Fluffy tutus and pink pointe shoes no longer dominate the stage. Now all that can be seen are men in tights.
The San Francisco Ballet’s male dancers leaped across the stage in white skirts and mesh unitards, overpowering the Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa on Nov. 15.
Despite the ballerinas’ perfectly sculptured bodies and fluid movements, the contemporary choreography mixed with the amount of men on stage devalued the essence of the female ballerina.
The San Francisco Ballet, the oldest professional ballet company in America, according to the company’s Web site, celebrates its 75 year anniversary with a four-city national tour. The company’s performance features 10 new works, some of which are making their Southern California premiere.
The creative choreography and innovative props, which include wooden beams hanging from the ceiling, however, did not detract from the lack of emotion and passion on stage.
The performance opened with the contemporary piece, “Fusion,” choreographed by San Francisco Ballet’s own Yuri Possokhov. The jazzy movements, all done on pointe shoes, gave the audience a fresh new look at an old company.
But I could not help but notice the swarm of male dancers bolting on and off the stage and contorting their flexible bodies with the rhythmic beats. The power and accuracy of the male pack displayed strength, but somehow I yearned for the grace of a ballerina.
That grace was found when the presence of principal dancer, Sarah Van Patten took the stage. Her most outstanding and moving appearance was in the piece “Within the Golden Hour,” choreographed by Christopher Weldon, who has choreographed for renowned companies like New York City Ballet and Bolshoi Ballet.
Amid the impeccable cohesive movement of the corps de ballet, a group of dancers who are not soloists, in “Within the Golden Hour,” Van Patten stood out with her passionate expression and fluidity of movement. The moment that principal dancer, Pierre-Francois Vilanoba and Van Patten began their duet they defied gravity and become one.
The more I tried to identify outstanding principal dancers, the harder it was to find them. In each dance the corps de ballet did their job – staying in unison. However, they lacked that passion that burns in Van Patten.
Despite slight flaws, “Within the Golden Hour,” was the gem of entire production. As the curtains rose, wooden beams descended from the ceiling and the black shadows of ballerinas formed in the back of the stage. This proved to be the most powerful moment of the piece, which I wish had resonated throughout the rest of the ballet.
The performance ended on a classical note with a piece by one of the leading choreographers of the 20th century, George Balanchine. “The Four Temperaments,” one of his most famous pieces, showed what the San Francisco Ballet is capable of.
Even though this dance was performed without Van Patten, it lived up to its celebrity status. The comfort of seeing ballerinas in pink tights, black leotards and their hair pinned up into a bun, provided the audience with the traditional contemporary ballet.
Despite the male dominance and slight lack of passion on stage, the San Francisco Ballet has yet to fail to impress me. The overall consistency and unique choreography lit up the stage, continuing the 75 years of elegance and grace.