Photo by Jason Skinner
The fall/winter performing arts season is here! And San Francisco audiences are fortunate in the variety on offer, including the fall opera season, new exhibits at the various museums, and many other theater, music, and dance events. Add to this the opening of the 49ers NFL season and the always-tense speculation as to whether the San Francisco Giants will make the MLB playoffs — it makes fall the most exciting time of the year for folks in the Bay Area.
One of the first dance entries is the Smuin Ballet fall/winter season, which opens at the Palace of Fine Arts on Friday, September 23.
Whether you’re a sports enthusiast or a ballet fan, it’s always fun when a new player is added to the team roster. Someone new to watch, to see how he or she fits in with the existing team…
California Literary Review caught up with a new Smuin team member, Jared Hunt, former principal dancer with Ballet Idaho, to discuss why he chose this particular company and this city.
California Literary Review: How did you find your way to Smuin Ballet?
I went online to the Smuin Ballet website and found the address where I could submit my video and resume. I wanted to move to San Francisco anyway, and I had planned a visit, so before I left Boise, I checked the website again and discovered that the ballet had posted an audition date that almost coincided with my visit. So I changed my plane ticket.
I took the audition, and I guess it went pretty well, as the company asked me to stay and take company class the following week. So I changed my plane ticket again and stayed for the class. It did take them a couple of months to make a decision, though, which was understandable, as the company had other dancers to see and evaluate.
There are many other cities and many other companies out there. What made you choose to concentrate on San Francisco?
Whether or not the Smuin Ballet position was in my future, I had decided that I would move to the City. I have always loved it here. The weather is great, and the cultural offerings in this town are amazing. A big plus for me, too, is that there is a huge dance community. Whatever kind of dance you want to see or do — it’s pretty much all here.
At Ballet Idaho, you were a principal dancer. Smuin Ballet does not have a hierarchical structure, and all the dancers are part of an ensemble. How has this affected you?
It is wonderful to be dancing in an ensemble again. The company is tremendously talented, and we all feed off each other’s energy and abilities. The familial atmosphere works. All the dancers seek to make their fellow company members look their best. There is a sense of common good — a sense of community.
And Amy London is the best ballet mistress I’ve ever worked with. She is incredible!
What’s been the most fun and/or interesting aspect of being part of Smuin Ballet?
The choreography we are working with is a combination of classic Smuin ballets and new pieces by choreographers whose works integrate nicely into the existing mix. The ballets are exciting, expressive, and unique in that they base their aesthetic on classical movement, but do so in a manner that conveys the intent of the work. It allows me as a dancer to explore more of the choreographic intent instead of always just striving for the perfect line.
The classes are excellent — mostly classically based — and the teachers rotate assignments so that each day brings a different energy and emphasis. It definitely helps the dancers grow and develop. One of the classes that I find intriguing is the one with Laura Bernasconi, who emphasizes how we can feel our own energy within the scope of the technique — almost a Tai Chi feel to the work.
Is there any one event, so far, that stands out?
One really cool thing that has happened is the Tango Party we had in preparation for the fall/winter program. Christy Cote, a knowledgeable instructor and amazing Tango dancer, who teaches classes at the Verdi Club here in the City, conducted the afternoon Milonga, a type of Tango party where you dance the Argentinean Tango.
The Smuin dancers had the opportunity to dance with the Bay Area’s most accomplished tango dancers (compliments of Christy) in our own studios. They joined us at the City Ballet School and we had our own Milonga. It was intimidating, but it ended up being a great learning experience. The ballet men had to lead the Tango women plus the ballet girls, and had to follow the Tango men. It was such a blast! They also did a round of dancing without the company members so we could watch! They were amazing!
The Smuin Ballet fall/winter program can be seen throughout the Bay Area from September 23 to March 3, 2012. For information and tickets, see www.smuinballet.org. And for a sneak preview of the new Amy Seiwart ballet (vocals by Patsy Cline) debuting on this program, check out the video below.
[Originally published at California Literary Review, September 21, 2011.]