Editor’s note: Michael Smuin passed away on April 23, 2007.
San Francisco choreographer and dancer Michael Smuin boasted an exceptionally broad dance vocabulary, from classical ballet to Broadway, nightclubs and even ice rinks. Spark visited with Smuin and his versatile company in 2005 as they worked on their annual “Christmas Ballet” and his “Fly Me to the Moon,” set to songs by Frank Sinatra.
Smuin was a principal dancer with the San Francisco Ballet before moving to New York to dance on Broadway and appear in film and television. He was also both principal dancer and choreographer-in-residence with the American Ballet Theatre. In 1973, he returned to San Francisco to be the artistic director of the San Francisco Ballet, a post he held until 1985. During his tenure, he created “Romeo and Juliet,” “The Tempest” and “A Song for Dead Warriors” — all of which won EMMY Awards.
Though he has produced many traditional ballets, Smuin was equally successful choreographing for Broadway, television and film. As a choreographer, Smuin has won Tony, Drama Desk and Fred Astaire awards for “Anything Goes,” and he was nominated for Tony Awards for “Sophisticated Ladies” for both director and choreographer. His feature film credits include “Rumble Fish,” “Cotton Club,” “Dracula,” “The Joy Luck Club” and “Return of the Jedi, Special Edition.”
In 1994, he started his own company, Smuin Ballet, in which he combined ballet with many other dance styles, such as jazz, tap and tango. His mission was to entertain the audience using his vast dance vocabulary in any number of ways to guarantee that no one was ever bored.