San Francisco Ballet Review - A Midsummer Night's Dream
San Francisco Ballet Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream January 22, 2021 | Digital
From the first sweet notes of the woodwinds to the joyous flurry of the strings, Felix Mendelssohn’s overture for A Midsummer Night’s Dream whisks the listener away from the cold winter wind toward the breeze of a warm summer evening.
When the curtain rises on the War Memorial Opera House stage, we see that George Balanchine’s balletic vision of Shakespeare’s comedic play begins with the youngest dancers. And within the first ten minutes, all storyline significant characters are introduced; an impressive feat considering the complexity of the script.
It is at this moment that it dawns on me how only the strongest of performing arts organizations can successfully present this production of Midsummer.
It requires an enormous cast drawing the most talented from the training grounds through to the top of the professional ranks.
It needs a full passionate orchestra like that under the command of Martin West’s baton.
Perhaps because this capture was filmed only days after their first and only live performance of Midsummer happened in March 2020 and before the city would go into lockdown, there is a unified energy, a 110% effort, and a cooperative breath that is palpable. It is similar to watching a dancer’s retirement performance, that knowing of everyone in the theatre that something once in a lifetime is happening.
The depth of the gifts that San Francisco Ballet’s artists bring to audiences runs deep. It is not often that a blanket statement of “The dancers are technically proficient, practiced in their synchronicity, and fine actors” can be made, but in this case it is true.
That being said, it is difficult to talk about Balanchine’s Midsummer without making mention of some of the standouts. Sasha De Sola is a most lovely Titania basking and frolicking in her luxurious fairy land. Cavan Conley’s Puck is a well-balanced mischievous, comedic, and virtuosic sprite. And as the leader of the butterflies, Julia Rowe displays such an ease in her light jumps and quick turns.
In the human dimension of the story, Sarah Van Patten and Elizabeth Powell’s Helena and Hermia, respectively, are played so well; both ladies are clean with their dancing and clear with their acting, such a necessity so as to not cause even more confusion than Puck has already created.
And as the principal divertissement at the wedding, Frances Chung and Ulrik Birkkjaer exude a wonderful partnership, a way of moving with one another that makes it just so pleasurable as an audience member to appreciate the pure beauty of ballet.
San Francisco Ballet Midsummer Trailer
San Fransisco Ballet’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is available to stream through February 10th. For more information about this and other upcoming virtual programs that are part of their 2021 Digital Season, click the link to check out the calendar.
Cherilyn's lifelong passion for ballet has opened the door to the next chapter of her journey. Her strong foundation includes training at the School of American Ballet, being a featured dancer with Hartford Ballet and Carolina Ballet, and being co-director/owner of City Ballet Raleigh. She was granted the Affiliate Teacher Award after successfully completing the ABT National Training Curriculum®. A professional career in the industry along with extensive global travel provide her with a unique set of experiences to draw upon as a journalist and audience member. Cherilyn is excited to be sharing her insight about ballet around the world.