Armenian pair carries the day at the ballet 

Whatever Helgi Tomasson’s classical and restrained 1994 “Romeo and Juliet” — onstage at the War Memorial — may lack in passion is more than made up by San Francisco Ballet’s super-romantic pair of Davit Karapetyan and Vanessa Zahorian.

Karapetyan, from Yerevan, Armenia’s largest city, and Zahorian, from an Armenian family in Pennsylvania, portray Romeo and Juliet with all the heartbreaking poignancy of Shakespeare’s original.

Zahorian’s journey from a shy young girl to an unconstrained lover is seamless. Karapetyan moves between courtliness and ardor naturally. The designation “dancer noble” fits him like a glove.

Prokofiev’s grand, familiar music (well performed under the baton of Dmil De Cou, who returns to the company after too long an absence) and Jens-Jacob Worsaae’s opulent costumes provide additional attraction.

As usual, the best of Tomasson’s choreography is for the men, and their dancing is athletic and spectacular. Along with Karapetyan’s Romeo, James Sofranko’s Mercutio and Jaime Garcia Castilla’s Benvolio truly fly through the air. Their pas de trois is utterly charming.

Anthony Spaulding’s Tybalt is menacing and scary — his sword fights are spectacular.

Company stars, past and present, were nice to see in minor roles in Saturday’s matinee performance: Ricardo Bustamante and Sofiane Sylve as Lord and Lady Capulet; Yuri Possokhov and Mariellen Olson as Lord and Lady Montague; and Jorge Esquivel as Friar Laurence.

Even after 16 years since its introduction, Tomasson’s production still has some puzzling elements. Some scenes are abbreviated to the point of becoming unnecessary, such as the guests leaving the Capulet ball.

While that brevity may follow tradition of the ballet — which has been in the hands of many choreographers since its 1935 Russian original — its execution makes little dramatic or choreographic sense.

The balcony scene and the Capulets’ ball, two large components of the ballet, are closest to the many classical realizations of the work, and they are the most successful in this production.

San Francisco Ballet Program 8

War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco
When: 7:30 p.m. today; 8 p.m. Thursday-Friday; 1 and 8 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $20 to $275
Contact: (415) 865-2000,

San Francisco Ballet's 2011 repertory season 

San Francisco Ballet’s next season will feature classical full-length ballets “Giselle” and “Coppélia,” and the revival of this year’s world premiere of “The Little Mermaid.”

Five mixed-repertory programs contain classics and contemporaries, including world premieres by Yuri Possokhov and Christopher Wheeldon. (The 2010 “Nutcracker” runs Dec. 9 to 27.)

Program 1: Helgi Tomasson (after Petipa), “Giselle” (Jan. 29 to Feb. 12)
Program 2: Frederick Ashton, “Symphonic Variations”; Possokhov premiere; George Balanchine, “Symphony in C” (Feb. 3 to 11)
Program 3: Possokhov, “Classical Symphony”; Tomasson, “Nanna’s Lied”; William Forsythe, “Artifact Suite” (Feb. 24 to March 9)
Program 4: Balanchine, “Theme and Variations”; Kenneth MacMillan, “Winter Dreams”; work to be announced (Feb. 25 to March 8)
Program 5: Balanchine, “Coppélia” (March 19 to 26)
Program 6: Tomasson, “7 for Eight”; Wheeldon, “Ghosts”; Wayne McGregor, “Chroma” (April 7 to 20)
Program 7: Michel Fokine, “Petrouchka”; Renato Zanella, “Underskin”; Wheeldon premiere (April 8 to 19)
Program 8:  John Neumeier, “The Little Mermaid” (April 30 to -May 7)

Note: Season tickets, ranging from $49 to $3,800, are available by calling the box office. Individual tickets, from $20 to $275, will be available online beginning Nov. 17.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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