As Smuin enters its 24th year, the Company is proud to announce a daring and inventive lineup for its 2017/18 season. This next year of ballet boasts a combination of mixed repertory programs that emphasize the strength, skill, and technical diversity of the Smuin dancers. The gathering excitement over these new and revisited works is unmistakable— with virtuosic and cutting-edge choreographers joining the mix of Smuin favorites.
Artistic Director Celia Fushille carefully curates each season, typically years in advance. Her direct experience as a dancer in the company she now helms undoubtedly colors many of her artistic decisions. “I think I learned that from Michael [Smuin]: it’s all about the dancers,” Fushille affirms. The importance of a dancer’s role in the Company is certainly not lost on Fushille. The Director has “worked a long time to have an atmosphere in the studio that’s very supportive, where [everyone is] engaged, and there’s mutual respect” among the artists. This artistic safe-space allows the dancer’s sense of individuality to truly shine through each of the works performed onstage.This evident enthusiasm, however, doesn’t diminish the hard work and artistic growth that goes into performing such a diverse repertory.
“I like to find [works] that might push the dancers and also push our audience a little bit to see something new— to showcase what’s possible with dance today,” Fushille professes. The Company’s Artistic Director will be the first to attest that ballet technique has come a long way since 1994, when the Company was founded. “The technique that’s required [today] is so much more than when I was dancing…it’s pretty extraordinary, what our dancers do.” It’s only appropriate that this season take full advantage of this spirit of innovation at Smuin; beginning with the Company’s “Dance Series 01,” a mixed repertory program that includes the West Coast premiere of Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s visually dramatic “Requiem for a Rose;” the return of Wonderbound Artistic Director Garrett Ammon’s capricious “Serenade for Strings;” and Michael Smuin’s iconic “Fly Me to the Moon.”
A particular joy surrounds the revival of “Fly Me to the Moon,” Michael Smuin’s tribute to Frank Sinatra, performed against the twinkling backdrop of a glowing night sky. Fushille reflects fondly on the work, having performed the piece herself, and hails it as pure, unadulterated fun for the audience and dancers alike. This light-heartedness also manifests itself in the return of Colorado-based choreographer Garrett Ammon’s “Serenade for Strings.” Ammon is a serial collaborator who has worked with poets, visual and digital artists, musicians, actors, a perfumer, and an illusionist. He was most recently seen in the Bay Area when commissioned by Smuin to create his work “Madness, Rack, and Honey,” set to Mozart’s “Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra” in September 2016.
This program includes the highly-anticipated regional premiere of Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s transcendent “Requiem for a Rose,” set to what many consider to be Schubert’s most romantic string adagio, the “Quintet in C.” This ballet is a reflection on the nature of true love and romance, brought to life in Ochoa’s versatile, contemporary style. “I look forward to having Annabelle’s energy and positivity in the studio,” Fushille remarks. “I think [this will encourage] the dancers to be fearless, to just reach beyond what they can do, and grow from that experience.”
As with last season’s “Dance Series 02” program, Smuin’s spring 2018 program will be both diverse and distinct. “I think that makes for a really engaging and enjoyable evening of dance,” Fushille reveals. Continuing this theme, the Company presents its second mixed bill of the season featuring a world premiere by internationally acclaimed choreographer Val Caniparoli; the revival of Choreographer in Residence Amy Seiwert’s visually stunning “Falling Up;” and Helen Pickett’s lush “Oasis,” accompanied by an original score by Emmy Award-winning “House of Cards” composer Jeff Beal.
Master dance maker Val Caniparoli was last seen with the troupe when commissioned by Smuin to create his lauded “Tutto Eccetto Il Lavandino” (everything but the kitchen sink), set to the music of Vivaldi. This world premiere will mark Smuin’s second work created by Caniparoli, who has created over 80 original ballet works, performed the world over. Choreographer in Residence Amy Seiwert’s “Falling Up” makes its reappearance on the Smuin stage a decade after its 2007 debut. Set to the music of Johannes Brahms, Seiwert’s signature sculptural movement and intimate partnering enhance this exploration of strength and trust between partners. Included on the final program of the season is Helen Pickett’s impressive “Oasis,” set to an original score by composer Jeff Beal. This nearly 30-minute work explores the concept of water in its many incarnations, celebrating its abundance (or lack thereof) and its essential role in life.
Of course, one can’t forget Smuin’s wildly popular holiday tradition: “The Christmas Ballet,” which makes its annual appearance with new and unexpected additions. From pristine and classical, to cool and contemporary, Smuin offers two acts filled with an original array of ballet, tap, and jazz.
With the 2017/18 season just beginning, the dancers and staff of Smuin undoubtedly have their work cut out for them. Classes will resume, new works will soon be set, existing ballets will be re-learned, and countless hours of rehearsal and refinement mark the year ahead.
The Company is assuredly working hard to preserve the spirit of Michael Smuin while finding its way onwards 10 years after its founder’s passing. To this day, Fushille acknowledges the large role the Company’s namesake had in shaping her style as Artistic Director. “I learned that from Michael: it’s all about the dancers. If you don’t have dancers, you don’t have a performance. If you have happy dancers that are motivated, [it’s palpable]. How can the audience not love that?”
For dancers and audiences alike, there’s a lot to be excited about this season at Smuin.