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SF Ballet engulfs, entrances War Memorial Opera House with ‘Colorforms’

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MARCH 21, 2023

On the night of March 14, the tapered golden curtains of the War Memorial Opera House slowly gave rise to the first of three running bill programs presented by SF Ballet. “The Colors of Dance,” running from March 14-19, featured three contemporary programs that combined art, music and dance into a distinct repertory program.

Helgi Tomasson’s “7 for Eight” was the first ballet to grace the stage. Staying true to its name, the piece is designed for eight dancers, and the first pair daintily waltzed across stage in a coordinated series of midnight black outfits designed by Sandra Woodall. Accompanied by SF Ballet Orchestra, the Grammy Award-winning ensemble meticulously articulated four of Johann Sebastian Bach’s keyboard concertos, setting an elegant and graceful ambience for the rest of the night. 

After a brief intermission, the audience was presented with the next performance, an exciting film-to-stage premier of “Colorforms,” created by dancer and choreographer Myles Thatcher. First released in the form of a dance film during the pandemic in SF Ballet’s 2021 season, “Colorforms” made its grand entrance to the stage, with March 14 marking SF Ballet’s first time producing a film-to-stage adaptation in its 90 years. 

Contrary to the previous black-on-black dresses and formal wear, the dancers were instead adorned in more contemporary, pastel wardrobes. The myriad of dancers moved with spirit and agility as the orchestra bowed to Steve Reich’s “Variations for Vibes, Pianos, and Strings.” A swift rhythm, strumming strings and crisp piano chords complemented the effortless flow of the dancers. The vibrancy and array of color palettes, explored within the stage lighting and costume design, served as a metaphor for emotion from interacting with art and dance. 

Indeed, the star of the night lay in its central program: Thatcher’s live premier of “Colorforms.” First shot in the SF Museum of Modern Art in 2021, the original film was transformed into a rendition that undoubtedly kept fans pleased. Playful and bright backgrounds were accented with modern, simplistic stage props. Jim French, the show’s scenic and lighting designer, did an impressive job at staying true to the original filming location, with the set being highly reminiscent of the vibrant interior of MoMA. 

In the last program of the night, William Forsythe’s “Blake Works I,” the music was set to James Blake’s album, The Colour in Anything. The first out of seven selected songs opened to “I Need a Forest Fire,” a four minute collaboration between Blake and folk band Bon Iver. 

Since the dance’s 2016 premier at the Paris Opera Ballet, the dancers’ costumes consisted of blue practice garments, which paid homage to the uniforms of the Paris Opera Ballet School. Percussion and electronic keyboards accompanied the challenging choreography of “Blake Works I,” integrating complex French classical techniques and modern articulations. 

“Burning like cedar… I need a forest fire,” Justin Vernon, lead singer of Bon Iver crooned, the song depicting the desire to have a new start in a relationship. Strutting across the stage, the dancers’ movement was complex yet evocative, especially when paired with the robust soundtrack and Blake’s stirring lyrics. 

Separately, each piece from “The Colors of Dance” was introspective, spirited and charming. A perfect way to introduce the formal stage adaptation of “Colorforms” while also revisiting familiar favorites, the exquisite performances were surely marveled by audience members.

In addition to staging classical favorites such as “Swan Lake” and its annual “Nutcracker,” SF Ballet further exemplified its versatility by sharing with the modern audience classical and contemporary ballet pieces with “The Colors of Dance.”

Contact Alyssa Chen at 


MARCH 21, 2023