Smuin Contemporary Ballet Review – Dance Series 01, Love is in the Air

Smuin, " The Eternal Idol", Photo: Keith Sutter

I had the delight of introducing my companion to the Smuin Contemporary Ballet Company.  The program on February 21, at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts was filled with love and beauty. The company shone in each of the dances, and there were six, outdoing themselves performing works that ranged from close to classical to works that were very far from that.  A few elements carried through most of the pieces and included the use of lighting to highlight the dance movement and the many costumes that were white, and, of course, the incredible skill displayed by each of the dancers.

Smuin, “Echo”, Photo: Keith Sutter

As my guest and I entered the auditorium on the early side there was a pre-ballet talk taking place.  Celia Fushille, Artistic Director, was asked if one had to choose between attending a performance of the San Francisco Ballet and the Smuin Contemporary Ballet, what should one do.  “Attend both” was part of the answer followed by an explanation of how different the companies are and how they have different missions.  While San Francisco does “grand” ballet, Smuin is immediately available, intimate and affordable and it goes to several locations, making it easier for the audience.  It is the feeling that I am being swept into the dance that I look forward to when I attend a Smuin performance.

As the Smuin 25thseason continues with “Dance Series 01”, the audience was treated to a program that included: Blue Until June by Trey McIntyre,works developed in Smuin’s Choreography Showcase:Merely Players by Nicole Haskins, Echo by Ben Needham-Wood, Sinfonietta by Rex Wheeler, and two works by Michael Smuin-Schubert Scherzoand The Eternal Idol.  What a perfect selection! Get to Mountain View as there are only three performances remaining. Tickets ($58-$76) are available by calling the individual venues (see below for details) or visit Smuin Ballet 

Smuin, Schubert Scherzo, Photo: Keith Sutter

The evening was filled with love and beauty that began with two works of Michael Smuin that demonstrated his brilliant choreography.  Set to Schubert Scherzo Schubert’s sprightly C-Major Symphony, this work from 2007 was the dance that was closest to classical ballet, but had a feeling of freedom and joy as the various couples dressed in white, changed partners in perfect harmony.

In The Eternal Idol, which was originally created for American Ballet Theatre in 1969, a sensuous pas de deux is set to the slow movement of Chopin’s F Minor Piano Concerto, as a man and woman emerge from a pose that looks very much like Rodin’s statue, “Love”, which was the inspiration for this work. If that statue could move, that deep sense of joy and connection with one’s partner would look very much like this incredibly beautiful and moving work.

Smuin, “Sinfonietta”, Photo: Keith Sutter

After intermission, the three works of current Smuin dancer/choreographers were presented. The Michael Smuin influence wove its way through the original and creative choreography. Sinfonietta from 2016 by former Smuin dancer Rex Wheeler was light and airy and the costumes were very effective.  

Smuin, “Echo”, Photo: Keith Sutter

The next work, Echo (formerly Reflection), also from 2016, was inspired by the Greek myth of Echo and Narcissus by Smuin dancer Ben Needham-Wood.  This was unusual and dramatic with two main dancers in white surrounded by others in black.

Smuin, “Merely Players”, Photo: Keith Sutter

Merely Players by Smuin dancer Nicole Haskins from 2016 was the final dance in this section and was charming. This was also lovely and loving. 

Smuin, “Blue Until June”, Photo:,Keith Sutter

One can certain understand why” acclaimed dancemaker” is used when referring to Trey McIntyre on his return to Smuin with Blue Until June, a thrilling tribute to Etta James.  This is a remarkable work in which the dancers who seemed very unballetic in street dress and often slumped positions wore toe shoes and demonstrated clearly ballet-based moves in very unique forms.  As each of the nine songs were introduced, I kept thinking this one is definitely the best and then it was the next one the was again definitely the best. The work was initially created for The Washington Ballet (2000) and set to the crooning vocals of Etta James.  This work allows for some creativity on the part of the performers and reminded me somewhat of the way jazz players, play off of one another.

Smuin, “Echo”, Photo: Keith Sutter

I think it is fair to say the audience left, with visions of human flight.  I certainly did.

Remaining performances:

7:30pm Friday, Feb. 22

2pm Saturday, Feb. 23

7:30pm Saturday, Feb. 23

2pm Sunday, Feb. 24

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