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Believe The Hype

January 25, 2010

rap.jpegIt's so often the case out here on the West Coast that by the time an arts happening reaches us, it's been so talked about that it can feel stale or overexposed before it even arrives. This happens a lot with touring Broadway shows (e.g. Doubt and August: Osage County.) The hype can have an adverse affect on the productions, setting expectations too high which often leads to disappointment.

This weekend's appearance of Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts could have had the same negative results. The starry British choreographer's company has been the toast of the London and New York dance worlds since being founded in 2007. But despite the hype, I found myself completely engrossed in the company's performance.

With the exception of the poor acoustics which made the recorded music in two of the pieces sound very tinny, the four works presented by the company consumed the senses. Live piano and harpsichord accompaniment in the Wheeldon-choreographed "Continuum" and "Rhapsody Fantasie" created a sense of fullness and spaciousness. There's a wonderful mix of refinement and earthiness in Wheeldon's approach to choreography. At one moment, limbs are fully extended and toes perfectly pointed; the next, the dancers are flexing their feet in crumpled postures or moving around on the floor like insects.

I also was completely engrossed by the variety of the program, which veered between the purity of line in "Continuum", the lush romance of the duet "Distant Cries" (choreographed by Edwaard Liang), humor and bravura in "Bolero" (choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky) and the fiery boldness of "Rhapsody Fantasie."

Believe the hype: I hope the company comes back this way again soon.

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