S.F. Ballet's 'Rite of Spring' returns with a bang 

click to enlarge Benjamin Stewart and James Sofranko dance in Yuri Possokhov's "The Rite of Spring," the high point of San Francisco Ballet’s Program Six. - COURTESY ERIK TOMASSON
  • Benjamin Stewart and James Sofranko dance in Yuri Possokhov's "The Rite of Spring," the high point of San Francisco Ballet’s Program Six.
San Francisco Ballet's varied Program Six serves up neoclassical elegance and athletic frenzy accompanied by chamber music and an orchestral orgy.

The revival of Yuri Possokhov's "The Rite of Spring," which debuted to acclaim last year, is the highlight of the program, which also features the world premiere of company artistic director Helgi Tomasson's "Caprice" and Mark Morris' "Maelstrom."

Morris' lyrical work, created for San Francisco Ballet 20 years ago, is still fresh and effective.

Set on Beethoven's "Ghost" Trio (performed brilliantly by violinist Kay Stern, cellist Eric Sung and pianist Roy Bogas), the dance boasted “clean lines of the arms" the choreographer demanded at its creation and and wonderfully limpid movement.

As is often the case in Morris’ works, all of the dancers in the 14-person piece got a solo. In Sunday afternoon’s performance, Frances Chung, Sasha De Sola, Pascal Molat and Gennadi Nedvigin were notable.

Tomasson's “Caprice” had an impressive first movement; Chung, flying through the air, cut a fleet, ethereal figure, partnered by Taras Domitro. Yet – with its use of some of Saint-Saens' least interesting music – the piece became uneven, despite excellent solo work by Sarah Van Patten, Tiit Helimets, Chung and Domitro.

In contrast, "The Rite of Spring" – set to Stravinsky's savagely throbbing score, which created a riot at its Paris premiere 101 years ago – opened with a bang, and featured a solid orchestral performance under Martin West's direction.

Possokhov wonderfully makes the score visual with moves and gestures seldom seen in ballet since the days of Nijinsky: limping, crouching, twisted feet and distorted limbs; the women pulling diaphanous gowns over their heads, and later over the men’s heads.

Challenging and uncompromising for all of its dancers, “The Rite of Spring” boasted magnificent work from the corps – both in the wild, joyful celebrations of the spring, and later, as it turned into a frightening mob that takes the life of the young woman chosen to be sacrificed.

Dores André was the Chosen One and Carlos Quenedit her defender. James Sofranko and Benjamin Stewart magificently reprised their role as the Elders, bound together as a two-headed beast with four arms and four legs.


San Francisco Ballet Program Six

Where: War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., S.F.

When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday; 8 p.m. Thursday and Tuesday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday

Tickets: $22 to $335

Contact: (415) 865-2000, www.sfballet.org

About The Author

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben

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.
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