I walked into the War Memorial Opera House in anticipation of the world premiere of Justin Peck’s “In the Countenance of Kings” but left highly inspired by the composition of the two other works bookending the program. It wasn’t that Peck’s ballet was not brilliant in its own right but the craftsmanship evident in both Christopher Wheeldon’s highly original “Continuum©” and the iconic George Balanchine masterpiece, “Theme and Variations,” weigh the evening heavily towards an expert manipulation of bodies, movement and mood to scores by Ligeti and Tchaikovsky, both clever compositions in on themselves.
“In the Countenance of Kings,” Peck’s first commission from San Francisco, projects a bouncy exuberance matching the brassiness of Sufjan Stevens’s composition, “BQE,” but in contrast to the rest of the program, the steps to my eyes seem more about Broadwayesque cuteness than masterly planned choreography. I was entertained nonetheless; just not highly inspired.
Regardless of the nature of the artistry, Gennadi Nedvigin, nearing his retirement in a few months, was a delight to watch in both the world premiere and “Theme and Variations,” exemplifying all that is great in a danseur noble.