San Francisco Ballet triumphs with 'RAkU,' 'Strange' 

click to enlarge "RAkU" at the San Francisco Ballet. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • "RAkU" at the San Francisco Ballet.

The San Francisco Ballet’s Program 6 — with Yuri Possokhov’s 2011 “RAkU” and the world premiere of Ashley Page’s “Guide to Strange Places” — boasts high energy, drama, wide sweep and irresistible appeal.

As is typical these days, the dancing was superb opening night at the War Memorial Opera House. But the works also soar on wings of intense contemporary music. The company’s own Shinji Eshima (a bass player with the orchestra for more than three decades) wrote the score for “RAkU”; John Adams’ “Guide to Strange Places” accompanies Page’s dance.

Among Yuan Yuan Tan’s many triumphs, her Princess in “’RAkU,” set in Japan’s warrior past, is among her most memorable.

Tan and Damian Smith’s Prince first appear in the stylized manner of Noh theater. Possokhov and designer Alexander V. Nichols provide a breathtaking moment: the Princess’ large ceremonial kimono flies up in the air, revealing a small, simply dressed woman, defenseless without the splendor of the disappearing garb, predictive of the coming tragedy.

As the couple stands motionless, Tan uncannily displays strength, submission, love and fear — without moving a muscle.

Eshima’s music pulses with desire, passion, drama and eventually stark tragedy. Under Martin West’s baton, the orchestra and soloists are glorious.

Adams’ darkly idiosyncratic, breakneck “Guide to Strange Places” goes well with a dance that Page — former dancer with the Royal Ballet, later director of the Scottish Ballet — has described as “savage and earthy.”

On opening night, Sarah Van Patten and Anthony Spaulding, Maria Kochetkova and Gennadi Nedvigin, Frances Chung and Pascal Molat, Vanessa Zahorian and Jaime Garcia Castilla were the lead pairs in the piece, which, mixing ballet and contemporary styles, is similar to Program No. 5’s “Glass Pieces” by Jerome Robbins.

Act 3 of Rudolf Nureyev’s reworking of the Marius Petipa “Raymonda,” set to Alexander Glazunov’s pseudo-Hungarian music, featuring Sofiane Sylve and Tiit Helimets, opened the program.

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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