Thumbs Up For SF Ballet’s Program 4

Watching “Within the Golden Hour, ” the second ballet of the San Francisco Ballet’s Program 4 was, to me, as satisfying as it gets. “I may as well go home now,” I joked afterward, amid the applause, to the woman next to me. “It can’t get better than this.” But, surprise. The third ballet was another winner. Gorgeous costumes, stellar dancing, another dose of that neoclassic post-Balanchine style choreography, much like “Within the Golden Hour,” that comes across as both innovative and classic, and a true pleasure to watch.

It was an audience-friendly production in general, starting with Balanchine’s easy-on-the-eyes “Scotch Symphony.” Christopher Wheeldon’s “Within the Golden Hour” followed and the program culminated with Alexei Ratmansky’s “From Foreign Lands.” All the accompanying music was highly satisfying too, particularly in the wake of the previous night’s opener, a John Adams atonal composition, which made the ballet and its fine choreography seem a bit wearying after a spell. Program 4 utilized the work of Mendelssohn in “Scotch Symphony,” contemporary composer Ezio Bosso (with a little help from Antonio Vivaldi) in “Within the Golden Hour” and late 19th century composer Moritz Moszkowski in “From Foreign Lands.” I particularly enjoyed the Ezio Basso score, not surprising, as it featured some gorgeous solo violin and viola work within it. Like the choreography, it was contemporary yet classical, melodic. Haunting. I loved it.

Program 4 standouts for me included all of “Within the Golden Hour” and, in particular, the pas de deux with Damian Smith and Vanessa Zahorian. That their dancing would be powerful, nuanced, polished, is pretty much a given with these two longtime principals, but there seemed to be a special magic within this pairing that made everything in me fall utterly still, utterly enamored, hoping they would never leave the stage.

Another one of my favorites, from both this performance and the previous night’s, is principal Sarah Van Patten. She is such an interesting dancer to watch, her movements both fluid and sharply articulated. I noticed this particularly during her Program 3 performance in “Guide to Strange Places.” She has the ability to halt a phrase so abruptly, as if she can arrive in that place a millisecond before intended, and hold it a millisecond longer. It’s almost like the way a violinist can toy with rubato—stretching out a note, a phrase—becoming a master of time manipulation to suit one’s interpretation. It’s fascinating to watch. I have never seen a less-than-stellar performance from this gifted dancer.

I haven’t much mentioned “Scotch Symphony.” Yes, was lovely to watch, charming and light-hearted, but the truth is, I found it rather forgettable in comparison to the other two ballets. Sorry, Mr. Balanchine. I suppose everyone will have their favorites for the night, which will dim the others by comparison. My vote would be for “Within the Golden Hour.”

Hats off, SFB. Program 4 is a winner.


PS If you enjoyed this, you might be interested in reading my review of Program 6 and Program 3

6 thoughts on “Thumbs Up For SF Ballet’s Program 4”

  1. Yes, I LOVE Within the Golden Hour! After I saw it I looked up the music and listened to it for days, and the piece kept haunting me. So I went back and saw Program 4 again the next week. It was the first time I’d gone back to see something twice. And it was just as emotional or even more so that second time. I also find From Foreign Lands so enjoyable, especially the German section. Something so Romantic about it, dramatic yet elegant.

  2. Oooh, so glad you liked Within the Golden Hour too. My ballet teacher, another SFB fan and patron, liked it the most, as well. Very cool that you got to see it a second time (and that it was just as effective/enjoyable). The music, yes, so haunting and effective. Where did you find it? I’d love to listen to it again.

    I don’t remember which was the German section of From Foreign Lands. Dang. Should have studied my program notes better before the ballet. I remember giving a thumbs’ up for music and costumes both, however.

    Love your comments – thank so much for taking the time to post them!

  3. Jeff, thank you so much! I now officially use Spotify – thanks for giving me the nudge to start up. Can’t wait to hear the new stuff (I’m a longtime fan of the Mendelssohn, always happy to hear it more!).

    Do you attend and comment about the San Francisco Symphony as well? That’s my other arts fix in the SF (and Monterey) Bay Area. In fact, the day I attended SFB’s program 6, in the afternoon, I attended the SF Symphony that night. Which reminds me that I need to get on writing that review up as well.

    Listening to your playlist via Spotify right now. Am loving it!

    • You’re welcome! Glad you like the playlist… I think I will make more in the future to correspond to ballet programs I see.

      I’m not much of a classical music-attender, and in any case ballet has pretty much taken over my life in the last couple of years. 🙂 When I do go to San Francisco Symphony it tends to be more pops/special guest stuff like the summer concerts, e.g., Pink Martini with the symphony.

  4. Well, just let me know any time you post about the SFB! (Now that I’m following you on Twitter, that should be no problem.) The symphony is still hogging my arts time, with a 6 performance subscription there, but I’ll be all ears about the SFB and will aim for 3 performances next year (hey, that qualifies as a subscription option for them – yay!).

    Will be eager to hear how Cinderella is…


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