Smuin Ballet, a long local treasure, begins its 2012-13 season with the kind of innovative pieces for which it is known: Along with the West Coast premiere of “Cold Virtues” by choreographer Adam Hougland, Trey McIntyre’s popular “Oh, Inverted World” is back on the troupe’s fall program, which opens Friday in The City.
Hougland, a rising star in the dance world, drew inspiration from the movie “Dangerous Liaisons.” Created originally for the Louisville Ballet, where Hougland serves as principal choreographer, “Cold Virtues” features 14 dancers.
There’s a Depression era, speakeasy feel on stage, with dancers wearing muted colors and moving under three spinning ceiling fans to Philip Glass’ hauntingly beautiful violin concerto.
“I really wanted to do a piece that was all about manipulation,” Hougland says. “It’s all about struggle, good and evil, and what happens to people who try to play with people just for fun.”
The fans are still for the first movement, but as the dance continues, the blades began to spin, cutting through the light. It’s a strong effect, Hougland says.
All of Smuin Ballet’s 16 dancers perform, some sharing parts and others playing more than one role. Hougland says working with the talented ensemble was like being in a room full of soloists.
“The dancers [of] Smuin are phenomenal. They can do anything,” he says. “They’re just all really strong, interesting dramatic artists.”
“Oh, Inverted World,” commissioned by Smuin Ballet, had its world premiere in San Francisco two years ago and was a hit at its New York premiere in August.
Back by popular demand, the impulsive piece, set to indie rock by The Shins, features intricate patterns and athletic partnering; the dancers wear athletic shorts and tops.
Rounding out the program are three works by the late Michael Smuin, who died in 2007. “Starshadows,” set to Maurice Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major, explores romantic love.
Two solo works by Smuin will also be featured: “Homeless,” set to music from Paul Simon’s “Graceland” album, and “No Viviré,” accompanied by music by the Gipsy Kings.
The program repeats next year at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek on Feb. 1-2, and at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts from Feb. 20-24.