Smuin’s Dance Series 02 opened in San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts this past weekend. This triple bill boasts two world premieres for the Company alongside the return of a Smuin favorite. Choreographer and Smuin dancer Nicole Haskins delights audiences with her beautifully sentimental work The Poetry of Being, set to Tchaikovsky’s “Souvenir de Florence.” Choreographer in Residence Amy Seiwert’s evocative Broken Open reemerges this season, examining improbable beauty to the music of cellist and composer Julia Kent. Be Here Now, Trey McIntyre’s tribute to the 50th Anniversary of the Summer of Love, explores the energetic themes of the 1960s through the lens of the present day. As Allan Ulrich of the San Francisco Chronicle remarked: “if one judges a dance company by the quality of choreographer it attracts, then Smuin can hold up its head with pride.”
Opening the program is Smuin dancer and choreographer Nicole Haskins’ world premiere: The Poetry of Being. Reviewer Eddie Reynolds of Theater Eddys praised Haskins’ work as a “sculpture of twisted, twirling limbs,” adeptly evoking a “sense of joy” in the audience. Virginia Bock of the Mercury News noted that Haskins skillfully “highlights the crescendos in the music by having her dancers stand completely still, letting the music take the focus.” The ballet features “stunning” lighting design from veteran Smuin designer Michael Oesch, which Bock depicted as alternately “bathing dancers in warm sunshine” and “highlighting them with sharp shadows.” With original costumes designed by former Smuin dancer Susan Roemer, this world premiere showcases many talents within the Smuin community.
Dance Series 02 reintroduces Bay Area audiences to Amy Seiwert’s Broken Open, after its lauded premiere in 2015. Ulrich hailed Amy Seiwert’s ballet as “involving” and unpredictable, with a “parade of dancers materializing from the void, plunging into intricate small ensembles and innovative lifts.” Bock praised the work as the “highlight of the program,” rife with Seiwert’s “inventive” signature style.
Concluding the program is Trey McIntyre’s second world premiere for Smuin: a spirited and multifarious celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. Ulrich called Trey McIntyre’s Be Here Now “a complex work that looks back with mixed emotions.” “McIntyre is an absolute master of interpreting popular music in the classical vocabulary,” scattering Smuin’s dancers in large, “sizzling” ensembles across the stage. Lou Fancher of San Francisco Classical Voice commended the choreographer’s “ intense attention to detail” resulting in movement that oftentimes appears “organic, even improvised.”
While set to the popular sounds of the 1960s (Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin abound), Be Here Now focuses less on nostalgia and more on the still relevant themes of the era. As Reynolds comments, “it is the Voice Church Inspire Choir’s rendition of the union song ‘Which Side Are You On’—along with the powerful conflict and coming together of the choreography we see so dynamically performed by the troupe—that has the biggest connection with our world today.”
In all, Reynolds perhaps described it best when stating that “the theatricality of the evening now on the stage in Smuin’s Dance Series 02 is as indisputable as the beauty, athleticism, and wonder of its… dances.” Our audiences agree: you’ve never quite seen Smuin like this.