In its final performance of the Wolf Trap season Saturday, the San Francisco Ballet continued to emphasize its uniqueness with premieres of three new works by company regulars.
In matters of vocabulary and construction, all three choreographers owe an obvious debt to Balanchine; with the decision to show so many works from the Stravinksy Centennial tribute, the comparison is inescapable. However, a home-grown dash of visual cleverness and an emphasis on the spectacular effect, particularly in partnering, provide a distinctly San Franciscan hallmark.
The look of the SFB dancers is also refreshing. In the contemporary pieces, the dancers lose the regimented "clone" look of most American companies. Along with Afro curls and surfer blond hair styles come revelations of personality and a self-determined style. While there is no doubt that this is a company capable of fine classical dancing, it is to SFB's credit that it showed Washington its other side as well.
Choreographer Val Caniparoli's Stravinsky contribution, "Love-Lies-Bleeding," is a striking example of the company's style. Onto a strong classical base featuring a respectable number of arabesques and jete's are added some quirky differences for a more vehement, athletic, narcissistic look. The dancers portray seven different plants from the genus Aramanthus, from the flexings and displacements of Venus' Flytrap to the flipping, flying duets of Tumbleweed. Caniparoli whimsically imbues such plant-like qualities as sinuosity and symbiosis with a droll sprinkling of anthropomorphism, particularly in the Belladonna, Crabgrass and Sunflower sections.
Despite its presentation out of context and with a lack of scenery, the pas de deux excerpted from Michael Smuin's full-length "Romeo & Juliet" was evocatively danced by Wendy Van Dyck and Tom Ruud. Featuring acrobatic flips and sleight-of-hand partnering that are an SFB trademark, the pas de deux captures beautifully the idea of youthful impetuosity.
"Q.aV." (an abbreviation for Quattro a Verdi) is the pop name for Smuin's ballet to some of the very best in 19th century pop ballet music, selections from Verdi's "Il Trovatore" and "I Vespri Siciliani." This pure dance extravaganza provided David McNaughton perhaps his finest opportunity to display a wit perfectly attuned to a bravura technique. In his best Baryshnikovian manner, McNaughton toys with his audience in passages of delicate footwork, deliberately withholding the secret of his aerial pyrotechnics until the last moment.
The season closed with Robert Gladstein's Symphony in Three Movements, another Stravinsky tribute seen earlier in the week.