Smuin’s signature holiday program, The Christmas Ballet, is like a festive box of chocolates. While each season marks the return of many audience favorites from founder Michael Smuin, the Company looks forward to surprising audiences with new works every winter. Since its debut in 1995, no two productions of The Christmas Ballet have been exactly alike. Over the years, Michael Smuin choreographed a total of 52 works, and 15 different choreographers have been invited to create original pieces to add to The Christmas Ballet’s repertoire. As the Company celebrates its 25th anniversary season, Company dancer Erica Felsch and former Smuin dancer Rex Wheeler will each be presenting new ballets for the production. In addition to the return of some beloved Michael Smuin works, these two world premieres will appear opposite each other in Act I and Act II: “The Classical Christmas” and “The Cool Christmas.”
Both Felsch and Wheeler credited The Christmas Ballet with testing their creativity in a unique and festive way: each choreographer will be creating a duet for the upcoming holiday program. For former Smuin dancer Rex Wheeler, The Christmas Ballet has undoubtedly become part of his yuletide traditions. “As a dancer with the Company I fell in love so quickly with this production and never lost that ‘butterflies-in-the-belly’ feeling before curtain up,” he shared. As he returns to work with the Company in a different capacity this season, Wheeler gets to experience The Christmas Ballet from a new vantage point. “As a choreographer, I’m always so excited to make and revisit works [in The Christmas Ballet],” he elaborated. “It allows me to not only revisit my love of classicism, but also to take joy in the humorous, silly, and playful moments that this holiday season lets us enjoy together!” In this year’s edition, Wheeler looks forward to exploring his classical side in his new work, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” His humorous side will return with the work he created for last season’s 23rd edition of The Christmas Ballet: “Christmas Tree Rock.” “For me the first act has always satisfied my love of classical music and has always made me feel excited for this charming and magical time of year!” As a dancer, he “always looked forward to the second act, where each of the dancers in the Company could introduce their distinct personalities to the audience and really get into the holiday spirit.”
Echoing Wheeler’s sentiments is current Smuin dancer Erica Felsch, who finds different things to love about performing in each act. “I love the first act for its technique and emotion, and I love the second act for letting loose and entertaining the audience.” For her newest creation, titled “Meet Me in the City on Christmas,” Felsch will be using another well-known holiday tune: “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” “It is one of those songs that always touches people,” the choreographer commented. “I tried to think of a classic Christmas song that is generally a favorite for people.” She cited the music as her “primary inspiration” for the work and hopes it imbues audiences with “a warm and fuzzy, old-Hollywood-holiday-type of feeling.” The music itself “can feel nostalgic and at times sad, but I wanted to approach it in a joyful way,” she explained.
In addition to her new work, Felsch’s previous creation, “The Christmas Song,” will serve as the opening of Act II this season. “To be able to choreograph a second piece is an honor. I absolutely feel like I am a part of The Christmas Ballet tradition—to choreograph for it, I feel a whole new sense of pride and ownership,” she noted. For Felsch, the milestone of the Company’s 25th anniversary season is celebrated simply by “honoring Michael and his vision to support emerging choreographers.” One thing is certain: there is no shortage of creativity or holiday cheer amongst the Smuin choreographers.
“Audiences always leave happy after seeing exciting new commissions, and rediscovering pieces that have been waiting patiently to return,” Wheeler added. While each year has something new to offer, there are always many “classics that we all love to include in our yearly traditions!” For those audience members who might need some extra help getting in the spirit this year, Wheeler said: “I’ve never met someone who didn’t feel happier and more inspired after leaving The Christmas Ballet.”
Come for the new works, and stay for the classics! We hope to see you at this year’s edition of The Christmas Ballet! Buy your tickets here.