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Former SLOcals bring ballet to AT&T Stadium 

Every single one of professional baseball-player-turned-Giants-commentator Mike Krukow's five kids played baseball growing up in San Luis Obispo. But when the game was over, his youngest child, Weston, would go to his room, put on NSYNC or Brittney Spears videos, and dance.

In Weston, Mike saw the same spark for dance that the former Giants pitcher had for baseball.

click to enlarge OUT OF THE PARK Professional dancer Ben Needham-Wood (pictured) teamed up with his dancer friend Weston Krukow and his baseball legend dad, Mike, to create the film Baseballet: Into the Game, which compares the similarities in the movements found in dance and baseball. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BEN NEEDHAM-WOOD
  • Photo Courtesy Of Ben Needham-wood
  • OUT OF THE PARK Professional dancer Ben Needham-Wood (pictured) teamed up with his dancer friend Weston Krukow and his baseball legend dad, Mike, to create the film Baseballet: Into the Game, which compares the similarities in the movements found in dance and baseball.

"It was his passion. It was never work for him," Mike said. "It opened up a world that I knew nothing about, yet there were so many parallels."

After going to school at SLO High and dancing at Pat's American Dance, Weston went on to study dance at college and work professionally as a dancer in touring shows like An American in Paris. As Weston's passion for dance grew, father and son found themselves time and time again discussing the similarities between the way baseball players and dancers moved. On one such occasion, the duo was having dinner with Weston's friend Ben Needham-Wood, a dancer with Smuin Ballet in San Francisco, and the talk went a little further.

With Mike's TV connections, they pitched the idea of a short feature on dance and baseball to a local station in the Bay Area. The idea was approved and that eight-minute segment in 2015 eventually led to a 30-minute documentary, Baseballet: Into the Game. Dance pieces feature Weston, Needham-Wood, and others at AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. The film will show at the San Luis Obispo Film Festival March 16 though 18.

click to enlarge A MAN AND HIS BALL During the creative process of making Baseballet: Into the Game, dancer and former SLOcal Weston Krukow (pictured here with Smuin Ballet dancer Terez Dean) came up with the idea to have the baseball turn into a female dance partner in one of the pieces. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BEN NEEDHAM-WOOD
  • Photo Courtesy Of Ben Needham-wood
  • A MAN AND HIS BALL During the creative process of making Baseballet: Into the Game, dancer and former SLOcal Weston Krukow (pictured here with Smuin Ballet dancer Terez Dean) came up with the idea to have the baseball turn into a female dance partner in one of the pieces.

While dance and baseball might not seem like a natural pairing, Weston thinks the two come together over commonalities like athleticism and creativity.

"There's such a support for baseball and a love for baseball in SF and around the country," Weston said. "I think baseball audiences love seeing physical feats and something spectacular, and what is dance if not something spectacular?"

In creating the various contemporary ballet, West Coast Swing, and hip-hop pieces for the short film, Needham-Wood said they were inspired by even the small movements found in baseball, like a player tapping the bat on the ground or adjusting his hat.

"What we ended up finding is that there are a lot of movements and gestures you can see in any baseball game," Needham-Wood said.

Wanting to bring female dancers into the pieces, Weston thought of the idea of a player throwing a ball that turns into a woman to capture the intimate relationship between the player and the ball.

"There's still an artistry to how you approach baseball, how you approach pitching," Weston said. "What's your swagger like? That to me is art."

While many Giants fans would readily classify Mike as a legend in baseball and sports broadcasting, he still remains in awe of his son.

"I just stare at him with an open mouth with the beauty with which he dances," Mike said. "I look at how hard these guys work and the love and dedication they have for their art, and it's a beautiful thing." Δ

Arts Editor Ryah Cooley is rooting for the home team at rcooley@newtimesslo.com.


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