When San Francisco Ballet returns to City Center Tuesday, several of artistic director Helgi Tomasson's new recruits from abroad will be making local de buts. Yuan Yuan Tan and Lucia Lacarra have generated considerable buzz in San Francisco. They'll dance contrasting Swan Queens in pas de deux at the opening-night gala: Tan takes on the flashy Odile with Vadim Solomakha, while Lacarra plays the yearning Odette, with Cyril Pierre.
Rehearsing the Black Swan pas de deux this summer under Tomasson's watchful eye, Tan and Solomakha paid as much attention to dramatic detail as to technical concerns. They watched each other more than the mirror, conveying the sensual excitement, the hints of mistrust in the encounter.
Willowy and highly flexible, Tan shaped each phrase to the music, never giving in to extravagance. The relaxed good humor the 22-year-old Shang hai native displays in the studio is also evident in conversation. "For Swan Lake, Helgi stressed that you have to enjoy doing the different characters," she says. "As Odile, you get to be very evil. You play with the man, try to get him but then say no." First spotted by To masson at a competition, Tan has fit right into SFB's varied repertory, moving easily from Balanchine to Robbins to Tomasson to Desdemona in Lubovitch's Othello.
Lacarra, 23, a delicate Spanish beauty who inspires comparisons to Audrey Hepburn, came to SFB last season, joining Pierre, her fiancé. She made her big splash as The Novice in Robbins's The Cage, following it up with the Agon pas de deux before her season was cut short by a stress fracture. At City Center, she'll dance those two choice roles, returning the ballets to the stage where they had their premieres in the '50s.
"The Cage is really some thing special," Lacarra says of the work that launched her. "You are like a beast; you have to kill the man, because that's your way of life. All the steps are so clear, so pure. It's so intense; people don't breathe!"