For the past three years I have been fortunate enough to be in the Bay Area (visiting from Chicago) at the right time to see the Smuin Ballet’s Winter Program. This year I attended the Winter Program on February 20, 2013 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. I enjoy this venue as it is an easy place for me to get to and it is also easy to park.
The five ballets in the program began with “Starshadows”, sensuous, romantic and ethereal, followed by “No Vivre”, charming and upbeat, and “Homeless”, a one man delight. “Cold Virtues”, a longer ballet followed intermission and was cerebral and deep. After the next intermission came “Oh, Inverted World” with a theme of young love, and the evening’s favorite for many audience members. Enhanced by lighting that was inventive, significant and perfectly displayed (under supervision of Lighting Director Michael Oesch), the program was “lovely”, beautiful and demonstrated the wide- ranging skills of this company.
Even young Paolo, seven years old and in first grade, who was seated in front of me remained awake during the entire performance. This was the second ballet he has seen and although he prefers participating in sports to “doing” ballet, he does enjoy watching it. His favorite ballet was “Oh, Inverted World”, it was a little more athletic than the others and had great music. This piece was also my companion’s favorite.
I had a different perspective. I was carried away by “Starshadows”, choreographed by Michael Smuin to music by Maurice Ravel that premiered by Smuin Ballet in February 1998 and presented this season in honor or Patti and Jerry Hume’s 50th wedding anniversary. I loved the stars twinkling in the background, the most unusual lighting I have ever seen, and the classical and sensuous choreography executed by three couples.
My very favorite was “No Vivre”, choreographed by Michael Smuin to the music of The Gipsy Kings premiered by Smuin Ballet in May 1994 and was performed solo by Robin Semmelhack. Again, the lighting was important in a very different way. I loved the contrast of the lyrical costume (Sandra Woodall) and classical movement to the strong percussive music of The Gypsy Kings. It was charming, beautiful and fun.
“Homeless” was also choreographed by Michael Smuin set to words and music by Paul Simon and Joseph Shabalala, and had its world premiere by the Smuin Ballet in May, 2000. This solo performed by Jonathan Mongosing was executed with perfection and was captivating.
Cold Virtues” followed intermission. Choreographed by Adam Hougland to music by Philip Glass and staged by Helen Daigle, this is deep and dark but also fascinating. Inspired by the film, “Dangerous Liasons”, the smoke filled stage and spinning ceiling fans suggested a depression era speakeasy. Although the topic is a woman who destroys all in her path, the combination of Philip Glass’ Violin Concerto, the drab costuming, the group ensemble and the choreography provided me a feeling similar to the way I felt watching of Igor Stravinsy’s “The Rite of Spring” ballet at times, choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky, performed by the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago a few years ago.
The last ballet was “Oh, Inverted World” choreographed by Trey McIntyre to music by the Shins with costume design by Sandra Woodall and costume construction by Birgit Pfeffer was premiered by Smuin Ballet on October 1, 2010 and recently received rave reviews in New York. In this ballet there are intricate patterns and athletic partnering that seem simple and easy, like a day at the beach. I was amazed at the range of movement displayed by this fantastic company.
You have several more chances to see this program- do it.
Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts
500 Castro Street, Mountain View
Corner of Castro & Mercy Streets
Sat, February 23, at 2pm & 8pm
Sun, February 24, at 2pm
Single tickets ($52-$68), the public can call the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts at (650) 903-6000 or visit www.smuinballet.org. Discounts are available for seniors, students, and groups of 10 or more.
San Carlos Street between 8th and 10th Streets, Carmel
Friday, March 8 at 8pm
Saturday, March 9 at 2pm
For single tickets ($55-$65), the public can call the Sunset Center at (831) 620-2048 or visit www.smuinballet.org. Discounts are available for students and groups of 10 or more.
Watch for performances at the Bankhead Theater in Livermore on March 1 & 2, 2013 and the upcoming Spring Program. Go to: smuinballet.org for more information.
Photo credit: Keith Sutterď»ż