Smuin Ballet

 Smuin Contemporary Ballet
Lesher Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek
September 22, 2018 2pm

Retrospective and Recent

The Smuin Contemporary Ballet Company, under the leadership of Celia Fuschile, artistic director, has launched its 2018-2019 season with ballets old and new. Smuin’s works are represented with “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 is a romantic duet for Erica Flesh and Peter Kurtz. With Rodin’s “Kiss” as the featured image, the work continues through a series of slow embraces and intimate lifts. It is sensually pleasing but for this reviewer, a little dull.

Sinfonitetta” to Tschaikovsky’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: Peter Kurta was the subjugated Narcissus.

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

The big new work, “Blue Until June” by Trey McIntyre (whose recent work was seen last spring at the SF Ballet), is set to songs by Etta James. The nine songs all give 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 is 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 Fuschile. Smuin was well honored.

Smuin Ballet plans a Xmas Ballet in November and a Dance Series 02 in May.

Joanna G. Harris

Photo follows