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San Francisco Ballet

'Stravinsky Violin Concerto,' 'Within the Golden Hour' and 'West Side Story Suite'

by Katie Rosenfeld

April 4, 2009 -- War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco

The Saturday matinee performance of San Francisco Ballet’s Program 6 was an intriguing combination of the modernity of the 1970s, the subtle neoclassicism of the late 2000s and the exuberance of the American musical. The Company was in good form, from the principals all the way through the ranks to the corps de ballet, with stand-out performances from Elana Altman in Balanchine’s “Stravinsky Violin Concerto”, Dana Gensahft and Maria Kochetkova in “Within the Golden Hour” and former SFB dancer Rory Hohenstein in “West Side Story Suite.”

While “Stravinsky Violin Concerto” now seems a bit dated, the quirky choreography does resonate and remind viewers of what a huge leap classical ballet took through Balanchine’s creativity. Moving off-balance and away from the strict center line of traditional ballet posture, the dancers demonstrated their superhuman strength and control with ease and grace. Altman and Tiit Helimets exhibited textbook Balanchine, their incredibly long limbs and perfectly pointed feet forming odd angles and ruler-straight lines.

“Within the Golden Hour” is destined to be a classic of this decade. Christopher Wheeldon brings the music – by Antonio Vivaldi/ Ezio Bosso – to life, as though it is a member of the cast, and the multidimensionality of the piece is at once wistful, melancholy and sumptuous. The ensemble work, as is now expected from SFB, was clean, smooth and glorious. Liz Miner, partnered ably by Pascal Molat, was joyfully energetic, while Maria Kochetkova and Joan Boada nearly stole the show with their exquisite, heartfelt pas de deux.

“West Side Story Suite” was all that we could have hoped for. Spirited, jazzy dancing combined with well-known and loved music – by Leonard Bernstein – and led to a toe-tapping romp that allowed for audience participation. The return of Hohenstein in the role of Riff was truly remarkable; getting to see such a powerful dancer who can also sing is a rare treat. Katita Waldo is also a wonderful double treat; her Anita was sassy and strong. Ludmila Campos was a perfect Maria, sweet and lovely. In all the evening was enjoyable and memorable in all the right ways.

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