My review in Saturday’s Chronicle:

“Everyone who sees William Forsythe’s “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated” is knocked out, and no wonder. It’s like going on safari, watching exotic creatures prowl through their native habitat and pounce into displays of territorial command. Ballet dancers as a pride of muscle-rippling, competitive lions. Ballet class – to my mind, the implied setting of Forsythe’s signature 1987 work – as their savanna.

Nearly every company in the world dances “In the Middle” these days, it seems. But Thursday at the opening of San Francisco Ballet’s Program 2, I couldn’t help thinking the War Memorial Opera House was the place to see it. Few international-caliber troupes have cultivated personality and passion with the fervor of Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson. The payoff shines in “In the Middle” as well as in two encores from last season’s New Works Festival.

That “In the Middle” should look like such an artifact of its era and also so fresh is testament partly to the vigor of performance it receives here, but mostly to Forsythe’s evolutionary place in ballet tradition. From the industrial-chic lighting and electronic Thom Willems score to the ethos of sexually aggressive individualism (think “A Chorus Line” meets “Fatal Attraction”), “In the Middle” screams late ’80s. Yet its stretched-to-the-limits understanding of classicism – vestigial glimmers of Petipa and Balanchine between all those extreme extensions and provocative crouches – is timeless.

Kristin Long and Ruben Martin were scorching hot in the final pas de deux, energy running like an electrical current between their eyes. When she stood on pointe and leaned her hips toward his, her body bending like a bow, I just about thought he would lick her face.”

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