Sadler’s Wells Theatre,

4 June 2019

Maggie Foyer

San Francisco Ballet has already made an impressive start to their London visit. In Programme C, the company delivers wall-to-wall dance, three works predominantly abstract where a look or touch signals a relationship that may – or may not – just go somewhere.

Mathilde Froustey and Carlo Di Lanno in Welch’s Bespoke
Photo: Erik Tomasson

Stanton Welch teams up with J.S. Bach in Bespoke, a work tailored to the company’s classical standards. Opening in silence, Carlo di Lanno shapes the air with formal ports de bras before launching into variations of technical bravura to match the speed and velocity of Bach’s violin concerti. Dressed in sporty gear that accentuates their clean lines, each of the dozen dancers has an opportunity to prove their skills. The whirlwind of fouettés and chaines executed at the speed of light, and tours en l’air of textbook perfection are only punctuated briefly with an occasional nonchalant balance to catch breath. In the closing moments, now in more sombre mood, a couple embrace in the fading golden light. It’s an accomplished work and a fine addition to the company repertoire.

Yuan Yuan Tan and Luke Ingham in Scarlett’s Hummingbird
Photo: Erik Tomasson

Hummingbird, one of Liam Scarlett’s best, captures the restless motion of the hummingbird in the constant flow of movement from the ensemble, in fluid arms and agitated feet. At its heart is a duet by Yuan Yuan Tan and Luke Ingham, intense and full of longing. Tan opens with a lingering solo that finds inner depth in every gesture and extension. Then together they draw out the unrequited essence of Philip Glass’s Tirol Concerto giving physical shape to the haunting melodies. Even their slow walk across the front of the stage is riveting: two dark silhouettes as the light come on the dancers behind.

Sasha De Sola and Angelo Greco share an equivocal and fragmented relationship that chimes well with the extraordinary set offering Greco a surprise entrance as he slips in under the backdrop. The sloped stage at the rear makes a treacherous surface the brings an edge of uncertainty to the entrances. There is longing and unease in their pairing and parting, Greco relaxed and sophisticated, De Sola longing for something else. It is left to Dores André and Joseph Walsh to brighten the mood in the jazzy final section: a beautifully matched pair in lighthearted mode. It’s a work that offer splendid dance opportunities and endless interpretations.

San Francisco Ballet in Peck’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
Photo: Erik Tomasson

André and Walsh feature again in Justin Peck’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. André has the energy of an electric current and is also a linking theme as she whizzes through the ballet, tying up the disparate sections while enjoying the freedom that comes with dancing in sneakers. A contrast comes in the lyrical duet from Elizabeth Powell and Ingham given committed performances although the music offered little inspiration. The duet with Walsh and André added spice as the dancers personalise their virtuosity to ginger up the partnership.

San Francisco Ballet are making a memorable visit to London. The energy, the dedication and the artistry of the dancers just keeps flowing and there is still one more triple bill to go.