Northside SF  

Smuin Ballet introduces world premiere dance piece at
Palace of Fine Arts in October
By Bruce Bellingham

From left: Acclaimed choreographer Trey McIntyre sets
his world premiere, “Oh, Inverted World” on Smuin dancers
Erin Yarbrough-Stewart, Matt Linzer and Ben Behrends,
currently at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre through Oct. 9

photo: Carla Befera
This month the Smuin Ballet kicks off its new season by bringing a world premiere dance work to the Palace of Fine Arts. Rising star choreographer Trey McIntyre conceived the piece, titled “Oh, Inverted World,” which the Smuin Ballet commissioned. The program also includes the late Michael Smuin’s “Bluegrass/Skye” and his popular ballet “Brahms-Haydn Variations.”

“I admit I had some trepidation when the Smuin company approached me,” said McIntyre, who has created ballet works for the Stuttgart Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and the New York City Ballet. He also has his own ballet company. 

“I didn’t know what to expect when working with new people,” he says. “It turns out this is the right company. They are about what I’m about. They are absolutely focused. A whole roomful of talent. Too often these days, dancers get further away from being artists.”

McIntyrewas praised recently in The New York Times about hislatest piece presented at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival: “It’s refreshing to see a choreographer who, while showing a wide command of the ballet vocabulary, isn’t haunted by the idioms of Balanchine and doesn’t rely on high lifts or acrobatic extensions.”

About the Smuin Ballet, McIntyre offers his own praise. 

“It requires bravery and curiosity to be a real dancer,” he says. “You have to be honest with yourself. A lot of dancers are not willing to do that. From day one [with the Smuin], it’s been wonderful.”

In turn, Smuin artistic and executive director Celia Fushille offers praise to McIntyre. 
“Our collaboration with Trey is exactly the kind of piece that fits into my vision for Smuin’s programming – exciting and vibrant,” she said in a press release.

The Smuin Ballet was thrown into disarray when, in 2007, its founder Michael Smuin, suffered a heart attack and died while teaching a dance class in San Francisco. But the company has come back in a strong way under the direction of its former principal dancer, Celia Fushille.

“I’ve been very impressed with the Smuin company,” says McIntyre. “They’ve managed to make a transition from zero to a thousand. They didn’t plan it that way. Considering the weight of it all, it’s very impressive.

So how does a choreographer teach the dancers a work that’s never been performed?

“We were speaking in the language of training,” says McIntyre. “It’s all movement. First it’s move this way and that way. Then it becomes more poetic. It’s metaphor after metaphor.”

“‘Oh, Inverted World’ features the music of indie rock band The Shins.

“The Shins had moved to Portland where I was living,” recalls McIntyre. “I loved their first album. They were accessible in those days, before they got famous.”

Bluegrass/Skye” features the music of banjo wizard Bela Fleck and bassist Edgar Myer.
Smuin Ballet’s Fall Program: Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, 3601 Lyon Street, through Oct. 9; single tickets $20–$62 at 415-978-2787, subscriptions $120 and $150 at 415-556-5000 ext. 5; discounts for seniors, students and groups of 15 or more;

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