San Francisco Ballet's 2012 season offerings, like its dancers, are evocative, gorgeous, grand, complex, technically brilliant and bold.
In eight different programs extending from the end of January until early May 2012, the ballet season demonstrates the company's mastery of a broad range of styles. It includes four world premieres, Romeo & Juliet and two other full-length classical story ballets, an all-Balanchine program, and pieces by other dance icons such as Jerome Robbins and Rudolf Nureyev.
Launching the season is Onegin, based on Alexander Pushkin's early-19th-century verse novel Eugene Onegin. The story focuses on the supercilious and self-absorbed city aristocrat Onegin, who becomes the object of infatuation by Tatiana, an innocent girl from the countryside. Onegin rejects Tatiana's professed love, which leads to tragedy and eventually, an ironic turning of the tables.
John Cranko created the ballet in 1965 for Stuttgart Ballet, translating the tale's deep themes of anguish, unrequited love and scorn into complicated and vivid choreography and movement. The score consists of various pieces by Tchaikovsky, fused together. San Francisco Ballet's production borrows a lush set by Santo Loquasto which the National Ballet of Canada commissioned in 2010.
Onegin is both heavy-duty ballet and drama. Don Quixote, the final program in the 2012 season, "is up and light and fun, pure show-off dancing," Helgi Tomasson, San Francisco Ballet artistic director, observes in the program notes. Onegin is "a contrast."
San Francisco Ballet dancers agree. A few of them are Russia-born and grew up on Pushkin, and others read Eugene Onegin to prepare for the production. "There are very few ballets that are named for the male dancer, so it [is] a big responsibility," says principal dancer Vitor Luiz, who dances Onegin. "I think it's a tricky moment--Onegin's not a very pleasant person," he says diplomatically. [Male dancers] are always used to being young and happy and pleasant, and he's the opposite."
Onegin demands maturity in dance and in emotions from the women, too. "It is quite difficult," principal dancer Yuan Yuan Tan says in the program notes. But she adds that Tatiana has long been a "dream role" for her. Tan, a China native, was the first foreign student to receive a full scholarship to the John Cranko School. There, at age 17, she saw a filmed excerpt of the Stuttgart Ballet's Onegin, and was stunned by the dramatic intensity of the roles. The last scene, she recalls, "brought me to tears."
- Program 1 (January 27-February 3): Onegin (John Cranko)
- Program 2 (February 14-25): Chroma (Wayne McGregor); Beaux world premiere (Mark Morris); Number Nine (Christopher Wheeldon)
- Program 3 (February 16-26): Le Carnaval des Animaux [Carnival of the Animals] (Alexei Ratmansky); Francesca da Rimini world premiere (San Francisco Ballet choreographer-in-residence Yuri Possokhov); Trio (Helgi Tomasson)
- Program 4 (March 6-11): Romeo & Juliet (Helgi Tomasson)
- Program 5 (March 21-April 1): The Fifth Season (Helgi Tomasson); world premiere (Edwaard Liang); Glass Pieces (Jerome Robbins)
- Program 6 (March 23-April 3): Raymonda - Act III (Rudolf Nureyev); RAkU (Yuri Possokhov); world premiere (Ashley Page)
- Program 7 (April 12-18): Balanchine Masterworks--Divertimento No. 15; Scotch Symphony; The Four Temperaments
- Program 8 (April 27-May 6): Don Quixote (Helgi Tomasson and Yuri Possokhov)