The Next Generation of Dance Makers: Smuin Ballet’s Choreography Showcase 2016

January brings a unique choreographic presentation to the Smuin stage. The 2016 Choreography Showcase, presented at the ODC Theater, invites Company members to create short pieces in a variety of styles on one another. Held in an intimate space, attendees witness engaging new works and hear the dancers and choreographers discuss their artistic processes in the Q&A sessions following each performance.

Choreography Showcase | E. Felsch & J. Reynolds | Photo by Chris HardyArtistic Director Celia Fushille noted, “

[The Choreography Showcase] is vital to the future of dance to foster and encourage the next generation of dance makers.” Smuin Ballet’s late founder, Michael Smuin, mentored several up-and-coming choreographers including Choreographer in Residence Amy Seiwert. “The opportunity it provides our dancers is enormous. The dancers gain tremendous knowledge from handling the myriad details involved in the process of creating a piece of choreography. Like any craft, it must be practiced in order to be successful and effective.”

Company member Rex Wheeler, who joined Smuin Ballet for the 2015/2016 season, is particularly excited about this creative opportunity. A native of London, UK, Rex remembered being inspired to pursue dance after watching the Royal Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty: “I was sitting in the balcony, and seeing all of the costumes sparkling because the flat tutus reflected the lights from above… it was a magical scene.”

Rex Wheeler | Photo: Chris HardyRex attended the Royal Ballet School for two years before moving to the Birmingham Royal Ballet. Rex’s professional career began with the Slovak National Ballet, where his classical focus expanded to contemporary work with modern masters such as Jiří Kylián. An interest in choreography brought him to Sacramento Ballet, where he created 13 works for the company’s annual choreography event.

Following years of classical training, Rex was “dead set on pursuing a career in classical ballet.” After seeing Smuin Ballet’s The Christmas Ballet, he changed his mind. “[The contemporary movement in Act II] just looked like so much fun. I thought, ‘To hell with my preconceptions. I want to dance like that.’”

Rex appreciates the balance Smuin Ballet strikes between classical and contemporary work: “It creates this look of athleticism—dancers who possess elements of classical training and contemporary dynamics. The ballets always have a bold statement of some sort. It empowers us and makes us feel as though we’re part of something explosive and powerful.”

Rex plans to create two pieces for this year’s Choreography Showcase: a group of four couples, and a duet. With just a few weeks between The Christmas Ballet and this performance, creating a complete work is no easy task. Rex commented, “Sometimes a short piece can take a long time to choreograph if it’s intricate and has a lot of unique happenings. It’s a good challenge to see how you can respond in tough situations. If an idea doesn’t work out the way you intended, how quickly can you come up with something else?”

W. Krukow & E. Chipp | Photo: Chris HardyRex likes to be inspired by classical music: “I listen to a piece of music obsessively to conjure up images of formations and emotions…The music evokes a sort of moving sculpture.” Rex is particularly excited to create with the other Company dancers: “It’s nice to go in with an idea and an open mind. You know kind of what you want to create, but you’re open to someone taking it further.”

This year’s Choreography Showcase promises a unique blend of dance styles, musical variations, and theme combinations. Rex noted, “With Smuin Ballet in particular, you’ll find a lot of stylistic diversity because everyone’s background is very different. It’s exciting because it’s so unfettered and not curated as a normal performance would be. Each artist is putting their statement out there, and it’s intriguing to see how the individual works are different or cohesive.”


As Celia noted, Smuin Ballet is proud to continue Michael’s legacy in encouraging and inspiring the next generation of choreographers. Join us at the Choreography Showcase January 29-30 at ODC Theater.


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