“Attack it! Attack it!” says fictional AD Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) to young dancer Nina Sayers in Black Swan. No doubt he would have been pleased with San Francisco Ballet. Every work they presented during their 2-week residency at Sadler’s Wells showed an eager company that devoured space and radiated attack and joy, performance after performance.
Forget about understatement: the San Francisco dancers went for boldness and speed, and it was hard not to fall for their charms. With a repertory of 10 ballets, 9 of them choreographed in the last 3 years, the company showed us their commitment to new works and – even if not all of them had the same impact – they suited the dancers splendidly.
Christopher Wheeldon scored a hat trick with his works: with no over intricate partnerning, Number Nine was a colourful and festive realisation of Michael Torke’s Ash that showcased Wheeldon’s knack for creating patterns. Within The Golden Hour had the feeling of a late summer’s day in its sequence of duets and was an equally fine short ballet (as Laura Cappelle observed in her review, perhaps one of the best Wheeldons to date).
Granted, Ghosts had me pondering over Wheeldon’s tendency towards awkward poses and self-referencing, but this work also won me over for its effective layering of dances and powerful imagery, in particular during the ballet’s atmospheric final section, where Sofiane Sylve – who had also brought authority and allure to the central section of Liang’s Symphonic Dances – made me pine for her Myrtha.
Thanks to the powerful Maria Kochetkova, Possokhov’s Classical Symphony became much more than just an enjoyable Balanchinesque work. It was a delight. Masha brought her flirty playfulness to Tomasson’s more formulaic Trio, where the mysterious Sarah Van Patten also dazzled.
The men were given their own chance to shine in Beaux, a Mark Morris piece for 9 dancers inherently musical and effortless, if not for some odd motifs and dated costumes (this was puzzling, given the work is practically fresh off the oven). They were also terrific in Ashley Page’s Guide to Strange Places. Packed with relentless dancing, this was a well structured work for a large cast of 18, where principals Davit Karapetyan, Vitor Luiz and Vito Mazzeo made a big impression.
This season at Sadler’s Wells marked San Francisco Ballet’s return to the UK after a 8-year gap and these 2 weeks of dance were just a glimpse at what this US company can offer (including a look at Christopher Wheeldon’s best work). So here’s hoping they will soon embrace the “ballet in cinema” trend. It would be a treat to be able to follow these living, breathing works as they are unveiled.