San Francisco Ballet: Dos Mujeres

San Francisco Ballet
April 4, 2024
Dos Mujeres
San Francisco Opera House

Women Choreographers: Women’s Stories in Dance

An inventive and unusual evening of choreography was presented by San Frncisco Ballet with the “World Premiere” of “Carmen,” choreography by Arielle Smith to music by Arturo O’Farrill. The four principal dancers were (Carmen) Sasha De Sola, (Jose) Joseph Walsh, (Escamillo, A Chef) Jennifer Stahl and (Gilberto) Wei Wang. Moving away from the well-known Bizet opera, Smith notes that, “the story of Carmen, (is of) a strong and feisty woman who craves love and independence without the traps of obsession or jealousy.” In a restaurant setting, a long counter and a table, Carmen and her chef embrace one another, rejecting (and on occasion accepting) the others, two men. The ballet becomes a very dramatic series of encounters between these characters. Yet despite wonderful gesture and dramatic use of space , the story is not always clear. It might well become a play with dialogue to explain and expand these relationships and Carmen’s drama.

To the delight of the audience and the ballet world, “Broken Wings” tells Frida Kahlo’s story with reproductions of her fantastic images (on stage and in the house) to illustrate and portray this fabled woman artist. Choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa notes, “She (Kahlo) was an artist, and yet she was an advocate the rights of the Mexican people that were under the influence of the Spaniards. That’s what I like about her…”

The ballet features Isabella Devivo (as Kahlo), John-Paul Simoens (Alfonso), Cavan (Conley) and (Christina) Sasha Mukhadov. Kahlo’s visions are represented as skeletons, birds, a female deer and a group of “male Fridas.” The scenes come and go in great succession, Kahlo abandoned and accompanied in various parts of the ballet by her visions. “Broken Wings” becomes an elaborate fantasy of color, characters, music (by Peter Salem) and song, (“La Llorona” sung by Chavela Vargas). The principals dancers, Devivo, Simoens, Conley and Mukkamedov all give extradorinaiy performances although Isabella Devivo outshines them all. She is small in stature but extraordinarily skilled in technique and projection.

The stage and house are full of gorgeous Kahlo images. Orchoa adds, “I am a Latina woman giving something back to the Latin culture and the Latin people of San Francisco who will feel represented in ballet.”

BRAVA and Bravo to all the artists who created and performed “Broken Wings.