Smuin Ballet has adopted the tagline “Beyond Ballet.” While it is true that the company’s dances run beyond the Romantic or classical style the word ballet generally calls to mind, much of the work is executed using traditional ballet vocabulary and all of it is performed by thoroughly trained classical dancers. Indeed, it is this that sets the late Michael Smuin’s 18-year-old troupe apart from many “contemporary ballet” companies.
Eschewing the genre-related muddle and sloppy execution of some contemporary troupes, Smuin Ballet succeeds time and again in presenting technically demanding work of choreographic and stylistic novelty set to inventive musical choices. The classical vocabulary finds itself reinterpreted to create something entirely new.
It is instructive too that the company that bears his name continues to forge ahead artistically with the drive and tenacity for which Smuin himself was well known. Smuin Ballet routinely performs its founder’s beloved dances even as it develops ongoing relationships with some of ballet’s freshest choreographic talent.
The company’s Spring 2012 season includes a world premiere by one such dance maker. Ma Cong‘s French Twist was an audience favorite in 2010. He intends his new ballet, Through, to convey “the feeling and emotion of human relationships.” The piece depicts the ways in which human spirits interact and react, as life paths intersect. Through, danced on pointe, incorporates modern and organic movement. Its shifting moods and music convey a romantic immediacy that is inescapable and profound. Also on the program is Val Caniparoli’s Swipe, set to music by Sergei Prokofiev’s grandson, Gabriel Prokofiev, best known for his electronic club and hip-hop compositions. Michael Smuin’s Symphony of Psalms, danced to the Stravinsky work of the same name, is admired for its variety and visual impact.
Smuin Ballet’s spring program runs through May 6 at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. The same program will be presented at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek May 18 and 19 and at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts May 23 through May 27.