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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Smuin Ballet Presents a Charming
Fly Me To The Moon

Also see Richard's reviews of Living Out and The Producers

Smuin Ballet
Celia Fushille-Burke and James Strong
The internationally renowned dance company Smuin Ballet sets off on its second decade with an interesting program, including four world premieres by company director Michael Smuin, associate director Celia Fushille-Burke and company members Shannon Hurlburt and Amy Seiwert. The ballet company is a wonderful counterpart to the San Francisco Ballet, and Michael has wonderful, agile and athletic dancers in this company.

The highly anticipated world premiere of Michael Smuin's Fly Me to the Moon, a tribute in dance to "Ol' Blue Eyes," features the smooth and stylish melodies made famous by Frank Sinatra. The ballet is strictly Broadway.

Smuin Ballet Company opens the night with the dreamy "Starshadows," featuring three pairs of excellent dancers doing ethereal slow movements to Maurice Revel's music. It's lovely but very slow, with more movements of the body than actual dance. This is followed by the more lively "Three in Company" with David Strobbe, Vanessa Thiessen and Shannon Hurlburt filling the stage with wonderful movements. Celia Fushille-Burke's choreography to the music of Antonio Vivaldi is extraordinary.

The second act opens with the mechanical "Ruhig" to the music of Bach. Amy Seiwert's choreography is very creative. The movements of the three duos of dancers are interesting to watch. The dancers create an animation to the emotionless music of Bach. Once of the evening's highlights is "Dumky" which has great theatricality in Shannon Hurlburt's original choreography. The movements of Erin Yarbrough, James Strong, Pedro Gamino, all shirtless, along with Jessica Touchet give a raw quality to Antonin Dvorak's score. Each movement passes through moments of slow melancholy and rapid passion. The title is the plural of "dumka" and can be defined as a fleeting thought. Each movement of this ballet can be considered to be a dumka.

Smuin Ballet's main attraction is Fly Me to the Moon, which is the sole ballet of the third act. The opening, with an overture featuring Frank singing in the background and a slide show of still photographic images of the cast rehearsing the number, is very impressive. The whole company comes out looking like a company of Guys and Dolls with the Sinatra trademark of the banded hats. They go immediately into "You and the Night and the Music." Following in quick succession are eight additional Sinatra songs. Amy Seiwert and David Strobbe are sensual in a pas de deux to "I've Got You Under My Skin." Pedro Gamino is pure Sinatra in his movements to "Fly Me to the Moon," and he shows great jumps in the number. Vanessa Thiessen and Shannon Hurlburt bring out the highlights of "The Way You Look Tonight" and do a very clever tap routine to Jerome Kern's music. Nicole Trerise and John DeSerio are exuberant in "The Lady is a Tramp." The "I Won't Dance" number is very comical, as Ethan White refuses to dance with Robin Cornwell, and Celia Fushille-Burke is very chic in "Moonlight Serenade." The main highlight is Shannon Hurlburt's dancing moves in "That's Life." The whole cast winds it up with "New York, New York," accompanied by large photographs of the skyline of the Big Apple.

Fly Me to the Moon closed at the Palace of Fine Arts on October 17. The company goes to Montana from our fair city. This program will be repeated in Walnut Creek on February 11 and 12, 2005 and Mountain View February 23-27, 2005 You can obtain more information by visiting www.smuinballet.org. You can also call 415-978-2787 about their upcoming Christmas Ballet which will feature new scenes not presented before.


Photo: Tom Hauck


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area


- Richard Connema



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