S.F. Ballet gala goes beyond the numbers 

The nation’s oldest dance company, young at heart and with limber limbs, is ready to take on another season. San Francisco Ballet was born in 1933 (when another ancient-but-still-handsome city native, Clint Eastwood, was already 3 years old), and until 1942 the company was part of the San Francisco Opera.

When the 2007 gala lights up the War Memorial Opera House on Wednesday, it will officially be the 74th season. Regardless of the numbers game, it’s a season opener as varied and rich as any of its forerunners. The program traverses time, musical and dance styles while providing a small sampler of the season that follows, along with pieces performed only on this occasion.

From Program 1 (Jan. 30 through Feb. 10) comes Jacques Garnier’s 1979 "Aunis," to Maurice Pacher’s music, danced by Nicolas Blanc, Pascal Molat and Pierre-François Vilanoba.

From Program 3’s full-length "The Sleeping Beauty" (Feb. 24 through March 4) — in company director Helgi Tomasson’s staging of the classic Petipa choreography — comes the Wedding Act 3 pas de deux, danced by Vanessa Zahorian and Gonzalo Garcia.

Born in Armenia, coming to San Francisco from the Zurich Ballet, Davit Karapetyan will perform the local premiere of his own "Last Breath," to music by Ben Watkins and Don Davis. Vilanoba and Thai company member Nutnaree Pipit-Suksun will perform the pas de deux from Tomasson’s "7 for Eight," to Bach’s music, played by pianist Michael McGraw.

The pianist is Roy Bogas for Sir Frederick Ashton’s 1976 "Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan," danced by Molly Smolen. Kristin Long and Joan Boada will dance Tomasson’s "Soirées Musicales," to Britten’s music.

The great 1841 classic "Giselle" is not part of the season, but Cuban Lorena Feijoo and Estonian Tiit Helimets will perform the Act 2 pas de deux in Tomasson’s recent update of the Petipa choreography.

Estonia will be represented again, with Arvo Pärt’s music in the Yuan Yuan Tan — Damian Smith pas de deux from Christopher Wheeldon’s 2-year-old "After the Rain," at its company premiere.

The Joffrey Ballet hasn’t been around for a long time, alas, but the gala will serve as a reminder, with Gerald Arpino’s 1978 "L’Air d’Esprit," to Adam’s music, performed by Tina LeBlanc and Gennadi Nedvigin.

The world premiere of Yuri Possokhov’s "Bitter Tears," to Handel music, performed by the retiring Muriel Maffre, will lead to the large-scale finale, the fourth movement from George Balanchine’s 1947 (Bizet) "Symphony in C," featuring eight soloists and the corps de ballet. The entire work will be seen in the April 11 through April 24 Program 7.

San Francisco Ballet Gala

Where: War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday

Tickets: $20 to $200

Contact: (415) 865-2000 or visit the web site at www.sfballet.org

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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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