Smuin Ballet to Open Season with UNTAMED Dance Series, 10/3-11

Smuin Ballet will kick off its 21st Season in October at San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts Theatre with its Untamed Dance Series. The program features the West Coast premiere of Serenade for Strings by Wonderbound (formerly Ballet Nouveau Colorado) Artistic Director and choreographer Garrett Ammon, set to Tchaikovsky's breathtaking score. Also on the Untamed bill is Objects of Curiosity, an evocative ballet by Choreographer-in-Residence Amy Seiwert, set to a delicate score by Philip Glass and Foday Musa Suso. Smuin Ballet also brings back the tempestuous story ballet Frankie & Johnny. (NOTE: this ballet contains material that is intended for mature audiences.) The Untamed Dance Series plays October 3-11 at San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts Theatre. Tickets ($24-$67) are available at or (415) 912-1899. (This program will also be presented in March 2015 in Walnut Creek, Mountain View, and Carmel).

Serenade for Strings opens the Untamed Dance Series. Premiered by Ballet Nouveau Colorado in 2013 as part of a collaborative evening entitled Perpetual Beauty, Serenade for Strings uses movement to reflect the intensity and precision evident in Tchaikovsky's composition. A prolific dance maker, serial collaborator, and self-professed tech geek, Ammon has created more than 40 dance works over the past fourteen years. He has conspired with artists across an array of disciplines and developed a trademark aesthetic that blends tradition with adventurous new ideas. Ammon's works include collaborations with poet Michael J. Henry, painter/sculptor Mark Allen Henderson, singer/songwriter Jesse Manley, textile artist Theresa Clowes and cellist James Bailey. He also worked closely with director Chip Walton to create Curious Theatre Company's award-winning production of Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice (2009). Most recently, Ammon worked with digital artist Kristopher Collins to create the multimedia experience Love in the Digital Age (2012); Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado to produce A Dangerous Liaison (2012); and Central City Opera, The Colorado Symphony, Newman Center Presents, Mizel Arts & Culture Center and composer Ofer Ben-Amots to produce A Journey of the Human Spirit (2013).

Given its World Premiere in 2007 by Smuin Ballet, Objects of Curiosity examines the tensions between desire and restraint, mirroring the tension of the music in an exploration of shape and form. Born in Gambia in 1950, Foday Musa Suso, the score's composer, is a traditional West African Griot or Jali (an oral historian, storyteller and musician) and a master of the kora, the 21-string traditional African harp. He relocated to Chicago in 1977 and has since collaborated with dozens of musicians including Philip Glass, creating dreamy tuneful works. A former Smuin dancer, Seiwert has been choreographing since 1999 and has won numerous awards and critical accolades. Bay Area Reporter declares her to be "the most talented and prolific young choreographer working from a ballet base around here" and the San Francisco Chronicle has called her "sharply innovative" and "one of the country's most exciting young dance makers." Her work is in the repertory of Smuin Ballet, Sacramento Ballet, American Repertory Ballet, and Carolina Ballet, as well as, Robert Moses KIN and Ballet Austin.

For this series, Smuin Ballet brings back the passionate story ballet Frankie & Johnny. In this sinister Latin saga, Michael Smuin combined authentic Mambo with traditional ballet to tell the story of Frankie and her faithless lover, Johnny. Accompanied by music from some of the biggest names in Latin and Mambo music, Frankie's desires run wild in a dance that melds American Jazz idiom and Smuin's trademark storytelling in a piece Michael Smuin dedicated to the legendary dancer/choreographer Gene Kelly. (NOTE: this ballet contains material that is intended for mature audiences.)

Debuting in San Francisco in March 1994, Smuin Ballet immediately established itself "one of this country's most entertaining, original ballet troupes" (Dance Magazine), and as a dance company of international acclaim. Michael Smuin's singular philosophy to create pieces which merge the diverse vocabularies of classical ballet and contemporary dance has served as the company's touchstone since its beginning.

Now at the helm of Smuin Ballet is Artistic Director Celia Fushille, whose vision includes maintaining and increasing the company's reputation for presenting compelling and innovative repertoire, attracting new audiences of all ages to the medium. The company has continued to highlight works created by Smuin, both for his own and for other ballet companies, but Fushille also enriches its impressive repertoire with newer choreographic voices, bringing the Bay Area its first look at works by exciting choreographers from around the world, as well as developing world premieres by company members.

Photo credit: Matthew Felton

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