The Ballet she helped create and now directs

Exclusive Interview By Iride Aparicio

Excecutive Director  Celia Fushille      Photo By:  Scot Goodman

SAN FRANCISCO, CaliforniaThe Excecutive and Artistic Director of  SMUIN BAILLET,  Celia (pronounced phonetically in the Spanish language)  Fushille, (Above center)  appears to have been led to the world of dance by the hand of fate.

In an exclusive interview she tells us that with her sister, she was enrolled by their mother in ballet class at the age of  four  in el Paso, Texas, where she was born.  “Being very shy I did not participated in the class" she says, "I just went to the  room and sat in a corner.” When her sister quit the class, Calia was pulled out.   

Four years later, for a reason she still does not know, she asked her mother to send her back  to ballet class. “after that, I was always a diligent student who wanted to do the technique exactly right.” She adds.

She  received her early dance training with Ingeborg Heuser, a  former dancer from the Berlin Opera Ballet. Being a good dancer, Celia was given the opportunity to perform many times during the year dancing in the Spring and  during the Fall  in ballets and in recitals.  It is not surprising that at the age of 13, she received a full scholarship to study dancing in San Francisco, California  with the S.F. Ballet School.

“So every Summer I came to San Francisco and when I left, they always asked me to return.” She says  “I graduated early from High School, and moved to San Francisco in  1980.
“At that time, Michael Smuin (Who was the  principal dancer of the American Ballet and  also worked as  the Co-Artistic Director of  the Ballet School in S.F) used to hire guest teachers from all over the world to work with the students from the highest level of the school, which was the class I was in.” she says, “and one day this guest teacher, Tatiana Tarasova, came up to me after teaching her class, and asked me “Do you know Michael?” and I said, “Yes, I know who he is, because he was like God  to us, so  she took me by the wrist and we went to his  studio to find him and when she did she told him: “Michael, this is Celia, I think you should hire her.”

When Smuin hired her, Celia became a dancer of the S.F. Ballet.  Many years later, she also became a founder of SMUIN BALLET  

CW: How did that happened?

Celia:  “I have a long history with Michael because, as I  said  before, I danced with him at the San Francisco Ballet, where I met him when I was 17 years old. He already knew me and he knew my dancing. So on November of  l993, when Michael started his company, he asked me to work with him, both as a dancer and as his assistant.

CW: What  attracted  you to Michael’s style of dancing?

Celia: It was a  “A little serendipity.”  “When I was living in El Paso, the San Francisco Ballet used to tour there and  the school directors, who travelled with the company,  held auditions wherever the company was performing.  That’s how I was introduced to Michael’s work which was really a lucky event.”

CW: As the Excecutive and Artistic Director of SMUIN BALLET what are your plans for the ballet?

Celia:  “I feel that it has been a huge learning process for me. (She became the Artistic Director of  SMUIN BALLET after Michael’s passing  on April 23, 2007)  I certainly have worked so close to Michael that I was prepared to undertake the Artistic Director role, but a few years ago the board asked me to become Excecutive Director. I think I have now grown into the role and I am more comfortable with both facets of my job but some times the administrative work and the work that I do at the studio with the dancers gets incredibly hectic. At times is very difficult trying to juggle both, but I have a fantastic staff working with me so it is really a team effort. In terms of my vision for the company, I would like to be able to maintain Michael’s legacy and present his works, but also bring new works of world’s renown choreographers and also the work of upcoming coreographers as well.
which I think is important for both the audience and the dancers.  I think that the dancers need new works to grow artistically. So I will look for works which will be challenging for them.

Smuin Ballet 1CW: What is your new Season going to offer us?

Celia: We have a fabulous program, really exciting. The program opens with “Tango Palace”  a work that Michael created in 2003 and just as Michael did, when he was creating it, I brought in a regular Tango teacher, so the dancers could learn  to dance properly  the Argentine Tango.

The picture on the left shows dancers Jonathan Dummar and Robin Cornwell in Smuin’s  ballet “TANGO PALACE”  Picture by: David DeSilva

Celia:  Learning the Tango was a very intensive process because I wanted  to  be sure that it really captured the nuance of Argentine Tango, because the first part is really Tango.  The work is a mixture of Fado, with Amalia Rodriguez is singing a Fado,  and it closes with a piece by Edith Piaf.  There is a mix of music in it, but it starts with the traditional tango,  It also has traditional Tango costumes: beautiful dresses for the ladies and  elegant suits and fedoras for the men.  It is very in keeping with the style of the Argentine’s dance.  In the second half, the ladies change to short dresses and the music is danced on point.  It has a dream quality.

Celia: The Next ballet we have is Michael’s  “Stabat Mater.”

Smuin Ballet 2
 Michael Smuin’s STABAT MATER                       Photo by David DeSilva

Celia:  The work is Michael’s response to 9/11.  and it is a beautiful ballet about lost but also about hope.  The work teaches us hat we have to cope together as a community  and move  forward after any tragedy and any lost, because there is hope in the future and hope in moving forward if one looks for the reasons and has the strength to continue. 

For the ballet Michael used Dvorak’s  (Czech composer of  late Romantic music Antonín Leopoldo Dvorak  l841-l904) Stabat Mater, work.  The name of the piece means “Sorrow for mother” and the music is supposed to reflect the sorrow of the Virgin Mary  for Her son.  The Ballet itself  is not about the Virgin Mary. It is about a couple where the male dies. While choreographing it, Michael was thinking about all these people that lost a brother or a husband during 9/ll. The other couples, in the dance are supporting the lead woman. In the ballet, At the end of the ballet, even when her lover appears to her, he needs to leave.  It is a beautiful ballet and one the dancers always enjoy performing it.

Smuin Ballet 3Celia: Then we have this beautiful “Pax de deux” that Michael called “The Eternal Idol.”  He created the work in l969 for a ballerina at the American Ballet theater and is a beautiful piece inspired by a  sculpture of the same name.The dancers wear flesh-colored body suits, and the  ballet beging on a rock, in the formation of the sculpture. The music is a Chopin Piano Concerto.and  When it begins, they come off the rock, dance a beautiful romantic dance and then they return to the rock. It is a beatuful image. 



The picture on the left shows dancers Jonathan Dummar and Robin Cornwell in Smuin’s  ballet “THE ETERNAL IDOL”

Picture by: David DeSilva


Celia:  And our new ballet in the program is Amy Saiwert’s “DEAR MISS CLINE”  A wonderful ballet.  Amy’s choreography is very unusual, vey different, but she tied it in. It has something of a feeling of a Smuin ballet, something Michael may have done, but still very much in her style.  It is a delightful ballet.

And she adds, "This program really showcases what SMUIN (Ballet) is about, because of the variety of the dances in the program.  There is something for every one, it is visually beautiful to look at and the most wonderful thing is that as even when SMUIN as a ballet, is a serious ballet, we (the dancers) do not take ourselves too seriously.  We like to enjoy ourselves, and this program, certainly shows that."

Smuin Ballet 4
L-r Dancers Terez Dean &Chrisstian Squires  Photo: David De Silva

SMUIN BALLET will be presented in Walnut Creek, Carmel and Mountain View from February 3 to February 26

For tickets and further information go to smuinballet.org.