Theater & Dance
Erin Yarbrough

Dancer with the Smuin Ballet
Dance teacher
"Untamed" Winter Dance Series

Who: Smuin Ballet
Program: Serenade for Strings by Garrett Ammon, set to Tchaikovsky’s score; Objects of Curiosity by Amy Seiwert, set to a score by Philip Glass and Foday Muso Suso; Frankie & Johnny by Michael Smuin, with Latin and mambo music (contains material that is intended for mature audiences)
When: March 13-14, 2015
Where: Lesher Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek, California
Tickets: $54-$73 (discounts available), call 925-943-7469 or visit
When: March 19-22, 2015
Where: Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro Street, Mountain View, California
Tickets: $52-$71 (discounts available), call 650-903-6000 or visit
When: March 27-28, 2015
Where: Sunset Center, San Carlos Street between 8th and 10th Streets, Carmel, California
Tickets: $$56-$73 (discounts available), call 831-620-2048 or visit

Frankie & Johnny
Keith Sutter / Smuin Ballet
Smuin Ballet dancers Eduardo Permuy, left, and Erin Yarbrough in Michael Smuin's "Frankie & Johnny," which is part of Smuin Ballet's "Untamed" Dance Series in the 2014-2015 season.
Celebrating an accomplished lifetime in dance
Erin Yarbrough is in her 12th season with Smuin Ballet, and loving it
March 20, 2015

That beautiful little redhead who is dancing Frankie in the ballet "Frankie & Johnny" for Smuin Ballet is Erin Yarbrough, who is celebrating her 12th season with the accomplished dance troupe started by Michael Smuin.

At 36, she is the oldest active dancer in the troupe, which is known not only for the grace and American-ness of its dancing, but also for its consummate athleticism. Smuin dancers do amazing things, bringing to mind the incredible athleticism of gymnasts, but combined with ageless, classic grace.

"I'm better than I was when I was 24," Yarbrough said during a recent phone interview. "You figure out how your body works, and how to take care of it. I am smarter about all that.

"I learned how to physically take care of myself, and how to approach everything a little differently. I know to listen to my body, to know when to hold back, and when to challenge myself."

Yarbrough has been dancing all her life, which is true, probably of most dancers who make it to this level, dancing for an internationally renowned and successful companies such as Smuin, which is now run by Artistic Director Celia Fushille, who was one of Smuin's favorite dancers herself. He died in 2007.

"I got my first ballet slippers when I was about 4," Yarbrough says. "I started taking ballet classes ... I've been doing it since before I could remember.

"I didn't think I would do it professionally, I went to college, but then danced with Oakland Ballet for five years before I came to Smuin.

"It wasn't my dream, I was just in the right place at the right time, worked really hard, and have taken advantage of the luck that came along. ... I've gotten to dance a lot of really great roles."

Smuin dancers work. Five or six days a week, 9:30 a.m. till 4 p.m., depending on what choreographers are in town and the performance schedule.

In addition to that, Yarbrough also teaches three days a week, at a studio in Alameda.

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She figures she will keep it up "Till I drop dead on the stage. ... Honestly, I still love dancing, and my body feels great."

The Smuin's current tour is called "Untamed," and includes "Serenade for Strings," choreographed by Garrett Ammon, "Frankie & Johnny," choreographed by Michael Smuin, and "Objects of Curiosity," choreographed by Smuin resident choreographer Amy Seiwert.

"I'm doing Frankie," Yarbrough said. "Michael was so good at telling stories, and it is one of my favorite story ballets. I am so happy when it's over [becuase of the joy of dancing it]. I sink myself into a nice acting role. It's probably my favorite."

She's also in " Serenade for Strings," which she says has a very pastoral feel, with exciting music that is "so incredibly beautiful."

And, she says it's fun to revisit "Objects of Curiosity."

"I feel like I am experiencing it in a whole new way," she says. "I am appreciating things in a different way. Amy is very detail-oriented. There's a lot to discover."

Her job as a dancer, Yarbrough explains, is to interpret what the choreographer wants.

"It can be very collaborative," she says. "They say what they want, or show it — 'I want a high lift' or .... and I have to come up with something that sort of matches."

The Smuin recently held a choreography workshop, Yarbrough says, where dancers did the choreography.

"I found it terrifying!" she says. "The things I'd planned were not as good as what the dancers came up with. ... When I let go, it was better.

"If you think about it, your natural impulses are what look best on you. I worked with (choreographer) Trey McIntire, and he was looking at me and the way I naturally move. He used that as a model. ... I'm short, I have a womanly figure — I thought he really saw me, and used my natural way of moving. ... I'm a little bit curvy. I felt he appreciated that about me."

Yarbrough, by the way, is engaged to be married, to Jonathan Powell, another Smuin dancer.

"It has been an adventure to learn to work together," Yarbrough says. "It can be difficult to dance with your significant other.

"But, wonderful, also. It's wonderful."

Email John Orr at

Keith Sutter / Smuin Ballet
Eriin Yarbrough is lifted by Jonathan Powell, left, and Weston Krukow in Amy Seiwert's "Objects of Curiosity," part of Smuin Ballet's "Untamed" Dance Series in the 2014-2015 season. Yarbrough and Powell are engaged to be married in July 2015.
Romeo and Juliet
Keith Sutter / Smuin Ballet
Smuin Ballet dancers Erin Yarbrough and Jonathan Powell in Michael Smuin's "Romeo and Juliet," part of Smuin Ballet's "Unlaced" Dance Series in the 2014-2015 season.