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My review of San Francisco Ballet’s Program Four in the Chronicle:

“There are ballets that are good for the box office, and then there are ballets that are good for the soul. Two of the latter opened at the San Francisco Ballet on Thursday night, one tragic and one comic, both as richly acted as they are danced. Program 4 is, to my mind, the most fulfilling offering the Ballet has yet given us this season.

The tragic piece is Antony Tudor’s “Jardin aux Lilas,” and the mild surprise is that the company delivers it so movingly. This is the kind of ballet where nuance and humanity matter far more than technique, the kind of ballet that can get shortchanged if it is treated as “old fashioned” or beneath the dancers’ athleticism. Donald Mahler of the Tudor Trust wins great credit for staging this production – San Francisco Ballet’s first, though Tudor created “Jardin” in 1936, and the ballet (known as plain “Lilac Garden” to many fans) has been acknowledged as a 20th century masterpiece. The story line is simple: At their engagement party, a husband-and-wife-to-be each find stolen moments with their secret true loves, then leave arm-in-arm with loveless resignation. The climax is famous: As Ernest Chausson’s “Poeme for violin and orchestra” surges, Tudor boldly freezes the action for two full bars of music. More important than the motionless tableau, though, is what happens next.

While everyone else remains locked in place, Caroline – the only character given a name – reaches to Her Lover, cannot touch him, and resumes her pose in the tableau. This moment – more than Tudor’s genius with gesture, more than his gift for dramatic entrances and exits – is what makes “Lilac Garden” psychological in the way that a Henry James novel is psychological. When Caroline alone moves we are fully, deeply in her consciousness.

As Caroline, the strong-willed Lorena Feijoo was successfully cast against type.”

Click here to keep reading. Deeper in the review: Sarah Van Patten in Robbins’ “The Concert.”

CORRECTION: Late in the review, I refer to the third movement of Rachmaninov’s music, when I meant the 18th variation. Late night writing–my apologies.

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