San Francisco Ballet

2017 SFB Program 07 Notes

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WITHIN THE GOLDEN HOUR © PRODUCTION CREDITS Music: Ezio Bosso: The sky seen from the moon; Le Notti…; Of the Thunders; Dance of the tree; Worried; African skies. Antonio Vivaldi: Andante from Violin Concerto in B-flat major, RV 583. Costumes constructed by Tricorne, Inc., New York, New York. Scenic construction and painting by San Francisco Ballet Carpentry and Scenic Departments at the San Francisco Opera Scenic Studios. Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon looks at each new ballet as an opportunity to stretch himself artistically, and his wide-ranging works reflect that philosophy. His choreography, he says, embodies "a kind of synthesis between using the classical ballet technique, which I love, and finding other dance forms to inspire a new, interesting way of looking at a ballet step." He produced a fine example of that kind of synthesis in creating Within the Golden Hour © for San Francisco Ballet's New Works Festival in 2008. One of his best-loved works, this ballet has since been performed in venues worldwide. Wheeldon's eagerness to explore is apparent in his choreographic career, which includes film, opera, and Broadway (notably, his successful An American in Paris) in addition to his many ballets. Music is central to his creative process. "With each piece I'm very conscious of going through different musical choices," he says. "What did I achieve with that previous work, and how does that inform what I'm doing next?" He finds inspiration in art and other choreographers' works — and sometimes in his own. "Maybe there was something in a previous ballet [of mine] that didn't work as a whole, but there's an idea within it that I could use," he says. "I use that as a starting point, and then it naturally takes a different course." Within the Golden Hour © is "like a series of small paintings or sketches that are inspired by the music," Wheeldon says. Rather than choosing a single composition to work with, he compiled a score with six pieces for strings by Italian composer Ezio Bosso and the Andante movement from Antonio Vivaldi's Violin Concerto in B-flat Major. Wheeldon describes the Bosso music as "not particularly complex, although some parts get rhythmically layered." At times it's haunting, at times playful; the Vivaldi is delicately pensive. And all of the music creates a strong sense of place. "One part sounds really Celtic; we call it the 'Hebrides pas de deux,'" he says. "It feels like two people in a big, expansive, barren but beautiful, poetic place, and they're alone and there's nothing around except for a little white cottage in the distance and a couple of moo-cows." Another duet makes him think of "a Fellini-esque scene with the couple dancing around the Trevi Fountain," he says. "And she's in a purple polka-dot dress with heels and a big 'do." Such imagery helped Wheeldon create what he describes as a "quirky" pas de deux, which samples from social dances like the waltz, tango, and Charleston. The duet flows with the melody or becomes fragmented, like the plucked violin strings we hear. What Within the Golden Hour © shows clearly is how Wheeldon responds to different tracks in the music. He calls it "punctuating the choreographic rhythm in juxtaposition to what's going on musically. It's fun to go in and out of different aspects of the music, to go with the sweep of the melody and then make an unexpected turn and suddenly have the dancers make the underlying rhythm visual. If you follow the melody all the way through, you end up with a rather bland, two-dimensional representation of what you're hearing." In the end, he says, "dance is at its most successful when it's making the music visual." WITHIN THE GOLDEN HOUR © 2017 SEASON GUIDE SAN FRANCISCO BALLET 79

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