San Francisco Ballet

2017 SFB Program 07 Notes

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In Trio, San Francisco Ballet Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson captures the energy, momentum, and emotional tones of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Souvenir de Florence. In expressing the concept of remembrance suggested by the music's title, Tomasson infuses Trio with his childhood memories of listening to Tchaikovsky's glorious music. Tomasson first heard Souvenir de Florence decades ago, and he remembered it as "one thing from beginning to end," he says. Listening to it again, he says, "I discovered almost immediately that it wasn't." He wondered if he should connect the movements, make the piece the continuous whole he'd remembered — but the more he considered that idea, the less he liked it. "I kept coming back to title, Souvenir," he says, "images or remembrances" of what seemed to him like three distinct occasions. Reinforcing the trio concept was Music Director and Principal Conductor Martin West, who said the last two movements, which were written in Russia, should be played as one. They have a different flavor than the first two movements, which Tchaikovsky wrote in Florence. The ballet is a visually rich triptych, with sets and costumes as lush as the choreography. In the first movement, a principal couple and 10 corps de ballet dancers soar through choreography that's dynamic, elegant, and playful. Soloist Sasha de Sola, who dances the principal woman's role in the first movement, describes it as "grand and sweeping — all of the steps, even the costume. When I dance it, I feel like I have to cover the whole stage — the music calls for it, but also the choreography. There are so many waltzes where it's necessary to use the upper body to propel the legs. It's grand and luscious." For Principal Dancer Vitor Luiz, the first movement is "all about the elegance and the style. We try to make it as smooth and soft as possible without losing the brilliance. It's joyful to dance and watch. Tchaikovsky really inspires me — he's one of my favorite composers." The second movement, the adagio, is ballet's traditional home for the slow, romantic pas de deux. But the depth and length of this nine-minute adagio made Tomasson think beyond a traditional love duet. "It has a certain sadness about it, a feeling of inevitability," he says. "The first part is very longing and revealing, and it gets interrupted with those staccato violins, almost ghostlike, eerie." When the melody repeats, he says, "it's deeper, sadder. Something has happened." He begins this section with a pas de deux — a solo man, a figure of death, watches a couple dance their declaration of love — then segues into a dance for three, in which the death figure wages gentle battle for the woman. Tomasson says he doesn't see her fighting death. "She accepts it," he says. "It's like death is stronger than love." In the third movement, Tomasson uses what he describes as "Russian motif steps" drawn from character dance to reflect the music. "Very Russian sounding, but not overpowering," he says. Near the end of the ballet the music builds, echoing the energy of the opening movement. "It gets very joyous, fast, and exciting." Luiz says Trio was the first ballet of Tomasson's in which he was part of the creative process. Working with an in-house choreographer, he says, "you always learn a lot, and I think that's what we want as dancers. You have to feel like you don't know anything so you can always be learning something new." Choreographers contemplating a new work find inspiration in all kinds of places — a piece of music that stirs up emotions, an image that triggers an image or memory, a snippet of history that leads to a story idea. SF Ballet Corps de Ballet member Myles Thatcher's imagination was sparked by a quote by comedian Louis C.K.: "The world is amazing and nobody's happy." Thatcher interpreted the quote to mean that "it's easy to get stuck in our own personal agendas, baggage, and dramas," he says. "To get out of that, first we need each other, to relate to each other and be there as a community." For Thatcher, the first step in creating a new work is finding the music. For this ballet, the second he has created for SF Ballet, he turned to the work of composer Michael Nyman. Thatcher selected seven short pieces and arranged them in a structural and emotional arc to fit his concept. "I wanted [music] that had some darkness and pain, but also had lightness and joy to it," he says. "[Michael Nyman's] music has all of that, especially for being minimalist music. There's such emotion in the subtext — it can emote but it doesn't dictate. It gives me freedom to play." Minimalist music relies less on melody and more on rhythm, repetition, and subtle shifts. The shifting, Thatcher says, provides "a frame for the [ballet's] structure. [This music is] purely mathematical, so it's really nice to work with; you can explore." With a musical framework in place, Thatcher turned his focus to choreography, and "playing with a sense TRIO PRODUCTION CREDITS Music: String Sextet in D Minor "Souvenir de Florence," Op. 70. Costumes constructed by Mark Zappone et Co., Seattle, Washington. Scenic construction and painting by San Francisco Ballet Carpentry and Scenic Departments at the San Francisco Opera Scenic Studios. By Cheryl A. Ossola PROGRAM NOTES SF Ballet in Wheeldon's Within The Golden Hour © // © Erik Tomasson TRIO NEW THATCHER WORLD PREMIERE 2017 SEASON GUIDE SAN FRANCISCO BALLET 77

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