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Smuin Announces New Virtual Classes, Backstage Tutorials and More

Smuin Contemporary Ballet announces the expansion of its hit Virtual Class Program, featuring a brand new schedule packed with exclusive behind-the-scenes tutorials, lessons in all-new styles including tap/soft-shoe, and expanded offerings of its most popular classes. Smuin’s “pay if and what you can” Virtual Classes taught by its professional artists provide dancers of all levels—beginner, intermediate, and advanced—with the opportunity to participate in Zoom-based drop-in lessons in ballet, contemporary, hip-hop, jazz, musical theater, and even a dance sampler with something for everyone. “I reconnected with my body. That’s a polite way of saying it hurt—not injured hurt, but wake-up-muscles-you-don’t-use-bingeing-TV hurt,” wrote Tony Bravo of the San Francisco Chronicle. Now audiences including non-dancers can join in the fun with the newly minted Choreography, Technique, and Backstage with Smuin Workshops—featuring exciting tutorials for stage make-up, costume-making, and more. In addition to the “pay if and what you can” offerings, Smuin introduces brand new Semi-Private Lessons in Beginning and Intermediate Ballet, the first of its kind in the virtual dance world. Launched April 13, Smuin’s Virtual Class Program, with classes originally scheduled to end May 10, have been attracting hundreds of participants per week, and will now be extended through June 7 (see new schedule below). For more information or to register, the public may visit

Aspiring, retired, and professional dancers can continue to “dance like no one is watching” with the extension of Smuin’s Virtual Classes through June 7. Popular beginner-level ballet classes have now been expanded to seven days a week, and dance styles such as Tap, Jazz, and Pointe have been added to the schedule. More additions include Stretch & Strengthen, a Pilates-based, full body stretching class to augment any style of dance for all levels of experience, and Fri-Yay! Dance Break classes for all ages to get moving. New to the virtual dance scene are Smuin’s Semi-Private Lessons, the first of its kind being offered. These fee-based classes are open to four dancers maximum per class, students receive individualized attention and feedback to help them reach their training goals. Smuin’s new Choreography and Technique Workshops will provide audiences with opportunities to learn dance-making tools from Emmy Award-winning choreographer Ben Needham-Wood, pick up pointe shoe hacks from Smuin’s company dancers, and more; while non-dancers can get involved with Backstage with Smuin Workshops, featuring enlightening tutorials in stage make-up, acting, and costume-making.

Ballet Classes

Now offering five levels of ballet taught by current and former Smuin company dancers, classes are available for newbies to professionals. Due to popular demand, some classes have been expanded by 15 minutes to allow for more dancing. Students are still welcome to participate for an hour only.

Absolute Beginner Ballet - NEW!
Mon 12pm, Wed 4:30pm, Fri 3pm
Teachers: Tess Lane, Brennan Wall, Ian Buchanan
First-timers can join Smuin company dancers from the comfort of their home as they take students through the fundamentals of a beginner Ballet course. For best progression, a minimum of two classes per week is recommended.

Beginning Adult Ballet
Tues/Thurs 12pm, Sat/Sun 11:30am
Teachers: Tess Lane, Ian Buchanan
Adults who have always wanted to try a Ballet class can join Smuin artists for fun and approachable classes which will guide students through the fundamentals, and continue to build on work from previous sessions. Newcomers may want to supplement with Absolute Beginner Ballet. For best progression, a minimum of two classes per week is recommended.

Beginning/Intermediate Adult Ballet
Mon/Wed/Fri 10am
Teacher: Valerie Harmon
These classes are geared toward adult dancers with some prior dance experience. Those looking for a greater challenge than beginner-level classes can sign up for this class, which focuses on fundamental Ballet technique through barre work followed by a short (small space) center practice.

Pointe & Therabands - NEW!
Tues 4pm, Sun 11:30am
Teacher: Maggie Carey, Tessa Barbour
Team taught by company dancers Maggie and Tessa, classes will begin with strengthening and stabilizing exercises followed by pointe work, structured to safely continue pointe training at home. This class is for dancers 13 years and older with at least two years of previous pointe training and will require use of a Theraband or similar exercise band.

Intermediate Adult Ballet
Mon/Wed 6pm, Sat 1pm
Teachers: Terez Dean Orr, Mengjun Chen, Brennan Wall, Tess Lane
These classes will focus on continuing to strengthen technique with barre, and some center work.

Intermediate/Advanced Adult Ballet
Tues/Thurs 10am
Teachers: Amy London, Mengjun Chen, or Guest Teacher
This class is designed for the more experienced dancer to challenge and hone their Ballet technique while dancing from home. Classes will include thorough barre and additional center work.

Semi-Private Lessons (Beginning & Intermediate Levels) - NEW!
Fri 6pm, Sat 5:30pm
Teachers: Ian Buchanan, Tess Lane, Terez Dean Orr, Tessa Barbour
Designed as an opportunity for dancers to get personalized feedback, these semi-private lessons will host a maximum of four dancers per class. Classes are fee-based and are first-come-first-serve. Students must register at least 24 hours in advance.

Dance Variety

Versatility and excellence in a wide range of dance styles is a trademark of Smuin and its multi-talented artists. Students are invited to try one class, sample a variety of styles, or enroll in a series.

Beginning Adult Dance Sampler - New styles added!
Tues 6pm, Sat 10am
Teachers: Tessa Barbour, Mengjun Chen, Ben Needham-Wood
Perfect for dance newbies or anyone who wants to try a variety of fun styles, Smuin's popular signature program allows for a taste of a different dance style each week. This new extension will feature a variety of styles including Character, Jazz, Contemporary, and Tap/Soft-Shoe.

Beginning Hip Hop (Beginning & All Levels)
Mon/Sat 4pm
Teacher: Ben Needham-Wood
Adults who have always wanted to find their Hip Hop rhythm can join Smuin artist Ben Needham-Wood, who will teach a variety of new moves during a quick warm-up, followed by a fun and original combo. This popular beginners' class has now expanded to an additional "All Levels" class on Saturday, which will continue the combination taught on Monday with details and enhancements available for dancers with various levels of experience.

Musical Theater (Beginning/Intermediate) - NEW!
Wed 1pm, Sun 4pm
Teacher: Weston Krukow
Smuin alum Weston has spent his time post-Smuin on national and international tours of Broadway's "An American in Paris". Students can join in the fun and bring a dance story to life with a class that brings Broadway style straight to their home.

Tap/Soft-Shoe (Beginning/Intermediate) - NEW!
Thurs 4pm, Sat 2:30pm
Teacher: Tessa Barbour
With or without the shoes, students can "tap" into their inner Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers, learning fun new rhythms and dance steps from Smuin's resident tapper extraordinaire.

Character (Beginning/Intermediate) - NEW!
Thurs 6pm
Teacher: Mengjun Chen
Students will learn the highly stylized flavor and theatrics of Character dance, a style that draws influences from traditional folk and national dances.

Jazz & Contemporary (Beginning/Intermediate)
Tues/Fri 4:15pm
Teacher: Cassidy Isaacson
Combining style and flair, this class merges elements of both Jazz and Contemporary dance for a fun and fabulous hour of dance from the comfort of home. This class meets twice weekly and will build on the material learned within the same week, although drop-ins are welcome anytime.

Contemporary (Intermediate/Advanced) - NEW!
Wed 2:30pm, Sun 5:30pm
Teacher: Cassidy Isaacson
Combining elements of modern dance, ballet, jazz and cultural dance, Contemporary is a movement style where every creative outcome is possible. This class meets twice weekly and will build on the material learned within the same week, although drop-ins are welcome anytime.

Stretch & Strengthen (All Levels) - NEW!
Wed 11:30am, Sun 10am
Teacher: Valerie Harmon
This Pilates-based exercise and full body stretching class to strengthen and lengthen is a great way to augment any style of dance. Modifications to these exercises for strengthening core muscles and increasing flexibility are available for all levels of experience.

Fri-Yay! Dance Break (All Levels) - NEW!
Fri 12pm
Teacher: Ben Needham-Wood
This energetic new class offers fun for the whole family. All ages are welcome to get their body moving and spirit energized in a joyful hour of dance appropriate for "any body." A great way to end the week with a smile and start the weekend off on the right (or left) foot.

Workshops - NEW!

Dancers and non-dancers alike can participate in these exclusive tutorials and discussions with Smuin artists and leaders designed to educate, enhance, and inspire.

Choreography Workshop (Basic & Intermediate/Advanced Levels)
Tues/Thurs/Sun 2pm
Teacher: Ben Needham-Wood
Students will explore their creativity and learn about the art of choreography in this thrilling workshop with an added virtual performance opportunity. Taught over three classes per week, sessions are offered in both Basic level and Intermediate/Advanced levels. Participants will learn a movement phrase as well as the tools choreographers use to craft movement into choreographed works. Those who choose to participate in the virtual performance opportunity will submit a video of themselves performing the movement (or their interpretation of it) for editing into a virtual final performance.

Technique Workshops Mondays 1:30pm (see specific weekly subjects below)
These technique-based classes offer a variety of exciting opportunities to learn directly from the pros. From understanding the tools behind dance-making, to customizing pointe shoes, these workshops aim to teach new skills and share the joy of dance.

The Art of Choreography with Ben Needham-Wood
1:30pm Mon, May 11
Ben dives into the craftsmanship of dance-making, revealing when movement becomes choreography and the different techniques behind the process of creation. Students will learn how this new perspective may change the way they see dance.

Getting the Most Out of Your Zoom Ballet Training with Valerie Harmon
1:30pm Mon, May 18
Valerie will share tips to optimize students' space, and make floor and barre work for their home, office, or other practice areas. Students will also come away with ideas for maintaining alignment and technique in a non-traditional dance environment, and finding ways to stay motivated, challenged, inspired, and injury-free.

Pointe Work: Tricks of the Trade with Terez Dean Orr, Tessa Barbour, Maggie Carey & Valerie Harmon
1:30pm Mon, May 25
Current company dancers Terez, Tessa, and Maggie will share a variety of tips for customizing pointe shoes, including their favorite hacks for darning, gluing, and elastics. Former Smuin dancer and company teacher Valerie will also share her passion for the field of kinesiology and injury prevention by leading students through a series of strengthening and stabilizing exercises specific for pointe training.

Talkin' Technique with Smuin Ballet Master Amy London & teaching staff
1:30pm Mon, June 1
Join the Smuin teaching staff for an interactive conversation where they will dive deeper into dance technique based on questions submitted by participants of Smuin's Virtual Classes. Details on submitting questions and topics to get the discussion started will be announced through Smuin's email list and social media at a later date.

Backstage with Smuin Workshops Fridays 1:30pm (see specific weekly subjects below)
Many of Smuin's multi-talented alumni have gone on to pursue careers in fields outside dance. In this exclusive series, several of Smuin's former artists return to share their skills in a variety of fun and exciting discussions and workshops.

Stage Make-up Tutorial with Erica Felsch
1:30pm Fri, May 15
In her post-Smuin career, Erica has worked as a hair and make-up artist for film, editorial and wedding photography. Students will be ready for the spotlight after Erica's fun and fabulous tutorial in make-up application for the stage. Students should have their current make-up supplies available for use during the workshop.

Acting the Part: The Changing Faces of Creativity with Rex Wheeler
1:30pm Fri, May 22
Former Smuin artist Rex will discuss his transition from full-time dancer to choreographer, actor, and drag artist, sharing how the creative skills he learned through dance have translated into endless possibilities. Students will learn how to tap into their inner diva in this light-hearted hour of stories and tips from one of San Francisco's greatest queens.

Behind the Seams with Susan Roemer
1:30pm Fri, May 29
Since retiring from the stage, Susan has successfully channeled her passion for costume-making into S-Curve Apparel & Design, a fashion design firm producing costumes for the stage. Susan will share her insights on working with choreographers and ballet companies around the globe, as well as an inside look at the development process of her new dancewear brand, Tangentfit. Students will learn how Susan brings abstract concepts to life through collaboration, and how they can embrace their own artistic expression in any medium.

Creating Theater Magic with Smuin Artistic Director Celia Fushille
1:30pm Fri, June 5
Smuin is known for its trademark razzle-dazzle and spirited surprises-such as making it snow inside the theater during its annual Christmas Ballet program. Celia and the Smuin's production team will discuss the myriad of elements that come together behind the curtain to create magic for its audiences.

Photo Credit: Maximillian Tortoriello


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