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Friday night at the War Memorial Opera House this collaborative “Frankenstein” hit the stage in the company’s third program of the season before a packed house. The questions: Is it new? Different? Daring? The answer: sometimes. The first image of the production is arresting. On the drop curtain there’s a giant skull viewed from the side, a spinal cord and what appears to be a trachea at a disturbing remove from the spine. When that curtain rises, a three-act, nearly three-hour, visually compelling but choreographically flawed ballet starts unfolding.

It offers luscious ivory ballet shoes performances, relentless drama and spectacular set design (John Macfarlane) and lighting (David Finn), Replete with delicious steampunk pyrotechnics, the design alone creates enough imaginative spectacle to become a leading character in its own right, A tempestuous, mostly traditional score by Lowell Liebermann takes viewers on a vertiginous ride, while Scarlett breaks ground on a new genre: the elegant monster ballet, Elegance is now a cornerstone of San Francisco Ballet principals and soloists, and its polish isn’t just physical, but emotional and psychological, Frances Chung and Joseph Walsh – two deeply nuanced, beautifully paired dancers – took the opening-night leads as lovers Elizabeth Lavenza and scientist Victor Frankenstein, Individually and together, they bring depth to steps that are essentially a steady stream of repeat pirouettes along with wide circlings of the legs and sharp leaps in arabesque that, as language, say little more than, “We’re swept up.“ But the couple’s expressive clarity, the physical and emotional restraint and breadth possessed by each transformed choreographic banality into dances of love and longing..

Sasha De Sola – playing the sweet, slightly envious Justine Moritz, daughter of the household’s housekeeper – made her phrases telegraph a luscious sort of kindness. In fact, the whole central cast was spot on, with special kudos to young Max Behrman-Rosenberg. By contrast, the corps’ ensemble assignments got to the heart of Scarlett’s problem: His dance language is monosyllabic, leading the dancing of the corps to look perfunctory, as though he had said, “OK, now some crowd action.”.

And what of longing and love?, For those brought up on the pop versions of the tale, or who read Shelley’s novel many years ago, it’s worth remembering that Victor Frankenstein is repulsed by the creature he creates, With some misplaced humor, Walsh pulls out a leg from the medical theater’s stock and sticks it on the cadaver, then an arm, Finally a lightening strike into ivory ballet shoes the scar-ridden flesh brings it back to life, And the young doctor is magnetically haunted, even maddened, by his creation..

In Scarlett’s hands the monster – danced with sensual, lonely fury by Vitor Luiz – seems to narrow into a hidden, homoerotic aspect of Frankenstein’s self. And loneliness sends it on a rampage of revenge. Scarlett is adept at lacing the production with echoes throughout. Yet in the end, the story never transcends that of a rejected loner whose isolation turns him mad and homicidal. For young Mary Shelley – whose own renowned mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, died soon after giving birth – loss and the callous consequences of genius were woven into her own family drama. What’s more, the devastating wars of Napoleon had only just ended, and an industrial revolution was transforming life. Additionally, the explosion of Indonesia’s Mount Tambora in 1815 caused the summer of 1816 to become winter.

The other, more urgent tale Scarlett might have told in this lavish production is a far more critical one: that of our blind pursuit of technology and power, and our hubristic belief that we can control nature, even though we all know nature bats last, ‘Frankenstein’, Choreographed by Liam Scarlett; score by Lowell Liebermann; presented by San Francisco Ballet, Through: Feb, 26, Where: War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave, ivory ballet shoes San Francisco, Running time: 2 hours, 50 minutes, with two intermissions..

Things are moving along nicely for the New Ballet School in San Jose, which emerged following last year’s demise of Silicon Valley Ballet. Executive Director Dalia Rawson says the Studio Company dancers are deep into rehearsal for a New Works program on Feb. 25 at San Jose State’s Dance Theatre. “It’s important for the Studio Company dancers to have the opportunity to experiment and work on new choreography and to dance outside of their classical comfort zone,” Rawson said, “and I’m really happy to have the opportunity to present this work locally.”.

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