San Francisco Ballet programme 3, Sadler's Wells, London

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The Independent Culture

San Francisco Ballet's London visit has been a happy one. The company is full of strong, confident dancers, with assured performances across a wide repertory. And its Balanchine ballets, at least one in each programme, have been reason enough to see the company. The dancers are at home with the work of this choreographer, and they've brought works rarely seen in Britain.

Allegro Brillante, to Tchaikovsky's Third Piano Concerto, is a sparkling ballet with moments of grandeur and mystery. Four couples make diamond patterns around the ballerina and her cavalier, changing partners or whisking on and off stage. Surrounded by all this speed, the ballerina slows down. Balanchine surrounds her with space and attention, so that simple movements - a foot raised and lowered - have sudden, powerful impact. The ballet's mood shifts with her changes of direction and pace.

Lorena Feijoo is a strong dancer, with vivid stage presence. But with all her gifts, she isn't grand enough in the slow moments. Her changes of mood are a good idea applied to the choreography: they look external. But her dancing is clear and bright, and I like her stormy emphasis as she turns.

The pas de trois from Paquita, staged by Natalia Makarova, is production-line Petipa. Minkus's music is by-the-yard; the steps are pretty and full of technical dazzle. The ballet is nominally set in Spain, but José Varona's costumes move it north. In red, with lace edging and round tutus for the girls, they look like the moving wooden figures on Swiss clocks: mechanical Heidis. Frances Chung and Vanessa Zahorian dance cleanly; Zahorian's fluttered eyelashes drew pleased giggles from the audience. Guennadi Nedviguine whirrs through steps like a hummingbird, feet stretched and sharp.

7 for Eight, by the company director Helgi Tomasson, displays eight soloists in seven pieces of Bach keyboard music. The choreography has weaknesses, but Tomasson knows his dancers, showing them off with attention and warmth.

The opening duet is built around Yuan Yuan Tan's flexibility. She has a long, bendy body, sliding into extreme positions without strain. Her duet with Yuri Possokhov has some awkward details - her turns on bent knee, the way she clings to him with flexed elbows - but both dancers look marvellous. Later movements display Tina LeBlanc's glowing musical clarity, Nicolas Blanc's fluid lines.

Wheeldon's Rush, danced to Martinu's Sinfonietta La Jolla, is more ambitious. The "rush" is often from the corps de ballet, who sweep in, surrounding the lead dancers with bold floor patterns. As a duet proceeds, the corps line up at one side, two rows of men and women. The women tilt sideways, leaning on the men, giving texture to the dance unfolding beside them. Fast and inventive, Rush is full of exuberant dancing.

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