By Terez Rose, 03 October 2016 A subtle rebranding has taken place at San Francisco’s Smuin Ballet, with the company’s moniker both shrinking, to simply “Smuin”, and expanding, to incorporate “Contemporary American” within its name. And in proper form, the season’s opening program, Dance Series 01, performed Saturday at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, […]
Smuin kicks off its 23rd season with the Bay Area tour of Dance Series 01 showcasing the diverse styles of this contemporary American ballet company. The program features Madness, Rack, and Honey, a world premiere by acclaimed choreographer Garrett Ammon. Also on the program is the West Coast’s first look at Stanton Welch‘s critically praised Indigo, which examines the vagaries of romantic relationships as four couples come together, fall in love, fight, and exchange partners. Rounding out the bill is the timely return of Michael Smuin‘s Stabat Mater, a powerful response to the events of 9/11. It is presented by Smuin in observance of the 15th anniversary of this most significant event of the new century, with a message of hope in the face of challenges.
Dance Series 01 will be presented September 23-24 at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek and September 29-October 2 at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. Season subscriptions ($147-$189) and tickets ($25-$68)* are available by calling the individual venues or visitingwww.smuinballet.org. (This program will also be presented in March 2017 in Mountain View and Carmel).
To launch the season, Garrett Ammon returns to San Francisco to create a world premiere on the Smuin dancers. Titled Madness, Rack, and Honey, the piece will be set to Mozart’s “Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra.” Ammon was last seen with Smuin when the company presented the 2014 West Coast premiere of his daring new interpretation of Serenade for Strings, which the San Francisco Chronicledescribed as “Playful. Exciting. The whole cast danced it vibrantly and flawlessly.” Ammon draws the title of his new piece from a collection by poet Mary Ruefle, a finalist for the National Books Critics Circle Award. Described as “one of the wisest books I’ve read in years” by The New York Times Book Review, and “Profound, unpredictable, charming and outright funny” by Publishers Weekly, the book recreates a series of lectures given to graduate students by the multi-award-winning, wildly original Ruefle. The meshing of Mozart’s classic score with Ammon’s contemporary and adventurous movements is expected to dazzle and delight.
A prolific dance maker, serial collaborator, and self-professed tech geek, Ammon has created some 60 dance works over the past 16 years. Artistic Director of Denver’s Wonderbound since 2007, he has conspired with artists across an array of disciplines and developed a trademark aesthetic that blends tradition with adventurous new ideas. Ammon’s works include collaborations with poet Michael J. Henry, painter/sculptor Mark Allen Henderson, singer/songwriter Jesse Manley, textile artist Theresa Clowes, photographer Amanda Tipton, illusionist and mentalist Professor Phelyx, and perfumist Michelle Roark, as well as Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado, Central City Opera, Colorado Symphony, Curious Theatre Company, Lighthouse Writers Workshop, Mizel Arts & Culture Center, and Newman Center Presents. He has been recognized for his work as both an artist and leader through a Denver Mayor’s Award for Excellence in Arts & Culture, and a 2015 Legends of Dance in Colorado Award. As a dancer, Ammon was a member of Houston Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theatre, Ballet Memphis, and Trey McIntyre Project where he toured to Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Vail International Dance Festival, HIDC’s Dance Salad, and Wolf Trap.
Smuin’s Dance Series 01 program will also present the West Coast premiere of internationally-acclaimed choreographer Stanton Welch‘sIndigo, a work that follows four couples through love, break-ups, and re-connections. Set to Antonio Vivaldi’s Cello Concerto in B minorand Cello Concerto in G minor, Indigo is a spectacular showcase for the technique, strength, and athleticism of Smuin’s dancers. Indigo has received high praise from critics, including the Houston Chronicle, which called the work “sleek and stunning. A warp-speed deconstruction of classical ballet movements, matched to virtually every beat of two cello concertos by Antonio Vivaldi. Indigo fairly crackled with sensuous energy.”
Since 2003, Welch has been Artistic Director of Houston Ballet, America’s fourth largest ballet company, where he has produced more than 25 works including new versions of Swan Lake, La Bayadère, and The Rite of Spring, as well as original ballets. Welch is the son of Australian ballet legends Marilyn Jones, O.B.E., and Garth Welch, A.M. Last year he was awarded the prestigious “Order of Australia” (A.M.) for his significant contributions to the world of dance, an honor bestowed on Australian citizens for meritorious service. He also has roots in San Francisco; in 1986 he began his training at the late age of seventeen, quickly winning a scholarship to San Francisco Ballet School. In 1989 he was engaged as a dancer with The Australian Ballet, where he rose to the rank of leading soloist, performing principal roles and working with world famed choreographers such as Ji?í Kylían, Nacho Duato, and Maurice Béjart. He was later named resident choreographer of The Australian Ballet where he created a number of important works before the age of 30, including major productions of Madame Butterfly,Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. His Madame Butterfly has become a signature work internationally, and is in the repertoires of Houston Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, Atlanta Ballet, Singapore Dance Theatre, and Boston Ballet. Welch has received numerous commissions from the world’s leading companies, including San Francisco Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, Colorado Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Tulsa Ballet, Texas Ballet Theater, The Royal Ballet School, Singapore Dance Theatre, Royal New Zealand Ballet, and NY Ballet.
Rounding out the program is Michael Smuin‘s acclaimed Stabat Mater, a powerful response to the events of 9/11, which was called “one of the most beautiful ballets of the choreographer’s career” by the San Francisco Chronicle. Critical Dance also noted “Smuin’s choreography couldn’t better represent such powerful music, and the dancers carry it out spectacularly.” It is presented by Smuin in observance of the 15thanniversary of this most significant event of the new century, with a message of hope in the face of challenges. The ballet is set to composer Antonín Dvo?ak’s same-titled work, which was composed shortly after the death of his infant daughter and based on the sorrowful 13th century Catholic hymn “Stabat Mater Dolorosa.” Smuin’s ballet, which premiered in 2002, is comprised of ensemble work as well as duets that embody the crippling loss of a loved one and ultimately give affirmation to the perseverance of the human spirit.
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.