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San Francisco Ballet brings energy of dance to the Kennedy Center

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Photo - Sarah Van Patten and Pierre-François Vilanoba in Tomasson's Romeo & Juliet.
(Photo by Erik Tomasson)
Sarah Van Patten and Pierre-François Vilanoba in Tomasson's Romeo & Juliet. (Photo by Erik Tomasson)
Entertainment,Music,Marie Gullard

What the Met is to opera the San Francisco Ballet is to dance. And for those who can't get enough of the latter, the Kennedy Center presents six days of unparalleled performances by America's oldest professional ballet company.

Founded in 1933, the San Francisco Ballet showcases the art of Classical and Neoclassical dance in two separate productions -- the first, a mixed-repertory program that includes four works, "Trio," "RAkU," "Number Nine" and "Voices of Spring" on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. Helgi Tomasson's lavish, full-scale production of "Romeo & Juliet," set in the Italian Renaissance and featuring the music of Sergei Prokofiev, will run Thursday through Sunday. Both productions will be accompanied by the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra.

Ricardo Bustamante is the ballet master for the company. He is responsible for learning the works, teaching the dancers and keeping them up to the standards of the choreographers who created them. He also works with the dancers on nuances, technique and style. Moreover, Bustamante is a curator whose job is to know the casting for each work and bring in available dancers for understudy and background. Over the years, Bustamante has amassed a large collection of works over which he is in charge.

Onstage

San Francisco Ballet

Mixed Repertory Program

» Where: Opera House,

Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW

» When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday

Romeo & Juliet

» Where: Opera House,

Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW

» When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday;

1:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

» Info: $29 to $109; 800-444-1324;

202-467-4600; kennedycenter.org

"We are about 80 dancers," he said. "There are 73 company members, and we're also bringing in trainees and people who can do the character rolls, such as [Juliet's] nurse."

In contrast to the full-length, Neoclassical narrative of "Romeo & Juliet," the mixed-repertory features two evenings of works that are complete pieces, shorter in length and each decidedly different from the others.

"Trio," which premiered in 2011, is set to Tchaikovsky's "Souvenir de Florence," with choreography that is fluid and beautiful. "RAkU," also from 2011, is set to an original score by Shinji Eshima, a bassist with the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra. Bustamante calls the piece a "story about a Japanese tragedy, very dramatic, beautifully staged and acted." "Voices of Spring" was created in 1977 for a production of Johann Straus's "Der Fledermaus." Finally "Number Nine" is choreographed to a wonderful score, mathematical in movement, showcasing serious dancing with great precision. Bustamante notes that it is lovely "to watch the flow of color and the energy of the dance."

"You're in for a treat," he added.

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