Going to XXtremes

Smuin Ballet dancer Jane Rehm is supported by the cast in Michael Smuin’s acclaimed ballet Carmina Burana, performed as part of Smuin’s XXtremes Winter Dance Series touring the Bay Area March 14-29. Photo credit: Keith Sutter

It’s Smuin time again at the Lesher.  This season’s production is titled XXTREMES; I may have some extreme ideas about it.

The first act is Dear Miss Cline,  an homage to Patsy Cline choreographed by Amy Seiwert.  It left us both flat.  We love the music of Patsy Cline, we love the dancers, but the piece just had no zing.  Gail didn’t like the costumes, either (except the men’s shoes, which we both noticed).  If you have a Patsy Cline song, you have a story of love and loss, so finding the narrative here is pretty easy–yet the whole exercise failed to make any emotional connection with either of us.  Maybe it was an off night, maybe we were just tired, maybe maybe maybe.  It never connected.

Act II is Return to a Strange Land,   Czech dancer and choreographer Jiří Kylián wrote this as a tribute tribute to Stuttgart Ballet choreographer, John Cranko.  I found this piece to be deep, cerebral and intellectually arresting.  Parts of this piece consist of 3 dancers seeming creating structures with their bodies–this was the first time I’d ever thought of a ballet as architectural.

Half of the dancers in Return were dressed in a copper color which was echoed by the lighting, making them almost blend into the background.  The other half were dressed in a light, lively blue and brightly lit, exemplifying the difference between the ups and downs of life.  It is a brilliant piece of stagecraft, intensifying the emotionality of the dance.

Finally, the great Carmina Burana.  “Carl Orff’s impassionedCarmina Burana sends the heart soaring, with a boisterous production that celebrates life, lust, and joy – and mourns the cruelty of fate.”  I cribbed that from the Smuin website.  Michael Smuin choreographed this magnificent dance, which begins in silence and builds to an astonishing, majestic crescendo.  We’ve seen this before, and I most certainly hope to see it again in the future.

One more comment–the music was too darned loud.  For some reason they clearly had the sound system turned up to 11.  I think you should go see this show, but you might bring ear plugs.



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