Smuin Ballet, as part of its opening program for the 2012–2013 season, is presenting the West Coast premiere of Cold Virtues by the exciting young choreographer Adam Hougland. Popular with audience and critics alike, the work is set to Philip Glass’s haunting Violin Concerto and features fourteen dancers, whirling and leaping against a mesmerizing backdrop of spinning fans. The Louisville Courier-Journal described the ballet as “beautifully bleak, honest in unflinching fashion.”
There are a few privileges that come with the role of dance critic. One that is not so obvious, but very gratifying, is watching companies start, develop, and come into their own. If you remain in one locale long enough, you see large companies grow more magisterial, and small ones pop up on the horizon, fall away, or survive and aggregate dancers, repertoire, audiences, endowment, and heft.
The ballet consists of two parts. The first half, “The Classical Christmas,” is devoted to traditional ballet with classical Christmas music, including liturgical works. In the second half, “The Cool Christmas,” pointe shoes are out, stilettos and tap shoes are in, and the music shifts from Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic to Lou Rawls, Eartha Kitt, and Leon Redbone.
In “The Classical Christmas,” the big standout for me this year was the simplest. There is something timeless and charming about the minimalist line dance by the company women to “Veni, Veni, Emmanuel.” It reminds us that dance does not always need to be tricky and complicated to be wonderful. Oh, there were masses of tricky solos and partner work, to be sure, but the sheer loveliness of this dance will linger in memory far longer than fancy footwork.
Val Caniparoli is a busy guy these days. In San Francisco alone, he is rehearsing Smuin Ballet’s company premiere of his edgy and challenging Swipe for the company’s spring program and preparing the Diablo Ballet world premiere of Tears from Above. In addition, he is Principal Character Dancer at San […]
The spotlight for this season opener is the world premiere of Dear Miss Cline by Choreographer-in-Residence Amy Seiwert, which she has described as her most “Smuin-esque” piece to date. Set to ten classic Patsy Cline recordings, it is a sometimes comic, often touching, exploration of interpersonal relationships. The company has a real winner with this ballet. A big plus were the cheerful costumes by Jo Ellen Arntz (with Amy Seiwert). They captured the period of the late 1950s/early 1960s without descending into cliché-ridden “Hee Haw” country kitsch.
It is wonderful to be dancing in an ensemble again. The company is tremendously talented, and we all feed off each other’s energy and abilities. The familial atmosphere works. All the dancers seek to make their fellow company members look their best. There is a sense of common good — a sense of community.