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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.

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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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