Proceed with caution: This emotionally charged death scene is balletic but brutal. San Francisco Ballet principal Yuan Yuan Tan and former American Ballet Theatre principal Desmond Richardson perform in this excerpt of Lar Lubovitch’s Othello. The ballet, based on Shakespeare’s play of the same name, was jointly produced by SFB and ABT in 1997, and the companies’ respective stars are brilliantly paired. As Othello, Richardson emanates chilling menace as he stalks around Desdemona. Tan aptly blends Desdemona’s palpable fear of her husband with complete devotion to him. She yields her limbs to his manipulation and lies prone and submissive while he pulls out the handkerchief with which he’ll murder her. Though innocent of the adultery she’s accused of, Desdemona helps him wrap the silk around her neck, reaching desperately for Othello as he strangles her to death.
These dancers have taken vastly different career paths over the past two decades, but neither has lost momentum. Richardson, between stints on Broadway and dancing in films, continues to break boundaries as the co-director (with Dwight Rhoden) of Complexions Contemporary Ballet, and Tan is lauded in both her adopted and home countries as a sublime ballerina. She is currently on tour with SFB in China (following a successful tour there in 2009)—a homecoming and a celebration of her 20 years with the company. Happy #TBT!