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My review of Tuesday’s SF Ballet’s program one opening in the Chronicle:

“How valuable will former San Francisco Ballet principal dancer Yuri Possokhov prove as the company’s resident choreographer? The jury’s still out after the world premiere of his “Diving Into the Lilacs” on Tuesday night at the War Memorial Opera House.

“Lilacs,” his third work for the Ballet since retiring from the stage in 2006, provides a sweeping showcase of lush dancing for three ravishing couples and a corps of eight. But it’s unlikely that much beyond the strong performances will prove lasting.

As happens often with Possokhov, visual design and theatrical flair overshadow choreographic depth. Benjamin Pierce’s scenery suspends a sort of lilac diorama within a wall of black. Sandra Woodall’s costumes dress the men in swashbuckling vests and boots, the women in slim gossamer gowns.

Possokhov has said that the music, the Sinfonietta for String Orchestra by Shostakovich-influenced Boris Tchaikovsky (not Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, though few would confuse them), evoked memories of boyhood Moscow with lilacs in bloom. And indeed, no shortage of nostalgia and passion permeates “Lilacs,” with its busy abundance of swirling lifts, swooning melts and devastated clutches. But much of the high emotion feels unearned.

There are ingenious movement motifs – too many to cohere meaningfully. The men have propeller arms, a macho legs-apart stance with shoulders swaggering, and long passages with fists clenched, a favorite Possokhov crutch. The women are constantly tossing in weird little contemporary fillips when they’re not lying on the floor like corpses (a compelling image that goes nowhere). Because Possokhov’s response to Tchaikovsky’s pretty, middle-of-the-road modernism attains only surface musicality, nothing really registers.

Yet it’s hard to feel disappointed with Tuesday’s cast milking every moment.”

Click here for the rest.

Chronicle dance reviews will be getting shorter: 300 words per review now for most performances, 500 words for SF Ballet. (Previously most dance reviews were 500 to 600 words, 600 to 800 for the Ballet.) I’m working my hardest to make my writing as concise and pared as possible, and I hope over time the results will show. It’s particularly difficult, though, with a company filled with so many beautiful dancers as SF Ballet. Before cuts for space, my program one review continued to end thus:

“And the ensemble kept bringing back the bite, Lily Rogers a budding goddess of subtle musicality in the first theme, Nutnaree Pipit-Suksun unnervingly serene in the third, and Jennifer Stahl leading the quartet of sleek Phelgmatic ladies, each as coolly self-possessed as a Vogue cover model.”

The sentences may be excised, but the admiration remains.

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