Shannon Hurlburt first joined Smuin Contemporary Ballet in 1998 as a bright-eyed young dancer with a penchant for showmanship. After sixteen seasons of originating countless roles and creating three mainstage premieres with the Company, Hurlburt stepped away from performing full-time in 2014. Michael Smuin described him as “an incredibly versatile dancer, a real actor, but also so musical.” While Hurlburt may no longer be featured in Smuin’s roster of dancers, his presence is not far. In commemoration of Smuin’s 25th anniversary season, Hurlburt will be reprising his well-known tap solo, “Bells of Dublin,” for select performances of The Christmas Ballet. As Hurlburt would describe it, this energetic solo work is “reminiscent of Irish step dancing with some hoofing rhythms mixed in.”
Hurlburt has performed in countless versions of The Christmas Ballet throughout the years, yet “Bells of Dublin” remains a standout role Some of the dancer’s favorite memories date back to his time dancing for Michael Smuin. Like many of the dancers, actors, and filmmakers that worked with Smuin over the years, Hurlburt remembers the Company founder fondly, and acknowledged that Smuin left a profound impression on him. “I used to love having Michael bow with us,” he recalled. “Michael’s influence on me has been, by far, the most magical and enlightening of anything else in my career.” Michael Smuin’s diverse choreographic ability allowed Hurlburt to draw from his background in both tap and jazz, in addition to his classical ballet training. “It was inspiring realizing just how versatile Michael was as a performer and choreographer,” Hurlburt remarked.
In addition to his guest performances of “Bells of Dublin,” Hurlburt’s original piece “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” also reappears in The Christmas Ballet this season. He initially choreographed the upbeat tap number as a duet for himself and dancer Roberto Cisneros. “Michael thought it would be a good idea to have another tap piece at the time,” Hurlburt shared. “It was a way for me to share the stage with such an amazing talent.” Smuin looks forward to reviving his playful work in the 24th edition of its holiday program, now set for two female dancers.
Since his departure from Smuin, Hurlburt has been hard at work expanding his life away from the stage. He now divides his time between his family, a son and daughter with former dancer Kaleena Opdyke, and his work as a personal trainer. While performing has always been an integral part of Hurlburt’s life, what he now enjoys most is being able to return to the stage and share this aspect of his life with his growing family. “I love sharing my passion for the stage with my children,” Hurlburt revealed. As the children of former professional dancers, it’s no surprise that both his son, Oliver, and daughter, Gavilan, are quite at home spending time backstage with the Company. Both have previously attended performances of The Christmas Ballet, and have avidly watched their father dance from the wings.
Hurlburt will reprise his signature tap-dancing role in the riveting “Bells of Dublin” during 5 performances this season. Called “diabolically nimble” and “show-stopping” by the San Francisco Chronicle, this is one electrifying tap performance you won’t want to miss!
Join us for performances of The Christmas Ballet including “Bells of Dublin” on the following dates:
Carmel, Sunset Center • November 30 & December 1
Mountain View, Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts • December 8-9