I felt very fortunate to be attending the opening night performance of Smuin Ballet’s 24th season Dance Series 01 on February 22nd at The Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. Three works offering a wide range of approaches around theme of romance, using basic classical ballet as a framework – very differently, provided a perfectly balanced evening of dance. I love the intimacy of this venue, so that, as an audience member, I feel involved in the action on stage. The pre-performance talk offered by Artistic Director, Celia Fushille, provided fascinating information about the choreographers and the dances that we were about to see which enhanced my viewing experience.
Each time I have seen the Smuin Ballet Company, I have been impressed by the high level of skill displayed by the dancers, and the joy I experience viewing their precision and the flow of the movement. This evening was no exception, with the costumes, lighting and staging also adding to the enjoyment.
The evening began with West Coast the return of Garrett Ammon’s bold Serenade for Strings, set to Tchaikovsky’s score of the same name. This work is a vibrant new interpretation of a work inexorably tied to the iconic 1934 Balanchine ballet, and had its West Coast premiere with Smuin in October 2014 and was well received. The costumes were “cute”, the work was like a breath of spring, charming and lyrical.
From the pre-performance lecture, I learned that Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s critically lauded and transcendent piece Requiem for a Rose was inspired by a dozen red roses she received from a suitor. Ochoa is an internationally acclaimed choreographer who creates contemporary dance works and also adapts her style for classical ballet companies. Set to the music of Franz Shubert with additional soundcape by Almar Kok, this work was “something completely different”. It was romantic but very deep and very different. The costumes were attention getting, with red skirts worn by both male and female dancers that were long and flowy, representing red rose petals. As the male dancers gathered, it took a moment to realize there were also female dancers with flesh colored bodices and tightly wrapped hair in the mix of the males. Movements, while build around a classical ballet core, tended to be stronger, more intense and surprising than the other works on the program.
I have never seen a work choreographed by Michael Smuin and danced by his company that I did not feel was “just right”. But I have never seen a Michael Smuin ballet that I like more than Michael Smuin’s joyful tribute to Ol’ Blue Eyes, Fly Me to the Moon. This work premiered in October 2004. It is performed against a twinkling backdrop of a glowing night sky with gorgeous pastel costumes, elegant and sophisticated. The movements are charming and airy, set to warm and witty Sinatra favorites such as “You and the Night and the Music” and the funny and charming “I Won’t Dance,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and “The Lady is a Tramp,” culminating in a full chorus, high-kicking “New York, New York.” Watching this work was so captivating and pleasant that I had to remind myself that although the danced seemed easy, the very same classical ballet moves were executed as in works far more intense. The colors were so lovely and movements so satisfying and it was simply luscious.
This is a program for everyone, to stretch your understanding of dance and to sit back and just enjoy. Be sure to get tickets- soon.
Dance Series 01 will be presented February 22-25 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts and March 23-24 at the Sunset Center in Carmel. Tickets ($56-$74)* are available by calling the individual venues or visiting the smuinballet website.
All photos by Keith Sutter