San Francisco, CA, USA to the world – Smuin Contemporary Ballet kicks off its annual Christmas Ballet performance for the very first time streaming online. And what a debut it is! The Christmas Ballet this year will be a “little bit” different from prior years. Watching on line does not provide that same “hustle and bustle” feel of rushing into the City and being among other ballet lovers, but it does give us the opportunity to cozy up in comfort at home with family to enjoy the amazing work of these unbelievably talented dancers. Artistic Director Celia Fushille reminds that it’s the company’s 25th anniversary this year for the holiday show- that’s a long time.
“We wouldn’t let a global pandemic keep us from delivering that joy to you now,” Fushille said in her introduction to this holiday series, pointing out that the company did much planning to ensure all the proper social distancing took place in order to safely produce the show. The company’s blending new, social-distanced dance numbers with archival footage of classic performances from prior years. It’s done so well, we barely notice the presence or absence of mandated face masks. We’re simply too busy enjoying what we are hearing and seeing- and maybe even dancing along, ourselves.
This year’s presentation is divided into three individual programs (A, B, and C). Each performance has a different theme and features a different world premiere performance by showcased dancers. Program A features world premieres by Amy Seiwert and Cassidy Isaacson. The theme is “bells,” as the company puts it, from”Silver Bells” to “Jingle Bells.” Also dancing are Brandon Alexander, John Speed Orr, and Terez Dean Orr. Program B features world premieres by Rex Wheeler and by the Company Artists of Pod B. The theme is “snow,” as the company describes, from”Snow Day” to “White Christmas.” Also dancing are Ian Buchanan, Maggie Carey, Tess Lane, and Max van der Sterre.
Program C features world premieres by Ben Needham-Wood, Tessa Barbour, and Brennan Wall. There is a strong theme of “nostalgia” with classic songs such as “Little Drummer Boy,” “Bells of Dublin,” as well as crooners from days gone by such as Bing Crosby, Louie Armstrong, and Lou Rawls. Also performing are Mengjun Chen, Ricardo Dyer, and Laura Pschirrer. This program opens with dancers bringing us a beautiful piece created by Barbour set to “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” by 101 Strings Orchestra. Dancers appear in red costumes with matching masks. It’s as if there is nothing amiss, nothing unusual about this. Their joy in the dance is evident as the same as without masks. One of the following numbers, “Drummer Boy,” features some dazzling baton work, particularly striking in combination with the intense vocals of the late Lou Rawls.
There’s a jazzy and lovely number performed to “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” and there’s also some dreamy and more traditional Swan Lake-like joy as the female performers dance in flowing silvery-white splendor. There’s even a representation of Christmastime in New Orleans in addition to the ever sassy Smuin classic favorite “Santa Baby.” This is all in just one of the three offered programs! This year’s show is, yet again but perhaps even more due to the outstanding creativity of all involved, an eclectic and never predictable mix of styles that includes something for everyone of any age. Spoiler alert: be prepared to tap dance, bobby sox dance, and even twirl in your pajamas.
A chat scroll ran after the opening night performance (Program C), and it was fun to see what impressed other viewers. Without a doubt, all attending were well pleased. This program also includes an uplifting world premiere from Emmy Award-winning choreographer Ben Needham Wood set to Queen’s “Thank God It’s Christmas.” Need we say more?
“Thank you, everyone, for tuning in!!!” Fushille told the group of over 225 viewers who remained on the chat to engage about the performance. “We are so happy we can share this with you…!” Yes, and thank you for giving us the opportunity to celebrate the holidays at home, Smuin style.
The Smuin Contemporary Ballet Christmas Ballet runs December 11 through December 24th. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to enjoy an unforgettable program from one of the Bay Area’s most treasured arts darlings.
Check the web site www.smuinballet.org to learn more about the various programs and dates/times.
TICKETS: For tickets ($49-$139) and more information, visit
WHEN: December 11 – 24, 2020
Sat, Dec 12 @ 4pm
Sun, Dec 13 @ 4pm
Fri, Dec 18 @ 7:30pm
Sun, Dec 20 @ 12pm
Wed, Dec 23 @ 7:30pm (previously recorded)
Sat, Dec 12 @ 7:30pm
Wed, Dec 16 @ 7:30pm
Sat, Dec 19 @ 4pm
Sun, Dec 20 @ 4pm
Thu, Dec 24 @ 12pm (previously recorded)
Fri, Dec 11 @ 7:30pm
Sun, Dec 13 @ 12pm
Thurs, Dec 17 @ 7:30pm
Sat, Dec 19 @ 7:30pm
Tue, Dec 22 @ 7:30pm (previously recorded)
What you need to know to be Smuin Christmas Ballet holiday-ready:
Box Office: 415-912-1899
Address: Shows are streaming online only this year
For more than 25 years Smuin has pushed the boundaries of contemporary ballet within a distinctly American style, engaging and delighting audiences with uncommon physicality and expression.
Founded in San Francisco in 1994 by Tony and Emmy award-winning choreographer Michael Smuin, the company is committed to creating work that merges the diverse vocabularies of classical ballet and contemporary dance. Artistic Director since 2007, Celia Fushille has celebrated Michael Smuin’s legacy while enriching the company’s impressive repertoire by collaborating with inventive choreographers from around the world, commissioning world premieres, and bringing new contemporary choreographic voices to the Smuin stage.