San Francisco Ballet

2017 SFB Program 01 Notes

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Haffner Symphony blends classical elegance with the lightheartedness of a garden party. This buoyant ballet, created by San Francisco Ballet Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson, is a celebration, as if the principal couple invited their best friends to an afternoon of dance and everyone is having a grand time. Tomasson created Haffner Symphony in 1991, for the Mozart & His Time Bicentennial Celebration in San Francisco. In fact, he made two ballets for the occasion, so he searched for contrasting music. For Haffner he chose Mozart's Symphony No. 35 in D Major (also called the Haffner Symphony) because of its jubilatory feeling; for the second ballet, Meistens Mozart, he selected songs by Mozart and others. Choreographing two ballets in the same time frame was a new experience for Tomasson that he says was "very refreshing — and interesting to discover that you could really do two different things [at once]." Though the process of choreographing is "never relaxing," he says, he liked being able to change gears, returning to each ballet-in-progress feeling fresh. "Fresh" is a fitting description of Haffner Symphony. The music contains no adagio movement, which is typically where a grand pas de deux (a duet that also includes solos for both dancers) occurs in classical ballet. For that reason, Tomasson skipped the duet and used the second and third musical movements for back-to-back quartets, one for a woman and three men, one for a man and three women. "It was an interesting structure," he says. "Why not put three women with a guy and have them complement him? Visually, that was more interesting for me than giving her a long solo." The second-movement quartet is something that Soloist Sasha De Sola says she particularly enjoys dancing. "Not only do you have the connection with your partner in the first and final movements, but you're courted through the second movement," she says. "You end up dancing with everyone. [Haffner] has a nice, communal kind of feel, which is rare in tutu ballets." In translating Mozart's music into movement, Tomasson has created a dance with vigor and complexity, nuance and sensitivity. An overhead sweep of the arms, echoing a musical embellishment, might finish with a small burst; lifts eat up floor space, lingering in the air. De Sola calls the choreography a nod to classicism, adding that "there's a lot of pure classical technique." But physicality isn't everything — a big part of the onstage picture is how the dancers relate. At one point, when the three men lift De Sola, they present her like a gift- wrapped treasure. (She peeks out sweetly from beneath her upheld arm.) And when Corps de Ballet member Max Cauthorn walks out and matches Principal Dancer Maria Kochetkova's stance in a deep lunge, it's like he's starting a conversation. You can almost hear the garden-party chatter around them. In rehearsal, Music Director and Principal Conductor Martin West coaches Company Pianist Nina Pinzarrone on interpretation: "It's an aria; everything is singing." Tomasson uses the same word, often, asking the dancers to move more. "I really like when people use the space and don't rein [themselves] in. When I say to sing it, with Mozart it's so easy — just let the music carry you." HAFFNER SYMPHONY PRODUCTION CREDITS Music: Symphony No. 35 in D Major, K. 385 (Haffner Symphony). Costumes constructed by Barbara Matera, Ltd., New York, New York. Scenery constructed by San Francisco Opera and Ballet Scene Shop. By Cheryl A. Ossola PROGRAM NOTES Vanessa Zahorian and SF Ballet in Tomasson's Haffner Symphony // © Erik Tomasson HAFFNER SYMPHONY When you commission a ballet from Czech choreographer Jiří Bubeníček, you get a package deal: Jiří and his twin brother, Otto, collaborate when they create works for companies in North America, Europe, and Asia. In choreographing Fragile Vessels for San Francisco Ballet, Jiří had Otto at his side, as designer, assistant, and advisor. What this prolific choreographer has created is a ballet that carries tremendous emotional weight for him, in both music and concept. You can track the evolution of Fragile Vessels back to a day in 1993 when Bubeníček, newly hired as a dancer by Hamburg Ballet, went to a music store while on tour in Tokyo. Coming from a communist country, he was stunned by the freedom to buy whatever he wanted. What he wanted that day was a CD of Sergei Rachmaninov playing his own music, including Piano Concerto No. 2. "I just loved it," Bubeníček says, and thought he might make a ballet to this concerto someday. Eight years later he entered a competition for choreographers in Hamburg, creating a pas de trois (trio), a love triangle that mirrored events in his personal life, set to the concerto's second movement. He realized he wanted to choreograph to the complete concerto, and he got his chance when Helgi Tomasson called. Tomasson, SF Ballet's artistic director and principal choreographer, says he was "aware of [Bubeníček] choreographing in Europe and had heard some very good things." He asked to see some of his work. One FRAGILE VESSELS WORLD PREMIERE 2017 SEASON GUIDE SAN FRANCISCO BALLET 53

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