The San Francisco Ballet's Program 4 featured three highly diverse works, each one gathering more steam and pleasing the audience. Beginning with the company premiere of Michael Fokine's Petrouchka, with music by Stravinsky, the curtain lifted to reveal the Butter Week Fair in St. Petersburg, which drew applause, the first time I've ever heard a set applauded at the ballet. It was a delightful scene, with the stage full of people milling about as the puppet clown of the title, but the impact was muted a bit as the ballet is as much theater (of a pantomime kind) as it is dance. Nevertheless, it was a nice performance, with Taras Domitro especially affecting in the title role and Elisabeth Miner giving another brilliant turn. Out of all of the SF Ballet's lead dancers, Miner may be the most under-rated- or maybe I should say the who garners less attention than she deserves.
Next came the work that made me really want to see this program- Yuri Possokhov's Diving Into the Lilacs. For me, Possokhov is the most captivating contemporary choreographer currently working and his work is not to be missed. This piece didn't disappoint. Premiered last year, this performance, featuring Lorena Feijoo paired with Vitor Luiz, Maria Kochetkova with the amazing Joan Boada and Frances Chung and Hansuke Yamamoto was splendid on every level. Chung especially stood out, with a grace and elegance that was mesmerizing. The music, by Boris Tchaikovsky and conducted by Martin West, was perfect for the beautiful pas de deauxs against a backdrop of lilacs that was so crisply photographed they looked like 3D shots from the sea. This was my favorite of the evening and when it repeats don't miss it.
The finale, William Forsythe's In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated was clearly the audience favorite, but to me it was a slog on the same level as watching Enter the Void- interesting, captivating for the first five or so minutes, but then I was ready to be done with it, but it kept going and going and going. When would it stop? About half an hour later. The dancing was fine, but Thom Williams' limited, repetitive score, made up entirely of heavily processed electronic percussive effects bored me to a state of numbness that can only be cured by bourbon or the promise of illicit pleasure. Were the dancers great? Absolutely. Did I care? Not a whit. However mine was certainly the minority opinion as the audience erupted with fantastic applause afterward, while I was thinking thankfully now I could take my leave. Think what you want, it won't be the first time I've been labeled a heathen, but the work is an endurance test for the dancers and the audience.
Another account of the Possokhov work from someone who is much more knowledgeable about ballet than I, can be found here.