Choo-San Goh, the late choreographer (and a casualty of the AIDS virus), was known to have been one of the brightest lights in the late 20th century’s ballet world.
Astonishingly, his work has never been seen by San Francisco audiences — until now. Smuin Ballet concludes its 2010-11 season with a program featuring Goh’s “Momentum,” onstage this week at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and later this month in Walnut Creek and San Mateo.
Originally created for the Joffrey Ballet to Prokofiev’s romantic First Piano Concerto, “Momentum” took the top prize at the 1983 choreographic competition in Varna, Bulgaria, considered the world’s most prestigious international ballet competition.
Goh came to prominence in 1979 as Washington Ballet’s 28-year-old resident choreographer and an internationally acclaimed wunderkind, creating and staging works for performers such as Mikhail Baryshnikov and companies such as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theatre, Royal Danish Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Paris Opera Ballet and the Royal Swedish Ballet.
As a youth in Singapore, the youngest of 10 children, Goh wanted to follow in the footsteps of three older siblings who became professional dancers.
But before sanctioning his career choice, Goh’s father required that he first complete a university degree. He did so — in chemical engineering. It was a choice that represented much about the man and how he approached his work.
“His mind was that sharp,” says Janek Schergen, the director of the Singapore Ballet and the keeper of Goh’s creative flame. “There was a speed and clarity in his work. He made very sophisticated musical choices and complex patterns that were very attractive to the eye. For the audience, they are wonderful to watch. And for dancers, they feel good to do. Enjoying what you’re dancing makes communicating to an audience so much easier.”
Smuin Ballet Executive Director Celia Fushille sought out Schergen to set the ballet, a work for five couples, on the company. Her timing couldn’t have been better.
“It’s not by design but by accident that they just happen to have the right dancers in the company now to do the particular roles,” Schergen says.
Completing the something-for-everyone program is “Requiem,” a world premiere by Smuin resident choreographer Amy Seiwert and performed to Mozart’s “Requiem” Mass and Michael Smuin’s 1984 “To The Beatles,” a playful tour de force that includes tap, ballet and acrobatics reflecting the multiple facets of the Fab Four’s prodigious output, set to tunes such as “Penny Lane,” “And I Love Her” and “Come Together.”
Bet you just can’t resist singing along.
Where: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. today, Tuesday-Thursday and May 13; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and May 14; 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday; 2 p.m. May 15
Tickets: $20 to $62
Contact: (415) 978-2787, (415) 556-5000, www.smuinballet.org
Note: Performances also are May 20-21 at Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek and May 25-29 at Bayside Performing Arts Center in San Mateo.