(The beautiful San Francisco Opera House)
(My program, in the dark. Yes, my ticket is for standing room. Can’t beat that deal!)
(My standing room partner-in-crime, my mother, on her birthday!)
I first set out for this post to be a review of the recent San Francisco Ballet mixed bill production I had seen this last Sunday. A program in three acts that combined a little bit of everything: Kingdom of the Shades from La Bayadère for the purists, Yuri Possokov’s Firebird for those who love a visually stunning storyline, and Christopher Wheeldon’s Ghosts, for the more contemporary tastes. Days later, all I can think about is Ghosts.
When the curtain was dropped at the end of the piece, my mother and I turned to each other agape, and she exclaimed: “That was it?! I wanted it to keep going!” I felt much the same way, and even a bit of despair when the house lights came up. Undoubtedly, I would have sat through hours of Ghosts had it been longer. It was a contrast to La Bayadère in every way, from the flowing dip-dyed dresses, to the metamorphic set, to the eerie rolling music. It’s temperamentality fascinated me, as did the looming sculpture suspended above the dancers. What was it? The wreckage of a plane, a haunted ship, the ruins of an old building; it could have been anything! I believe this was entirely the point. Like finding shapes in a cloud, we see what we want to see in this ballet.
Without a doubt, dancer-turned-choreographer in residence for the New York City Ballet at the early age of 27, Wheeldon has a flair for harnessing the metamorphic nature of choreography. From the initial process of creating a ballet, to the As Cheryl A. Ossola eloquently put it in the program, Ghosts is Wheeldon’s sixth commission for San Francisco Ballet and full to the brim with “rich […] imagery and connotations.” She describes it as being highly influenced by the poetry of Edgar Allen Poe, all thematically haunting, which Wheeldon used to “create an atmosphere of a mass gathering of souls, such as might occur after a tragedy. ‘It’s more like perfume than a heavy sort of ghost story,’ he says.” Despite Ghosts reveling in the ethereal, the movement is incredibly human; the dancers audibly gasping for air, reaching out for one another, and curling around each other on the floor. The piece went from short well-lit bursts of solos, to suddenly dark, foreboding multitudes of dancers. It never slowed entirely- it’s sections blending effortlessly together up until the moment the curtain comes down over the still moving dancers. In short, this ballet made me a huge fan of Wheeldon’s work. He has won my steady affection, as it were.
“What’s so great about his work?” you might ask. Well, in an effort to locate (and watch on repeat) sections of Ghosts, I turned to the good-old Youtube. While unfortunately not finding concrete clips of the ballet itself (you can see a preview here, however), I stumbled upon a wealth of interviews and rehearsal footage of Wheeldon and the dancers. Give them a watch and you tell me.
Until next time,