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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

"Barefoot Diva" Celebrated in Smuin's New Ballet

Posted By on Tue, Apr 29, 2014 at 10:00 AM

'But now I must rest' - KEVIN SUTTER
  • Kevin Sutter
  • 'But now I must rest'

About a week before the premiere of her piece "But now I must rest," with Smuin's XXcentric Spring Dance Series, choreographer Amy Seiwert still wants to work out a few details. And she's delighted about that.

"We're not stale in the creation process," she said. "That's a good place to be -- it's exciting."

The music of Cesária Évora, a singer from Cape Verde, who was known as the "Barefoot Diva," inspired Seiwert's latest piece.

"I started it differently than I usually do," she said. "I just went into the studio with one dancer, Katherine Wells, and at first we just worked on creating gestures from watching her videos on YouTube and from translations of words that she's singing."

Seiwert said she fell in love with Évora's music and wanted to create a piece around it. While looking into the history of Cape Verde, an archipelago off of West Africa, she found slave trade featured prominently.

"Once I started researching the place what struck me was the history -- it's a very painful history," she said. "It's a very beautiful place, but it has a harsh beauty."

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Seiwert also looked into Évora's story.

"She was amazing," Seiwert said. "She always performed barefoot as a show of solidarity to poor women in the world, and when she passed away, there was two days of mourning in her honor."

Seiwert, who started dancing with Smuin in 1999, and retired in 2008, said she loves working with the 16-dancer company as a choreographer.

"These dancers are pretty fearless, and it's small enough that every artist is invested and valued as an individual," she said. "It's not a company where everyone has to be tall with long legs -- it's a really diverse palette."

Working with these dancers on "But now I must rest" has been a pleasure, Seiwert says.

"We gave them some history and gave them the words and different access point, and they were so receptive," she said. "It's new for me to try something from a more theatrical standpoint. It's scary, but wonderful. If you only ever do what you know, you might as well stop creating."

Smuin's XXcentric Spring Dance Series will be at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission Street, May 2-11. Tickets are $24- $64. For more information, call 912-1899 or go to the company's website.

For events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook.

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Emily Wilson

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