“Michael Smuin’s voice is often in my head while making ballets, making his opinion loudly but lovingly known….”
“Why isn’t that on center?? It’s important, it should be on center!” or “they’re too far apart, I don’t know what you want me to watch.” When this happens, it makes me smile. Sometimes I disagree with that voice, sometimes I listen, but I always smile. Everything Michael taught me, the opportunities he gave and the doors he opened, all that comes together when I hear that voice, and with Dear Miss Cline that voice was quite persistent.
Michael was a brilliant story teller, something that is not my strength. Through Dear Miss Cline there isn’t a complete narrative, but there are characters absolutely formed the depth of soul in Miss Cline’s song. The dancers don’t portray abstract ideas, they portray people. It was an incredible experience exploring these characters. My choreographic choices were informed by what choices the characters would make, their relationships to each other, their heartaches and their joys.
I am so proud of this work. Through Miss Cline’s music and the characterizations of the dancers, the ballet offers a great access point. But it’s definitely not fluff. The ballet offers challenging dancing gives the Smuin dancers the opportunity to grow as artists. The ballet has also had a life beyond Smuin, joining the repertory of BalletMet in Columbus last year. Other companies have shown interest in the work as well, so it will continue to be seen throughout the country.
Mary Ellen Hunt wrote it well in her SF Chronicle review of the work’s premiere in 2011; Dear Miss Cline is “the kind of bright, carefree diversion for which her mentor was known…(but) you’d never mistake the choreography for Michael Smuin’s own. Even under the cheerful red and white shirtwaist dresses and flouncy crinolines, Seiwert’s signature style is clear in the turn-in, turn-out pattern of the legs and angular cut of the arms, in the cascades of interlocking partnering and the abstract kineticism. Yet, you can’t help but feel that Smuin would have loved “Dear Miss Cline.”
I like to think this is very true. -Amy Seiwert