San Francisco Ballet Program 5

Program 5: “The Fifth Season”  “Harmony” “Magrittomania
Saturday, April 2, 2022 San Francisco Opera House


Program 5 of this season, celebrating the departure of director Helgi Tomasson, brought delightful levels of performance and choreography to the Opera House stage. Opening with “The Fifth Season”, a work Tomasson premiered in 2006, the evening continued with the director’s new work, “Harmony.” There are echoes of the earlier work in the latter; easy lyrical dance moves, pleasing, pleasant solos and duets in both and light costumes, primarily leotards, tights and simple ‘shifts’, which display the gorgeous bodies and the dancers lines.

“The Fifth Season bring almost all of the principles of the company into focus. Dores André and Benjamin Freemantle lead off with an ensemble of eight. There follows ”Waltz” by Yuan Yuan Tan, Sarah Van Patten, Tiit Helimets and Luke Ingham, all tightly skilled and thrilling to watch as the “Romance” by Dores André and Benjamin Freemantle. Some of the principles return to do “Tango”, (Sarah Van Patten Benjamin Freemantle, Tiit Helimets Luke Ingham), followed by a sultry “Largo” (Yuan Yuan Tan and Tiit Helimets). The finale “Bits” is danced by the entire ensemble. It is a joyful reminiscence of Tomasson’s former work and a lead in to this next, his final work.

The music for “The Fifth Season” is “String Quartet No. 2”, Karl Jenkins, composer.

Harmony” (2022) was choreographed during the pandemic in 2020 when the dancers first returned to the studio. Tomasson decided to choreograph the work as a “celebration of dance and dancers…the result of that time in the studios-a hopeful look forward in an uncertain moment.”…”it’s more the emotion and feeling in the music that I’m going with.” The dance is accompanied by Natal’ya Feygina on the piano.

There are several sections to “Harmony”: each is danced with corps members of the company except for Wona Park, Max Cauthorn, Misa Kuranaga and Angelo Greco,who are principles. To music by Jean Pjillipe Rameau, (1683-1764), we are entertained by classic forms: Gavotte; Entrée de Polimnie; L’Eygyptienne ;Tambourin; Musette en rondeau; Rigaudon; Les Sauvages; Les Cupis and Les Cyclops.

Kuranaga and Greco are outstanding performers but all the dancers were charming and seemingly delighted to perform this work. They were costumed again in light simple dance clothes by Emma Kingsbury, lighting by Jim French. Tomasson took a bow.

Magrittomania” a work by former SFB dancer Yuri Passokhov (premiered March 30, 2000) provides a well-needed, delightful opportunity to laugh … certainly not at the dancers, but with them as they create various romps to selected pieces by Beethoven!, surrounded by decor images from the work of the Belgian surrealist, Rene Magritte.

The hats, clouds, chimneys and other visual. ‘quotes’ in the background provide the dancers with the opportunity to ‘play’ with the images and realize the humor. For example, Jennifer Stahl, dressed in red, dances a solo with one hand behind her back; in the pas de deux she wears a shroud. Luke Ingham loses, and finally regains the bowler hat so dominant in Magritte’s paintings; all the men wear bowlers while dancing. Max Cauthorn, Esteban Hernandez and Wei Wang also play important roles.There are nine excellent dancers with them. Follow the fast movement throughout.

Yuri Krasavin, composer has selected familiar Beethoven works and added some of his own contemporary music which includes ”some Jewish folk melodies.” The whole presentation, including the decor (by Thyra Hartshorn) encourages laughter at recognition of the images (including green apples) but also the delightful playful dance energy of the soloists and group. Don’t leave before the last moment!

Program 5 of this 2022 season not only celebrates the tenure of Helgi Tomasson, but it has brought the company to a new level of choreographic, technical and dance presentation skill. For this reviewer, It is the best event so far. Bravo to all!

Ming Luke was the conductor for the Beethoven/Krasavin score.

Program 5 continues April 5, 8,13,14, and 15; evening performances. Do go for the fun!