By Kristy and Dick Christensen
SMUIN THE CHRISTMAS BALLET certainly started off the holiday season with a force! Performances on November 16, 17th took place at the Lesher Center for the Arts, the Premier Arts Destination of Contra Costa County across the Bay from San Francisco.
I must admit that I didn’t feel the holiday spirit at all because of the dreadful fire tragedies in California and the gloomy dark prevailing smoke that have created hazardous air pollution. Many of us in the audience entered wearing masks which most people removed in the theater’s safe air conditioning. Although I have volunteered for many years at the Lesher Center for the Arts; I somehow missed the Smuin Ballet. Seeing them was a delightful surprise, and I am pleased to become acquainted with the Smuin Contemporary Ballet Company.
Act 1 CLASSICAL
Our initial impression was of wonder that the dancers could flawlessly perform and dance off the stage as the next set was dancing on to the stage. There were 14 different dances. AVE MARIA passionately danced by Erin Yarbrough-Powell, which was beautiful. Another moving classic was FOR UNTO US A CHILD IS BORN danced by Erin Yarbrough-Powell and Mattia Pallozzi with the Company. GOD REST YE MERRY GENTLEMEN, a World Premiere performance, was choreographed by Rex Wheeler. THE GLOUCESTERSHIRE WASSAIL featured very captivating Irish syncopation and rhythm making us all want to River Dance.
Act 11 COOL CHRISTMAS
We were very impressed with the extremely clever staging- especially the CHRISTMAS ISLAND set, portraying surfing and dancing on the boards in the water and watching a shark do its “swim by “. CHRISTMAS TREE ROCK had a dancing lighted Christmas Tree (somewhat resembling the Stanford University Band’s much less skillful mascot tree). THE DRUMMER BOY danced by Ian Buchanan with two sparkly sticks twirling absolutely amazed me. His lines and twirling in all the poses of a drummer dancer were perfection. Also featured was Eartha Kitt ‘s sultry song SANTA BABY danced and purred by Terez Dean Orr. Michael Smuin had added this holiday song with a sexy twist and a very long boa prop to his novel holiday show. It has remained every ones ‘ favorite including my husband. Nearing the end of the evening I noticed umbrellas popping up and I thought people were leaving. However, the Classic last performance by the company was WHITE CHRISTMAS! The stage was glistening with huge snowflakes and lovely white paper snow that reached literally all the way into the audience delighting all the children.
This 25th year production centers around Michael Smuin, his chorography and his contemporary movements, which led to his own dance company. Who was this man who is revered today? He was born October 1938 in Missoula, Montana and died April 2007 of a heart attack in his studio at age 68.. He was an accomplished dancer, chorographer, set and stage designer, and promoter of contemporary ballet with American style and different disciplines of dance. Watching this performance one can recognize certain movements and the fluid and sharp lines he had created.
It was truly 1 hour 55 minutes of pure enchantment. The program is celebrating 25 silver years of classical ballet honoring the founder Michael Smuin’s choreography and creativity in making ballet appeal to many people. I found this audience to be totally absorbed in this delightful holiday program. We left the auditorium happy and more spirited and lighthearted wanting to see more performances by Smuin Contemporary Ballet.
For additional information and tickets go to the Smuin Ballet website