The second thing we would note is that these dancers are not always best served by their material. If Programme C of San Francisco Ballet’s Sadler’s Wells residency showed off the dancers’ ability to tackle anything that’s thrown at them, sometimes you couldn’t help feeling their sterling work was wasted on uninteresting material.
The most accomplished work of this triple bill was Justin Peck’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming.
San Francisco Ballet in Peck's Hurry Up, Were Dreaming (c) Erik Tomasson
Peck’s piece is set on a stage stripped bare with just a line of spotlights at the back, where 14 dancers in sporty metallic outfits and trainers could be a group of youngsters hanging out on an urban playground.
The music comes from the electronic band M83, a sound that ranges from a very contemporary rock beat to a more otherworldly dreamy landscape. A programme note says Peck’s intention was to create ‘a life-cycle journey of dream states.’
That is not immediately apparent; but the choreographer’s intention to liberate movement by having the dancers wear trainers does indeed come across clearly. They handle the choreography’s skilful blend of classical ballet, contemporary dance and jazzy Broadway pizzazz with gusto. A virtuoso dancer like Wei Wang goes at it with irresistible relish.
Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming isn’t perfect. There are sections where it sags a little, its sequential rhythm lost; but it’s a generally well-crafted work from a choreographer of whom much is expected.
The British choreographer Liam Scarlett, Artist in Residence with Britain’s Royal Ballet, is much in demand internationally, and he created Hummingbird for San Francisco Ballet.
San Francisco Ballet in Scarlett's Hummingbird (c) Erik Tomasson
Set and costumes are by Scarlett’s habitual collaborator, John Macfarlane (Frankenstein, Swan Lake). The stage is dominated by a large cloth, like a ship’s inflated sail, its surface stained in abstract drips of varying tones of grey and white.
To Philip Glass’s Tirol Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (played live by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia with pianist Natal’ya Feygina under conductor Martin West), a large ensemble dressed in muted tones of grey and stone perform a series of mostly playful, always elegant, vivacious dances; but the centrepiece of this work is an extraordinarily intense pas de deux set on the concerto’s slow movement.
Yuan Yuan Tan and Luke Ingham, both in white, dance a series of emotions, never stated but strongly hinted at: between them runs a mysterious thread of love and hate, attraction and rejection... all the while reinventing and extending the scope and possibilities of the classical pas de deux. Yuan Yuan Tan was hypnotic: you just couldn’t take your eyes off her.
Scarlett has a special talent for infusing abstract ballet with emotion; and this comes to the fore in Hummingbird, although his busy treatment of the ensemble sequences may not be to everybody’s taste.
The let down of the evening was the opening piece, Bespoke by the Australian choreographer Stanton Welch (pictured up top). Set to two Violin Concerti by Johann Sebastian Bach (solo violin Cordula Merks), with modernist costumes by Holly Hines, Bespoke crafted the language of classical ballet into unnecessarily intricate patterns and awkward partnering, that did nothing for the dancers and proved unengaging for the audience.
You win some, and you lose some…
|What||San Francisco Ballet Programme C Review|
|Where||Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
05 Jun 19 – 08 Jun 19, 19:30 Sat mat 14:00 Dur.: 2 hours 20 mins inc two intervals