Choreographers Corner- Trolley Dances 2016- Jean Isaacs

For our first inside look at Trolley Dances 2016, we thought it would be nice to start with the founder and visionary of this San Diego site-specific tradition- Jean Isaacs!  She has been working on her two dances since early in August and she’s making serious progress on her witty dances. Check out what she had to say when we asked her to share a little about her dances:

_aTrolley15.8883.1-XLThis year is my 20th anniversary with San Diego Dance Theater, and it is hard to even count how many site-specific dances I have choreographed for Trolley Dances over its 18-year existence. Every other year, I choreograph one dance for the company dancers and one for community dancers. The other years, I do two community pieces. This year I am creating two pieces for community dancers and I have two great casts.

Both of my dances this year are humorous and I am getting a kick out of watching them develop and become funnier and funnier as we go. Sometimes we need a little fun in modern dance and I think Trolley Dances is a wonderful time to enjoy it.

The first one, “Up a Creek with 10 Paddles” uses 10 boatmen to glide and rock their
journey. It is all tongue on cheek to The Ride of the Valkyries; a bloated Wagnerian bombast of a dance. The choreography is developing out of what we can do with the rowing oars the dancers are use.

The other dance is called “Me and My Car” and was inspired by the parking garage we are using as our site. This dance pairs 4 dancers with their cars to display how closely they resemble each other. The dancers are building exaggerated characters to push the satire of the dance. This piece will be danced for Friday Night Liberty on September 2nd as a preview for Trolley Dances._TrolPromo.2708.1-XL


Thanks for kicking off our Choreographers Corner for 2016! It’s never too early to get your Trolley Dances tickets and get on board:

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Live Arts Fest 2016: Melissa Adao

MELshake 3“MELshake” by Melissa Adao

Melissa Adao has been working hard in the San Diego dance community as a choreographer and hip hop educator. Her influence reaches aspiring dance students from Mesa College, Grossmont College and CSUSan Marcos, and she has brought together dancers from all areas of her reach to perform in “MELshake”- a sweet fusion of old school, new school, and much more! Melissa is excited to share more about the show before it hits LIVE ARTS FEST 2016 on Saturday night!

From Melissa:

I am a choreographer, performer, educator, and cat lover.  I consider myself an introvert in most social settings, but dance culture has allowed me to be more open, gain confidence, and have lasting relationships with others who I now consider family. I fell in love with hip hop dance and culture in the early 90’s watching the Fly Girls and Janet Jackson videos. I am in love with New Jack Swing music and party dances. I won’t let that type of music go to waste when it comes to a cipher. A lot of my choreography and class phrases are heavily influenced by it. My college students are exposed to new jack swing in class and it’s a thrill to see them (some who were born in 1998) come to appreciate this type of music and dance style. One of the sweetest compliments I’ve ever received was from my girl Shanara Lennox (referring to my boyfriend Julio and I), “you are my favorite 90’s couple.”

I create work as a way to connect to an audience.  Performing and setting work on dancersMelshake has been a huge outlet in meeting people, creating lasting relationships, and living a happy life.  I create the kind of work that I would personally want to see. I will always consider myself a student for life. I don’t consider myself a master at what I do as I am always eager to learn new ways to move and create. Lastly, as a hip hop artist who is 37 years old, I create work and perform to inspire other hip hop dancers. It is possible to still get down with others after 30 years of age if we want to! We just have to take care of our bodies and surround ourselves in the right community who will support that journey.

About “MELshake”:

“MELshake” features hip hop and fusion dance performed by a cast of 28 dancers between the ages of 18-30. It allows my works, and the diverse individuals who perform them, the opportunity to exchange with an audience who hasn’t already experienced them. Dancers of different ethnicities, dance backgrounds, and experiences will now have an opportunity to share their love for hip hop dance and culture, and create relationships with a new community. Additionally, since my participation in Young Choreographer’s Showcase and Prize in 2012, supporting and building a bridge between the hip hop and modern dance community has been important to me.

12970909_957948724320428_2618710468184852375_oThis show embraces my love for hip hop music, dance, and culture. Folks have their own definition and experiences of what hip hop is supposed to be – “MELshake” is a snippet of mine. I am a product of my community and those who have taught and inspired me to be a better version of myself. I would like to thank this community I love by sharing my passion to others who are interested.

Saturday, April 23. 7:30 pm.

Tickets: $20 Buy a festival pass! Full access to ALL performances: $110

top photo by Raymond Elstad/ bottom photo by Distilled Images
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Live Arts Fest 2016: bkSOUL & Collective Purpose


“Illegible” by bkSOUL and Collective Purpose

Dr. grace shinhae jun has been a valued member of the San Diego Dance Theater community for many years. She has taken some time to share a little but about “Illegible,” a thought provoking mixed-medium performance addressing acrimony and injustice around the #Black LivesMatter movement.

From grace:

BKSoul 4I am a child and product of Hip Hop culture who has trained in various movement styles that are represented in my work with the heaviest influence coming from Golden Era Hip Hop and modern dance. My work is centered on themes of social justice and representation. The emphasis of social justice through a hip hop lens has been heightened in my collaboration with spoken word poet Ant Black.
“Showcasing diversity” is what our collaboration is all about. Outwardly, we come from different racial and cultural backgrounds. We are a multi-genre group in which our expression of Hip Hop culture veers from mainstream standards. We often describe ourselves at the margins which I believe makes us unique. And I think Jean asked us to participate because our work is not so easily categorized.
I create dance work because I believe in the power of movement and performance. In a society that often privileges the mind, we rarely value the incredible intelligence of the body. I create work because I want to share my experience as a Korean American and to facilitate expressive storytelling by artists of color. When I saw Asian American fly girl Carrie Ann Inaba on the comedy show “In Living Color” in the early 1990s, I saw someone who looked like me and who blasted the stereotypes of docile and passive Asian women. This was amazingly affirming and I continue to be drawn to movement to push for my own and others’ empowerment.

About “Illegible”:BKSoul 2

“Illegible” grew out of ongoing conversations with co-directors Ant Black and Jesse Mills, and our other artistic collaborators. With the historical, current, and ongoing racial tensions that persist in our society and the growth of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, we sorely needed to share our voices. As I was finishing up my dissertation and Ant Black began writing his PhD dissertation, we read work by scholar Mark Anthony Neal. Ideas came like flashes of insight, and we poured our artist, activist, educator, scholar energies into the work. Jean commissioned “Skin” for Trolley Dances 2014, and we further expanded on the theme of illegibility to create an evening length work for the 2015 San Diego Fringe Festival.

“Illegible” is a powerful must-see  Live Arts Fest  performance.

Wednesday, April 20. 7:30 pm Tickets: $20 Buy a festival pass. Full access to ALL performances: $110

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LIVE ARTS FEST 2016: Tanzprojekt Elfi Schaefer-Schafroth

The Red Book” & “Picknick” by Tanzprojekt Elfi Schaefer-Schafroth


Swiss-based Tanzprojekt Elfi Schaefer-Schafroth, known for uniquely expressive interdisciplinary dance theater solos, presents “The Red Book,” a poetic dance installation on C.G. Jung, and “Picknick”, “an immensely touching journey through past hopes and disappointments” (Jennifer Dunning). Elfi is grateful to come back to San Diego, where her dance career started 35 years ago.

From Elfi:

Elfi flowersCurrently we are in Paris working for our show in Live Arts Fest 2016, planning, rehearsing, producing media, taking dance and yoga classes and of course enjoying the wonderful french cuisine at some lovely original places.

Just two days ago I saw a very moving solo, “Preparation Mortis” by Jan Fabre with Annabelle Chambon. It was the last performance we could retrieve the flowers and I collected some with joy as you can see on the picture.

Coming back to San Diego is coming home to my roots. When I was studying sports at the ETH Zurich I fell in love with dance. My Swiss teacher Madeleine Mahler put me in contact with Patricia Rincon. Since I was hungry to learn more about dance, Patricia was so generous to invite me to study dance in San Diego. I spent one vibrating year in San Diego with so many wonderful teachers and mentors like Patricia Rincon and Jean Isaacs. Through them I met many more wonderful people working in the dance field as choreographers and teachers who were willing to share their knowledge and to help me to become a dancer, performer and choreographer. So my future became dance and it is dance until now!

Luckily I have stayed in contact with my San Diego friends and they still come to Switzerland to perform, teach and choreograph. Jean Isaacs was most important for my further development. She gave many of her beautiful choreographies to my company and me. We showed our work in San Diego and toured through Mexico with “noa.” Our latest visit was for Trolley Dances in 2009 for “Taste of Heimat.” It was a great experience to work with a wonderful crew of dancers who are now part of the dance scene in San Diego. I am looking forward to seeing you all again!

More About Tanzprojekt Elfi Schäfer-Schafroth

Elfi 4_noa_sintflutTanzprojekt Elfi Schäfer-Schafroth is known for powerful and uniquely expressive interdisciplinary dance theater solos, which have been performed throughout Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Mexico, the United States and at various national and international festivals. In the last few years we were collaborating with Kathak dancers in India adding another language to our European and American view.

The Tanzprojekt Elfi Schäfer-Schafroth is putting a lot of time, know-how, heart and soul into the development of dance in schools as we believe that every child should have a chance to experience dance. We are working with an extraordinary dance group of the Zurich High School Rämibühl consisting of more than 50 dancers and at the Teachers University in Zurich.

More About “The Red Book” & “Picknick”

The Red Book is the overwhelming diary of C.G. Jung written 1914 – 1933 in Zurich, which he stated to be the fundament of all his theories. Several of his concepts help to understand diversity of human beings such as his archetypes and the idea of the unconscious. After writing The Red Book he was traveling all over the world to native people to research on diversity and commonalities in order to understand human being.

Elfi 3_Auswahl C.G.Jung, Aeschbacher“The Red Book” was a commission from the Museum Rietberg in Zurich, within a program accompanying the exhibition of The Red Book in 2011 upon its publication. When looking at The Red Book we found many aspects in C.G. Jungs notes and drawings that reflected our own work. On one hand we knew the loneliness, some of the visions and share a similar way of searching leaving open questions open. So we felt directly connected to his world and started to build up elements that would be important for us thereby creating our own approach to The Red Book and the world in it.

“Picknick” is the heart piece of our evening-long production “Lichtungen.” The production was inspired by finding a beautiful apron-like storage device that reminded me to my mother in the 50s. So it was a perfect interface from now to then and started a wonderful journey to the roots. We created “Picknick” within one week in a New York City flat for the Dumbo Art Festival in Brooklyn. By chance Jennifer Dunning visited the festival and at the end of the year it was praised in the annual New York City Times review. Luckily I also have friends in New York City who called us up about this. Otherwise we might have never known!


Catch Tanzprojekt Elfi Schäfer-Schafroth for one night only at Live Arts Fest 2016! 

Friday, April 22. 7:30 pm

Tickets: $20

Buy a festival pass! Full access to ALL performances: $110

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Young Choreographers Interview: Julio Velazquez

It’s only a little over a week away and we still have one more choreographer to highlight! Last but not least, Julio Velazquez will be showing a new work at the 2016 Young Choreographers Showcase and Prize in the White Box next weekend. He’s a well-known DJ and dancer around town, and now he’s going to dig in to his choreographic side for a chance to win the grand prize of a fully produced evening in Live Arts Fest 2017!

10313713_916323058395490_1469430485845603485_nWhat motivated you to apply for Young Choreographers this year?

I haven’t choreographed a piece where I get to choose the music, the dancers, and “the concept” since my senior BFA dance concert at San Diego State University in 2010. I left my hear in that piece and I didn’t feel a need to choreograph because my drive was towards performing in the works of others and learning. I was bookings gigs to choreograph but it was more collaborative or pre-set themes making pieces for schools, “surprise dances” for birthday parties, weddings or for teaching class. This year my goal is to showcase where I am with my dance journey. I feel like I have reached a new level in life and learned so much that I feel the need to take this opportunity to see what can happen with choreography.

 Tell us a little bit about the piece you are creating for the showcase.12694640_1228593423835117_3378429040016045704_o

I have been performing in  “the modern scene” and “hip hop scene” here in San Diego, either in Trolley Dances or with Culture Shock San Diego dance troupe. To me it is all a “dance scene.” My background is hip hop freestyle, but I have been exposed to other dance genres. I take it all in because it all just comes out as a dance. in this piece I want to explore and see if I can blend in or fuse dance styles together just to make sure it does justice to the music. I have selected three dancers who blend my modern side, choreography side and freestyle side. I will also be performing in this piece so we will be on this ride together.

10309363_842729149088215_6664948202232216405_nThis piece is about an exploration with dance opening our minds with movement articulating what you hear to the music- what it makes you feel. I just want to dance, I am not aiming for a “plot” but I believe we will share our story through the movement, going for a feelings from calmness to adrenaline rush! I want to showcase what I hear in the music and simply jam to it. With this show I see a purpose, I can invite dancer friends from both “scenes” to gather and it can expose or inspire a spark to train in something else we are not in which has brought me to create a piece like this. It is another way to show my work for those who do not know me or do not understand “dance” but edu-train to show them what we are feeling in order to entertain with art :)

Tickets are selling fast so make sure to get yours and exercise your vote for this years’ winner of Young Choreographers!

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Young Choreographers Interview: Kymmi Kellems

Kymmi Kellems is fairly new to the San Diego dance community, having moved here from
Oregon just last summer. She’s got big plans for her Young Choreographers Showcase and Prize work,

What motivated you to apply for Young Choreographers this year?

293456_233421553361891_7977660_n Actually, there were several motivating factors in my applying for Young Choreographers this year, although I’d say each one of those reasons was derived from a common goal which is to become more involved as a choreographer here in the San Diego dance community. I just moved into the area this past summer and chose to relocate to San Diego specifically because I was intrigued with the dance community here. I came with hopes to explore and become more involved in this community. So far I have thoroughly enjoyed the different things I have been involved in, including the San Diego Trolley Dances, as well as several performances with The PGK Dance Project TOO Company. While I have been very excited about the dance performance opportunities thus far, I somehow have felt like a big part of me was missing. It’s almost as if I left an important part of me behind; that unique part of me that tapped into my creative side. Before moving to San Diego I spent a lot of time in creation and exploration through my own choreography and it was during those times when I felt most alive. I’ve really been missing that feeling. I saw Young Choreographers as a wonderful opportunity for me to be inspired again, get those creative juices flowing and begin developing choreography in this area. So, I’m very grateful and honored to have been selected as one of the eleven choreographers to participate in the showcase this year!

 Tell us a little bit about the piece you are creating for the showcase.

D94A0467-EditFor the showcase, I am creating a piece titled “Drive.” The process for this piece began well before the initial development of the choreography itself.  I first was inspired by a specific project that artist Krag Kellems (who is also my brother) was in the middle of working on, called the 100-word picture project. Given a list of 100 words, he was to draw his own artistic interpretation of each word.  I was intrigued by his unique visual interpretations of these words. Not only did I appreciate the artwork, I was also artistically inspired and moved. I found myself exploring ideas on how I could take what he had created on paper and rework it into a dance. I wanted to expand off of these images and collaborate artistically through the medium of dance to see what might result in this process. The Young Choreographers Showcase was the perfect opportunity to begin this choreographic exploration.  It was difficult choosing which picture to use, as multiple drawings stood out and spoke to me artistically, yet there was something so powerful about his image interpretation for the word “Drive” that I knew it was the one.  So, while the given word “Drive” was a strong basis for my choreographic vision, the actual process was immensely expanded by my reactions, emotions, explorations and interpretations from the picture itself.  I began to explore different ways to integrate the images and story that I saw within the art piece, crafting my choreography and dancers to expressively demonstrate this visual art now through performance art.

20066_100194193351295_2557016_nThe first thing I see when looking at the picture is a person being held back and weighed down with chains… but then has a drive so strong that they are able to break free. This scenario plays out in many different ways in life, whether it’s big life-changing decisions or smaller daily actions. As people, we are constantly dealing with this pull where something feels like it’s holding you back, but then there’s that goal that’s so powerful it drives you forward. But then, once you break free, you have that moment of weightlessness… So, in order to create this sense of pull I wanted to use three dancers: one as a representation of the being itself, another as the restraining factor, and the third as the driving force. It has been an amazing experience working with these dancers around this concept. I am so grateful for the passion and talent they bring to the piece and am excited to share the result of this process with you all!

Share a special tidbit about yourself.

 A silly fact about me is that I am new to chocolate… Ever since I can remember I didn’t like chocolate. Actually, “didn’t like” is an understatement. I hated chocolate to the point that I’d tell people I was allergic to it! In college my roommates would have to warn me when they were going to make brownies or chocolate cake so I could leave the apartment because I despised the smell. Just about a year ago I started craving chocolate and it was a very weird feeling for me. So I tried it and for the first time in history, I didn’t spit it out and even kind of liked it. Now I would go as far as saying that I love it and if you offer me a chocolate peanut butter cup, I will gladly eat it right up!

Just a couple more weeks to go! Get your tickets for Young Choreographers soon because it’s sure to be a full house at White Box Live Arts!

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Young Choreographers Interview: Trixi & Arthur

Unlike the other finalists we’ve shared with you so far Trixi Anne Agiao & Arthur Huang have competed in our Young Choreographers Showcase and Prize before. In the past, we’ve been impressed with what they made together and we are glad to have them back on the program for 2016! Trixi answered our interview questions on behalf of herself and her parter in crime, Arthur. Check it out:

What motivated you to apply for Young Choreographers this year?

156791_445806702134454_913482921_n (1)During the last few years, Arthur and I have been mainly focused on dancing for other people and companies. We have had great experiences and learned a lot from different processes. However, we are at a place where we want to focus on our own work again. What interests us currently is seeing how we are able to integrate everything we learned and use it to enhance our own choreographic voice.

Tell us a little bit about the piece you are creating for the showcase.

Our piece is inspired by an article that Arthur read. It was about about how different social media platforms have to be used differently to be effective in building one’s brand. The article cited certain celebrities as an example, describing how their Instagrams are full of glamorous fashion shots while their snaps from Snapchat show a more mundane, human side. This raised interesting questions for Arthur and I as to how people build different identities online, and whether those identities are consistent with their identities in real life. The theatricality of it is what really drew us, as Arthur and I are both fans of dance theater. We were lucky enough to get an awesome cast of 8 people this year, so for once Arthur and I don’t have to dance in our own piece, though we do serve other functions within it.a

Share a special tidbit about yourselves.

Arthur and I are twins. Not real twins, but freaky twins who say the same thing at the same time unplanned and a little too often. When we aren’t working on dance, we watch “Dr. Who.” We’re very upset the series got pulled from Netflix. Besides watching TV together, Arthur has recently got me into reading his collection of sci-fi and fantasy novels. We are nerds who love and accept that fact! Lastly, and this is the most important thing about us…we have matching Thing One and Thing Two sweatshirts, shirts and matching black sweats.

The work of these “freaky twins” will hit the White Box Live Arts stage along with the other 10 finalists in less than a month! Wish them luck and cheer them on from the audience on March 12th!

top photo by Christine Herde, bottom photo by Jasmine Wang
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