San Francisco Ballet’s second mixed bill of its three-programme visit demonstrated not just the company’s commitment to new work - a commitment few ballet companies can match - but also the ability of its dancers to embrace it. The ballets in the second programme were all made for the company in the past two years, yet the dancers performed each as if they’d danced them for years. The steps looked settled into their collective muscle memory, when they had, in reality, not long arrived. The second programme also demonstrated the dancers’ range, with the company deftly switching from the gentle classicism of Christopher Wheeldon’s Ghosts (2010) to the breakneck speed and ferocious classicism of Ashley Page’s Guide to Strange Places (2012). Page has recently left Scottish Ballet as its artistic director, so we may see more of his choreographic work on dance troupes around the world.
A scene from Trio, Programme B at Sadler's Wells, London Photo: Tristram Kenton
Opening the evening was Trio (2011) by San Francisco Ballet’s artistic director Helgi Tomasson. The dance triptyche tracks Tchaikovsky’s three-part composition and its three varying moods. All the dancers were able, although Vanessa Zahorian and Joan Boada, and Sarah Van Patten and Tiit Helimets, stood out in the first and second sections. Special mention to San Francisco Ballet’s music director and principal conductor Martin West who led the pick-up orchestra assembled for the company’s London performances. Orchestras informally assembled in this way can lack the finesse of permanent groups who work together all the time. However, under West’s experienced baton, they sounded as good as many long-standing orchestras.