Allan Ulrich leads the cheers for Wheeldon's ballet in the San Francisco Chronicle:
Nineteen minutes have rarely passed so quickly. In comparison with Wheeldon's more meditative, more luxuriously phrased “Ghosts” (on the alternate Ballet program), “Number Nine” discloses no subtext, flies through stage space at high velocity and, in its phrasing, often gives the impression of being created on the spot.
You see that at the micro level. Corps folks can't seem to enter without twirling into position. Almost no woman can be lifted without etching a rond de jambe before her ascent. And none can perch atop her partner without a demonstration of florid port de bras. What prompts that sudden rash of brisés among the corps? What do those little hops mean?
The effect should be fussy, but instead, all those fillips look spontaneous, witty and even organic. This may be where the comparisons with Balanchine seem most pertinent: Wed yourself to the music, confound expectations, and remember that dance is theater and it should dazzle.
In “Number Nine,” Wheeldon seems almost intoxicated with movement. There is no sobriety to be found in Holly Hynes' costumes, daffodil for the corps and bright hues for the principals' short skirts and maillots. Mary Louise Geiger has lit the piece in primary colors, and when tangerine meets lavender, it's impossible to resist.
To perform his filigree choreography are SFB's best Frances Chung and Gennadi Nedvigin, Maria Kochetkova and Pascal Molat, Lorena Feijoo and Vitor Luiz and Yuan Yuan Tan with Ruben Martin Cintas. Ann Murphy for the Mercury News wasn't enjoying the mixed programme until Number Nine:
Then the curtain rose on Wheeldon's “Number Nine,” and the corps de ballet rushed out in electric yellow unitards as Michael Torke's big modernist score boomed to a beat that seemed to cross Beethoven with a fandango. Was this another busy ballet, or one of the choreographer's best works — something big and provocative as well as subtle and thrilling?
As the precise, geometric interactions between the corps and the principals took hold and the dancers flew across the stage, the answer was clear: Wheeldon was in complete control of his material. He was the slugger who just might hit it out of the park Friday.
Of course many critics loved Chroma, but with Number Nine the 37 year-old Brit Wheeldon seems to have scored an unqualified success.
Photo: San Francisco Ballet in Wheeldon's Number Nine. © Erik Tomasson
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.