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Michael Smuin

Contemporary Ballet

artist

Groups

About Michael Smuin

Smuin Contemporary Ballet Founder Michael Smuin was born on October 13, 1938, in Missoula, Montana. Smuin studied tap dancing as a child and became instantly enamoured with ballet when his mother took him to see the Ballet Russe on tour at the University of Montana. At the age of 15, Smuin moved to Salt Lake City to study dance on scholarship at the University of Utah. A few years later, San Francisco Ballet director Lew Christensen recruited Smuin for San Francisco Ballet, where he danced for six years. Smuin took a leave of absence from the company in 1962 to relocate to New York, where he performed in Bob Fosse’s Little Me on Broadway. During this time, Smuin created a nightclub act with his then-wife and fellow dancer Paula Tracy. Their “well-disguised ballet,” as Smuin would call it, toured widely and was billed alongside such entertainers as Louis Armstrong, Peggy Lee, and Frank Sinatra. The act later appeared on television on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Hollywood Palace, and Bell Telephone Hour, among others. Smuin joined American Ballet Theatre in 1965, where he choreographed Pulcinella Variations, The Catherine Wheel, Eternal Idol and several other pieces for the company before returning to San Francisco in 1973. During his years in New York he also worked with Leonard Bernstein, choreographing Candide. Smuin spent 12 years as a choreographer and co-director of San Francisco Ballet, a period that coincided with his direction of Sophisticated Ladies on Broadway. Smuin served as Artistic Director of San Francisco Ballet until 1985, and was instrumental in raising the company’s profile in the international arts community. His ventures included serving as co-chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts dance panel (1979-1981), staging a performance at the White House, and presenting his Romeo and Juliet and his Emmy Award-winning feature A Song for Dead Warriors for PBS’s Dance in America program. In 1988, Smuin received both a Tony and a Drama Desk Award for his choreography for Anything Goes. Outside of ballet and Broadway, Smuin choreographed several Francis Ford Coppola films, some of which include Rumble Fish, The Cotton Club and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. His choreography can also be seen in such films as A Walk in the Clouds, The Joy Luck Club, The Fantastiks, and Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (Special Edition).