These days, there are a lot of new choreographers, and there are a lot of new pieces being made. Very few however, linger. Trey McIntyre’s Oh, Inverted World is one that lingers.
On first look, it doesn’t seem very outlandish or flashy. Dancers are dressed in 70′s gym clothes, in flat shoes, engaged in athletic choreography. Set to the music of The Shins, the choreography reflects the sadness in the music’s energetic beats. Using deconstructed movements, and a lot of it, the action-packed choreography speaks of something familiar, with phrasing that breathes. In a duet with Erin Yarbrough-Stewart and Matthew Linzer, the physical sparring is immediately interrupted by a surprising intimate moment in stillness – standing behind Yarbrough-Stewart, Linzer places his cheek on hers. Her arms flutter up in surprise, as the music marches on. The quiet moment is sudden, awkward, surprising, and heart catching. The final monologue danced by Smuin newcomer Travis Walker is a powerful tour de force. Caught in a world that’s confusing, frightening, heartbreaking, and beautiful, Walker danced with arresting surrender and abandon. Nothing about this piece seems new or groundbreaking – reminiscent, almost – but it quietly hits at the heart.
Two Michael Smuin pieces rounded out the program. The Smuin dancers’ added a touch of elegance to the evening with the neoclassical Brahms-Haydn Variations. Smuin Ballet’s strength isn’t in the realm of classical ballet, but it was still a classy display. One of the limitations of using taped music is that it can be relentless in terms of tempo especially during the fast sections. But dancer Jessica Touchet kept up with a touch of flair in her solo. The evening ended with Smuin’s Bluegrass/Slyde. Thankfully, not a cowboy hat was in sight. Smuin captures the emotion in each song by Edgar Meyer and Bela Fleck. The bright red industrial sets were a little too incongruent with the music, reminding me of the 80′s. Three spinning poles are used deftly by the dancers to represent the lazy drawl in the music. Smuin creates interesting patterns between groups of people reflecting different countermelodies in the music. Ryan Camou was an audience favorite, a shot of energy amidst the sea of sass and attitude.
The Smuin Ballet’s Fall/Winter Program ends today at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre. The program will repeat in Mountain View, Walnut Creek, and Carmel in February 2011. Click here for more information.