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San Francisco Ballet  Programme C Yuan Yuan Tan and Luke Ingham inLiam Scarlett’ ngbird-c-Er ©

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San Francisco Ballet – Programme C
Sadler’s Wells, London until June 8, 2019
Reviewed by Jarlath O'Connell
Published on June 09, 2019

If Programme B showcased San Francisco’s ensemble it was in Programme C that we got a closer look at some of their great Principals. This was the third of four triple bills of, mostly, newly minted work which the company has brought to London.

Bespoke(2018) by Stanton Welch (the AD of Houston Ballet) could have been a hymn to Balanchine, the shapes, the formations, the focus on virtuosity all set to the violin concertos of Bach. It was as if the dancers were quietly delighting in presenting you with their own favourite steps and the love of their art form. It offered pure distilled classical technique carried off with supreme finesse. They would go into an Arabesque and then push it and push it to the limits of wobble, stretching what’s possible, but never breaking it. Evolution not revolution in dance.

A silent opening presented us with Angelo Greco going through the classical positions with a metronomic timing. Later we saw him defy gravity with double turns which displayed the lyrical finesse of a true star rather than just athletic princely bravado.

Hummingbird, created for this company in 2014 by the Royal Ballet’s Liam Scarlett, was yet another piece inspired by the minimalism of Philip Glass’s great Tirol Concerto for Piano and Orchestra. Its insistent propulsive quality interspersed with some lush romantic passages makes it irresistible for choreographers and here Scarlett rose to the challenge with a glorious flurry of steps.

Scottish painter John Macfarlane’s enormous expressionistic backdrop was a mercury coloured lunar-like canvas which dropped to a large fold through which the dancers emerged from a sloped backstage. Scarlett again showcased the beauty of this company’s classical style and it was as if the dancers fused with the music itself. The tall, athletic and utterly regal Yuan Yuan Tan’s solo was a particular standout (those fluttering arms!) not just here but in every piece she featured in. The memory of her will be the take-away from this visit.

The evening concluded with a party, Hurry Up We’re Dreaming (2018). This was by the much hyped New York City Ballet supremo and soloist Justin Peck. Set to the electronic music of the group M83, it was perfect for this company because it fused classical style with that youthful insouciance which these dancers epitomise. Clad, by Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung, in metallic leggings or beautifully shimmering chiffon tops and dancing in their box-fresh white sneakers, this look was ‘Street’, that is if your milieu is New York fashionista party.

The up tempo tracks invested the piece with youthful vigour and at times it had a West Coast vibe - all boys and girls dancing in a circle while falling in and out of love. The ballads provided a more contemplative counterpoint but were all modern guitar-infused 20something miserablism. This really hit home though with a young audience.

Peck’s steps at times could be Jerome Robbins’ and indeed he is currently choreographing Spielberg’s much anticipated remake of West Side Story. He’s also won a Tony for Carousel so he’s already ‘cross-over’. He’s one to watch.


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