Category Archive for: ‘Woody Weingarten’

Smuin ballet troupe’s ‘Requiem’ look at romance is amazing

The Smuin ballet company’s “Requiem for a Rose” looks at love and loss. Photo by Keith Sutter.

Smuin dancers Erin Yarbrough-Powell and Robert Kretz are featured in the ballet troupe’s Sinatra tribute, “Fly Me to the Moon.” Photo by Keith Sutter.

“Serenade for Strings” spotlights Erica Felsch and the Smuin ballet company men. Photo by Keith Sutter.

During the intermission following “Requiem for a Rose,” a ballet-goer raced over to Celia Fushille, the Smuin troupe’s artistic director, in the Palace of Fine Arts lobby and gushed: “Oh My God, that was amazing.”

The fan was no sycophant.

She was simply, in my measured opinion, being accurate.

The ballet choreographed by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa to Franz Schubert’s adagio from “String Quintet in C major” is extraordinarily fiery, passionate and a perfect allegory for the descent of frenzied, fleeting romance into the oft thorniness of less exciting but deeper, lasting love.

Soloist Erica Felsch, rose clenched in teeth and clad in white leotard that strikingly contrasted with lengthy golden tresses tinged with bright red, was a moving symbol of the transformation.

But the West Coast premiere also focused on four duets and one quartet under multi-hued spotlights and accompanied by bursts of electronic strains, with bare-torsoed male Smuin dancers wearing bright red kilt-like skirts while the females donned similar bottoms and flesh-colored shirts that intentionally gave an illusion of toplessness.

Amazing, yes!

And worthy of my using an extremely rare exclamation mark.

Lopez Ochoa, a rare female choreographer with roots in both Colombia and Belgium, had debuted the unconventional requiem in 2009 with the Pennsylvania Ballet.

She gleefully took a well-deserved bow opening night at the Palace along with the smiling, smooth Smuin dancers.

The excitement had been palpable and a fascinating comparison with the sprightly but unadventurous reprise of “Serenade for Strings,” a Garrett Ammon classically choreographed production featuring five couples that’s superimposed on Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky’s composition of the same name — the opening offering of the Smuin company’s three-piece, two-hour performance under the rubric “Dance Series 01.”

The final piece, “Fly Me to the Moon,” a crowd-pleaser that I’d enjoyed when it premiered in the same Palace of Fine Arts venue in 2004, was pleasantly nostalgic.

That nine-part exercise in pop had been choreographed by the troupe’s founder, Michael Smuin, and utilized the voice of crooner Frank Sinatra on such chartbusters as the bouncy “That’s Life,” a Ben Needham-Wood solo; “The Lady Is a Tramp,” a jazzy jaunt; “I Won’t Dance,” playfully comic; the rousing finale (“New York, New York”); and the wistful title tune.

Replete with male dancers in clothing that looked like it sprang from a GQ magazine layout in the ‘50s — and women in poofy dresses accented with what appeared to be several tons of sequins and rhinestones.

Plus retro fedoras, fedoras and fedoras as props.

The Smuin troupe, which apparently wears out 200 pairs of pointe shoes each year, debuted in San Francisco in 1994. Since then, it’s drawn more than 30,000 satisfied customers every season.

I’m happy to be one of them.

Smuin Ballet’s “Dance Series 01” will continue at the Palace of Fine Arts, 3301 Lyon St., San Francisco, through Oct. 7, then be reprised at the Mountain View Center for the Arts from Feb. 22 through 25 and the Sunset Center in Carmel March 23 and 24. S.F. tickets: $25 to $79. Information: www.smuinballet.org or 415-912-1899. 

Contact Woody Weingarten at voodee@sbcglobal.net or at www.vitalitypress.com

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