COURTESY OF ELISSA JOSEPHSOHN
Michael Smuin's ballet company performs to music by Frank Sinatra and Ira Gershwin.
To the moon!
The Smuin Ballet merges the classical with the contemporary
For those intimidated by classical ballet, this weekend's performance by the Smuin Ballet offers a more comfortable approach.
Place: Blaisdell Concert Hall
Time: 8 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $25, $35 and $45, with $10 discounts for students, seniors and military, available at Blaisdell Box Office and Ticketmaster outlets.
Call: (877) 750-4400 or visit www.ticketmaster.com
You'll see the fancy feet of what Dance Magazine calls "one of this country's most entertaining, original ballet troupes," stepping to the familiar tunes of Frank Sinatra and George Gershwin in a merger of the vocabularies of classical ballet with contemporary dance forms.
Michael Smuin, artistic director and founder of the ballet company and a former resident of Poipu, Kauai, said he's excited to be coming home with a program of such popular appeal.
In a telephone interview, Smuin called Sinatra "an American icon and the best saloon singer ever."
Smuin's one-act ballet, "Fly Me to the Moon," is set to nine Sinatra tunes -- smooth and stylish melodies that have inspired generations, including "The Way You Look Tonight," "That's Life" and "New York, New York."
"All of Sinatra's songs beg to be danced to," Smuin said.
Also on the program is "Dancin' to Gershwin," comprising 10 Gershwin standards -- among them "They Can't Take That Away From Me," "Summertime" and "The Man I Love," as sung by talents such as Michael Feinstein, Lena Horne and Marilyn Monroe.
The San Francisco-based dance company was founded in 1994, when Smuin was asked to put something together for a benefit concert for arts education in Bay-area schools. He wasn't interested in starting a company, but after 6 1/2 weeks of sold-out performances, he realized he had one anyway -- and he has created ballets and developed an audience for Smuin Ballet ever since.
COURTESY OF ELISSA JOSEPHSOHN
Smuin was a principal dancer and resident choreographer for American Ballet Theatre and was chosen to direct ABT's 50th Anniversary Gala. He moved to the Bay area in 1973 as artistic director of the San Francisco Ballet and for 12 years was instrumental in taking that company into an international realm. By the end of his tenure, San Francisco Ballet's season included Honolulu, where the troupe would present the classics as well as repertory programs.
Among the challenges Smuin faced in going from ringmaster of a company of 60 members to one with just 16 was learning to choreograph for a more intimate setting and audience. He said he went from "producing ballets on the Opera House stage, where you needed to create murals, to becoming a miniaturist."
He's found that the format of a boutique company is "more immediate and satisfying."
Smuin has also worked on Broadway, with credits for "Sophisticated Ladies" (a Tony Award nominee), "Anything Goes" (a Tony winner for choreography), "Shogun" and "Canciones de Mi Padre." His feature film credits include "Cotton Club," "Star Wars: Phantom Menace" and "The Fantasticks"; his television credits, "Ira Gershwin at 100: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall." He's also won Emmy Awards for "Romeo and Juliet," "The Tempest" and "A Song for Dead Warriors."
It has been a storied career, and Smuin finds himself exactly where he wants to be, with no plans to return to Broadway. "With ballet, there is a life to the dance after me, and that is a satisfying feeling."