Tomasson honored at gala 

The San Francisco Ballet gala evening Wednesday in the War Memorial Opera House opened the oldest American company’s 77th season, with Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson in charge for the 25th year.

Tomasson and his wife, Marlene, were greeted onstage with a standing ovation before the program. She received the Lew Christensen Medal “honoring those who have left an indelible mark on the history of the San Francisco Ballet.” Tomasson himself received the medal in 2005.

Of the 16 works in the gala’s program, 10 were choreographed by Tomasson. Two were among his best, both featuring men in robust, athletic configurations slashing through the air — the “Concerto Grosso” and the Winter movement from the Vivaldi “Four Seasons,” with Taras Domitro and 11 men. Kay Stern played violin solo.

In “Concerto Grosso,” five men performed spectacularly individually and in ensemble — principal dancer Pascal Molat, and soloists James Sofranko, Garen Scribner, Hansuke Yamamoto and Diego Cruz from the Corps de Ballet.

The men, however, had no monopoly on excellence, as there are so many great ballerinas in the company:

  • Maria Kochetkova, partnered with Joan Boada, was luminous in the Balcony Pas de Deux from Tomasson’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Even when she stands still, Kochetkova seems to be in elegant, gentle motion.
  • Dores Andre and Frances Chung were outstanding in a Pas de Deux from Tomasson’s “The Sleeping Beauty.”
  • Nutnaree Pipit-Suksun, not seen for some time because of an injury, was back in prime form, elegantly partnered with Pierre-Francois Vilanoba.
  • In the evening’s most complex piece, a Pas de Deux from Cristopher Wheeldon’s “Rush,” Katita Waldo and Damian Smith gave a sophisticated, memorable
    performance.
  • Yuan Yuan Tan was grand in gymnastic gyrations for Tomasson’s “Flute Moon” segment of “Chi-Lin,” and in a different mood in the Pas de Deux from Tomasson’s “The Fifth Season,” partnered with Damien Smith.
  • Vanessa Zahorian, Sofiane Sylve, Lorena Feijoo and Sarah van Patten all had their impressive turn in the klieglight. 

Given that 16 numbers, some quite lengthy, were squeezed into a two-hour program progressing without a hitch, top honors also go to the technical crew and stagehands. They rarely receive kudos because the audience is aware of them only when something goes wrong — and nothing did at the gala.

In the pit, the Ballet Orchestra, under the direction of Martin West, did a fine job of turning on a dime from Bach to Tchaikovsky to Martinu to Bright Sheng and beyond. Michael McGraw and Roy Bogas played their usual effortless best in piano-solo accompaniments.

 

IF YOU GO

San Francisco Ballet 2010 season

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

When: Program 1, “Swan Lake,” Jan. 23-31; Program 2, mixed repertory, Feb. 9-20; Program 3, all Balanchine, Feb. 11-21; Program 4, mixed repertory, March 2-7; Program 5, “The Little Mermaid,” March 20-28; Program 6, mixed repertory, April 8-21; Program 7, mixed repertory, April 9-20; Program 8, “Romeo and Juliet,” May 1-9

Tickets: $20 to $275

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

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