Smuin Dance Series 01 Review – Powerful, Uplifting and Beautiful

One of the joys that I have experienced in visiting the Bay Area during the winter is the opportunity to attend a performance of what was Smuin Ballet, now, simply “Smuin”. Dance Series 01 debuted in September 2016 in San Francisco and Walnut Creek and is currently being presented in Mountain View at the Mountain View Center for Performing Arts and in Carmel at the Sunset Center, March 2-25, 2017  I had the opportunity to attend the March 2nd performance in Mountain View and it was thrilling. This program should not be missed.

 

Smuin dancers Erin Yarbrough-Powell, Nicole Haskins, Tessa Barbour, Mengjun Chen, Dustin James, and Ben Needham-Wood in Stanton Welch's Indigo, presented as part of Smuin's Dance Series 01

I always love the quality and skill the dancers present and this was no exception. The three dances that comprised the program were varied in theme and presentation, each a distinct delight. The works included a world premiere, a regional premiere, and a treasured work by Michael Smuin. Stanton Welch’s Indigo examines the vagaries of romantic relationships as four couples come together, fall in love, fight, and exchange partners. Also on the program is Stabat Mater, Michael Smuin’s powerful response to the events of 9/11 offering affirmation to the perseverance of the human spirit. Rounding out the bill is Madness, Rack, and Honey, a new work by acclaimed choreographer Garrett Ammon set to Mozart’s “Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra.”

  

Smuin dancers Erin Yarbrough-Powell and Nicole Haskins in Stanton Welch's Indigo, presented as part of Smuin's Dance Series 01

My companion and I disagreed about our favorite work, but completely agreed that we were very fortunate to be able to attend this performance.  She loved Indigo.  I did, too, though it was not my favorite. Choreographed by Stanton Welch AM,  a dancer a choreographer with a wide ranging background who also designed the costumes to music by Antonio Vivaldi, it reflected Welch’s depth and range.  My companion and I agreed this work was beautiful creative, and unusual. The intricacies of the choreography were captivating.  The costumes interested me in that the men were more “covered” than the women.  All of the bodies of the dancers revealed their precise and beautiful movement.

 

Smuin dancers Mengjun Chen and Tessa Barbour in Stanton Welch's Indigo, presented as part of Smuin's Dance Series 01

My favorite was Stabat Mater, Michael Smuin’s powerful response to the events of 9/11 offering affirmation to the perseverance of the human spirit.  I wanted this to go on forever.  Set to Antonín Dvořak’s work of the same name, I found this piece mystical and spiritual. The vocal music was almost other wordly.  The stage was filled with smoke and there was a background of a burnt wall, making the 9/11 scene very powerful. The costumes designed by Ann Beck were inspired by colorful shards of glass from a church’s stained glass window left after 9/11. The flowing, colorful skirts were gorgeous, and a very important aspect of the choreography. All of the dancing was superb but I would be remiss not to single out the principals here, Erica Chipp and Robert Kretz.  I was mesmerized.

  

Smuin dancers Erica Chipp and Robert Kretz in Michael Smuin's Stabat Mater, presented as part of Smuin's Dance Series 01

  

Smuin dancers Erica Chipp and Robert Kretz in Michael Smuin's Stabat Mater, presented as part of Smuin's Dance Series 01

 

Stabat MaterSmuin dancer Erica Chipp (center) with the company in Michael Smuin's Stabat Mater, presented as part of Smuin's Dance Series 01

 

Madness, Rack, and Honey, premiered on September 23rd, 2016 and was the newest work presented.  It was choreographed by Garrett Ammon to music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with costume design by Cassandra Carpenter.  While seemingly light and fluffy, there was complexity and choreographic demands that were well executed. Dancers interacting with hats were fun to watch in the many variations offered.

 

Smuin dancers Erica Felsch and Benjamin Warner in Madness, Rack, and Honey, a new work by Garrett Ammon, presented as part of Smuin's Dance Series 01

The catchy title was derived from the collected lectures of poet Mary Ruelfle.

This is a must see program.  In addition, Mountain View will be the location for the May premiere. 

  

Smuin dancers Rex Wheeler and Terez Dean in Madness, Rack, and Honey, a new work by Garrett Ammon, presented as part of Smuin's Dance Series 01

About Smuin:

For more than 20 years, Smuin has pushed the boundaries of contemporary ballet within a distinctly American style, engaging and delighting audiences with uncommon physicality and expression. Founded in San Francisco in 1994 by Tony and Emmy award-winning choreographer Michael Smuin, the company is committed to creating work that merges the diverse vocabularies of classical ballet and contemporary dance. As Artistic Director since 2007, Celia Fushille has maintained Michael Smuin's legacy while enriching the company’s impressive repertoire by collaborating with inventive choreographers from around the world, commissioning world premieres, and bringing new contemporary choreographic voices to the Smuin stage.

  

Smuin dancer Valerie Harmon (right) and the Smuin company in Madness, Rack, and Honey, a new work by Garrett Ammon, presented as part of Smuin's Dance Series 01

More information and tickets at the Smuin website

 

 

Photo credit: Chris Hardy

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