Your Ultimate Guide to Kaleidoscope

What is it? Three distinct takes on the classical idiom to three musical masterpieces.

Who’s it for? Anyone who loves going to the symphony, seeing elite athletes compete, or watching romantic movies.


Sasha De Sola and Hansuke Yamamoto in Balanchine’s Divertimento #15. Choreography by George Balanchine © The Balanchine Trust // © Erik Tomasson

What Am I Seeing? Divertimento No. 15 may be a pretty tutu ballet, but it’s anything but stuffy. This sparkling masterpiece—choreographed in 1956 by 20th-century genius George Balanchine—features five principal women, three principal men, and a corps de ballet of eight. Keenly attuned to its music, this ballet showcases its dancers, highlighting their technique, musicality, and the pure joy of dance.

What Am I Hearing? Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Divertimento No. 15, composed in 1777, plus a cadenza by John Coleman, added in the 1960s. Balanchine considered this piece the finest divertimento Mozart ever wrote, and this 1956 version was his second attempt to choreograph to this music.

What Should I Look For? Note the solos for the principal women and one principal man—Balanchine made this ballet for some of his favorite dancers and each of these variations on a theme showcases something unique about their personalities and technique. Also note the numbers games he plays. Like Mozart’s music, which exemplifies the clarity, balance, and formality of classical style, this ballet moves its dancers in pairs and threes to create a sense of symmetry and proportion.


San Francisco Ballet rehearsing Millepied’s Appassionata // © Erik Tomasson

What Am I Seeing? An intimate exploration of love and passion created by LA Dance Project director Benjamin Millepied. First created for the Paris Opera Ballet, where Millepied was director from 2014 to 2016, this ballet features three couples who fall in and out of love over the course of its 30 minutes.

What Am I Hearing? Ludwig von Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, commonly known as the Appassionata. Fiendishly difficult to play, this sonata is explosive, volatile, and impassioned—a stark contrast to the sunny clarity of Mozart’s Divertimento.

What Should I Look For? The heart of this ballet is in the central pas de deux set to the andante. This romantic interlude interrupts the frenetic pace set in the opening allegro and transforms the emotional energy of the ballet.


San Francisco Ballet in Dawson’s Anima Animus // © 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. Playing with the idea of opposites—man-woman; black-white; lifted-grounded—this work nods to ballet’s past while pointing toward its future.

What am I hearing? Ezio Bosso’s Violin Concerto No. 1 “Esoconcerto.” Bosso’s 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. For the way that Dawson manipulates ballet technique: rarely is a dancer truly upright—everything is leaning, at an angle, off-balance. And for the wing-like gestures the dancers make with their arms, evoking flight.

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