Somewhere in Time/Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (Variation 18) - Sergei Rachmaninov

Michael Smuin

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Choreographer Michael Smuin, a major force in the San Francisco dance world and one of the region's most prominent and audacious showmen, died of an apparent heart attack Monday morning after collapsing while teaching a Smuin Ballet company class.

Attempts by his dancers and paramedics to revive him at his troupe's upper Market Street studio were unsuccessful. Smuin, 68, was pronounced dead at San Francisco General Hospital.

"The shock is foremost," said Smuin Ballet dancer Shannon Hurlburt. "He was in such a fantastic mood yesterday." The silver-haired Smuin had a heart attack in 1992 but seemingly had been in good health in recent years.

Known for the vibrant, expressive and brassy work he created for his own company, for various regional companies, on Broadway and in Hollywood, Smuin was co-artistic director of the San Francisco Ballet from 1973 to 1985. He danced with that company from 1953 to 1961 and later with the American Ballet Theatre, where he was both a principal dancer and choreographer.

Smuin won a Tony Award on Broadway in 1988 for his choreography of "Anything Goes" and was nominated for a Tony in 1981 for "Sophisticated Ladies." He received an Emmy Award in 1984 for "Great Performances: Dance in America." He choreographed pieces for Dance Theatre of Harlem, Milwaukee Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet and Washington Ballet. His film choreography credits include "Rumble Fish," "The Cotton Club" and "So I Married an Axe Murderer."

Smuin's range was voluminous, with both successes and failure writ on a large and often overtly showy scale. For his eponymous Smuin Ballet, he set dances to music by Frank Sinatra, George Gershwin, the Beatles, Haydn and Brahms.

"Michael Smuin sends people out of the theater humming tunes and filled with images of pretty young women and handsome young men spinning and leaping up a storm," Jennifer Dunning wrote in the New York Times last year. The choreographer's buoyant annual "Christmas Ballet" is a particular audience favorite in the Bay Area...

Here's Patti LuPone and the cast of Anything Goes performing at the 1988 Tony Awards. 



Sad news. I think his creativity will be well remembered in the image of a tap dancing Christmas tree. (Though not left out and forgotten like the trees in the scene...)

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