Smuin's "The Christmas Ballet" Brightens the Season Once Again
December 2, 2022—Smuin's annual The Christmas Ballet never fails to please. Their customary presentation of The Classical Christmas, accompanied mostly to traditional Christmas songs, and The Cool Christmas, performed with comic ingenuity to contemporary and humorous holiday tunes, has become a winning combination guaranteed to warm and enliven audiences. Part of what makes The Christmas Ballet such a successful annual event is the obviously genuine joy of the dancers. Their playfulness is infectious fun, which audiences take home with them.
In last night's performance at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, the familiar and treasured pieces, such as Michael Smuin's Santa Baby, were reliably included, while a few additions brought both new depth and humor. This performance included a few Company changes. Gone is John Speed Orr, who left the Company in October after four years performing with Smuin. His skill and appeal are missed. Two new dancers appeared in this performance: Anthony Cannarella, formerly with Amy Seiwert and Sacramento Ballet, and dancer Ricardo Dyer, recently with LA Opera and LA Dance Project. Both express an energetic, lighthearted charm with smiles to match, and are fitting additions to the Company's persona.
New works included the touching Peaceful Prayer, choreographed by former Smuin dancer Nicole Haskins and danced beautifully in a pas de deux by Terez Dean Orr and Anthony Cannarella. The accompanying music is Prayer for Ukraine, a hymn for peace sung a cappella, composed by Mykola Lysenko in 1885 with words by Oleksandr Konysky. Although not a Christmas song, the theme of peace of course resonates with Christmas and the desperate wish for peace in Ukraine. Haskins' beautiful choreography perfectly expresses the somber yet uplifting melody with Cannarella's able and graceful lifts and Orr's elegant pointe work.
Also new is the world premiere of Amy Seiwert's comical The Twelve Days of Christmas, performed to the hysterical recorded version by Straight No Chaser. Eight dancers form a pyramid of sorts and act out the lyrics of The Twelve Days of Christmas, which gets confused with other Christmas songs into an organized chaos of hilarious pantomime.
No Christmas celebration would be complete without Christmas trees, including the familiar favorites the tap dancing Christmas trees and the naughty Christmas tree misbehaving at the party in Christmas Tree Rock.
The variety of dance skills required by the works in The Christmas Ballet show off Smuin as possessing the most versatility of any dance company in the Bay Area. While SFB has a claim to more technically skilled ballet dancers, Smuin dancers perform in pointe shoes, soft dance shoes, heels, and tap shoes. They can pretty much do it all and do it well. Their versatility and expressiveness make The Christmas Ballet not only entertaining, but an engaging and memorable experience year after year.
The Christmas Ballet runs through December 4th at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, from December 9-10 at the Sunset Center in Carmel, December 14-24 at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco, and then November 19-20 at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek. For more information, see smuinballet.org.