Allan Ulrich was traveling, so I subbed to review San Francisco Ballet’s program seven for the Chronicle:

“A resident choreographer earns his keep when he feeds the audience what it wants and needs, brings out qualities in the dancers only someone intimately familiar with them can, and stretches his own talents in the bargain. Yuri Possokhov’s new “Classical Symphony” at San Francisco Ballet does all this and more: It makes you smile, nonstop. This caper of stretched-to-the-extreme classical technique forms the zippy centerpiece of a short and spirited seventh repertory program likely to delight ballet diehards and newcomers in equal measure.

In his ninth work for the Ballet, the former principal dancer has turned to Prokofiev’s first symphony and drawn on its teasing qualities. This is neo-classicism that can trace its influence back to William Forsythe’s “Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude” – right down to Sandra Woodall’s space-age pie-plate tutus – but Possokhov adds so many idiosyncratic twists that “Classical Symphony” rarely feels derivative.

To his fleet of three lead couples and eight corps members, Possokhov gives Russian-flavored high classical steps in combinations rarely if ever seen in contemporary ballet, from the men’s grandes pirouettes with windmill arms – the legs swoop too, ending in plunging arabesque penchée – to Maria Kochetkova’s simple relevé turns with free leg in a charming front attitude. The lines are rounded and harmonious, only taken to the nth degree – a finishing position with one arm overhead and torso arching becomes practically a backbend.

Nineteenth-century positions on pointe spiral down into quirky floor work. But it’s the sweeping inventions that imprint the ballet in memory. It was a terrific idea to give Prokofiev’s lightly bounding third movement to a herd of men who gambol like stags. And the finishing image, with the women gathered into an undulating center, and the men dashing in jeté en tournant all around, is a kick.”

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