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California Literary Review

5 Questions with Choreographer Val Caniparoli (Part 2)

5 Questions with Choreographer Val Caniparoli (Part 2) 1


5 Questions with Choreographer Val Caniparoli (Part 2)

Choreographer Val Caniparoli

Val Caniparoli
Photo by Chris Hardy

The following is the second part of my interview with noted choreographer Val Caniparol, which focuses on this weekend’s Smuin Ballet premiere of Swipe.

A highly-technical piece for four men and three women, Swipe is set to a remix of London composer Gabriel Prokofiev’s String Quartet No. 2. A classically-trained composer known for electro club and hip-hop music, Prokofiev’s music compliments the pulsing energy of Caniparoli’s choreography, as well as the choreographer’s penchant for mixing classical and contemporary styles. Also on the program is Michael Smuin’s full-company work Symphony of Psalms, set to Stravinsky’s score. A world premiere by choreographer Ma Cong rounds out the bill.

California Literary Review: Do you visit a dance company to assess its capabilities before you take on a project — especially the creation of a new ballet?

Val Caniparoli: I usually do assess a dance company, especially if I’ve never seen them before or it’s been a while since I’ve seen them. It’s always good to try and schedule time when the company is performing, as you get a better sense of individual dancers and how they perform onstage. You can’t always know if and how a dancer transforms onstage as opposed to how they work in the rehearsal studio.

The premiere of Swipe you are doing for Smuin Ballet’s spring program appears to have some incredibly tricky timing and direction shifts. How do you explain some of these more counterintuitive aspects to the dancers?

Swipe was originally created for the Richmond Ballet, a company I have worked with for over 12 years. They are very familiar with me and my way of working. Hence, I am always able to pull out all the stops and challenge them; some of my trickiest and most interesting work has been created for this company. Smuin Ballet Artistic and Executive Director Celia Fushille saw Swipe on DVD and immediately felt it was right for the company — she wanted to challenge them as well.

Smuin Ballet is a good-sized company. Will the scope of Swipe use most of the dancers? For solo and featured parts, will they be double-cast?

Swipe is for four men and three women. Each member is featured at some point and given their moment to shine. At this time, I have almost three complete casts learning the ballet.

Lambarena is one of your most popular works, and I’m sure that many more dance companies want to include it in their repertoire. How do you decide who gets to perform this ballet?

Lambarena is often requested. If a company hasn’t performed a work of mine, I usually require them to perform another work prior to booking Lambarena. I want the dancers to first be familiar with my style before plunging into it, as Lambarena is very specialized with my way of working and with the blending of classical and African dance. It is a difficult ballet to pull off stylistically.

You have had success with your full-length ballets Lady of the Camellias and A Cinderella Story. Will the Bay Area get to see them any time soon? Do you have any new full-length ballets in your plans?

Unfortunately, at this point there are no plans for either to be seen in the Bay Area. As for new full-length works –– I’m always looking for ideas for the future. At this point, there are some possibilities. I’m always up for suggestions from anyone on this, as well.


Smuin Ballet Spring Program: April 27th to May 6th, 2012, at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and through May 27, 2012, around the Bay Area. Call 415.912.1899 for tickets and information or purchase online.

Former dancer, Geri Jeter, has been editing and writing for over fifteen years, writing on dance, food, music, NASCAR, technical theater, and Italian-American culture. For the past five years, she was the dance critic for the Las Vegas Weekly; in 2007 Nevada Ballet Theatre presented her with the Above and Beyond award. Now living in San Francisco, Geri is excited about covering the entire scope of West Coast dance. You can read more of her dance writing at her blog Dance Blitz ( and follow her Las Vegas and San Francisco restaurant reviews at DishKebab (

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