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SF Ballet Program 1: Let’s hear it for the boys

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Sofiane Sylve stands out in San Francisco Ballet Program 1’s “Pas/Parts.” (Courtesy Erik Tomasson)

What do you get when you mix choreographers Helgi Tomasson, Yuri Possokhov and William Forsythe in a program? One of the most diverse and satisfying concerts given by San Francisco Ballet to date.

Program 1 opened Sunday afternoon at the War Memorial Opera House with Tomasson’s “7 for Eight” (2004), in which eight couples, costumed in black with a hint of sparkle, danced to Bach on a bare stage with smooth grace.

The pas de deux were mainly showcases for the ballerinas, with the men in (quite literally) supporting roles; one might have wished the men to shine in a more mutual fashion. But it was beautiful, crisp and classical, and an audience pleaser.

Next was Possokhov’s “Magrittomania” (2000), with music by Yuri Krasavin, woven around portions of Beethoven played by pianist Natal’ya Feygina. The colorful, whimsical piece is a tribute to surrealist René Magritte, light in tone yet with a hint of despair at its core.

Davit Karapetyan was beautifully expressive, Yuan Yuan Tan was flowing and seductive as the siren in a red dress, but the trio of Esteban Hernandez, Wei Wang and Max Cauthorn was especially striking, a bravura turn of brilliant jumps and turns that recalled a joyous folk-dance. Possokhov gives his men substantial material to dance and abundant stage time to exhibit their talents.

Unfortunately, the costumes for the women were a distraction, having a decoration on the bosom that suggested nipples, which conjured awkwardness rather than surrealism. It was a relief whenever they donned jackets to hide this detail.

The program steadily built to Forsythe’s “Pas/Parts,” a 2016 North American premiere.

The dancers, sparely-clad in brightly colored costumes, cavorted, slinked and cha-cha’d to a score by Thom Willems’ that combined repetitive, mechanical electronics with echoes of catchy Latin rhythms and vocal riffs that brought warmth and familiarity.

The dancers came alive to the grit and challenge of Forsythe’s choreography that clearly used ballet vocabulary, but also had new twists and turns. Sofiane Sylve positively luxuriated in the movement, and Maria Kochetkova and Francisco Mungamba danced a taut, fraught pas de deux.

The stage was set as a white, sterile box, but the movement was engaging and downright sexy. The finale with the full cast onstage was frenetic, yet structured and glorious all at the same time.


San Francisco Ballet Program 1
with Tomasson’s “7 for Eight,” Possokhov’s “Magrittomania,” Forsythe’s “Pas/Parts”
Where: War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
When: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 26, Jan. 28 and Feb. 3; 2 and 8 p.m. Jan. 30, 8 p.m. Feb. 5
Tickets: $30 to $255
Contact: (415) 865-2000, www.fballet.org