News & Events
Is there a common link between ballet and baseball? Smuin Ballet Company members Weston Krukow and Ben Needham-Wood explore the similarities between the competitive and artistic disciplines in a CSN Bay Area documentary dance short titled Baseballet.
Weston Krukow, son of San Francisco Giants announcer and former Major League pitcher Mike Krukow, grew up playing baseball and performing choreographed dances for his family. “I was always dancing. I would be walking through the grocery aisle and I would start to move to the music.”
Ben Needham-Wood recalled the project’s initial development in conversations over the dinner table with Krukow and his parents. “We love talking about the parallels between our two athletic sides, with the baseball with Wes’ dad and with what Wes and I do, which is ballet.”
Krukow and Needham-Wood discovered many parallels in their discussion of the sport and the art form. Mike Krukow commented on the discussion, noting: “They were marveling at how graceful the baseball players were… There is a lot of ballet in baseball, just in the way that [the players] move, and the rhythm of the pitcher, the rhythm of the hitter… That was interesting to the dancers–their whole life is about rhythm.”
Krukow and Needham-Wood partnered with CSN Bay Area to create a dance piece performed on the field of AT&T Park. Filmed at sunrise, the setting evokes a serene aesthetic in a normally lively atmosphere, while filling the movement with a physical context not present in a theater.
Mike Krukow is proud of his son’s accomplishments in ballet and beyond. “It’s emotion that you as a parent can feel when your son or daughter is pursuing their passion, and is achieving some piece of it. And to do it in an environment that none of us really know much about has uplifted all of us as people.” Weston Krukow finds great joy in connecting with his father through dance. “When I perform in front of my dad, it’s on. I pull out all the stops… I’m performing for my hero.”
Baseballet offers a fresh look at the iconic sporting venue and a unique perspective on the athletic forms as it draws from baseball movements and ballet steps, but also the relationship between Weston and Mike Krukow–athletes and artists in their own right.
Smuin Ballet’s Dance Series One opened at the Lesher Center in Walnut Creek this past weekend. Featuring the world premiere of Choreographer-In-Residence Amy Seiwert’s Broken Open, the return of Michael Smuin’s Bouquet and Ma Cong’s French Twist, and Company member Ben Needham-Wood’s Maslow, the program was packed with a variety of offerings.
Reviewer Allan Ulrich of the San Francisco Chronicle was entranced by Amy Seiwert’s Broken Open, describing it as “fresh, challenging and relevant;” overall “a superb work” full of “kinetic punctuation.” He also noted new Company members Rachel Furst and Rex Wheeler, calling them “fascinating” and “zest[y], welcoming every risky encounter.”
Broken Open impressed Ann Murphy of the Mercury News. Commenting on Seiwert’s “keen craftsmanship,” Murphy described sequences of couples who “explode across the stage in razor sharp turns,” accompanied by “a silky mix of driving strings and bass heartbeats, provided by composer and cellist Julia Kent.”
French Twist conjured “punchy athleticism and pop sensuality” for Murphy; full of “devilish couplings” such as Company members Susan Roemer and Weston Krukow, whom Murphy noted gave French Twist a “keen edge.” Ulrich recalls the popularity of French Twist upon its 2010 premiere with Smuin Ballet, full of “constant unisons and bouncy Hugues Le bars scores” that remain an audience favorite.
Leslie Katz of the San Francisco Examiner noted Ben Needham-Wood’s Maslow, recognizing Company member Robert Kretz as well as the “spirited ensemble” moving with the “increasingly jazzy contemporary score.” Katz enjoyed Terez Dean’s performance as Kretz’s “shadow, or alter ego of sorts,” calling her “snazzy” and “engaging.”
As Ulrich noted: “Smuin Ballet is back in action!” Don’t miss Dance Series One—tickets are available now for performances in Mountain View and San Francisco!
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Dancers: Robert Kretz and Erin Yarbrough-Powell; Johnathan Powell, Mengjun Chen, Dustin James and Erin Yarbrough-Powell. Images: Chris Hardy.
Smuin Ballet is known for offering a break from tradition—a new style, a new angle, a new perspective through which to view the art of dance. Following the inspiration of founder Michael Smuin, the company investigates alternate styles, as well as rising voices in the world of dance.
In advancing Michael’s fearless spirit and originality, Artistic Director Celia Fushille has invited Smuin Ballet dancer Ben Needham-Wood to choreograph an original piece for Dance Series One.
Needham-Wood’s piece Maslow is an exploration of American psychologist Abraham Maslow, who is often known as a complement to the work of Freud. While Freud’s work centers on mental disorders, Maslow explored how individuals fulfill their greatest potential, or “self-actualization” as Maslow termed it.
Needham-Wood believes this subconscious ambition motivates him to create: “I have always been a perfectionist, and incidentally my passion lies in a subjective art form. There is no perfect in ballet, there is only artistic preference. So, as a perfectionist in a subjective art, I am free to aspire towards my own, ever-progressing ideal.”
Featuring seven dancers from the company, Needham-Wood’s piece is a contemporary ballet with hip hop influences; quite different from the other program offerings. Maslow is set to an original composition by Ben Sollee (a cellist and friend of Needham-Wood’s from his years with the Louisville Ballet), and the intricate score reflects the originality of the movement.
Needham-Wood is optimistic for both Maslow and his choreographic career: “I want to reinvent my process to become a choreographer that could inspire the dancer I am today. Maslow offers a glimpse inside the mind of a man searching for his greatest potential. I’m eager to see what potential we can unlock with the artists, and I hope to inspire something new in the minds of our audience as well.”
See Maslow for yourself at Smuin Ballet’s Dance Series One, which opens September 18. 14 performances only—Purchase tickets here.
A collaboration between Ben Needham-Wood and Ben Sollee:
For the first time in our history, Smuin Ballet will perform at the San Mateo Performing Arts Center, bringing Dance Series Two to our South Bay audiences June 3-4, 2016. This state-of-the-art theater is the largest performing arts venue between San Francisco and San Jose, boasting 1,540 seats, more than 55,000 square feet, and a three-story, glass wall lobby.
I grew up in a household full of four-legged friends. My parents were both animal lovers, so my siblings included: two sisters, one brother, two dogs, two cats, a tank full of fish, and at times a turtle, rabbit, and other critters.
On my first day at Smuin Ballet, I joined Company Manager, Jo Ellen Arntz, at the studio to work on costume fittings with the dancers for the premiere of “Ask Me,” by Choreographer Adam Hougland set to the music by Joan as Police Woman. The design process for the costumes was extensive as each dancer was interviewed and research was conducted to create unique pieces for each performer.
One of the astounding artists to this year’s Hearts in San Francisco, the fundraising benefit for SF’s General Hospital’s Trauma Center, was none other than former Smuin Ballet dancer Michael Kruzich. Kruzich contributed a breathtaking piece at the annual event that took place on February 12, 2015.
Smuin Ballet closes its 21st Season with the UNLACED Dance Series with four exciting works. Including works from Michael Smuin’s, Romeo and Juliet balcony Pas de Deux and Hearts Suite, Helen Pickett’s, riveting color-drenched ballet Petal, and Adam Hougland’s World Premiere, Ask Me.
When meeting with acclaimed Smuin dancer, Erin Yarbrough, it’s easy to forget that you’re conducting an interview. Even after a long day of dancing, there’s an undeniable sense of ease about her. What many don’t know is that following her long rehearsal days, she often speeds off to another studio, this time, to teach.
Smuin Ballet presents a spellbinding program that embraces four exciting works, including an exhilarating World Premiere that will leave you wanting more!