Thursday, January 21, 2010

Quality vs. Quantity

Wednesday night I went to the Opening Gala of the San Francisco Ballet. Helgi Tomasson was specially honored to mark the 25th anniversary of his reign as artistic director.

Sixteen short excerpts from ballets in the repertory were performed. Ten of these had been choreographed by Helgi Tomasson.

By m-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-l-e-s the best of the 16 was number 4, Katita Waldo and Damian Smith dancing a pas de deux from RUSH, a 2003 ballet by Christopher Wheeldon (above).

Tomasson has definitely influenced the company for the good, raising the bar on performance standards while recruiting superb dancers and providing enough space for their personalities to flourish. And the company's genuine warmth of feeling for Tomasson was unmistakable during the congratulatory curtain calls.

That said, his own choreography invariably strikes me as a sentimental mishmash, vaguely well-intentioned but effectively incoherent. Decorative rather than meaningful.

If Wheeldon had not been on the program, Tomasson's work might have looked a little better.