As Smuin Contemporary Ballet heads into its 26th season, former principal dancer Celia Fushille— among the few females worldwide to lead a major dance company as artistic director—talks about her stewardship since the death of the troupe’s charismatic founder in 2007.
What inspired you most about Michael Smuin?
His fearlessness as an artist, his creativity and his musicality. His movement was organic, and I always felt great dancing his choreography. As a director he was generous, respectful and loving, always appreciating the hard work of a professional dancer.
What do you bring as a woman to the artistic director’s role that differs from what a man would bring?
Work styles can differ regardless of gender. I’ve been known to be more understanding and open to dialogue than some of the male directors my dancers have worked under. I approach my dancers as adults, and try to help them to make the most of this very short career.
How do you balance Smuin’s legacy with the need to evolve?
By commissioning new works with the exciting, boundary-breaking quality Michael brought to his choreography. Works set to Sinatra, The Shins and Johnny Cash keep our dancers and audiences engaged and delighted.
What do audiences enjoy the most about Smuin Ballet? The work we do and the connection they feel with individual dancers. As artists, we have an opportunity to touch people’s hearts by putting them in touch with their emotions. Bringing that joy to others is a gift. Some people feel transformed by the experience.
At auction on gala night, cakes personally baked by the dancers go for $1,200 or more. Are they really that good?
Some things in life are priceless.
Photography by: Chris Hardy