The season opens with a selection of mixed programs featuring some of the finest works in the repertoire, followed by the New York premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s production of Cinderella which proved wildly successful during its premiere performances in San Francisco earlier this year.
The ballets which have been selected for the mixed bills focus mainly on works by contemporary composers - with the exception of Serge Lifar’s 1943 Blanc en Suite - a delightful, classically-styled piece which had rarely been performed in the US before Helgi Tomasson staged it during the Company’s 2013 season.
Tomasson’s own choreographic contribution to the New York season is Trio, a sumptuously choreographed and costumed work set to Tchaikovsky’s enduringly lovely Souvenir de Florence.
Christopher Wheeldon has become more and more frequently associated with SF Ballet over the last decade, with eight commissions and a total of 12 of his ballets in the Company’s repertoire. The mixed bill programs on this tour include his Ghosts, a ballet which is intended to create an atmosphere, “like a perfume", says Wheeldon. Ghosts takes its title from the score commissioned by Wheeldon from C F Kip Winger.
Wayne McGregor’s Borderlands - his first commission for the Company - is based on the concept of dancers embodying paintings, and is inspired by the work of German-American artist Josef Albers. McGregor commissioned the score from young British composer Joel Cadbury, who - in a collaboration with Paul Stoney - has produced a work which McGregor describes as “very analogous to the conceptual idea I had”.
Alexei Ratmansky is represented in this selection of programs by his second commission for San Francisco Ballet, From Foreign Lands. “I love his sense of humor, understatement sometimes—just pure joy,” says Helgi Tomasson, characteristics which are evident in this new work, drawing on influences from Russia, Italy, Germany, Spain, Poland, and Hungary. The ballet takes its title from the Moritz Moszkowski Suite for Orchestra From Foreign Lands.
In creating Beaux, Mark Morris wanted to choreograph a ballet for male dancers only. “I wanted to make up a dance with all the gentlemen that is not just about what men are compelled to do in the ballet industry ..... I want a wider range of dancing than I often see in the ballet language,” he says. The music is unusual as well - two compositions by Bohuslav Martinů, featuring the revival harpsichord.
SF Ballet Choreographer in Residence, Yuri Possokhov, conceived his Classical Symphony as a tribute “to my school, to my teacher, my background” - his teacher having been Peter Pestov whilst Possokhov was a student at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow. It is set to Prokofiev’s Symphony No 1 - the Classical - to which Possokhov had been introduced by Pestov.
Edwaard Liang chose Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances as the inspiration for his first commission for SF Ballet - a "spiritual work" he says, specifically tailored to the Company. He’d been “a huge fan" of the Symphonic Dances for years, and decided that, although it seemed intimidating, it was perfect for SF Ballet. “It’s a huge orchestration, really just big, bold music, and that’s one of the reasons why I was drawn to it."
Cinderella is Christopher Wheeldon’s first full-length commission for San Francisco Ballet. A co-production with Dutch National Ballet, it’s based more on the Brothers Grimm version of the fairy tale than that of Perrault, with which we’re more familiar. There’s no pumpkin coach, no clock at midnight, and no fairy godmother. Instead, there’s a tree which grows on the grave of Cinderella’s mother, which lives and dances, and is “the deliverer of all things magic,” says Wheeldon, “which I think is more poetic and quite beautiful”. For Cinderella’s protection and guidance, Wheeldon has given her four spirits - based on the seasonal fairies in Prokofiev’s score. He has also retained the elements of comedy in the more familiar interpretation of the story - because, as he says, there’s comedy written into the music.
San Francisco Ballet’s New York tour runs from October 16 - 27 at the David H Koch Theater, Lincoln Center in New York. For further information and tickets, please follow this link http://www.sfballet.org/tickets/ontour where you’ll also find some video clips of the New York season.