This year, I decided to see more dance performances for inspiration as I learn ballet. I’m lucky to live near one of the leading ballet companies in the U.S. – the San Francisco Ballet. The last time I had seen one of their performances was the Nutcracker in 2011, where we sat high up in the upper balcony, looking down upon the stage at the tiny dancers.
My best friend, my little brother, and I arrived at the War Memorial Opera House with minutes to spare before Program 1 started exactly on time. It opened with 7 for Eight, choreographed by Helgi Tomasson, SF Ballet’s artistic director and principal choreographer. The music, which was Bach, was rich and ornamental, complementing the opulence of the opera house interior. For me, the male dancers stole the show in this piece, leaping across the stage as if untouched by gravity.
I was particularly looking forward to the next piece, Magrittomania, which is a tribute to the surrealist painter, René Magritte. You may recognize several of his works, such as The Son of Man…
or The Treachery of Images…
or various other paintings if you’re a modern art buff.
Magrittomania directly incorporates motifs from Magritte’s most famous paintings into the costumes, props (enormous, green apple-shaped balloons), and of course the dancing. Principal dancer Yuan Yuan Tan performed in this piece, and I couldn’t have been more excited to finally see her dance. The movements of her upper body were incredibly fluid, her arms more like ribbons than limbs.
Finally, it was time for the North American premiere of William Forsythe’s Pas/Parts. This had the most modern feel of the three short ballets (is there a term for these?), with minimalist costumes of solid colored leotards and a rather jarring, robotic soundtrack. I was amazed at how the dancers seemed to be keeping pace to an internal, synchronized rhythm, as I really couldn’t detect any order or pattern in the music. My friend and I ogled at the young corps members in Pas/Parts dancing proficiently alongside the more experienced principals and soloists. This was the first time I saw Maria Kochetkova, another principal dancer, perform, and even though Pas/Parts seemed more driven by group synchronicity than solo efforts overall, my eyes were drawn to her movements.
I’m glad our trio went to see Program 1 that day. It gave us a taste of the diverse ways ballet can presented, and motivated me to work to look that effortless when I perform.