Erik Tomasson

Program 6 runs to April 15. Two additional performances have been added to SFB's schedule this month, one of Tomasson's handpicked choreography and the other a farewell to retiring principal dancer Sarah Van Patten. The Company's season, and Tomasson's career, will come to an end when San Francisco Ballet performs Swan Lake April 29-May 8 (see the April calendar). For more information, see sfballet.org.

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