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Smuin Ballet to Present Helen Pickett Premiere and More in 'Dance Series Two'

Smuin Ballet concludes its 22nd Season with Dance Series Two featuring Oasis, a world premiere by acclaimed choreographer Helen Pickett, set to an original score by "House of Cards" composer Jeff Beal.

A lyrical and reverent ode to water, Pickett's powerful new work will be both timely and universal. The series also includes the highly anticipated return of Ji?í Kylián's Return to a Strange Land. The piece, set on six dancers, combines classical ballet and swiftly-changing geometric poses in a meditation on loss, healing, and hope, created as a tribute to Kylián's mentor John Cranko.

Also on the bill is Val Caniparoli's spirited Tutto Eccetto il Lavandino (everything but the kitchen sink), which marries his trademark style and physicality with the music of Antonio Vivaldi. Caniparoli's work celebrates the versatility of the Smuin dancers, blending high-energy athleticism with wit and elegance.

Dance Series Two will tour the Bay Area, beginning with shows in San Francisco (May 6-15), continuing in Walnut Creek (May 27-28), and San Mateo (June 3-4), and finishing up in Carmel (June 10-11). Tickets ($24-$73)* are available by calling the individual venues or visiting

For Dance Series Two, acclaimed choreographer Helen Pickett and "House of Cards" composer Jeff Beal join forces to create Oasis, a world premiere set to an original score. With this new piece, Pickett offers challenge and inspiration to dancers and audiences alike. A nearly 30-minute work in four parts, Oasis explores the concept of water in its many incarnations and implications, celebrating its abundance and its essential role in life. Pickett's work was last seen in San Francisco when Smuin Ballet presented her work "Petal," which received critical acclaim. Upon returning to rehearse with the Smuin Ballet dancers, Pickett notes, "They finish my movement 'sentences,' and I finish theirs." The Resident Choreographer for Atlanta Ballet, Pickett has set her works on companies around the world including Boston Ballet, Washington Ballet, Louisville Ballet, Ballet X, Royal Ballet of Flanders, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Semperoper/Dresden Ballet, Vienna State Opera, and Scottish Ballet, among many others.

Also on the bill is the highly anticipated return of Ji?í Kylián's Return to a Strange Land. According to Kylián, "The title Return to a Strange Land conveys the step from one form of existence into another. The substance, which bodies are made of, has always existed on the other side: the unconscious. To live is to become conscious. To die is to return to the other land: the strange land of one's origin." When Return to a Strange Land made its Bay Area premiere at Smuin Ballet in October of 2013, the San Francisco Chronicle called it "moving" and "impressive," and SF Classical Voice called it "a must-see!" The Artistic Director of Netherlands Dance Theatre (NDT) from 1975 to 1999, Kylián has created nearly 100 original works for NDT, Stuttgart Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, Swedish Television, Bayeriches Staatsballet Munchen, Tokyo Ballet, and more, while his ballets have been performed by more than 100 companies and schools worldwide.

Val Caniparoli's spirited Tutto Eccetto il Lavandino (everything but the kitchen sink) also returns. Of the ballet, which was introduced as a world premiere in spring of 2014 in honor of Smuin Ballet's 20th Anniversary season, the San Francisco Bay Guardian said that it "charmed because everything grew so clearly out of the music." The San Francisco Chronicle also noted "Those dancers aced the balletic rigors." Caniparoli has created a body of work that is rooted in classicism but influenced by all forms of movement: modern dance, ethnic dance, social dancing, and even ice skating. He has contributed to the repertoires of more than 45 dance companies, including Pacific Northwest Ballet, Boston Ballet, Northern Ballet Theatre, Pennsylvania Ballet, Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Ballet West (Resident Choreographer 1993-97), Washington Ballet, Israel Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Singapore Dance Theatre, Atlanta Ballet, State Theatre Ballet of South Africa, and Tulsa Ballet. Caniparoli is most closely associated with San Francisco Ballet, his artistic home for more than 40 years, where he began his career under the co-artistic directorship of Lew Christensen and Michael Smuin. He continues to choreograph for the company and perform as a principal character dancer. His ballet Swipe received its West Coast Premiere with Smuin Ballet in 2012.

Debuting in San Francisco in 1994, Smuin Ballet immediately established itself as one of the Bay Area's most eagerly watched performing arts companies of international acclaim, performing to sold-out houses on U.S. and European tours. The Company pushes the boundaries of contemporary ballet within a distinctly American style, combining classical ballet training, technique, and artistry with uncommon physicality and expression. Smuin offers audiences an experience of ballet that is entertaining, evocative, and original. 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 inception.

Since 2007, Artistic Director Celia Fushille's vision includes sustaining and increasing the Company's reputation for presenting compelling and innovative repertoire, as well as attracting new audiences to the medium. Smuin Ballet continues to showcase Michael Smuin's work, while enriching its impressive repertoire with contemporary choreographic voices, commissioning world premieres, and collaborating with inventive choreographers from around the world.

Photo Credit, right: Keith Sutter

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