San Francisco Ballet's "Raymonda,"
Act 3 is choreographed by Rudolf Nureyev after Marius Petipa. It's presented
in the form of entertainments given at a wedding celebration. The stage is dark
with hundreds of flickering candles. As the lights come up, a toast is raised
to the couple on the banquet table at the rear. Sixteen dancers open with a
beautiful minuet. Everything is elegant and sumptuous. There are chandeliers
hanging from the ceiling, tapestries, and lavish costumes.
We have a sizzling czardas as the feasters at the banquet table alternately speak among themselves and watch the divertissements. There is a pas de quatre with four men. They kick, jump,and do leaping back rolls, using the whole stage. They pirouette, plie, and do jumping spins all in succession. Three girls spin, kick, and leap.
Raymonda and Jean do a scintillating pas de deux. He lifts her to one shoulder, then the other. The ensemble almost mirror them in the background. She kicks a leg out, they spin, and turn face to face. She glides on pointe diagonally across the stage from back to front, to each of three guys, spins for them, then on to the next. Jean finally joins her, lifts her, and she kicks and spins.
Joanna Berman is a dazzling Raymonda in the deliciously feminine gypsy dance. She churns her legs, glides on pointe, kicks her legs up and out, with leaping pirouettes. Parrish Maynards's Jean de Brienne is smooth and strong. He leaps and scissors, hangs suspended in the air for a beat in an amazing display of athleticism. The ensemble joins in with clockwork precision. Nureyev's "Raymonda," Act 3 is beautifully Russian, smart, and sharp.
Helgi Tomasson's "Nanna's
Lied" captures the passion, contradiction, and pathos of the German Club
scene of the early 1930's. It's one woman's story of idealized love, lost innocence,
and love unfulfilled. The set consists of big angled panels with expressionist
daubings. It's close and unfriendly, The music is Kurt Weill with soprano Francine
Lancaster. It sounds like a scratchy old recording, but at least some of it
A single sultry dancer, Nanna emerges gliding and spinning from the rear. Johnny spins her, lifts her, and carries her around the stage. He lifts her again, she kicks her legs straight out. It's a smooth, slinky pas de deux as he lifts her against his back, bends forward, and she kicks high over her head. He puts her down, he turns away, and she crawls, clinging to his feet. He leaves and she is devastated.
Johnny dances with another, as Nanna gets
another guy, but is always gazing at Johnny. Finally all leave and she's pursued
by two guys. They grope, fall back, slide, back up, and attack again. She keeps
fighting them off until Jacob appears and she dances with him. Yuan Yuan Tan
is a supremely sensuous, smooth Nanna. She moves like quicksilver, and seems
almost boneless, like the liquid mercury. She drips with love, lust, and passion.
Helgi Tomasson is consistently the greatest contemporary choreographer that I've seen. His works are vibrant and original without resorting to gimmicks. They are unique, while at the same time displaying a consistency that stamps them as his own, even in their diversity. "Swan Lake," "Romeo and Juliet," "Silver Ladders," and "Pandora Box" are vastly different works but they each bear the mark of Helgi Tomasson. As with the others, "Nanna's Lied" steals the show. It's deeply thought provoking, while at the same time, being an immensely entertaining work that leaves the viewer totally absorbed, thoroughly satisfied, but wanting to see it again as soon as possible.
"Sandpaper Ballet" is a medley of Leroy Anderson songs choreographed by Mark Morris. After "Nanna's Lied," its light, fluffy, and fun. All of the dancers have white tops with green bottoms.
It's Christmas in April as we open with "Sleigh Ride." "The Typewriter" is an ensemble piece where the dancers mesh with the syncopated rhythms. "Trumpeter's Lullaby" is a poignant work with a solo male dancer. He's joined by nine others, partnered in groups of three. "Sarabande" is smooth and fluid with a melancholy pas de deux.
The ensemble lean back in waves for "Jazz Pizzicato." "Jazz Legato" and "Fiddle Faddle" feature lively soft shoes. Twelve girls kick back, shake and shuffle. Eight guys form multi-layered ensembles as they all criss-cross, looking for their partners. We have opposing circles with soloists break away for "Girl in Satin," and multi-layered ensembles for "Song of the Bells," and "The Syncopated Clock."
Repertory Program 7 has something for everyone. It's simply amazing in it's diversity, ranging from the classical precision of Nureyev's "Raymonda," Act 3, to the sensuous drama of Tomasson's "Nanna's Lied," and the fluffy fun of Morris' "Sandpaper Ballet" at The San Francisco Ballet.