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Lesher Center for the Arts
United States
Walnut Creek, CA

Smuin Contemporary Ballet Program Mixes Old and New to the Company Works

by Joanna G. Harris
September 23, 2018
Lesher Center for the Arts
1601 Civic Drive
Walnut Creek, CA 94596
(925) 943-7469
Joanna G. Harris Author, Beyond Isadora: Bay Area Dancing, 1916-1965. Regent Press, Berkeley, CA, 2009. Contributor to reviews on culturevulture.net
The Smuin Contemporary Ballet Company, under the leadership of Celia Fushille, artistic director, has launched its 2018-2019 season with ballets old and new. Smuin’s works are represented on the September 22 matinee program at San Francisco's Lesher Center for the Arts were “Schubert Scherzo” (2007) and “The Eternal Idol” (1969), a tribute to the sculptor Rodin. The newest event for the company is “Blue Until June” (2000), choreography by Trey McIntyre to the music of Etta James. Other choreographers include Rex Wheeler, Ben Needham-Wood and Nicole Haskins.

Smuin’s “Schubert Scherzo” opened the afternoon with lively extended locomotor patterns celebrating the company’s dynamic skills. The five men and women (listed below) danced throughout the performance with exuberance and technical bravura.

“The Eternal Idol” to Chopin was a romantic duet for Erica Flesh and Peter Kurtz. With Rodin’s “Kiss” as the featured image, the work moved through a series of slow embraces and intimate lifts. It was sensually pleasing but for this reviewer, a little dull.

“Sinfonietta” to Tchaikovsky’s music revisited pleasant ballet locomotion and vocabulary, dynamic and sometimes repetitious. Alysia Chang and Mengjun Chen were the outstanding duet as were Tess Lane and Matiia Pallozzi.

“Echo,” inspired by the myth of Echo and Narcissus was dramatic and sometimes confusing as to the focus of roles. Valerie Harmon took the lead as Echo with Peter Kurta as the subjugated Narcissus.

The Smuin Company succeeded in bringing pop music to ballet. In “Merely Players”
Nicole Nicole Haskins used music by Vampire Weekend, Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver to develop a series of romps between and among the company members. Again, Chang and Chen as well as Dean and Kretz were outstanding.

The marquee work, “Blue Until June,” by Trey McIntyre was set to songs by Etta James. The nine songs all gave the company the opportunity to dramatize their roles as friends and lovers with a lively sense of humor in each event. The audience was delighted with such familiar numbers as “If I Can’t Have You,” “One for My Baby,” and “At Last.” It was a pleasure to see ballet dancers move to more relaxed contemporary movement and project such fun.

Congratulations to Ian Buchanan, Maggie Carey, Alysia Chang, Mengjun Chen, Nicole Haskins, Robert Kretz, Tess Lane, Ben-Needham-Wood, Mattia Pallozzi and Lauren Pschirrer, dancers and director Celia Fushille. Smuin was well honored.
Smuin Ballet plans a Xmas Ballet in November 2018 and a Dance Series 02 in May 2019.
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