Choreographers Corner- Trolley Dances 2016- Jess Humphrey

Last but not least, we share a blog with you from Trolley Dances 2016 jess-humphreychoreographer Jess Humphrey. Jess is a part of the San Diego State University Dance Department faculty, as well as a facilitator of contact improvisation around town. We are most excited that her piece for Trolley Dances features an intergenerational cast of dancers ranging from their teens to their seventies! Jess has some juicy bits to share about her process and the piece you’ll see this weekend and next!

How has the site/cast helped to shape the dance?P1040714.jpg

Each dancer’s perception of the site is what we are using to create the work. What they do and who they are is not what shapes the dance…it is the dance. What we are practicing is more like site-sensitivity than site-specificity so we might experience this place anew through each performance. We relate, discover new nooks & crannies, and we can’t wait to see what it feels like when everyone is in there with us!

What would you like the audience to know about your Trolley Dance?
My fantasy is that when a person sees this dance, they let go of any obligation to “get it.” I would love to behold a crowd of people lingering in their experience until the dance ends, and then getting busy with the work of interpretation on the way out the door…or even in the next night’s dreams. We are not attempting to deliver a specific narrative with this dance, but if you really want a story, we give you full permission to find or make one up!


What other inspirations are informing your Trolley Dance?
The many ways in which somatic practices serve dancemaking processes, the hundreds of conversations I’ve had with Leslie Seiters over the past 8 years, including many this summer while she taught at ADF, Eric Geiger and every dance we’ve ever been in, and, on a good day, every experience each dancer in this piece has ever had. And Deborah Hay, all the way.

P1040751.jpgShare your most memorable moment of the process so far.
There are many dances within our dance. Some are in a sequence, several overlap to varying degrees, stuff is happening all over the place, and all (people, places, processes) are in relationship. In our last rehearsal, we took some time to witness each section. Dancers saw dances that they can’t see when the whole piece is happening. When we watched the duet with Pat Sandback and Laray Egea-Saez, the building was silent and there was no one in the space surrounding them. I realized that none of the Trolley Dance audiences will see it like we did that day and they will see it ways that we never will. It was breathtaking.

The time has come for us to finally share these wonderful new dances with you! See you this weekend or next for the best Trolley ride of the year!


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Dancer Blog- Trolley Dances 2016- Britney Castro

We’ve gone one last dancer story to share with you for Trolley Dances 2016: newbie Britney Castro has some great insight as to what it is like to take dance training out of the studio and into the wild that is site-specific dancing.

B.Castro-Headshot.jpgI have been dancing for about 25 years. I grew up in a farm-town in Northern California with a population of 4,000 people. That school didn’t offer much in terms of classical technique but gave me the opportunity to perform many times a year until I moved to a larger city. In high school I moved to a bigger town and joined a competitive hip-hop and contemporary company. After high school, I moved to San Diego and was introduced to the wonderful world of dance technique at San Diego Mesa College. I studied ballet, contemporary jazz, modern, tap, and hip hop under Jan Ellis, Donna Flournoy, Alauni Chun, Faith Jensen-Ismay and Melissa Adao. It was here that I learned my body as an instrument and decided to make dance a career. Next, I attended San Diego State University and earned my BFA in Dance. I studied ballet, improvisation, modern, dance-making, somatic practices and contact improvisation with Kathryn Irie, Jess Humphrey, Leslie Seiters, and Joseph Alter. I am now a collage of these different techniques, styles and perceptions as I enter the professional dance world.

This is my first time participating in Trolley Dances. I have been inspired to participate in this event since I first relocated to San Diego. The choreographers that participate in this event are all artists whom I hope to work with one day. There is so much that unfolds when choreographers are presented with some obstacles or boundaries to create within. The blank canvas of a stage is wonderful but the combination of dance and nature/architecture/everyday public life is both interesting and breathtaking.
Trolley Dances is different from other projects in many ways. Performing on obstacles, rehearsing in front of the public, dancing in boots on concrete/rocks/grass, rehearsing in the sun, performing many shows in one day- the list goes on and on. This is such a unique experience and even when things are more difficult or dangerous than they would be in the dance studio, I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

While I am excited about the whole Trolley Dances experience, I am most excited to represent Jean Isaacs’ work. It has been a dream of mine to work with Jean since I saw her production of “Rhapsody in Blue” my first year in San Diego. I am dancing in her piece located at Fault Line Park. We are performing a comedic dance based on the idea of rowing a Viking ship through the park in downtown San Diego. Our site is full of fun obstacles that create interesting spatial dynamic. We get to play with the audience’s perception by dancing behind walls and on giant boulders. Creating this piece has been a really fun experience.
The first day we rehearsed on-site, we marked isaacs-20d-1866-1-xleverything out and set our positions. As we were doing our first run-through, suddenly I realized, “wow this sun is hot.” Next I realized that I needed to jump over a wall, then onto a giant boulder. THEN I had to run to the other side of the grass, and then jump over a wall again! At this moment, I realized just how physically demanding this dance was going to be. Rather than dancing around a shaded level studio, we now had all of these obstacles that we not only needed to get over and around, but also needed to do so in an artistic manner. I felt like I was doing the gymnastics vault and few times in between performing my dance phrases. This was a wake-up call in the amount of stamina, endurance and dedication this performance was going to require. I was scared, and then empowered and now remain inspired to challenge myself in this hot and dirty new environment.

Trolley Dances 2016 begins this weekend and runs through October 2nd. Get your tickets and see what all the fun is about!

Photo by Manny Rotenberg from Trolley Dances 2003 dance by Jean Isaacs
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Choreographers Corner- Trolley Dances 2016- Zaquia Mahler Salinas

We are so happy to give you the opportunity to get to know choreographer Zaquia Mahler Salinas a little bit better in this week’s Choreographers Corner. Let’s just say she’s part of the San Diego Dance Theater family. She trained locally with Jean Isaacs and Terry Wilson, and after graduating from undergrad at UC Santa Barbara she quickly joined as an apprentice in the company. After only one season Jean asked her to join as a full company member. Since then her leadership skills quickly emerged as an asset and she leads the way in reaching diverse audiences as Social Media Coordinator. Her work has been featured in our Young Choreographer’s Showcase and Prize, Live Arts Fest, and shared evenings in our White Box Live Arts space, so, it was a natural progression for her to share her talents at Trolley Dances. Read on to learn more about her experience working with her cast and setting a site-specific work.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
img_2912I am a native San Diegan and I cherish this place I call home and all of the lovely people in it who make up my movement community. My passion for movement runs deep in my guts. I teach yoga and dance throughout San Diego, as well as choreograph and perform and I am deeply grateful to be able to go through life in this embodied way. My mission is to engage others in an inspiring relationship with movement and a deeper sense of confidence in their physical experience as human beings.

What is your past experience with site-specific work?
I am so freaking excited to have this opportunity to make a Trolley Dance! While I have danced in several site-specific dances with San Diego Dance Theater, I have never made one before. I have to say the task seemed both exhilarating and terrifying.

How has the site/cast helped to shape the dance?
When it worked out that my site was going to be in an art museum gallery space full of Chican@ art (which displays culture, socio-political history and personal story), I was pretty stoked. I have recently been investigating storytelling and personal identity in dance making. This space seemed the perfect location to move some of my questions about crafting movement that is personal and communal into physical research. I am nerding-out on the way the space has shaped this dance both thematically and in physical space. It is a really rewarding experience to feel all of the elements of space, theme, movement, and community come together.img_5897
The dance relates to the gallery greatly through thematic content. In Chicano@ art, I connect deeply to the subject matter of collective history and cultural narrative expressed through images of individual moments. There is a preservation of identity in the colors and symbols painted onto these canvases- a remembering and reverence of obstacle and overcoming, every day life, and ancient roots nearly eradicated. The dancers each tell their own stories of remembering and forgetting. I asked them to consider in movement and in words how they see themselves and who they are as people. It has been a wonderful communal process of digging in to self and the interconnectivity of our experiences as human beings.

I wasn’t sure how the physical space, being a room void of physical obstacles, would shape the dance. It turned out that the energy of the space has influenced the work pretty significantly- I am not surprised. The high ceilings and open space, white walls filled with colorful visuals ripe with symbolism and story, all influence the quality of the movement and the dancers occupation of the space. It is an empowering space where the dancers have made individual connections to the art and related them back to their own personal stories, which they tell in this dance. The gallery has a quietness about it that lends itself to the dancers speaking in the work. The quiet also prompted an approach to music for the piece that I wouldn’t have otherwise considered; the dancers each play their own sound score, selected based on a childhood memory, from their phones which they carry with them through the piece.
We’re excited to see how it all comes together next weekend! Join us for this one-of-a-kind ride around town to support local dance:

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Dancer Blog- Trolley Dances 2016- Patricia Sandback

This year, we have the privilege of counting Patricia Sandback, a major contributor to the San Diego dance community, among the dancers involved in Trolley Dances. She is performing in an intergenerational work by Jess Humphrey that showcases movers ranging in age from their teens into their seventies. Pat is a stunning dancer and artist, and we are pleased to share her dancer blog with you today!

trdn-1d4-1-_9440-1-lI am a dance choreographer, performer, and educator and have been so for many years.  I recently retired from SDSU as Professor of Dance. This will be my fourth Trolley Dance experience as a participant.  I choreographed work for Trolley Dances 2001 and 2010 and I danced in one of Jean Isaac’s pieces in 2002.  It’s hard to pick out one as a favorite but I think the 2001 performance is particularly memorable because it was my first Trolley Dances and we made a big spread in Dance Magazine.

This year I am dancing in Jess Humphrey’s work, along with eleven other amazing dancers.  We are performing in the Adult Education Center, all over the place.  I even ride the elevator in one part.  The dance has emerged from responses to the site itself and from practices we explored in our rehearsal sessions. This dance is both challenging and satisfying to perform.  Within the choreography are opportunities for the dancer to make choices.  These choices require that you, as performer, are in tune with everyone else and the choices they are making.  Every performance will be somewhat different although there are landmark events set.pat-sandback

One moment in rehearsal stood out to me. It was the first rehearsal with everyone there.  We were sitting down in a circle.  As I looked around I saw all of these people, most I knew but some new faces,  full of expectation for the work/fun the we were embarking on together. It was a powerful moment of great promise.

I am looking forward to making each of the 28 performances matter. For the audience: you can’t see it all so give up that expectation.  Instead, be open to be drawn to whatever interests you.

Trolley Dances 2016 hits the tracks on September 24, 25 & October 1,2. Tours begin at 10am and run every 45 minutes until 1:45, so you have plenty of opportunities to catch this site-specific wonder!

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Choreographers Corner- Trolley Dances 2016- Monica Bill Barnes

MBB - Steven SchreiberOne of our favorite humans, performers and choreographers, Monica Bill Barnes has joined us again this year for Trolley Dances 2016. Last week she flew in for 4 days from New York to choreograph a new work on the SDDT company dancers and it is full of energy, humor, and sporty moves. Here’s a little something she wrote for us about her experience with Trolley Dances, “artistic process,” and her 4-day visit!

A little bit about myself and Trolley Dances:
I met Jean Isaacs when I was at UCSD studying philosophy.  She is my mentor and dear friend.  She gave me my first professional commission by inviting me to make a dance for Trolley.  I have since made eight Trolley dances and these are among the most rewarding experiences of my career.

why-i-love-san-diegoA little background on the artistic process: 

The first thing to say about this is that I always laugh a little at the phrase “artistic process.”  I believe that other people have an artistic process, but when I think about what I do to make dances, it makes me laugh a little.  A few things that I have done lately in pursuit of art, taught myself to twirl a baton based on a youtube video posted by a 12 year old, put on a men’s suit and sing karaoke terribly and currently I am relearning how to roller skating in our new show.  So it feels hard to hold my head up too high and go on and on about art, but Zaquia needs a blog post and I think she is
completely great, so here we are.

Ok. So a little background on the artistic process behind making this new dance.san-diego-dancers

These are a few things that you can’t know about this process of making this dance, the lawn is one of the most popular dog parks in the city and therefore full of dog poop. Also, there are small black flies that bite the dancers ankles, even through their socks.  A few of the dancers are allergic to grass. And maybe the most important thing to say here, we had such a wonderful experience on this lawn over four days making this work together.

Thanks Monica! Come see what all the hard work turned in to: September 24 & 25, October 1 & 2

Top photo by Steven Schreiber
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Dancer Blog- Trolley Dances 2016- Eric Navarro & Rosario Lopez

Today you are in luck, because we have the inside scoop from TWO dancers- Eric Navarro and Rosario Lopez. Both are first-time Trolley Dances performers and are also dancing in Zaquia Mahler Salinas’ piece together. They have shared some wonderful background on how they came to Trolley Dances, and the dance they have created with her.


I have been dancing since I was three years old. I grew up dancing at a studio down the street from my house called Studio 31 Dance Center. I now attend San Diego State University as a Dance Major. I hope to graduate with the class of 2018 with my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance.

This is my very first time participating in Trolley Dances. Since I have been attending SDSU, I have become more engaged in watching performances within San Diego Dance Theater. After traveling to some performances, I started looking into other workings in San Diego and stumbled upon the information for Trolley Dance auditions. I saw it as my first opportunity to get involved in the dance community here and it just happened to work out!

I am performing in Zaquia Mahler Salinas’ piece in the Contemporary Museum of Art in Downtown San Diego. We have been working a lot with what it means to explain who you are; it’s hard enough to figure some things out about ones self, let alone explain it to another person. I enjoy how this dance makes me think about my perception of myself, it’s something I have never had to do in a dance-making process, so it is very stimulating and new to me!img_5843

I think my favorite part of this entire process has been the collaborative process of making this dance. Our whole cast has done an amazing job at working together and using personal material to create movement that is interesting and individualistic. This experience has been the most fun way of getting to know my fellow dancers; they are all wonderfully crazy people, who have made going to rehearsal all worth it!

One stand-out for me was creating a duet with a fellow performer, Guillermo Castro. We were given a task to form a duet with an oppositional score, which led to a lot of thinking, but in the end, our duet came together very well and I’m excited for people to see it!

I’m looking forward to improving the dance every time we perform. Trolley Dances comes with a lot of performances, so I am very interested to see how much the dance improves through out the two-weekend process!

For the audience, I would just say go in with an open mind. Think about your own personal identity, and think about how the dance affects you as an audience member. Enjoy the show, and take all that you can get from it!


I am a San Diego Native, raised in Rosarito Baja California, Mx.  I began dancing at San Diego City College (under Terry Wilson, Kristen  Arcidiacono, Debi Toth and Terry Shipman). I’ve participated in summer workshops/intensives at San Diego Dance Theater, Malashock and San Francisco Conservatory of Dance. I finished my Associates in Dance at City College, then transferred to CSULB and graduated with a Bachelors in Dance just this year. Recently, I finished BASI Pilates certification. I am currently work study/dance with the community of SDDT.

I am excited to have the opportunity to perform in my first Trolley Dances! While I was studying dance at San Diego City College I remember attending this annual event as an audience member and I couldn’t wait to have the chance to be part of it. I believe the first time I saw a site-specific dance was for Trolley Dances at the fountain by San Diego’s City Hall and ever since I have been fascinated and inspired with the idea of taking dance outside of a conventional space.

I will be performing in Zaquia Mahler Salinas’ piece at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in an exhibit of Chicano art from collector and famous actor, Cheech Marin. The theme of the dance is about identity- the way you identify yourself as a person,  the things you remember about yourself and the things you seem to forget. So far this experience has helped me dig deeper into my memories as well as sharing them and developing them into choreography. It has also been a pleasure getting to know the group of people I am dancing with!

Thanks for sneak-peak, dancers! Just a little more than two weeks until we kick off Trolley Dances 2016 so get your tickets and plan your day of site-seeing and sightseeing!

Bottom photo by Gregory Crosby
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Choreographers Corner- Trolley Dances 2016- Bill Shannon

Dance artist Bill Shannon will be venturing from Pittsburgh for Trolley Dances 2016 as a solo performance. Bill is well known for his fusion of dance, skate culture and art installation- all performed with crutches. “Over the past two decades Shannon’s installations, performances, choreography and video work have been presented nationally and internationally at numerous venues, festivals and events including, Sydney Opera House, Tate Liverpool Museum, NYC Town Hall, Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, The Holland Festival, Amsterdam, Temple Bar Dublin, Kiasma Museum Finland, Hirshhorn Museum and many more.” (from his website bio). San Diego Dance Theater is thrilled to have Bill as part of Trolley Dances this year and we hop you are too! Here is a bit from Bill about his work and his process that he has shared just with us for the blog:


Tell us a little bit about yourself as a person and/or artist.
I started dancing on the street in 1983 outside of a record shop with my brother. We would dance all day. In 1984 we both started skateboarding on the street. Dancing and moving in public space with random observers is the home of my dance. Every work I have taken into the theater has been a translation from this birthplace of my form as I practice it today.

What would you like the audience to know about your Trolley Dance?

In my work there is no “interruption” of intent, no disruption of the “plan.” The world is full of patterns and waves and my practice as a performing artist and dancer is to navigate that shifting physical, social and psychological landscape with a level of expertise that keeps the central intent of the work intact even as the edges remain amorphous to the possibilities of the world at large.

What other inspirations are informing your Trolley Dance?

billshannonskateclown sm

Clowning and contemporary mime have always been in the back drawer of my repertoire. Part of what has kept them tucked away has been the prevailing trend amongst the general public in the United States of people generally hating or fearing mimes and clowns. Recently I have delved into ways in which my street busking and provocateur performances overlap with these historically significant performance forms. I am currently in a space of searching for a path of humor and pathos between the projected fear and the hate by pushing into directions of skateboarding, breakdancing and slapstick.


Trolley Dances is just around the corner so don’t miss this opportunity to see Bill Shannon and all of the other site-specific dances: 6 shows a day beginning at 10am, September 24-25 and October 1-2.

Top photo by Brian Cummings/ Bottom photo by Garret Jones
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