Instead of playing it safe by bringing us productions of well-known staples of the ballet repertory, the San Francisco Ballet has treated its Washington audience like friends, showing us its most recent creations and presenting a sampling of the work of each of its resident choreographers. Two season premieres, John McFall's "Badinage" and Lew Christensen's "Norwegian Moods," were danced by the company last night at Wolf Trap.
Set to Stravinsky's "Concerto in D for String Orchestra," "Badinage" is strongest in its ensemble choreography. McFall makes his 10 dancers (five women and five men) fill the stage so energetically they seem a veritable battalion. The men, led by Kirk Peterson, open the ballet with a sustained passage of tough, almost martial movements. The women, rather than being used as textural contrast, are also given large, space-devouring movements to dance. A pas de deux, sandwiched between the highly charged opening and closing movements, seemed slight in contrast.
Christensen's "Norwegian Moods" is a formal pas de deux that combines classical steps with folksy accents. The choreography for the woman is full of fast, delicate pointework, the feet shooting out in flat-footed kicks, or other quirks, and Linda Montaner skimmed through it with ease. Her partner was David McNaughton, a dancer of engaging manner and powerful legs, who specializes in flashing turns. He shapes a dance phrase completely, never slackening between difficult combinations of steps; but between sequences, when walking or partnering, for example, his shoulders tend to droop and tension is broken.
In the pas de deux from Christensen's "Beauty and the Beast," Evelyn Cisneros, a tall, dark beauty, danced her variation with a style that was both crisp and mellow. Michael Smuin's always clever and often ingenious "Stravinsky Piano Pieces" completed the program.