Front and center, music is in its right place in San Francisco Ballet's Program 4.
Jerome Robbins' 1969 “Dances at a Gathering” is set on a full hour of Chopin etudes, mazurkas, waltzes and nocturnes (performed at the Saturday matinee by Natalya Feygina, Roy Bogas plays at other performances).
Liam Scarlett's “Hummingbird,” a 2014 S.F. Ballet commission, soars on some of Philip Glass' most lyrical and accessible music from the “Tirol Concerto,” performed exceptionally well by pianist Brenda Tom and the ballet orchestra, conducted by Ming Luke.
The hour-long “Dances at a Gathering,” twice the length of most repertory pieces, has no narrative. Dancers – mostly one or two at a time – move to the music in a natural, minimal and lyrical way.
Beautifully eschewing theatricality, renowned ballerinas Yuan Yuan Tan and Sofiane Sylve and danseurs noble Taras Domitro and Carlos Quenedit clearly realized the piece’s simple “music-in-motion” essence.
“Hummingbird,” an instant audience favorite by Scarlett, a former Royal Ballet dancer (who quit the corps at 23 to go on to choreograph acclaimed works) combines neoclassic elegance with a dynamic, colorful contemporary idiom.
Whirling dancers emerge from an impressive, if puzzling, backdrop: John Macfarlane's enormous convex sculpture covers the entire back wall. Macfalane also designed the colorful costumes.
On Saturday afternoon, Lorena Feijoo and Vitor Luiz danced with emotion and brilliance, as did the liberated pair Sarah van Patten and Pascal Molat, and subtle duo Dores André and Joseph Walsh. Soloist Koto Ishihara was notable and corps de ballet members were exuberant.
San Francisco Ballet Program 4
Where: War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. March 3 and March 6, 7:30 p.m. March 4; 2 p.m. March 8
Tickets: $22 to $345
Contact: (415) 865-2000, www.sfballet.org