Smuin Ballet, Palace of Fine Arts, Celebrating Twenty Years

20 Oct

Choreographers Amy Seiwart, Jiri Kylian and Michael Smuin provided three works for this twentieth year inaugural program of Smuin Ballet. Translated emotionally it was adroit folksy, spare elegy and adroit sensuality.

But first, it was evident that Robin Cornwell had left the troupe as well as Jonathan Magonsing, both intrinsic movers, at home in their bodies, the classical technique having honed a natural pleasing sensuality. I remember Lew Christensen once remarking “ Michel Fokine taught me that it is the transitions that make the dancing,” and both dancers were gifted with that quality. Fortunately, two experienced newcomers, Pauli Magierek and Eduardo Permuy, have joined the ranks of Smuin Ballet’s eighteen dancers.

Amy Seiwert’s Dear Miss Cline traces the mood and words of nine songs sung by Patsy Cline,a work premiered on a spring program at Yerba Buena Center’s Theater. Seiwert and Jo Ellen Arntz collaborated on the costumes, set off before a visual and lighting design by Brian Jones, outlines of doors and windows against a butterscotch pudding-hued scrim. Erin Yarborough was featured prominently in “Tra le la le la Triangle” with Weston Krukow and Christian Squires and again with Krukow in “Pick Me Up On Your Way Down.” Nicole Haskins made a nice impression in “She’s Got You,” originally danced by Susan Roemer, losing Joshua Reynolds, Jonathan Dummar and Aidan de Young. As with these numbers the overall tone was light, perky, occasionally a tad ironic, well handled by the dancers.

Jiri Kylian’s Return to a Strange Land was premiered by Stuttgart Ballet May 17, 1975 in tribute to John Cranko, Stuttgart’s artistic director who died en route from New York to Germany. Kylian was responsible for the lighting concept, costumes, the set in addition to the choreography for just six dancers, appearing as trio, pas de deux, pas de deux and trio format to Leon Janacek’s Sonata October 1, 1905.

Kylian’s patterns move smoothly, seemingly seamless, ending almost abruptly, a conversation swifly terminated, important content conveyed succinctly, adornment absent. Eduardo Permuy, Ben Needham-Wood and Joshua Reynolds, stripped to the waist, wearing lightly dyed leotards, conveyed this in understated though clearly classical ballet vocabulary. Jane Rehm and Terez Dean danced with sincerity but seemed shy of a necessary edge or pause to the finish of their arabesques. Somehow I expected more subject crystal, melancholy tones in execution. Conveyed seamlessly and fast, so rapidly I wanted to call out, “Please do it again so that I can check what I saw.”

Carmina Burana
has invited several choreographic versions; some I have seen, others I have only heard about; Michael Smuin’s boasts a spectacular commencement and a repeat finale finale. I had the good fortune to see Pauli Magierek in the central female role, joining the company after attaining soloist status with San Francisco Ballet. Magierek’s maturity, dramatic qualities and ability to sustain motion and sculpt a movement reminded me how interesting she is to watch. She would be spectacular in Smuin’s Medea.

Smuin’s Burana opener and closer has the woman, here Magierek, supported by the feet of the men, raising and lowering her to the explosive chorus and the beat of the music, the women circling the men, making one wonder whether the elevated figure is worshiped or being prepared for sacrifice. This central role provided two solos and a pas de deux with Eduardo Permuy, who proved to be an effective partner, both complementing each other.

Smuin Ballet programs a decent balance, which keeps the entertainment aspect of some dance lovers happy and coaxing the serious with at least one absorbing offer in their mixed bills. The adrooitness keeps audiences coming.

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