Smuin ballet concludes its 25th anniversary season this month with Dance Series 2: The Best of Smuin and Renaissance. The Best of Smuin is a tribute to founder Michael Smuin and features his vibrant works set to the music of George and Ira Gershwin, Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole, and others. The work includes classic numbers such as “Unforgettable” and “Fever” from Smuin’s inaugural performance of Dances With Songs. Also on the program are selections from Carmina Burana, Frankie and Johnny, Dancin’ with Gershwin, and more, all performed in Smuin’s signature contemporary style, which combines classical ballet with physicality and expression.
Smuin, whose roots in contemporary music can be traced to his time on Broadway, was formerly a dancer, choreographer, and artistic director of the San Francisco Ballet. While in New York, he worked with Leonard Bernstein, and with his then-wife, also created a nightclub act, which he called “a well-disguised ballet,” that was billed with entertainers such as Louis Armstrong, Peggy Lee, and Frank Sinatra.
In Renaissance, former Smuin mentee, dancer, and choreographer in residence, and current artistic director of the Sacramento Ballet, Amy Seiwert, explores music from Eastern European traditions while honoring the strength of community and solidarity of women. Seiwert was inspired by the “women’s wall” in India earlier this year, where millions of women joined hands to form a 385-mile wall of protest to create awareness of gender equality and a religious ban that prevented women of menstrual age from entering a sacred Hindu temple. The piece is complemented by the acclaimed Oakland-based a capella group, Kitka Women’s Vocal Ensemble, which specializes in the techniques of traditional and contemporary Balkan, Slavic, and Caucasian vocal styling.
If you miss the San Francisco performances, the company will also perform the Dance Series 02 program in Walnut Creek (May 17–18), Mountain View (May 23–26), and Carmel (May 31–June 1).
Smuin Ballet Dance Series 02: Thur.–Sun., May 2–5, YBCA Theater, 700 Howard St., $25–$81, 415-912-1899,