Review: Bounty of ballet beauty

A-1, B-3, C-2 … bingo! Here are three top recommendations from among 10 world premieres at the San Francisco Ballet’s New Works Festival, a unique celebration of the troupe’s 75th birthday.

On three consecutive nights last week, the company presented only new, commissioned works from some of the world’s most acclaimed choreographers.

The festival kicked off Tuesday with an audience and artistic winner, the first piece on Program A: Yuri Possokhov’s “Fusion.”

A highlight of Wednesday’s Program B was the third dance, James Kudelka’s “The Ruins Proclaim the Building Was Beautiful.”

And another work to treasure is the second dance on Thursday’s Program C, Val Caniparoli’s “Ibsen’s House.”

Chances are, members of the three evenings’ large audiences would select different favorites, in an endless variation of preference, so high is the festival’s quality. Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson has made inspired choices of choreographers, and the company, faced with the impossible task of preparing 10 premieres simultaneously, acquitted itself magnificently.

My three selected works represent different styles, with veteran S.F. Ballet dancer Caniparoli’s the closest to a literal narrative.

The dance,depicting five heroines from Ibsen’s plays, is set to Dvorak’s (Ibsen-contemporary) Piano Quintet in A Major — played with both heart and restraint by four principal Ballet Orchestra musicians and pianist Roy Bogas. Lorena Feijoo’s intense Hedda and Molly Smolen’s anguished Nora were highlights.

Another company alumnus and remarkable choreographer, Possokhov, has turned from clever, theatrical works such as his 2000 “Magrittomania” to “Fusion.”

With music by Graham Fitkin and Rahul Dev Burman, this piece delightfully mixes majestic dervishes and a gang apparently from “West Side Story” — the two groups switching roles and styles. Eight principal dancers lead the piece: among them, Yuan Yuan Tan, Feijoo, Gennadi Nedvigin and Joan Boada were at their best.

Kudelka is both neoclassical-lyrical and experimental in “Ruins.” Set to mesmerizing romantic music by Rodney Sharman “after César Franck” (but sounding more like Carl Nielsen), the dance is a visual sensation. A swarm of ballerinas wearing beehive wigs swirl around the stage, led by Elana Altman and Frances Chung, evoking a feeling of looking through a kaleidoscope.

Then, after the bulk of the piece goes by, suddenly and without apparent relationship, a pas de deux featuring Tan and Pierre-Francois Vilanoba takes over, in different style and feel.

Tan, in a red-and-black dress and wearing heels, is the aggressive partner to a noble, gently distracted Vilanoba. The duet is sure to show up at future galas all by itself.

IF YOU GO

New Works Festival

Where: War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco

When: Daily through May 6; except no performances April 29 or May 5

Tickets: $15 to $265

Contact: (415) 865-2000 or www.sfballet.org

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