Liam Scarlett’s uplifting end to World Ballet Day 2015
In his third decade as artistic director of the San Francisco Ballet Helgi Tomasson follows his tried and true repertoire formula of mixing his own works and those of Yuri Possokhov, the companyâ€™s choreographer in residence, with ballets he commissions from established leading choreographers, such as Alexei Ratmansky, William Forsythe and Christopher Wheeldon as well as the new generation of young choreographers such as Justin Peck and Liam Scarlett, both still in their 2os.
Forsythe, Wheeldon and Tomasson himself each made their own strong footprint on the San Francisco Balletâ€™s segment in this yearâ€™s World Ballet Day but it was Scarlettâ€™s presence and energy that lit up the five hours devoted to the company within the 23 hour, five company live stream that began on 1 October.
For the few who had the stamina to watch it all, or who decided to backtrack through YouTube, Scarlettâ€™s rehearsal of Fearful Symmetries, danced to the music of John Adams and premiering at the San Francisco Ballet next January, might well have been the highlight.
If Scarlettâ€™s exhilarating rehearsal of the ballet is any indication, his Fearful Symmetries should have a long life, and not just in San Francisco but in other companies around the world.
As Scarlett says, the music â€śis so meatyâ€ť in the way it drives the dancers forward.
The dancers seemed to enjoy the challenge, and why wouldnâ€™t they when Scarlett told them they were “getting better every dayâ€ť.
Itâ€™s well worth watching the San Francisco Ballet on YouTube to see the rehearsals of the new ballet, in particular the solo for the principal, Gennadi Nedvigin.
I met Scarlett many years ago when he was a student at the Royal Ballet School. Already he was a talented choreographer whose artistry was clear in 2oo4 when he choreographed Monochromatic for the schoolâ€™s end of year performance at the Royal Opera House.
The following year he became a member of the Royal Ballet, and, encouraged by the then artistic director, Monica Mason, went on to choreograph works for the company itself and many other companies around the world.
His next major work will be the full-length ballet, Frankenstein, a co-production of the Royal Ballet and San Francisco Ballet premiering in 2o16.
During the San Francisco Balletâ€™s World Ballet Day segment, Scarlett explained how he interpreted the character of Mary Shelleyâ€™s Frankenstein, not as a monster but â€śas a childâ€¦seeking guidance from a loved one. He is an incredibly vulnerable figureâ€¦â€ť
Scarlett said he would like to bring the two companies together to rehearse the work.
San Franciscoâ€™s five hours encompassed many other rehearsals, among them Tomassonâ€™s Giselle, Christopher Wheeldonâ€™s Rush, set to Sinfonietta La Jolla by Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu, Scarlettâ€™s Hummingbird and Balanchineâ€™s Theme and Variations, with the former Balanchine dancer, Elyse Borne showing some tough love in her coaching, describing one part of the rehearsal as a â€śtrain wreckâ€ť.
Forsythe made a brief appearance introducing his work, Pas/Parts, to be danced soon by the San Francisco Ballet, but previously performed only by the Paris Opera Ballet.
His very Forsythian comment on how the dancers should interpret his works should become one of the most memorable quotes on the subject of dance: â€śI donâ€™t want to see you take steps. I want to see you shape timeâ€ť.
San Franciscoâ€™s section also featured footage of the Houston Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet. Of the two, I think we learned more about PNB in particular the artistic director, Peter Boal, who taught the class with a calmness and exactitude that brought World Ballet Day to a peaceful ending.
As for the National Ballet of Canada, the companyâ€™s World Ballet Day segment has disappeared from YouTube for reasons unknown.