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San Francisco Ballet’s Triple Bill

Sasha De Sola and Tiit Helimets rehearse Caniparoli's 'Tears'
Sasha De Sola and Tiit Helimets rehearse Caniparoli's 'Tears'
Photo: Erik Tomasson

San Francisco Ballet has just launched Program 2 of its 2014 season - a triple bill, featuring a World Premiere by Val Caniparoli, something fun and colorful from Alexei Ratmansky - premiered by the Company last year - and a second look, too, at the first Wayne McGregor commission for San Francisco Ballet, which had its premiere during the 2013 season.

The program opened at the War Memorial Opera House last evening with Val Caniparoli’s abstract work, Tears, so named because the inspiration for this ballet comes from the notion of water being the element which connects everyone and everything in life. This concept is characterized by a quartet of men who form a visual line which connects the movements of the three couples who complete the cast.

Caniparoli’s inspiration came from two sources - Steve Reich’s Variations for Winds, Strings and Keyboards, which conveyed to him the feeling of waves and water - and a quote from naturalist and conservationist, John Muir: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe”. The choreographer’s interpretation of this statement is that individual actions have consequences throughout the world, in the same way that water, the source of life, binds together the natural world and its inhabitants.

It’s appropriate that San Francisco Ballet should be presenting the World Premiere of this work. The Company has provided Val Caniparoli with his artistic home since 1973, Steve Reich’s score was commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony, and the name of John Muir will forever be linked to conservation and the preservation of the natural world in the state of California.

Moritz Moszkowski’s infectiously joyful music provides the score for Alexei Ratmansky’s From Foreign Lands - a lighthearted choreographic romp through Russia, Italy, Germany, Spain, Poland and Hungary. Ratmansky, San Francisco Ballet’s artist in residence, has a reputation for producing creations which are fresh and young in spirit, yet this former artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet never abandons his sense of honor for the traditions and culture of ballet.

From Foreign Lands was Ratmansky’s second commission for San Francisco Ballet. He chose Moszkowski’s Suite for Orchestra, From Foreign Lands, because he liked the orchestration and because he felt that it lends itself to the interpretation of national dances such as the tarantella, fandango and czardas. With such danceable music, he says, “you can almost switch your brain off and just let your body do [the choreographing]”.

Wayne McGregor’s Borderlands has what’s referred to as “an abstract yet deep connection to the work of German-American artist, Josef Albers”, whom McGregor describes as “a Bauhaus-influenced artist who worked with rigorous shape and color to do amazing optical things”. McGregor’s own company, Random Dance, has - since 1992 - been providing audiences with new ways of thinking about dance, and in creating this work, McGregor wanted to choreograph something that would “fit the context of the work here” [at SF Ballet].

For the score, McGregor wanted something original - electronic music that would “emerge through a prolonged conversation” between dance and music. He selected the work of British composer Joel Cadbury and his collaborator Paul Stoney, whose music McGregor describes as “sonic architecture”, which Cadbury - accustomed to McGregor’s experimentation - agrees is a very good way of describing the score.

To get the most out of McGregor’s dances, according to the program notes, “it’s best to arrive at the theater as he does at the studio: ready to discover the infinite potential of dance, the body, and the human mind”.

San Francisco Ballet’s Triple Bill runs at the War Memorial Opera House until March 1, alternating with Program 3, so visit the Company’s website for details of performances.

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