Last weekend, Smuin Ballet welcomed a few bloggers into their rehearsal room for us to get a preview of their upcoming spring program. Choreographer and Tulsa Ballet principal dancer Ma Cong was there to stage his ballet, French Twist, on the company. With this rehearsal, we got a glimpse of the piece that will be performed in May.
Since it’s still a few months away and Smuin Ballet is still knee-deep in their Winter program, it was such a different experience watching a piece in its early stages. From what I could see so far, French Twist is a piece that’s packed with movement, wit, and quirky humor. Set in ballet flats, there’s a momentum that’s outwardly horizontal with a radiating energy, rather than elevated and vertical as in classical ballet. There’s always something to see, and the movement emphasizes the syncopation in the music by French composer Hugues Le Bar. The music can be best described as post-Romantic neo-Baroque with an overlay of French cafe music + voice. The music is difficult to classify with multiple influences, but these genres comes together nicely with a quirky ease.
Cong ran rehearsal by dancing the steps himself along with the dancers, with a careful eye for detail. Even spacing of the fingers was addressed more than once, and his background in Chinese dance was visible especially in the way in dealing with the wrist and the hands. In the post-rehearsal Q&A with artistic director Celia Fushille, Cong talked about his background as well as his inspiration for this piece, first set at the National Choreographer’s Initiative last summer. His inspiration was Tom and Jerry cartoons, specifically in the way that the movement was not only perfectly musical, but there was inherent humor in the way the movement was so direct and sudden and perfectly placed and timed. He also talked about the challenges of resetting a work that was originally built on another set of dancers. He said one of the difficulties was remembering the original steps, but also adapting it to the strengths and personalities of the Smuin Ballet dancers. He’s tweaking a few details to the original piece, as well as almost revamping the entire finale.
It’s going to be quite a show, especially with Jiri Kylian’s Petite Mort and Smuin’s Songs of Mahler. Many thanks to Smuin Ballet and their warm hospitality for opening up their rehearsal.
Smuin Ballet’s 2010 Spring Program will be playing at the following places/dates:
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (415)978-2787
May 7 – May 16
Lesher Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek (925)943-7469
May 21 – May 22
Flint Center, Cupertino (650)903-6000
May 29 – May 30
Sunset Center, Carmel (831)620-2048
June 4 – June 5
My favorite Tom and Jerry cartoon. I had forgotten how violent they are, and it’s still funny after all these years.