Friday, March 11, 2011

March Ballet

San Francisco Ballet: March Community Matinee.

The performance was similar to one that we attended last month, though the second half presented quite different dances. In addition to glimpses of the stage set up and costuming, which we saw though video, we also saw:

1. Polonaise Finale from Giuliani: Variations on a Theme,
2. Andante Sostenuto,
3. Classical Symphony; and
4. Part 1 from Artifact Suite.

I didn't quite like the Classical Symphony. Parts are supposed to mimic the movements of birds, but the dancers - while extraordinarily impressive in their skills - seemed to do so in a way that bordered on the comic.

The bit from Artifact Suite was interesting; the audience reaction to the suddenly closing curtain was a loud scream, to which K finally said, "this isn't a roller coaster!" I was feeling the same. The SF Ballet's Educational Materials describe it this way: "Although Artifact Suite seems on the surface to be a purely abstract ballet—that is, one with no storyline—William Forsythe’s driving and brilliant work is filled with philosophical ideas and is meant to provoke questions as much as it aims to please.

Created originally for the Scottish Ballet in 2004, Artifact Suite—is part of a longer work entitled Artifact. The starting point for the choreography is classical ballet, but in Artifact Suite, Forsythe takes traditional forms and musicality and pushes, pulls, extends and reformulates the steps, lines and rhythms to create a kind of extreme ballet.

But Forsythe also means to call into question how the audience views a ballet. At key moments, as the dancers twist, spin and slide to the music of J.S. Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D Minor, a heavy dark fire curtain will fall across the front of the stage with a resounding thud, hiding the dancers from view. When the curtain rises again, the formations, the lighting, everything will look different. The dance goes on, and then the fire curtain will fall across the stage again. From the audience’s point of view, parts of the ballet have been suddenly concealed, seemingly lost. With each new section, the audience becomes interested in the movement, only to have the dance abruptly taken away, perhaps provoking questions about what is seen and what is hidden in any performance, what can be remembered, and what will be forgotten."

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