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Right on Pointe

A local ballet troupe continues to delight, going beyond tutus and the traditional.

Madness, Rack, and Honey

Rex Wheeler and Terez Dean in Madness, Rack, and Honey, a new work by Garrett Ammon, presented as part of Smuin’s Dance Series 01.

 

Smuin, the San Francisco-based contemporary dance company founded by Michael Smuin, is known for reveling in nonconformity and stretching the boundaries of classical dance. A Smuin performance is brazen, sassy, provocative and elegant, with a hint of the unexpected—bringing storytelling to a new and exhilarating level. Its latest production, Dance Series 01, is no exception. Pulling together three distinct ballets—Indigo, Stabat Mater and Madness, Rack, and Honey—it “represents a wide range of chorographical styles and takes the viewer through a range of emotions,” says Artistic Director Celia Fushille.

The first piece, Indigo, choreographed by Stanton Welch and accompanied by Vivaldi’s score, tells the story of four couples who love, fight and switch partners. According to Fushille, this ballet is “the biggest technical challenge for the dancers and requires supreme classical precision.” The lower body operates with extreme exactitude while the upper body showcases whimsical movements. “This is a technically difficult piece to dance, but it is so rewarding and satisfying,” says senior Smuin company member and featured dancer Erin Yarbrough-Powell. “It’s a real accomplishment to successfully complete.”

The second ballet in the program is the late choreographer Smuin’s Stabat Mater, set to Dvořák’s work of the same name and created in response to the grief of 9/11. Fushille included Stabat Mater to honor the tragedy’s recent 15th anniversary, but adds that in today’s world, she anticipates that the ballet will speak to people in a new way. “Now, more than ever,” she explains, “we need to find commonalities—and art can unite people.”

Madness, Rack, and Honey, the third and final selection, is a new work choreographed by creative young talent Garrett Ammon, with music by Mozart. Yarbrough-Powell describes this ballet as “athletic and quirky.” Indeed, it is a wild, chaotic celebration of the process of artistic creation—the folly and torture of it, but also the sweetness. Its light playfulness is the perfect follow-up to the somber elegance of Stabat Mater.

While Dance Series 01 debuted in Walnut Creek last fall, its remaining performances are scheduled for Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts (March 2-5, tickets $56-$72, 500 Castro St.) and Carmel’s Sunset Center (March 24-25, tickets $57-$73, San Carlos Street, between 8th and 10th Avenues). Fushille is hopeful that the production will inspire the audience. “This is a lovely introduction for people who aren’t sure they like dance,” she says. “This is not a strict tutu thing at all! There’s something here for everyone.”

 

Originally published in the March/April issue of Silicon Valley

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