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San Francisco Ballet review at Sadler’s Wells, London – ‘youthful vigour and physical dexterity’

Jennifer Stahl and Dores André in Bound To at Sadler's Wells. Photo: Erik Tomasson
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The San Francisco Ballet concludes its London season with another scintillating trio of UK premieres. The company’s youthful vigour, physical dexterity and cutting-edge technique has refreshed all the works it has performed and the final programme is no exception.

For Christopher Wheeldon’s Bound To the dancers are glued to the glowing screens of their mobile phones as they dip and shimmy, stretch and jump, oblivious to the others around them. Even when they start to interact physically, their eyes remain fixed on the screens, emphasising the isolating nature of technological obsession.

Face-to-face connection and empathy gradually asserts itself through ensembles and small groups – particularly a wondrously pliant and flowing duet between Yuan Yuan Tan and Carlo Di Lanno and ending in a group intervention to help Lonnie Weeks exorcise the demons of loneliness.

Against the backdrop of a solar eclipse, the dancers in Trey McIntyre’s Your Flesh Shall Be a Great Poem are playful Pierrot-like creatures acting out fantasy relationships in an animated, cartoonish style. Amusing and affecting, it is both ingenious and disingenuous.

There’s no point in trying to read anything into Anima Animus. David Dawson’s monochrome work is a superb example of pure dance untroubled by semiotics. Dawson’s mastery of the neoclassical idiom is absolute. Pointe-work and contemporary movement are sewn into each other with such precision you cannot see the joins; cut on the bias, his diagonal designs are abstract, fluid and fluent and the interlocking accelerated phrases demand a formal rigour and poise that characterises the company.

The speed and dexterity of the dancers are thrilling and the high lifts are softer, more pliant examples of Bolshoi brutalism. They spin like drills, skim the stage like skateboarders and slice the air like human razors. The sudden ending is like being punched in the chest. But in a good way. Fabulous.

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America’s oldest ballet company displays youth and formal vigour in spades