Classics win the day in S.F. Ballet Program 3 

click to enlarge Mathilde Froustey stands out in "The Kingdom of the Shades" from "La Bayadere" on San Francisco Ballet’s third program of 2015. - COURTESY  ERIK TOMASSON
  • Mathilde Froustey stands out in "The Kingdom of the Shades" from "La Bayadere" on San Francisco Ballet’s third program of 2015.
Old and new vied for attention at San Francisco Ballet's third program of the season Tuesday night, and classics prevailed.

The oldest – Natalia Makarova's 1974 staging of “The Kingdom of the Shades” from Act 2 of Marius Petipa's 138-year-old "Bayadere" – was a sensation, even with an unfortunate wobble by one of 24 dancers ("shades") descending a winding ramp, doing identical arabesques. (The original version called for 32 dancers.)

The famous excerpt from the white ballet was followed by Yuan Yuan Tan and Taras Domitro in two breathtaking pas de deux, and brilliant solo turns by Mathilde Froustey, Wanting Zhao and Dores André. Froustey, formerly of Paris Opéra Ballet and in her third San Francisco season, is distinctive and distinguished; her body seems to be transformed to fit each role she dances.

Reprised here several times since its 1998 Opera House premiere, William Forsythe's 1996 “The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude,” a speed-demon interpretation of Schubert, is already a classic. Though the title may be puzzling, the whirling signified by "vertiginous" is real, and a lot fo fun.

Martin West conducted the orchestra at its speediest, keeping up with the breakneck tempo Forsythe dictated for the dancers (and Schubert is probably revolving in his grave). It was performed to perfection by the indefatigable Frances Chung, Sofiane Sylve, Vanessa Zahorian, Carlo di Lanno and Gennadi Nedvigin on opening night.

Forsythe, one of the greatest living choreographers, joined the dancers for the curtain call to rapturous applause.

The program’s world premiere, “Manifesto” by 24-year-old company member Myles Thatcher, is set to excerpts from Bach's music; it featured piano solist Mungunchimeg Buriad and dark, sleek costumes by Mark Zappone. While thoughtful and contemplative, and showcasing six fine soloists, it was poorly lit and didn’t offer much to audiences upon a single viewing.

Hans van Manen's compact, 12-minute "Variations for Two Couples" wasn't helped by exemplary casting: Chung , Sarah van Patten, Davit Karapetyan and Carlos Quenedit – four fabulous dancers – didn’t have much to do beyond repetitive wiggling and simple movements.


San Francisco Ballet Program 3

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

When: 8 p.m. Feb. 27, March 5 and March 7; 2 p.m. March 1 and March 7

Tickets: $22 to $332

Contact: (415) 865-2000,

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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