Allan Ulrich reviewed San Francisco Ballet’s program 2 for Voice of Dance:
“The scent of revolution, ancient and modern, hovered in the air Tuesday (Feb. 14) at the War Memorial Opera House, where the San Francisco Ballet opened its first mixed repertory program of the season. Juxtapose George Balanchine?s Apollo, a virtual manifesto of neoclassicism, with the American premiere of Christopher Wheeldon?s Quaternary, a peek at the shape of neoclassicism in the 21st century, and you?ve already got a substantial banquet. In the middle and somewhat overshadowed by the titans surrounding it, came the world premiere of artistic director Helgi Tomasson?s Blue Rose, an affable trifle danced by a sextet of A-Team wonders. The program runs in alternating repertory through Feb. 25.”
Janice Berman’s review will appear in the Chronicle tomorrow; criticism-wise, I sat this out. I will say frankly that I was almost glad not to be writing about this program. It was one of those slates that was impossible to be passionate about, either positively and negatively. Aside from Gonzalo Garcia’s turn in “Apollo,” which was absolutely scintillating, I found this to be rather dull going. Unsurprisingly, all the dancers were wonderful. But Tomasson’s “Blue Rose” can’t hold a candle to his better recent works, like “7 for 8” and “Concerto Grosso.” The music by Elena Kats-Cherin is for piano and violin, a mash of tango, ragtime, Baltic influences and more in which all the flavors blend into blandness. Tina LeBlanc has some wonderful whirling top solos, and Nicolas Blanc and Pierre-Francois Vilanoba have a high-flying showdown that throws off some sparks. But where are these people? In a dance hall or out in the fields? What’s the milieu? Judanna Lynn’s busy and gaudy silk calico dresses and Lisa J. Pinkham’s dated lighting design don’t help.
I was also less than bowled over by Christopher Wheeldon’s “Quarternary,” which I found also strangely dated. The final section, set to Steve Mackey, reminded me of some Joffrey rock ballet resurrected from the 1970’s. I suppose I might not have minded this if there had been some sense of irony, of knowing quotation, but as it was I felt I’d entered a time warp. The saving grace was Katita Waldo, looking young and fiery. Muriel Maffre and Yuri Possokhov were exquisite in “Summer,” which has several compelling images, though I’ve seen this Arvo Part music more movingly handled by other choreographers (the Bay Area’s Janice Garrett among them). The Bach “Spring” was a wash of vague pastoralism for me, redeemed by top-notch dancing. “Winter,” set to one of John Cage’s crazy-clockwork-sounding prepared piano scores, was the strongest section to my mind, with its waggling hips and arms and its rather Alwin Nikolai-like, other planet atmosphere (Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith danced the leads). But though I’m a steady admirer of Wheeldon’s talents, I don’t think this ballet is one for the ages.
I’m keeping my remarks short and inadequate because it’s late, because I’ve just returned from a very helfpul critique of one of my new short stories at my writers group and I want to think about my fiction, and because Allan Ulrich makes the pro- case for “Quarternary” more animatedly than any objections I can raise here. So it’s onward to program three, which contains one of my favorite ballets, Agnes de Mille’s “Rodeo,” and opens tomorrow (Thursday) night. Look for my review in the Chronicle on Saturday.