San Francisco Ballet launch their London season at London's Sadler's Wells Theatre this evening, and until September 23 they will be presenting three mixed-bill programs. That's 10 works over nine performances, featuring works by George Balanchine, Edwaard Liang, Mark Morris, Ashley Page, Christopher Wheeldon, SF Ballet chief Helgi Tomasson, as well as their Choreographer in Residence Yuri Possokhov.
Tomasson is pleased to be back in London,
London is a favourite tour destination for our Company and we're delighted to be returning after eight years. We are privileged to work with some of the best choreographers in the world and some of their new works provide a wonderful showcase for our dancers' broad ranges and abilities. I think London audiences will enjoy the diverse and exciting works that we'll be presenting, almost all of which are UK premières.
That is certainly true, with Number Nine by Britain's own Christopher Wheeldon, which he created for the company last year, being presented for the first time in the UK tonight. Wheeldon's Ghosts, created for SFB in 2010 will début in the second programme – along with fellow Brit Ashley Page's Guide to Strange Places – and his Within the Golden Hour, which was commissioned by the company 4 years ago, is in the last programme. In fact, the Brits go down well in San Francisco with Martin West being the company's MD and Principal Conductor.
Although San Francisco Ballet always proudly bills itself as “America's oldest professional ballet company”, there is little ‘American' about it in its composition, though that is perhaps precisely why it is an American organization: multi-racial, all-embracing and extremely curious about other styles and cultures. Just glancing down the list of principals shows dancers from Australia, Canada, Spain, Estonia, Armenia, Brazil, France, China, Italy, Russia with one of the company's most famous names, Maria Kochetkova, and the Cuban star Lorena Feijoo. Only two principals, out of nineteen, were born in the USA. Then at the company's helm is the Icelandic Tomasson. Eclectic indeed.
Wheeldon told The Sunday Times in August,
I love my San Francisco Ballet. It feels like home. It's a society of creators: they're excited and expectant. They're so versatile. I like the boldness of attack and fearlessness, but they also keep a classical line.
They certainly have to be versatile with the range of the pieces they are presenting in London, and in a couple of months they'll start the onslaught of Christmas Nutcrackers with 31 performances in three weeks. This is a company that works hard to justify its existence, unlike some of the highly subsidized European outfits. The passion required to sustain such a pace comes from the top. As soloist Garen Price Scribner says of Tomasson,
Helgi's a collector of beautiful artists, and we dance with one heart.
The San Francisco Ballet are at Sadler's Wells Theatre until September 23.
Photos from top: Maria Kochetkova and Joan Boada in Wheeldon's Within the Golden Hour; Yuan Yuan Tan and Rubén Martín Cintas in Wheeldon's Number Nine; Maria Kochetkova and Frances Chung in Possokhov's Classical Symphony – © 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.