Your guide to San Francisco Ballet at the Kennedy Center

Oct 23–28, the world-renowned company brings two programs of new works selected from its groundbreaking Unbound festival

Content courtesy of San Francisco Ballet.

San Francisco Ballet follows its acclaimed 2016 performances of Cinderella with all-new East Coast premieres selected from the Unbound festival, which launched this past spring. Presented over two programs, the engagement brings works by familiar and new choreographers that reflect the company’s unique spirit of curiosity, experimentation, and invention.

Program A: Works by McIntyre, Wheeldon, and Dawson (Oct. 23, 24, 27e & 28m)

View program casting.

Your Flesh Shall Be a Great Poem

Photo by Erik Tomasson

What am I seeing? Standing six feet six inches tall, choreographer Trey McIntyre has a rare perspective on the world — but one he may have shared with his tall grandfather. In his new work for SF Ballet, McIntyre imagines what it might be like to see through his grandfather’s eyes, choreographing a piece that creates a kind of portal into his grandfather’s life. Bookended by two solos, this dance merges quirky, playful gestures with moments of stillness and introspection.

What am I hearing? Tracks from singer-songwriter Chris Garneau’s album El Radio. This is the first time that McIntyre has worked with Garneau’s music, but he has created ballets to pop music in the past, including The Shins; Amy Winehouse; and Peter, Paul, and Mary.

Bound To©

Photo by Erik Tomasson

What should I look for? Look for the piece’s episodic structure — what might these individual encounters represent?

What am I seeing? When’s the last time you rode the train and looked out the window rather than scrolling Instagram? Or left your phone at home and totally unplugged for the day? Christopher Wheeldon’s new ballet, Bound To©, starts with these questions, exploring the loneliness and disconnection that our constant state of digital engagement can cause. After years of choreographing big story ballets — Alice in Wonderland, The Nutcracker — and Broadway musicals — An American in Paris, Brigadoon — this ballet is a foray back into the kind of abstract, short works that launched his career in the early 2000s. Bound To© is a tech-influenced ballet for a tech-obsessed city.

What am I hearing? A collection of works by singer-songwriter Keaton Henson. The ballet’s score will blend Henson’s classical music with one of his final vocal racks.

What should I look for? Look for the way dancing with cellphones changes the dancers’ movements. Ballet is usually about connection, either between the dancers on stage or the dancers and their audience. But here, they are inwardly oriented, fixated on technology in ways that change the line of their heads and necks. And then note how when the dancers lose their phones their movements become more expansive.

Anima Animus

Photo by Erik Tomasson

What am I seeing? An example of physically emotional virtuosity by UK dancemaker David Dawson. Anima Animus is ballet pushed to every extreme; technique stretched to its outer limit. If you want to see the extremes of human movement — don’t miss this ballet.

What am I hearing? Ezio Bosso’s Violin Concerto №1 “Esoconcerto.” Bosso is also the composer for Christopher Wheeldon’s 2008 New Works Festival ballet, Within the Golden Hour, and in this work, his score creates a sense of driving motion matched by the dancing.

What should I look for? The second movement and its virtuosic play between the two principal women and the four men. And for the way that Dawson pushes ballet technique to its extremes. Rarely is a dancer truly upright — everything is leaning, at an angle, off-balance, giving the work a feeling of modernity and urgency.

Hear the music of Program A


Program B: Works by Liang, Marston, and Peck (Oct. 25, 26 & 27m)

View program casting.

The Infinite Ocean

Photo by Erik Tomasson

What am I seeing? Tawainese-born but Marin County-raised Edwaard Liang returns to San Francisco with a new work that explores the space between life and death — the “Infinite Ocean” of the title. His new piece for SF Ballet melds stunning technique with a resonant emotional core, inspired by thoughts of lost loved ones. When the ballet opens, we — the audience — are on earth and the dancers in the in-between. By the end? That’s up to you to decide.

What am I hearing? A brand-new violin concerto by London-based composer Oliver Davis. This is Davis’s fourth ballet; he’s previously collaborated with Erico Montes and Ma Cong.

What should I look for? Watch for the two central pas de deux — they create the sense of drama in the work and suggest couples at different points in their journeys.

Snowblind

Photo by Erik Tomasson

What am I seeing? British choreographer Cathy Marston’s unique blend of literature, movement, and emotion. Known in Europe for her narrative ballets inspired by literature, Marston decided to use an American story as the starting point for this ballet: Edith Wharton’s short story Ethan Frome. For those of us who never read Ethan Frome in high school English here’s a quick synopsis: Married man in New England falls in love with his hypochondriac wife’s cousin — who also happens to be his maid.

What am I hearing? A mix of music from Amy Beach, Arthur Foote, and Arvo Pärt arranged by composer Phillip Feeney. Beach and Foote were both part of the “Boston Six,” a group of composers working in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in New England. Working at the same time as Edith Wharton, these composers were key to the development of American classical music.

What should I look for? Look for the way that the main characters’ movement is driven by their emotions — Marston starts her process more like a theatrical director, letting the character’s thoughts dictate the movement language. And watch the corps de ballet in this work; they alternately represent the cold and snow of New England and the central characters’ emotions.

Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

Photo by Erik Tomasson

What am I seeing? Inspired in part by walking through San Francisco, Peck’s new ballet, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming crafts an evolving dreamscape to an album by electronic music group M83. Oh, and did we mention it’s danced in sneakers? Although a ballet choreographer — look for how his dancers move through classical shapes — Peck has been experimenting of late with choreographing not in pointe shoes, but in sneakers. It’s a choice that changes the dancers’ relationship to weight and the floor, grounding them in a way that seems freshly modern.

What am I hearing? Excerpts from Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, an album by French electronic music project M83. Written when M83 creator Anthony Gonzalez moved to Los Angeles, this album was what Peck found himself listening to when he was visiting SF in 2015.

What should I look for? Look for the two duets and how they differ from one another. And for how soloists appear and disappear within the greater mass, suggesting not just a community, but a whole world of inspiration and dream.

Hear the music of Program B


Experience San Francisco Ballet in both programs of East Coast premieres, Oct. 23–28 at the Kennedy Center. Tickets are on sale now.


Casting for Kennedy Center performances

Please note: casting is subject to change.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. | Program A

Your Flesh Shall Be a Great Poem
Composer: Chris Garneau
Choreographer: Trey McIntyre
Benjamin Freemantle
Isabella DeVivo, Steven Morse
Jaime Garcia Castilla, Sasha De Sola, Jennifer Stahl, Lonnie Weeks
Alexandre Cagnat, Esteban Hernandez

Bound To
Composer: Keaton Henson
Choreographer: Christopher Wheeldon
Conductor: Martin West
Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra
Bound To: Full Company
Open Your Eyes: Dores André, Benjamin Freemantle
Wavelength: Angelo Greco
Remember When: Dores André, Sasha De Sola, Isabella DeVivo, Jennifer Stahl
Jaime Garcia Castilla, Benjamin Freemantle, Angelo Greco, Lonnie Weeks
Speeding Past: Full Company
Take a Deep Breath: Yuan Yuan Tan, Carlo Di Lanno
Trying to Breathe: Lonnie Weeks

Anima Animus
Composer: Ezio Bosso
Choreographer: David Dawson
Conductor: Martin West
Violin: Cordula Merks
Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra
Frances Chung, Sofiane Sylve
Carlo Di Lanno, Luke Ingham, Joseph Walsh, Wei Wang
Kamryn Baldwin, Elizabeth Mateer, Elizabeth Powell, Skyla Schreter

Wednesday, October 24, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. | Program A

Your Flesh Shall Be a Great Poem
Composer: Chris Garneau
Choreographer: Trey McIntyre
Benjamin Freemantle
Isabella DeVivo, Steven Morse
Jaime Garcia Castilla, Jennifer Stahl, Lonnie Weeks, WanTing Zhao
Alexandre Cagnat, Davide Occhipinti

Bound To
Composer: Keaton Henson
Choreographer: Christopher Wheeldon
Conductor: Martin West
Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra
Bound To: Full Company
Open Your Eyes: Dores André, Benjamin Freemantle
Wavelength: Angelo Greco
Remember When: Dores André, Sasha De Sola, Isabella DeVivo, Jennifer Stahl
Jaime Garcia Castilla, Benjamin Freemantle, Angelo Greco, Lonnie Weeks
Speeding Past: Full Company
Take a Deep Breath: Yuan Yuan Tan, Carlo Di Lanno
Trying to Breathe: Lonnie Weeks

Anima Animus
Composer: Ezio Bosso
Choreographer: David Dawson
Conductor: Martin West
Violin: Cordula Merks
Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra
Frances Chung, Sofiane Sylve
Carlo Di Lanno, Luke Ingham, Joseph Walsh, Wei Wang
Kamryn Baldwin, Elizabeth Mateer, Elizabeth Powell, Skyla Schreter

Thursday, October 25, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. | Program B

The Infinite Ocean
Composer: Oliver Davis
Choreographer: Edwaard Liang
Conductor: Martin West
Violin: Cordula Merks
Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra

Sofiane Sylve, Tiit Helimets
Yuan Yuan Tan, Vitor Luiz

Jahna Frantziskonis, Julia Rowe, Natasha Sheehan, Lauren Strongin
Sean Bennett, Max Cauthorn, Cavan Conley, Myles Thatcher

Snowblind
Composers: Amy Beach, Philip Feeney, Arthur Foote, and Arvo Pärt
Music arranged by: Philip Feeney
Choreographer: Cathy Marston
Conductor: Martin West
Piano: Mungunchimeg Buriad
Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra
Ethan Frome: Ulrik Birkkjaer
Zeena Frome: Sarah Van Patten
Mattie Silver: Mathilde Froustey
The Snow/Neighbors/Farmhands: Ludmila Bizalion, Gabriela Gonzalez, Anatalia Hordov, Ellen Rose Hummel, Norika Matsuyama, Lauren Parrott, Elizabeth Powell, Miranda Silveira

Nathaniel Remez, Alexander Reneff-Olson, Henry Sidford, John-Paul Simoens, Hansuke Yamamoto

Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
Composers: Anthony Gonzalez, Yann Gonzalez,
Bradley Laner, and Justin Meldal-Johnsen
Choreographer: Justin Peck

Dores André, Joseph Walsh
Sarah Van Patten, Luke Ingham
Gabriela Gonzalez, Ulrik Birkkjaer
Kamryn Baldwin, Norika Matsuyama, Elizabeth Powell, Ami Yuki
Diego Cruz, Daniel Deivison-Oliveira, Henry Sidford, Wei Wang

Friday, October 26, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. | Program B

The Infinite Ocean
Composer: Oliver Davis
Choreographer: Edwaard Liang
Conductor: Martin West
Violin: Cordula Merks

Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra

Sofiane Sylve, Tiit Helimets
Yuan Yuan Tan, Vitor Luiz
Jahna Frantziskonis, Julia Rowe, Natasha Sheehan, Lauren Strongin
Sean Bennett, Max Cauthorn, Cavan Conley, Myles Thatcher

Snowblind
Composers: Amy Beach, Philip Feeney, Arthur Foote, and Arvo Pärt
Music arranged by: Philip Feeney
Choreographer: Cathy Marston
Conductor: Martin West
Piano: Mungunchimeg Buriad
Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra
Ethan Frome: Ulrik Birkkjaer
Zeena Frome: Sarah Van Patten
Mattie Silver: Mathilde Froustey
The Snow/Neighbors/Farmhands:
Ludmila Bizalion, Gabriela Gonzalez, Anatalia Hordov, Ellen Rose Hummel, Norika Matsuyama, Lauren Parrott, Elizabeth Powell, Miranda Silveira

Nathaniel Remez, Alexander Reneff-Olson, Henry Sidford, John-Paul Simoens, Hansuke Yamamoto

Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
Composers: Anthony Gonzalez, Yann Gonzalez, Bradley Laner, and Justin Meldal-Johnsen
Choreographer: Justin Peck
Dores André, Joseph Walsh
Sarah Van Patten, Luke Ingham
Gabriela Gonzalez, Ulrik Birkkjaer
Kamryn Baldwin, Norika Matsuyama, Elizabeth Powell, Ami Yuki
Diego Cruz, Daniel Deivison-Oliveira, Henry Sidford, Wei Wang

Saturday, October 27, 2018 at 1:30 p.m. | Program B

The Infinite Ocean
Composer: Oliver Davis
Choreographer: Edwaard Liang
Conductor: Martin West
Violin: Cordula Merks
Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra
Ana Sophia Scheller, Tiit Helimets
Yuan Yuan Tan, Vitor Luiz
Jahna Frantziskonis, Julia Rowe, Natasha Sheehan, Lauren Strongin
Sean Bennett, Max Cauthorn, Cavan Conley, Myles Thatcher

Snowblind
Composers: Amy Beach, Philip Feeney, Arthur Foote, and Arvo Pärt
Music arranged by: Philip Feeney
Choreographer: Cathy Marston
Conductor: Martin West
Piano: Mungunchimeg Buriad
Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra
Ethan Frome: Ulrik Birkkjaer
Zeena Frome: Sarah Van Patten
Mattie Silver: Mathilde Froustey
The Snow/Neighbors/Farmhands:
Ludmila Bizalion, Gabriela Gonzalez, Anatalia Hordov, Ellen Rose Hummel, Norika Matsuyama, Lauren Parrott, Elizabeth Powell, Miranda Silveira

Nathaniel Remez, Alexander Reneff-Olson, Henry Sidford, John-Paul Simoens, Hansuke Yamamoto

Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
Composers: Anthony Gonzalez, Yann Gonzalez, Bradley Laner, and Justin Meldal-Johnsen
Choreographer: Justin Peck
Dores André, Joseph Walsh
Sarah Van Patten, Luke Ingham
Gabriela Gonzalez, Ulrik Birkkjaer
Kamryn Baldwin, Norika Matsuyama, Elizabeth Powell, Ami Yuki
Diego Cruz, Daniel Deivison-Oliveira, Henry Sidford, Wei Wang

Saturday, October 27, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. | Program A

Your Flesh Shall Be a Great Poem
Composer: Chris Garneau
Choreographer: Trey McIntyre
Benjamin Freemantle
Isabella DeVivo, Steven Morse
Jaime Garcia Castilla, Jennifer Stahl, Sasha De Sola, Lonnie Weeks
Alexandre Cagnat, Esteban Hernandez

Bound To
Composer: Keaton Henson
Choreographer: Christopher Wheeldon
Conductor: Martin West
Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra
Bound To: Full Company
Open Your Eyes: Dores André, Benjamin Freemantle
Wavelength: Angelo Greco
Remember When: Dores André, Sasha De Sola, Isabella DeVivo, Jennifer Stahl
Jaime Garcia Castilla, Benjamin Freemantle, Angelo Greco, Lonnie Weeks
Speeding Past: Full Company
Take a Deep Breath: Yuan Yuan Tan, Carlo Di Lanno
Trying to Breathe: Lonnie Weeks

Anima Animus
Composer: Ezio Bosso
Choreographer: David Dawson
Conductor: Martin West
Violin: Cordula Merks
Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra
Frances Chung, Sofiane Sylve
Carlo Di Lanno, Luke Ingham, Joseph Walsh, Wei Wang
Kamryn Baldwin, Elizabeth Mateer, Elizabeth Powell, Skyla Schreter

Sunday, October 28, 2018 at 1:30 p.m. | Program A

Your Flesh Shall Be a Great Poem
Composer: Chris Garneau
Choreographer: Trey McIntyre
Benjamin Freemantle
Isabella DeVivo, Steven Morse
Jaime Garcia Castilla, Jennifer Stahl, Lonnie Weeks, WanTing Zhao
Alexandre Cagnat, Davide Occhipinti

Bound To
Composer: Keaton Henson
Choreographer: Christopher Wheeldon
Conductor: Martin West
Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra
Bound To: Full Company
Open Your Eyes: Dores André, Benjamin Freemantle
Wavelength: Angelo Greco
Remember When: Dores André, Sasha De Sola, Isabella DeVivo, Jennifer Stahl
Jaime Garcia Castilla, Benjamin Freemantle, Angelo Greco, Lonnie Weeks
Speeding Past: Full Company
Take a Deep Breath: Yuan Yuan Tan, Carlo Di Lanno
Trying to Breathe: Lonnie Weeks

Anima Animus
Composer: Ezio Bosso
Choreographer: David Dawson
Conductor: Ming Luke
Violin: Cordula Merks
Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra
Frances Chung, Sofiane Sylve
Carlo Di Lanno, Luke Ingham, Joseph Walsh, Wei Wang
Kamryn Baldwin, Elizabeth Mateer, Elizabeth Powell, Skyla Schreter