Michael Smuin, whose theatrically showy, accessible style pleased American audiences more often than critics, died in San Francisco, April 23, at age 68. Smuin danced with San Francisco Ballet, 1953-61, before moving with his wife Paula Tracy to New York. Until joining American Ballet Theatre in 1969, they danced as freelancers, including a stint touring their own nightclub act. After rejoining San Francisco Ballet as co-artistic director with Lew Christensen, the management ousted him in 1985 and he returned to a freelance career.
He founded his own Smuin Ballet in 1994, a San Francisco-based, chamber-sized group of about 15 dancers. Smuin was rehearsing for its May performances when he collapsed from an apparent heart attack. The company will continue under Celia Fushille Burke, Smuin’s associate director. Smuin, an adaptable, larger-than-life personality choreographed for Broadway musicals, Hollywood films and for television.
He won a television Emmy Award in 1984 and New York’s Tony Award for choreography in 1988. In a 1983 prize acceptance speech, Smuin explaining that his goal was to infuse ballet “with the rhythm, speed and syncopation of American popular culture,” Even his ...