Elvis-inspired world premiere by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa headlines Smuin's 30th season finale

Elvis-inspired world premiere by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa headlines Smuin’s 30th season finale

Smuin Contemporary Ballet concludes its 30th season with Dance Series 2 this spring, headlined by the World Premiere of the Elvis-inspired Tupelo Tornado from international superstar Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. This extraordinary new ballet inspired by the life and music of Elvis promises a rollicking work set to a collage of tunes and soundbites from the King of Rock and Roll. Also on the bill is Smuin Associate Artistic Director Amy Seiwert’s Broken Open, set to a lush score from renowned cellist and composer Julia Kent. Kent, who creates music using looped cello, found sounds, and electronics, will perform live at opening weekend performances of Dance Series 2 in San Francisco. Rounding out the program is Smuin dancer Brennan Wall’s vivid and complex Untwine set to Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” reinterpreted by Max Richter, and Michael Smuin’s dreamy Starshadows, exploring the mystery and beauty of intimate relationships. 

Annabelle Lopez Ochoa returns to Smuin for its thrilling season finale, taking on the life and music of Elvis Presley in Tupelo Tornado, her first creation for the company. Lopez Ochoa’s profile has continued to skyrocket since Smuin introduced Bay Area audiences to the Colombian-Belgian dancemaker in 2017 with the West Coast Premiere of her critically acclaimed Requiem for a Rose, called “Intriguing. Brilliant. A meditation on the nature of love,” by the San Francisco Chronicle. A globally renowned choreographer who also creates for theatre, opera, and fashion events, Lopez Ochoa has choreographed works for more than 40 dance companies around the world including Dutch National Ballet, Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève, The Royal Ballet of Flanders, Ballet National de Marseille, Ballet Hispánico, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Ballet Nacional de Cuba, and New York City Ballet, among others.

Revived for Dance Series 2 is Amy Seiwert’s Broken Open, whichthe San Francisco Chronicle called “fresh, challenging, and relevant” and “endlessly inventive, fascinating” following its world premiere with Smuin in fall 2015. Seiwert drew inspiration for Broken Open from the Kunsthaus Tacheles in East Berlin, a building where artists sought shelter after the Berlin Wall came down. A place with a grim history, it became a vibrant hub for beauty and expression, representing the idea of “something beautiful born from a scar.” Clad in graffiti stenciled costumes, Smuin dancers bring to life this emotionally stirring work that captures the power of art to transform and heal. A former Smuin dancer, Seiwert was appointed by Smuin Artistic Director Celia Fushille as the company’s first choreographer-in-residence, a post she held from 2008 to 2018. In April 2023, Seiwert was named Smuin’s Associate Artistic Director.  

Also on the bill is Smuin dancer Brennan Wall’s Untwine for four couples, set to Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” reinterpreted by Max Richter. Originally presented in Smuin’s 2021 Choreography Showcase, Untwine was expanded from a contemporary pas de deux for its World Premiere on the company’s mainstage in 2022. Wall’s choreography debut was praised by Critical Dance for its “myriad of inventive spins.” Wall joined Smuin in 2019 and has performed in various works with the ballet company including the iconic Santa Baby role in Smuin’s The Christmas Ballet. She studied at Los Angeles Ballet Academy and previously danced with Silicon Valley Ballet as a trainee before joining The New Ballet’s Studio Company. In 2017, Wall joined Ballet de Monterrey under director José Manuel Carreño.

Closing the 30th season finale is Michael Smuin’s dreamy Starshadows, one of his earliest works for the company. Choreographed in 1998, Starshadows is an evocative adagio set to Ravel’s “Piano Concerto in G Major” for three couples who dance against an inky backdrop punctuated by stars, spotlights, and swirling mist as it explores the mystery and beauty of intimate relationships. 

Smuin’s Dance Series 2 will tour the Bay Area May 3-31, beginning with shows in San Francisco (May 3-12), continuing in Mountain View (May 16-19) and Walnut Creek (May 24-25), before wrapping up in Carmel (May 30-31). For tickets ($25-$89) or more information, the public may call 415-912-1899 or visit smuinballet.org.

Annabelle Lopez Ochoa will debut Tupelo Tornado in Smuin’s Dance Series 2, which tours the Bay Area May 3-31 2024, Pictured: Smuin artist Marc LaPierre, Credit Chris Hardy