Today, Louisville Ballet dancers and crew are setting themselves up in the Kentucky Center’s Whitney Hall to prepare for Friday night’s rise of the curtain for a production billed as Three Reflections with a premiere by San Francisco-based choreographer Amy Seiwert. (The triple bill includes Adam Hougland’s Cold Virtues and Celts by Lila York.)
But yesterday, Seiwert worked with the company dancers to smooth out some spots and more sharply define others in a piece she calls Smiling Underneath, set to Mozart’s Symphony No. 25 in G Minor. She talked over pacing, counts and body angles with the dancers, sometimes putting herself in their hands to illustrate her points.
And then there was the run through that showed a style strongly inspired by classical ballet, but distinctive, nonetheless. The nine dancers wove through the choreography with its solid structure made up in places of individual bodies, with arms making sharp and then soft shapes, blended with complicated pas de trios. In a statement for her own San-Francisco-based ballet company, Im’ij-re, she writes, “Though respect is held for swans and sylphs, they are not where the company’s interests lie.”
Seiwert, who is 40, has had a long career. She was a principal dancer with the Sacramento Ballet up to 1999 when she joined the Smuin Ballet. There she danced until 2008 and now is the company’s resident choreographer. But even before that she was choreographing and in 2005 turned up on Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch” list. Today, while with Smuin, she also works with Im’ij-re. Outside of San Francisco, she has created works for the American Repertory Ballet, the Colorado Ballet, the Carolina Ballet, and others.
Company officials are touting this performance, as most of Seiwert’s work is produced and seen on the West Coast. But she’s no stranger to this part of the country or this region. She grew up in Cincinnati playing the piano, as did many in her family, and the oboe. That could account for the musicality in her work.
Yes, dancers in Louisville are moving to Mozart and Seiwert has set pieces to Dvoák, but her musical inspiration is diverse. She’s also set pieces to Otis Redding and to spoken word. At the 2007 West Wave Dance Festival she had her first experience of presenting an entire evening of her own work, which included Double Consciousness. It was a solo set to a spoken-word piece by Marc Bamuthi Joseph, who riffed off of W.E.B DuBois’ famous social commentary. Joseph’s work would be familiar to audiences who saw him perform in his own piece, the break/s, at Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Humana Festival of New American Plays two years ago. (In December, Joseph included her work in the Left Coast Leaning Festival [pdf], which features urban-based movement, storytelling and music.)
The chance to work with the Louisville Ballet came up last spring, when she was visiting family in the region and was able to fit in a visit with the company’s leaders. Executive director, Dwight Hutton, knew Seiwert from when they both worked at the Smuin Ballet. She was a dancer and he was the company’s managing director. And Bruce Simpson, the Louisville Ballet’s artistic director, had seen her work and met her, which sparked his interest to bring her here. So, the collaboration between company and choreographer solidified with a place for Seiwert’s work this season.