Something old, something new at Smuin Ballet

Smuin Ballet opened its fall season with a fine mix of old and new, but at times it’s difficult to tell which is which.

Works from late company founder Michael Smuin have just as much vitality and fresh appeal as the world premiere of Trey McIntyre’s “Oh, Inverted World,” which was on Friday’s program with two here-and-now Smuin pieces, the neoclassical 1985 “Brahms-Haydn Variations” and the riotous 2005 “Bluegrass/Slyde.”

Under Executive Director Celia Fushille, Smuin Ballet remains an attractive company of excellent dancers, shining individually at the Palace of Fine Arts opening
performance, even while ensembles lacked the precision that midseason surely will bring.

McIntyre’s headlining dance — the company notably secured the premiere from an in-demand choreographer highly regarded in New York, Chicago and Europe — would benefit from more-accurate publicity
and less hype.

Mysteriously called “indie” rock, the dance’s music by The Shins is actually pleasant pop straight out of Beach Boys territory — a half-century-old sound.

Equally perplexing is the publicity about McIntyre’s “vanguard” style; portions of the dance actually refer back a century. The dancers sweep across the stage in close formation, with turned-in bent knees, angular arms and contracted torsos in a clear homage to Nijinsky’s 1912 “The Afternoon of a Faun” and 1913 “The Rite of Spring.”

Between those Nijinsky moments — the finale enhanced by Travis Walker’s lone, affecting figure against the passing group — McIntyre’s choreography is athletic and imaginative, but offers nothing groundbreaking. His style reflects the technique and look of scores of contemporary choreographers.

Still, the 26-minute-long work has a dramatic impact, especially in its more serious and meaningful second half, enhanced by outstanding solo work from Walker and Jane Rehm.

As usual in a small company, dancers work incredibly hard, without a breather.

Walker is a standout in both Smuin pieces, along with Rehm and Susan Roemer, who are wonderful in the opening movement of “Brahms-Haydn.”

Shane Tice and Erica Chipp are terrific in the waltz in “Bluegrass,” complemented by the rest of the company — Erin Yarbrough-
Stewart, Ryan Camou, Darren Anderson, Robin Cornwell, Terez Dean, Shannon Hurlburt, Matthew Linzer, John Speed Orr, Jonathan Powell and Jean Michelle Sayeg.

Jessica Touchet’s solo in the last variation of “Brahms-Haydn” is especially appealing.

 

DANCE REVIEW

Smuin Ballet fall program

Where: Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, 3301 Lyon St., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. today-Saturday

Tickets: $20 to $62

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

Note: The program will be repeated in various Bay Area locations in February.

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