Sassy Smuin spring program

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With its 2010 spring program, Smuin Ballet happily continues founder Michael Smuin’s mission of presenting quality dance in varied, accessible and often-fun packaging.

Onstage through the weekend at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts — and moving to Cupertino, Walnut Creek and Carmel thereafter — the show’s three pieces are performed by 17 dedicated dancers looking great as they sneak classical moves into three equally enjoyable, contemporary-leaning pieces on a highly musical program.

Set to whimsical, carnival-inspired yet modern-sounding music by avant-garde composer Hugues Le Bars, Ma Cong’s world premiere of “French Twist” — as with all the pieces — features dancers interacting with agility and precision, mostly in groups of two and three.

Dressed in street clothes (costumes also by Cong) and performing speedy, angular, sometimes acrobatic movements, the dancers suggest workers on an urgent mission in a piece that has an appealing, cinematic feel.

“French Twist” showcases the rising talent of Cong, an award-winning dancer from Beijing who’s currently resident choreographer and a dancer at Tulsa Ballet.

Celia Fushille, Smuin artistic and executive director, considered it a coup to “get” the local premiere of acclaimed NederlandsDansTheater choreographer Jiri Kylian’s 1991 “Petite Mort,” and the company does the acclaimed dance-maker proud in the off-the-wall piece.

Two soothing Mozart piano concertos provide interesting counterpoint to the two-part dance — the first spotlighting the men, wearing briefs, engaging with swords, the second featuring the women in corsets and briefs, dancing behind black ball-gown forms on wheels. The dancers also partner sensuously and evocatively.

Smuin’s delightful, theatrical 1976 “Songs of Mahler,” the program’s longest entry, is the perfect light opener. Each dancer gets a chance in the spotlight in the melange of lovely duets, trios and quartets, and one solo, which run from funny and engaging to bold and romantic.

lkatz@sfexaminer.com

DANCE REVIEW

Smuin Ballet

Where: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. today-Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $18 to $56

Contact: (415) 978-2787, www.smuinballet.org

Note: More performances May 21-22 at Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, May 29-30 at Flint Center in Cupertino and June 4-5 at Sunset Center in Carmel

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