Last weekend, Smuin Ballet invited a group of bloggers and journalists to attend a rehearsal of their opening night gala at their sunny studio in San Francisco. With their opening night only a week away on Friday October 2, it was a thrill to be able to preview a performance so close to the final product.
Click photos to enlarge
For me, it was a rare thrill to be able to take a peek behind-the-scenes about a company that I’d heard so much about. The folks at Smuin Ballet were also nice enough to set up a casual interview with their artistic and executive director, Celia Fushille. An ex-dancer herself with the Smuin Ballet and associate director working directly alongside Michael Smuin, Fushille painted a picture of a company that still lives very much under the legacy of Michael Smuin, who passed away less than three years ago. The company continues to present Michael Smuin’s broad range of work, ranging from classical ballet to Broadway, set to music from Mozart to the Beatles. Fushille stresses the importance of continuing on in light of Michael Smuin’s absence, and diversifying to keep new works in its repertory. Choreographer in residence Amy Seiwert shares many of Michael Smuin’s traits as a choreographer, Fushille explained, sharing a keen sense of musicality and innovation. The company is also proud to acquire new works as well, including Jiri Kylian’s Petite Mort, which the company will perform in the spring.
It was a thrill, as a ballet enthusiast, to be able to watch from such close proximity. You get a real sense of how much effort it takes, and the physicality of it is impressive.
The pieces presented began with Amy Seiwert’s new piece, set to the music of the Kronos Quartet performing “Pieces of Africa”. Some of the dancers told me that they finished it just as recently as two days before the rehearsal, although you couldn’t tell since it looked so finished. The choreography and music at first glance was delightful – quirky, gentle, intelligent, and joyful. Smuin’s Medea followed, and I was surprised when I was drawn into the familiar story, even without the dramatic elements of costumes and lighting.
The rehearsal ended with Michael Smuin’s “Fly Me to the Moon”, set to the music of Frank Sinatra and a big Broadway style.
This company’s repertoire seems perfect to introduce new generations to ballet with its ease of style, yet it proved to me, as the seasoned veteran, that dramatic storytelling through dance never gets old. There is a sense of fun and drama that’s infectious and easy to get lost in. I’ll be watching the full performance next week, and will review it more fully then. But judging from this rehearsal, the opening night program seems like it’ll be a really fun one.
A random note: this was my first attempt at dance photography. I learned several things – 1) it is very, very, very difficult. I got a good pose about 10% of the time, and even then, the lighting or something else would be off. 2) I’m horrible at it. But the dancers are too beautiful not to post, so I’m posting a lot of my photos anyways. I hope you enjoy.
Click here for tickets, and be sure to check out the soiree for young professionals on October 10.
- More links and photos on the Smuin Ballet blog
- sfmike’s take here and here with lots of pretty pictures and a lot more history of the Smuin Ballet and its reputation
A sneak peek at Amy Seiwert’s new ballet, with a lovely duet by Erin Yarbrough-Stewart and Aaron Thayer.