By Rita Felciano
Michael Smuin photo courtesy of Smuin Ballet.
Michael Smuin, artistic director and founder of Smuin Ballet, died today of a heart attack while rehearsing a new ballet. He was 68.
Like few others, Smuin’s choreography reached far and wide. In addition to choreographing ballets, he also worked on movies, television, and Broadway. He won a Tony, three Emmys, and a Drama Desk Award; in 1983, he was honored with a Dance Magazine Award.
He was a member of American Ballet Theater and San Francisco Ballet (1973-1985), for whom he created ballets which attracted younger and new audiences. Famously, he opened one gala with a performance by hip hop dancers, probably the first time that this genre had been seen on an opera house stage anywhere. For his own Smuin Ballet he choreographed over 40 works in the last 13 years. He was known for his ebullience, unwavering commitment to his performers, and an ability to create dances which were always accessible and often innovative.
He will be missed.
Allison Jay in Michael Smuin's Carmina Burana, from the company's Spring 2007 season. Photo credit: Tom Hauck.