Running time

Interesting: according to my site stats, someone came to my blog via the search string “length of sf ballet program 1.” Good question!

The running time including intermission(s) for San Francisco Ballet programs can be found on their website on each program page. For example, Program 1’s total running time is 2 hours 25 minutes with two intermissions, shown here. If you want a further time breakdown of each program, check out their press kits as they become available.

Serenade, RAkU, Lambarena: SF Ballet Program 1

War Memorial Opera House — San Francisco, January 30, 2015

When I go out to watch ballet, my first question of course is… which bow tie to wear? As Serenade was on the program, the clear answer is:

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Infinite Romance: San Francisco Ballet gala 2015

War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco — January 22, 2015

Just a quick recap: last week Thom and I went to San Francisco Ballet’s opening gala, which celebrates Helgi Tomasson’s 30th year as artistic director. It was a finely tuned program with something for everyone (see below), ranging from classic pas de deux to abstract new work, and even a Paris Opera Ballet-like défilé that showed off the entire company and school in one family portrait.

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Light and dark: San Francisco Ballet Program 7

War Memorial Opera House — April 21, 2013

Here are my collected tweets from last Sunday’s performance of San Francisco Ballet Program 7, which included Criss-Cross (Helgi Tomasson), Francesca da Rimini (Yuri Possokhov), and Symphony in Three Movements (George Balanchine).

It was principal dancer Pierre-François Vilanoba’s retirement performance; my San Francisco Ballet season subscription is regularly on Fridays, but for Program 7 I changed to this performance especially to see him dance and bid him farewell. Before the performance he did the Meet the Artist interview with Cheryl Ossola:

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‘Masha’: A portrait of Maria Kochetkova

San Francisco Ballet principal dancer Maria Kochetkova is certainly a ballet star, and the Vogue Theatre was packed last week with local balletomanes (as well as several dancers) for a preview of Masha, a documentary that follows Maria’s participation with the Bolshoi Reflections project in Orange County and Moscow.

The film gives us a glimpse of life behind the scenes, as it wanders with Maria through costume fittings, rehearsals, performances, and more personal moments like that classic ballerina ritual, preparing (i.e., violently breaking in) pointe shoes. (Without a narrator, this fly-on-the-wall style brings to my mind Frederick Wiseman’s 1995 film Ballet, a profile of American Ballet Theatre.) I enjoyed it thoroughly: there are both grand and intimate moments, even slightly comical ones, and they all make you realize how much work goes into ballet despite how effortless it seems from afar. More importantly you get a glimpse of Maria as a dancer at her craft: very detailed and direct as she figures out if a costume will fit right, perfects a particular step or move with the choreographer (in one of the scenes, Jorma Elo), and so forth. Here’s a clip:

After the screening, Maria took the stage to answer audience questions, which ranged from her childhood and training to her onstage state of mind (“freaking out!”; she tries to work extra hard in the studio so she doesn’t have to overthink during performance) to if she had kids whether she would encourage them to take ballet (yes, why not?) to dream roles she hasn’t yet played (she’s starting to run out, but upcoming SFB production Cinderella appeals). I love Q&As. This was the first time I had attended one with Maria, and it was lovely to get a sense of her quick, sparkling personality away from the Opera House stage.

Directed by Bronwen Parker-Rhodes, Masha now continues in editing and is likely to have a further or final-cut screening later this year. I’m looking forward to it!

» See also: A couple of videos featuring Maria Kochetkova, San Francisco Ballet Artist Spotlight; and one of the pieces featured in Masha, Jorma Elo’s One Overture.

Tweeting at the ballet

Sometimes when I watch performances I write down notes in the program during intermissions, but more often than not… I tweet. (Hat tip to Carla Escoda of Ballet to the People and her bite-size reviews!)

March 30: San Francisco Ballet, Program 5 (Tomasson: The Fifth Season, Liaang: Symphonic Dances, Robbins: Glass Pieces).

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‘Dunas’ and ‘Spinae’

City Hall, San Francisco — April 6, 2012

Sounds like a pair of mythological creatures, no? These are the names of two pieces danced by students of the San Francisco Ballet School trainee program at a free noontime performance today. Over my lunch break I headed to San Francisco City Hall to check it out, and as always was impressed and inspired by these kids (pre-professionals really).

I think I had seen these pieces performed before, at the Ballet 101 session that included an introduction to the trainee program (and a trip to the costume shop: definitely a topic for another blog post, with pictures!). Dunas and Spinae are choreographed by Francisco Mungamba and Myles Thatcher, respectively, both former SFB trainees who are now in the corps with the company.

Here are a few photos…

…and a video:

I only recently found out about these free performances at City Hall, called the Rotunda Dance Series. Presented by Dancers’ Group and World Arts West, they usually happen once a month and cover a wide range of dance styles, so if you’re in the area, check it out!

Program credits for today’s performance:

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Burning bright

War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco — March 23, 2012

I went to see San Francisco Ballet‘s Program 6 last Friday night: Raymonda Act III (Nureyev), RAkU (Possokhov), and the world premiere of Guide to Strange Places (Page).

Raymonda was a glittering gala with Sofiane Sylve in command, and Guide to Strange Places was a striking work that I’d like to see again, but that evening I was completely blown away by RAkU. It was so dramatic and powerful that even after the intermission I was still reeling from the emotional punch. Yuan Yuan Tan, who is of course lovely and haunting in everything, was no less perfect here.

RAkU premiered last year but I didn’t see it then, so I’m glad it was programmed again this year. And I felt like I had an additional musical appreciation of RAkU thanks to the Ballet 101 talk I attended (which, yes, I need to blog about) with composer Shinji Eshima and conductor Martin West. By the way, the ballet orchestra has just released a recording of the score.

The story of RAkU is based on the burning of Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion in 1950, but set earlier in the samurai era. Here are excerpts featuring Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith, and a short interview with Yuan Yuan Tan:

Amazing. Definitely see RAkU if you can. Remaining performances for Program 6 are tomorrow afternoon and evening, March 31; and Tuesday evening, April 3. The main cast I saw on March 23 is listed below:

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Dancing through a prism

War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco — February 17, 2012

On Friday night I saw San Francisco Ballet’s Program 2, which consisted of Wayne McGregor’s Chroma, Mark Morris’s world premiere Beaux, and Christopher Wheeldon’s Number Nine.


For me the revelation of the evening was Chroma. I had only heard about it fleetingly and seen only very short video clips of it, so I went in with few set expectations. Well, actually my one expectation based on the photos I’d seen was that it would be very stark or cold and I wasn’t sure I would like it or get into it. Finally seeing it totally blew that away.

The music for Chroma, by Joby Talbot and Jack White III, was much more lush, lyrical, and cinematic than I’d expected. And paired with the starkness of the set and lighting, and the boldness of the choreography, there was a kind of tension in the whole thing, a dynamic range of music and emotion that I enjoyed. Well done.


I wanted to love Beaux more but unfortunately it felt like the weak link. I was excited by the idea of a new, all-male work by Mark Morris with costumes by Isaac Mizrahi, but the costumes and lighting — mostly pink and orange — were a distraction. (Thom says the costumes are Slim Goodbody-ish.) I enjoyed the middle and later movements more, where the lighting wasn’t as harsh as the beginning. I know this makes me sound old! Otherwise the choreography, which made me think men at leisure in some sylvan utopia, is playful, fraternal, even emotionally touching, which you rarely see in ballet partnering among men.

Number Nine

I had first seen Number Nine last year at its premiere (and again at this year’s gala). I felt like the dancing was just a tad imprecise now and then during this most recent time, but it’s still a relentless, colorful delight. Indeed when I first saw it last year I was distracted by the bright costumes and saturated lighting but here coming after Beaux, it was almost refreshing. (See video.)

By the way, Number Nine is the ballet I’m having fun with here:

Now do I just pop on down to the costume shop to get fitted for a bright yellow unitard?

» See also: Reviews from the Chronicle (“Ballet’s candy-colored ‘Beaux’ plays with imagery“) and San Francisco Classical Voice (“Beauxs will be beauxs“). Program 2 runs through Saturday, February 25. The main cast I saw on February 17 is listed below.

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Bella Notte: San Francisco Ballet gala

War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco — January 19, 2012

Last Thursday night I went to the San Francisco Ballet opening night gala performance. What an entertaining and inspiring evening of dance!

I went on a totally last-minute decision; even though I had been tempted in the months leading up to it, I thought, well, as I subscriber I see SF Ballet enough that I can save my money, that I don’t need to go to the gala. (Then again when you’re obsessed with something, there’s no talking rationally!) The program and casting were announced a few days beforehand, and I thought, OK, twist my arm, I’ll get a performance-only ticket (i.e., no fancy pre- and post-performance shindigs) and go check it out.

First, the glitz. I threw on my tuxedo–so glad I finally bought one a few years ago–and headed to the Opera House.

Complimentary bubbly? Don’t mind if I do!

Most of the orchestra-level crowd sauntered in well past eight. I assume that one can’t help but dawdle when one has dinner across the street at City Hall and then is greeted by free-flowing Champagne in the lobby.

People-watching from the Ballet Shop on the mezzanine during intermission:

So, the dancing! It was all pretty amazing. I had seen two of the pieces before, and while I’d heard of some of the others, like Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, it was the first time I’d seen them performed live. I’m still rusty at writing reviews (and I’ve procrastinated on this post long enough), so I’ll lead you to the San Francisco Chronicle‘s review, which covers all the bases: “Gala’s depth, daring.” (See below for program listing.)

I will say that one of my highlights was the one-two punch of Maria Kochetkova and Joan Boada in Voices of Spring followed by Yuan Yuan Tan and guest star Alexander Riabko in Lady of the Camellias. One so light and exuberant, the other so dark and moving. Also I appreciate them showing off the men (they are inspiring!), especially in the lively men’s section from Classical Symphony and the fun piece Solo, whose lighthearted camaraderie reminded me a bit of Kings of the Dance.

So I think I’m hooked. I went stag this time, but next year I’m bringing Thom and we’ll just have to do the after-party too. Cheers to a new SF Ballet season!

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