San Francisco Ballet’s Yuan Yuan Tan and Luke Ingham dance in Liam Scarlett's "Hummingbird."
Unlike tired or injured football or baseball players at the close of their season, San Francisco Ballet athletes thrive as they approach the end of their demanding five-month run.
Program Seven, the penultimate of the season, features three splendidly danced pieces, including "Hummingbird,” a commissioned world premiere by Royal Ballet artist-in-residence Liam Scarlett, a former dancer who quit the corps de ballet four years ago at 23 and has since created some 20 acclaimed works.
Set to uncommonly lyrical music by Philip Glass, the dance, performed in front of an enormous abstract structure designed by John Macfarlane, combines Balanchine's neoclassic elegance with explosive dynamism often seen in contemporary choreography. But it also emphasizes relationships.
At Wednesday evening’s performance, Frances Chung and Gennadi Nedvigin were a playful, affectionate couple. Yuan Yuan Tan (dancing as beautifully as ever) and Luke Ingham entwined each other in a more complicated, emotionally layered pairing, with feelings hidden under the surface. Dores Andre and Joan Boada were more carefree and happy.
Other notable performances were by Sasha De Sola, Simone Messmer, James Sofranko and Hansuke Yamamoto.
Pianist Brenda Tom Vahur brilliantly soloed in Glass’ Tirol Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, a pleasant, melodic surprise for those who find Glass’ music monotonous.
The evening opened with a revival of Helgi Tomasson's "The Fifth Season," a notable and memorable performance of the 2006 piece. Mathilde Frouste – supported magnificently by Sarah van Patten, Daniel Deivison-Oliveira, Tiit Helimets and Vitor Luiz – was stunning in the Waltz and Tango.
Lorena Feijoo and Vitor Luiz enchanted in two pas de deux, while concertmaster Roy Malan, in his 39th and final year with the orchestra, shone in violin solos of Karl Jenkins' score.
"Suite en Blanc," Serge Lifar's showcase of French neoclassicism at its most spectacular, delightfully rounded out the program, despite an unnecessary blustery overture to Lalo's "Namouna" ballet suite.
Froustey, van Patten, André, Nedvigin, Tan and Davit Karapetyan skillfully led the way to Maria Kochetkova's bravura finale.
San Francisco Ballet Program 7
Where: War Memorial Opera House, 401 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. May 2 and May 8, 2 p.m. May 4, 2 and 8 p.m. May 10
Tickets: $22 to $335
Contact: (415) 865-2000, www.sfballet.org
Janos Gereben is a writer and columnist for SF Classical Voice; he has worked as writer and editor with the NY Herald-Tribune, TIME Inc., UPI, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, San Jose Mercury News, Post Newspaper Group, and wrote documentation for various technology companies.