A Brilliant Revisionist Sylvia
Morris makes us hopeful for the future of classical dance. It is hope based on depth, not the glibness he has relied on at times in the past, and is evident in the lovely mirroring of scenes and movement (I especially loved how he let Aminta/Eros be echoed by Sylvia/Orion—he made us see that Orion’s more bestial desire is linked to loftier love). He used an array of quotes from the ballet and modern dance canon without becoming coy or self-conscious, providing a humble nod to his own sources and giving ballet lovers a deep echo of the masters, from Coralli and Perrot, to Jooss, Nijinska and Balanchine.
There are also links to seveal San Francisco Reviews in today's Links:
The San Francisco Ballet gave the premiere of Mark Morris's Sylvia on Friday. Reviews:
Mark Morris' new-old full-length work for the San Francisco Ballet, "Sylvia," is no fairy tale. Despite gorgeous sets and costumes and a story as nymph-laden as any 19th century ballet, Morris has gone to the core of the musical score from 1876 to discover something simpler, as pure and affecting as a kiss.
"Sylvia" is about young love. That the score by Leo Delibes is as memorable as a paperback romance doesn't negate Morris' contribution. Showing almost more genius as a director than a choreographer here, Morris refocuses the technically powerful San Francisco company to look like a troupe of actors. He cuts away the artifice of a complicated story and the tradition of star- studded, show-off dancing, and concentrates on the emotional reality of the characters. And best of all, he has fun doing it. "Sylvia" is no dance tour de force; it's a rarer thing, a theater work that employs all the trappings to an end that is romantic in the most idealistic, non-cynical way. It's old- fashioned in all the best ways.
Throughout, Morris takes advantage of the company's versatility and experience with a wide range of repertoire, slipping in bits that call to mind famous ballets, from classical warhorses to Balanchine. He constructs the entrance of the nymphs of Diana as an aggressively athletic version of the ghosts coming down the ramp in "La Bayadere." And the troupe of slaves in Orion's cave shambles about, attempting to extend their non-existent beer-bellies like the goons from "The Prodigal Son."
The last act, which takes place in a sparkling white city by the sea, is the ballet's most radiant and has its finest dancing. After groups of Greek city dwellers perform celebratory duets to welcome Sylvia, she dances for Aminta in disguise behind a pale-pink veil. It's an exquisite, teasing seduction, and the two are united with Eros' full blessing.
Though its story line is slight, ``Sylvia'' is charming. With a light touch, it evokes a golden age of strong women and benevolent gods that seems far more graceful than our own.
Morris' choreography was at once supremely ordered, academically inventive and, above all, inspired to convey distinct characters and mirror the music. Morris built the tension judiciously. He waited until the third act to unleash virtuoso solos. It was not a ballet of pyrotechnics, which will disappoint some. The lovers finished their grand pas de deux with feet earthbound and lips pressed in a big, flat-faced smooch.
The beauty of Morris' dances, then, was in the musically inspired details — and in his characterizations. Aminta and Sylvia's dancing roles complemented one another. He was the fallible human with loose arms, rippling torso and legs raised but bent. She, the athletic huntress, danced with arrow-imitating straight leaps, steely arms and jabbing feet.