COURTESY  ERIK TOMASSONSan Francisco Ballet's Yuan Yuan Tan is outstanding in “RAkU.”

COURTESY ERIK TOMASSONSan Francisco Ballet's Yuan Yuan Tan is outstanding in “RAkU.”

Triumphant return of 'RAkU,’ exciting new ‘Strange Places’

San Francisco Ballet's Program 6 – with Yuri Possokhov's 2011 “'RAkU” and the world premiere of Ashley Page's “Guide to Strange Places” – boasts high energy, drama, wide sweep and irresistible appeal.

As is typical these days, the dancing was superb on Friday's opening night at the War Memorial Opera House. But the works also soar on wings of intense contemporary music. The company's own Shinji Eshima (a bass player with the orchestra for more than three decades) wrote the score for “'RAkU”; John Adams' “Guide to Strange Places” accompanies Page's dance.

Among Yuan Yuan Tan's many triumphs, her Princess in “'RAkU,” set in Japan's warrior past, is among her most memorable.

Tan and Damian Smith's Prince first appear in the stylized manner of Noh theater. Possokhov and designer  Alexander V. Nichols provide a breathtaking moment: the Princess' large ceremonial kimono flies up in the air, revealing a small, simply dressed woman, defenseless without the splendor of the disappearing garb, predictive of the coming tragedy.

As the couple stands motionless, Tan uncannily displays strength, submission, love and fear – without moving a muscle.

When the Prince leaves for battle, the Princess is subdued by the crazed Black Monk (Pascal Molat in a scary, and great, performance). After a temple burns, the remains of the prince and his sword are returned; as she scatters his ashes around her, snow begins to fall, covering her prostrate body.

Eshima's music pulses with desire, passion, drama, and eventually,  stark tragedy. Under Martin West's baton, the orchestra and soloists were glorious Friday.

Principal cellist Eric Sung soared in the climactic final scene, following solos by Kevin Rivard on French horn, Laura Griffiths on oboe and Rufus Olivier on bassoon. Also notable: Michael McGraw on piano, David Rosenthal on marimba, and Steve D'Amico on bass during the kimono lift.

Adams' darkly idiosyncratic, breakneck “Guide to Strange Places” goes well with a dance that Page – former dancer with the Royal Ballet, later director of the Scottish Ballet  – has described as “savage and earthy.”

On opening night, Sarah Van Patten and Anthony Spaulding, Maria Kochetkova and Gennadi Nedvigin, Frances Chung and Pascal Molat, Vanessa Zahorian and Jaime Garcia Castilla were the lead pairs in the piece, which, mixing ballet and contemporary styles, is similar to Program No. 5's “Glass Pieces” by Jerome Robbins.

Act 3 of Rudolf Nureyev's reworking of the Marius Petipa “Raymonda,” set to Alexander Glazunov's pseudo-Hungarian music, featuring Sofiane Sylve and Tiit Helimets, opened the program.
 

DANCE REVIEW

San Francisco Ballet Program  No. 6
Where: War Memorial Opera House, 401 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, 8 p.m. Thursday and April 3, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday
Tickets:
$20 to $285
Contact: (415) 865-2000, www.sfballet.org

artsentertainmentJohn AdamsMoviesYuri Possokhov

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Health care workers in the intensive care unit at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, with Alejandro Balderas, a 44-year-old patient who later died. Even in California, a state with a coronavirus vaccination rate well above average, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has nearly doubled in the past two weeks, according to a New York Times database. (Isadora Kosofsky/The New York Times)
Why COVID took off in California, again

‘The good news is: The vaccines are working’

Lake Oroville stood at 33 percent full and 40 percent of historical average when this photograph was taken on Tuesday, June 29, 2021. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times via Tribune News Service)
A kayaker on the water at Lake Oroville, which stands at 33 percent full and 40 percent of historical average when this photograph was taken on Tuesday, June 29, 2021 in Oroville, Calif. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times via Tribune News Service)
Facing ‘dire water shortages,’ California bans Delta pumping

By Rachel Becker CalMatters In an aggressive move to address “immediate and… Continue reading

Students practice identifying species in the school garden at Verde Elementary in Richmond during summer camp. (Photo courtesy of Verde Elementary)
Reading, writing and bike riding: How schools spent summer helping students recover from pandemic

By Sydney Johnson EdSource Bicycles typically aren’t allowed on the blacktop at… Continue reading

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission launched a pilot program that offers up to 90 percent discounts on water and sewer bills for eligible customers. (Andri Tambunan/Special to ProPublica)
How does 90% off your water bill sound? Here’s who qualifies

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission announced this week it is launching… Continue reading

Most Read