My review in the Chronicle:
“One of the great opportunities of San Francisco Ballet’s New Works Festival is the chance to consider – or reconsider – your personal ballet aesthetic. What qualities do you value in new ballets? What speaks to you and why? And if you appreciate a ballet that offers dazzlingly sophisticated musicality, that takes classical attention to form and channels it into a modern ethos – if you cherish a ballet sure to show you something new every time you see it – then you could hardly do better than Mark Morris’ “Joyride.”
With its commissioned score by John Adams, “Joyride” was the PR coup of the Ballet’s 75th anniversary season, and Wednesday, with Adams himself conducting, it lived up to the buzz. But it also capped a second-night slate that fulfilled the festival’s larger potential: revealing the many faces of ballet today. No one who sees Program B’s premieres by Stanton Welch, Julia Adam and James Kudelka could fail to marvel that ballet speaks in so many tongues.
If Morris’ is the work that looks built for the ages, score one for complexity. With its shifting beat and crazy layers of rhythm, Adams’ music must be a devil to count, and Isaac Mizrahi’s sleek costumes make a joke of this, adorning metallic bodysuits with LED screens that continually flash random numbers. But cleverness is far from Morris’ only game. There’s a cool sex appeal in how these eight dancers efficiently shoot through and regroup. And there’s a panoply of feeling in Morris’ motifs, from a kung fu kick to a sweeping backward reach that turns into neck-clutching chaine turns.
The vocabulary looks more seamlessly integrated with a plainspoken classical virtuosity than any previous Morris ballet commission I know. Unlike works like his “Sylvia,” where the ballet steps feel merely pared down in flourish to fit his aesthetic, in “Joyride” I felt Morris pushing from within ballet’s language and conventions. Elizabeth Miner has a solo of fouette turns that seems to spin right out of everything she’s done up to that moment; Rory Hohenstein blasts through a variation of spectacularly ticktocking legs.
But the drama of “Joyride” is its slower middle movement. Here, Morris has his couples (led by Sarah Van Patten and Gennadi Nedvigin) dance their pas de deux both facing front, side by side, the man standing slightly behind, the woman quite steady on her own, thank-you-very-much. The immediate effect is a smoldering mystery, as Morris manipulates the spacing. The larger possible influence is as an antidote to the current rave for twist-and-toss partnering that has grown not so much politically offensive as artistically bland.”
Click here for the full review.