San Francisco, for many of the a-little-older-than-‘now’ generation, evokes images of laid back flower people with more artistic than ambitious temperaments, and it is well known that there is considerable ambition in addition to art that is needed to become a professional ballet dancer. Grueling work and complete dedication are just the minimum requirements.
Thus it comes as a surprise to some that the San Francisco Ballet company is one of the finest in the world; it’s the oldest ballet company in the US and its members are dancers of the highest caliber. However there is something different, an undefinable sort of confidence mixed with lightheartedness that they project, which works very well with the ten one-act ballets on the programme at Sadler’s Wells.
Though most of the ballets featured are newer works, some from just the past three years, the programme begins with the 1956 classic Divertimento No 15 by George Balanchine, giving the whole cast a chance to shine, and they do. Then comes Edwaard Liang’s Symphonic Dances, and two of Christopher Wheeldon’s most vivid and beguiling works, Number Nine and Ghosts. There are also two by Ashley Page, and one by Mark Morris, Beaux.
The troupe’s director, Helgi Tomasson, has been leading the SFB since 1985; part of his great success, he says, has resulted from bringing in a variety of superb choreographers “. . . to challenge the dancers” and he praises his troupe for its perception of how different choreographers want their visions brought to life in dance.
When it comes to critics’ reviews, opinions vary as to highlights and low points in the programme, but not one has expressed less than great admiration for the SFB’s overall performance. This was their first UK appearance in eight years, and everyone hopes they come back soon.