San Francisco Ballet, Hotel de Rohan, Paris
Dancin' in the rain. It might have been a glorious feeling
Sunday 10 July 2005
But the dancers of San Francisco Ballet appeared undaunted (they had a covered stage, at least), determined to justify the organisers' contentious choice of an American company over a French one. In fact, global politics aside, SFB is a perfect match for Paris since America's oldest company is also its most stylish. And how typical of it to open its residency not with a three-act crowd pleaser but with three world premieres. It's this ability to cook up commissions from the likes of Paul Taylor, Lar Lubovitch and Christopher Wheeldon that makes SFB the envy of the ballet world.
Paul Taylor's Spring Rounds suffered worst from the wintry conditions. This was vintage Taylor in the bucolic mode that recalls the golden lads and girls of Shakespeare's sonnet. Circle dances, square dances, couples making arches for others to dance through, bodies breasting imagined rays of sun, make for a buoyant display of youthful ardour that looked suddenly rather desperate, like someone holding a smile too long. Made to a recorded arrangement of 17th-century music, the girls in lace-up bodices, everything was matched to its surroundings - except the weather.
In Elemental Brubeck, Lar Lubovitch strays into 1950s jazz territory. The male solo that tops and tails the piece, fizzingly danced by Gonzalo Garcia, might have stepped off Broadway with its wriggles and strides. Jazzed-up ballet in other hands can drag behind the beat, but Lubovitch finds a freedom in the form that is genuinely uplifting, if ultimately slight.
For challenge, all eyes were on Christopher Wheeldon, the British choreographer everyone wants a piece of these days. Quaternary is his comment on the four seasons set to four unrelated scores by John Cage, J S Bach, Arvo Part, and a Hendrix-like electric guitar number by Steven Mackay that was ostensibly "Autumn" but one couldn't guess why. Despite moments of luminous invention - particularly a duet for Damian Smith and Yuan Yuan Tan, for my money the most mesmerising ballerina in the world - the overall impression was rather baffling. Yet there was enough to call for a second viewing on a dry night.
To 23 July, www.francebillet.com
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