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Brilliant Wheeldon premiere at SF Ballet

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Christopher Wheeldon's “Ghosts,” in a gorgeous San Francisco Ballet world premiere performance Tuesday in the Opera House, is the kind of ballet dreams are made of. It’s Wheeldon's sixth commission from the ballet, and his very best.

“Ghosts” is a neoclassic delight. With its continuous flow and music materialized in movement, it is fascinating, engrossing and fulfilling.

Yuan Yuan Tan, Sofiane Sylve, Damian Smith and 14 other dancers offer their all, creating a thrilling piece.

At 30 minutes – somewhat longer than the average ballet – “Ghosts” seems to flash by.

Danced to C.F. Kip Winger's dramatic and lyrical, Sibelius-meets-Stravinsky music composed for Wheeldon, and featuring  exquisite diaphanous costumes “constructed” by Mark Zappone and company, “Ghosts” is all beauty in motion. The classically trained Winger spent some time as Alice Cooper's bassist, but one would never know that from this score.

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What is “Ghosts” about? Wheeldon says his idea was a “mass gathering of souls … creating only atmosphere, not story.”

That seems right, although a large object, resembling a plane wreck, is slowly lowered from above the stage, and the dancers occasionally stop to look at it.

Could they be the victims of a crash? It doesn't matter: atmosphere, music and movement cohere, and that’s what viewers take away from the piece – as well as the feeling they want to see it again.

The rest of Program 2 is pleasant, especially Paul Taylor's ever-loving “Company B,” to Andrews Sisters’ songs such as “Pennsylvania Polka” (with Elizabeth Miner), “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” (Gennadi Nedvigin), and “There Will Never Be Another You” (Katita Waldo and Quinn Wharton).

The program-opening “Opus 19/The Dreamer,” to Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 1 (Franklin D'Antonio soloist) is not one of Jerome Robbins' best. It is derivative of George Balanchine – who, ironically, shared direction of the New York City Ballet with Robbins exactly because of his distinctive, different style.

Maria Kochetkova and Davit Karapetyan (replacing Taras Domitro) shone in the lead roles, but the corps was a bit off its usual high standard.

DANCE REVIEW  
San Francisco Ballet Program 2

Where: War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Feb. 12 and 18, 2 p.m.  Feb. 14, 2 and 8 p.m. Feb. 20
Tickets: $20 to $260
Contact: (415) 865-2000, www.sfballet.org

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