My review in today’s Chronicle:

“It’s tempting to treat San Francisco Ballet’s gargantuan New Works Festival as a sporting event: 10 choreographers unveiling 10 world premieres over three days. Who will win? Who will lose?
But Tuesday the real winner was clear, and it was the Ballet audience. Throughout the War Memorial Opera House, veteran critics and newbie fans alike fervently debated which ballets they’d loved, and why. Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson’s daring onslaught of fresh work invites a heightened, even heated dialogue – and this, more than the sheer number of premieres, is what the ballet world needs now.

Between the two busily inventive ballets by Yuri Possokhov and Christopher Wheeldon, it seemed, viewers tilted toward one or the other. With Paul Taylor’s “Changes,” set to blaring music by the Mamas and the Papas, I’m guessing people either loved it or hated it.

I tilted toward Possokhov, whose “Fusion” was the improbable triumph of the evening. How’s this for a formula that shouldn’t work: A quartet of dervishes in flowing white, juxtaposed with four couples in sleek pantsuits (costumes by Sandra Woodall); Graham Fitkin’s jazzy music with its crazy time signatures, sandwiched between Rahul Dev Burman’s Bollywood-esque Indian compositions (kudos to the hard-driving musical ensemble under conductor Martin West); hip-swirling and lightning-swift movement that seems to borrow from anyone and everywhere.

But Possokhov pulls it together with theatrical flair, aided by Benjamin Pierce’s scenic design of floating fabric panels. Those dervishes keep intermingling with the contemporarily clothed dancers like spirits or angels. The heart of the piece is a pas de deux for Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith, the four dervishes standing as a wall that she runs through, then over, then rolls beneath before her increasingly clinging coupling. Were those dervishes her block to transcendence, or her gate to it, or both? When the pantsuit-dressed men take on the dervishes’ kneeling chest pumps by ballet’s end, have they found a piece of nirvana on earth? The metaphorical possibilities were rich.

Wheeldon’s “Within the Golden Hour,” on the other hand, looked like much invention to little cumulative effect. ”

Click here for the full review.

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