As a visitor to the Bay area I have been very fortunate in visiting during the Smuin Ballet’s winter season. And I nearly missed them because the season is rapidly drawing to a close. In my total dance experience this program is stands with the most moving and beautiful I have experienced. I was fortunate not to miss it.
Appearing at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, the program included three works by Michael Smuin and a world premiere by Amy Seiwert. This was included to “shake off the winter blues” (though I haven’t experienced much of that). The program began with Michael Smuin’s Tango Palace: Tangos, fados and other curios, which premiered with the Smuin Ballet, October 2003. It is a seductive fantasy of possession and passion played out in the steamy underworld of tango. The set, costuming and lighting greatly enhanced the amazing dancing. Another aspect of the entire program was the female vocal accompaniment to most of the music. I was absolutely captivated by the contrast of sultry dance and playfulness. Toward the end there were two songs that deeply moved me. One was Nem as Paredes Confesso (Artur Ribeiro and Ferrer Trindade), performed by Amalia Rodrigues, the Portuguese singer and actress who was known as the Rainha do Fado ("Queen of Fado"). Fado reaches the soul. And then when Non Je Ne Regrette Rein (C. Dumont and H. Vancaire), performed by Edith Piaf began, I was in tears, the dancing and music were so beautiful and this is one of my favorite songs.
Following intermission, Stabat Mater, which premiered by Smuin Ballet in 2002 and is a tribute to the events of September 11th, was performed. Michael Smuin said, “When I found myself playing the Dvorak Stabat Mater over and over, I realized that I had found my response to all the death and pain of those terrible days.” This piece is ethereal, beautiful, haunting and spiritual. I was mesmerized watching the female dancers in their long, flowing costumes in varied colors. The movements were gentle and healing.
After a short pause Eternal Idol, which originally premiered at American Ballet Theater in December 1969 with Cynthia Gregory and Ivan Nagy was presented. Erin Yarbrough-Stewart and Jonathan Powell were magnificent. This dance is a romantic pas de deux that Smuin created for American Ballet Theatre and named for the Auguste Rodin sculpture of a nude couple locked in an embrace. This sensuous work set to the slow movement of Chopin’s F Minor Piano Concerto, is a wistful imagining of Auguste Rodin’s sculpture, where stone is transformed into flesh and blood. The erotic movements flowed so smoothly and easily that it was impossible to realize the great skill the dancers exhibited. It was achingly beautiful and definitely worth the price of admission on its own. But there is more.
The Smuin Ballet world premiere of Dear Miss Cline took place on September 23, 2011 and this concluded the performance. What a terrific ending. Seiwert’s Dear Miss Cline is a buoyant and colorful romp set to ten Patsy Cline tunes, including “Walkin’ After Midnight,” “Come On In,” “Triangle,” “There He Goes,” and “Pick Me Up On Your Way Down.” An engaging exploration of relationships and their foils, Dear Miss Cline claims inspiration from the expressive choreography of Michael Smuin, Seiwert’s mentor. Since Patsy Cline’s death in 1963 at age 30 in a private airplane crash at the height of her career, the Grand Ole Opry star has been considered one of the most influential, successful, and acclaimed female vocalists of the 20th century. This number was light and charming. All of the relationships but the last one ended with the couples splitting but it was adorable and humorous. The costumes were great as was the dancing.
Michael Smuin’s singular philosophy to create pieces that merge the diverse vocabularies of classical ballet and contemporary dance has served as the company’s touchstone since it’s beginning. Now at the helm of Smuin Ballet is Artistic and Executive Director Celia Fushille, whose vision includes maintaining and increasing the company’s reputation for presenting accessible and innovative repertoire, as well as attracting new audiences of all ages to the medium. This program is an example of the realization of this goal. Hurry to get tickets for this wonderful performance.
WHERE: Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts
Corner of Castro & Mercy Streets, Mountain View
WHEN: February 22-26, 2012
Sat, February 25, at 2pm & 8pm
Sun, February 26, at 2pm
TICKETS: For single tickets ($49 - $62), the public can call the Mountain View Center for the
Performing Arts at (650) 903-6000. Discounts are available for seniors, students, and
groups of 10 or more. For information, the public may call (415) 556-5000 or visit
WHERE: Sunset Center
San Carlos Street between 8th and 10th Streets, Carmel
WHEN: March 2-3, 2012
Friday, March 2 at 8pm
Saturday, March 3 at 2pm
TICKETS: For single tickets ($49 and $59), the public can call the Sunset Center at (831) 620-
2048. Discounts are available for seniors, students, and groups of 10 or more. For
information call (415) 556-5000 or visit www.smuinballet.org.
Watch for the Smuin Ballet’s Spring Program
Photos: David DeSilva