Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, France; July 12, 2014 (8pm)
“Ghosts” is growing on me. Maybe Christopher Wheeldon’s complex ballet is one of those pieces that sometimes has so much going on that it takes a few viewings to take it all in. Or maybe it just needs to be watched from further back, as it was here. Probably both. Somehow, it even looked more ghostly too, although I still can’t get away from the idea of still water on a dark night. Perhaps they are ghosts from the deep. Yuan Yuan Tan was eloquent in the central pas de deux, with Damian Smith strong as her partner.
Helgi Tomasson’s “Chaconne for Piano and Two Dancers” looked as wonderful as it did at the opening gala. The structure is so simple and yet so effective: they dance apart, they dance together, they dance for each other, finale – which in a neat twist has the couple finish apart once more. Frances Chung and Davit Karapetyan were again an absolute delight. They caught the mood and gradually building of the ballet perfectly; each of their series of flawless turns around the stage being one of many wonderful moments.
Also getting a second outing was Yuri Possokhov’s “Classical Symphony”; as in the opening gala, led by Maria Kochetkova and Hansuke Yamomoto. It is a crowd-pleaser. It’s buoyant and bouncy – sometimes literally as the dancers disappear into deep pliés from jumps. It’s bold and there is plenty of exhilarating dance, especially for the men, with an early dance having them soaring in particular. If the level of the men are a good measure of the company, the San Francisco Ballet is in good shape: they look fabulous from top to bottom.
You can certainly argue that Possokhov has come up with one or two new takes on the classical vocabulary, just as Prokofiev did on the standard classical formula. But I still have issues with it. For all its boldness, there are moments where the dance sits uncomfortably with the powerful music, especially the Gavotte (better known for its later recycled expanded version in the composer’s “Romeo and Juliet”), where the male-only choreography that features leap after leap after leap is also repetitive.
When the curtain came down on Edwaard Liang’s “Symphonic Dances”, a gentleman sat near me was heard to comment, “That was long.” He had a point. It may only be forty minutes, and it’s not unpleasant on the eye or the ear, but it’s one of those ballets that falls into the ‘nice but forgettable’ category, and it does feel like longer than that.
Rachmaninov’s score of the same name is full of drama and authority on a scale that the choreography never achieves. What the dance does have is lots of swooping movements that are emphasised by the women’s swirling light skirts, especially in the ensemble sections, and that stand out well against dark and stormy backdrop. There are a lot of good-looking dances, but they just don’t hang together. It’s a piece that never seems to go anywhere – or even to be going anywhere.
While the ballet could never be classed as exciting, there are interesting moments in the three pas de deux. The third is best, simply because it’s less forced and less manipulative. Danced here by Kochetkova and the excellent Vitor Luiz, it just seems more natural. The second (Sofiane Sylve and Tiit Helimets) features some tricky manoeuvring of the woman over the man’s back, while the first (Tan and Luke Ingham) features any number of awkward positions for the her, and that appear to owe much to contemporary dance.