Inside “Janus”: Pablo Francisco Ruvalcaba

unspecifiedPart of Jean’s mission for the January concert this season is to showcase some of San Diego’s up-and-coming choreographic talent.  Pablo Fransisco Ruvalcaba  has a long history with Jean and San Diego Dance Theater, first as a student, and then as a Limón Master Teacher. Though he now resides in New York, Pablo calls the San Diego/Tijuana region his hometown and began his dance journey here as a young man. Since then, he has had an twenty year career with the José Limón Dance Company among many other successes and achievements. Now, he has returned to his roots to set his first work on the San Diego Dance Theater company for Janus and Other Dances of Beginnings, Transitions, and Endings. Pablo shared the background on his new work with us:

First off I wanted to thank Jean for the many years of friendship and support, and for her faith in allowing me to work with her lovely San Diego Dance Theater as a first-time choreographer. It has been a long time since she taught my first modern class and it is very nice to come home. To all the dancers involved: your work and full hearted participation has been so appreciated. Thank you for your trust.
Now, I am not sure what to write about but lets give “what the dance is supposed to be about” a shot!dsc_0281
When I had originally thought of this concept, I had envisioned a triptych based on Coleridge’s Kubla Khan or Fragment of a Vision in a Dream. This piece is the second and shortest part of the triptych. The first and third sections are yet to be created. I decided to start at the middle because that is always when things change…and it’s easier to tell a story if you don’t have to begin or end it.
As I’ve mentioned to the dancers, I am an only child and as such have always wondered what it would be like to have siblings –I did grow up with many cousins, but I always suspected that I was somehow missing something in not being someone’s brother. So I decided to make that an abstract theme of this work.
dsc_0191As I see it one’s brother (or sister) is “always at arms length” and you are always affected deeply by their actions, it’s as if those are the actions of our own deeper, darker selves, the self that we always wanted to be or the self we always wanted to suppress. In a group of siblings, each one’s actions affects every individual on a deep and personal level thereby changing all at once.
In that way “Fragment,” as the piece is called, is meant to explore how the feelings and actions of individuals affect the whole of the group and also how that group in turn accepts or deplores that individual’s attitude as an extension of their deeper selves. “Fragment” refers to the little piece of our sibling that we keep inside and connects us to them.

You have just three opportunities to see “Fragment” and more at Janus this weekend: January 20-22. Buy your tickets and reserve your seats today!


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Inside “Janus”: Jean Isaacs

“Songs From the Family Album” is a reflective new work by our Artistic Director, Jean Isaacs that is full of humor, beauty, and melancholy. This premier collage of four works, along with the re-staging of audience favorite “Romeos and Juliets,” make up half of the dance concert entitled Janus and Other Dances of Beginnings, Transitions and Endings coming your way in just two short weeks! Jean sat down and mused over her newest creation and we are pleased to share her insight on this very personal work with you.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m a January birthday girl, and as with the Roman God of beginnings and endings, I deeply feel the transition into 2017. I’ll be 73 on January 17th 2017, and 17 has always been my lucky number, so somewhat shedding the quagmire of 2016 feels cleansing- anticipatory.

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face: This well-known tune is usually associated with kids who love at first sight, but I associate it instead with a father’s first sight of his newborn infant. Such terrible responsibility for such a vulnerable being, a child who is only partially him.

Raldo and Maxine at the Copacabana:
 In 1952 my mother, Maxine Baldini, won the national radio show “Name That Tune.” Her prize, a trip to New York City’s Copacabana Club, was unheard of for this working-class couple who were already struggling with six children, alcoholism, and deep cultural differences. Bickering and humor were their refuge.

Elegy: Elegy, created in 1987 at the height of the AIDS crisis in San Diego, mourns the loss of thirteen of the regions male dancers and reflects the confusion and panic- the fear- that permeated the dance scene at that time.

You’ll have chance to see what I’ve created at Janus and Other Dances of Beginnings, Transitions, and Endings at the Saville Theatre on January 20-22. “Songs From the Family Album”, along with my “Romeos and Juliets,” plus two new works by up-and-coming choreographers Gina & Kyle Sorensen, and Pablo Francisco Ruvalcaba make a lovely program full of great variety and artistry.

We’d also love to have you for our High Tea event before the Sunday matinee as we honor the 45 year legacy of the San Diego Dance Theater as well as celebrate a bright future!15392944_1158983540883611_4955541239748453237_o

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Inside “Janus”: Gina & Kyle Sorensen

youngchor-2517-1-lKyle and Gina Sorensen have a long history as part of the San Diego Dance Theater family. Along with performing in many SDDT iconic events like Trolley Dances in the past, the Sorensens are also part of the San Diego Dance Theater school faculty. Choreographically, they won Young Choreographers Showcase and Prize in 2012 and went on to choreograph for our Library Dances that year. Kyle also choreographed for Trolley Dances 2013 at the new Downtown Library! We are glad to have them back in the studio- this time to set work on the company alongside work by Jean and Pablo Francisco Ruvalcaba for “Janus and Other Dances of Beginnings, Transitions, and Endings” coming to the Saville Theatre January 20-22. Read on to get some background on the new work they’ve made for the show.

_td13-1407-1-xlAs is often the case when we make dances, it all began with a single image and a question. Image: a line. Query: what does it mean to be connected? That’s where we met the dancers in the studio on day one. We talked, we explored, we designed. All of us – nine dancers and two choreographers – participated in creating this work from that simple image and gigantic question.
We build dances from sensations. We begin each rehearsal with a practice we developed called SubtleBodyBigDance. In this mode of preparing body and mind, we describe a situation or event to be experienced within the body, and we all play freely, exploring the imagined scenario improvisationally and with heightened attention. We want the dancers to develop a history of the idea within their own bodies, and to expand their available range of motion and dynamic potential. We then put those images and sensations to work in generating choreography, often times collaboratively. One of the images we explored in the beginning was a boomerang. We threw body parts out, they drew arcs in the room, and came right back to us. We translated this idea into intricate trios that weave and intersect.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlong the way, we refined our question about connectedness. Query 2: can I feel what my neighbor is feeling? Can I feel her arm as if it were my arm? Can I feel the distance between his hip and his fingertips in my own body? When does it feel right to break away and be on my own? We welcome the audience to ask these questions themselves when watching too. We call the dance, “Nine tall, One underground.”

We are deeply honored by Jean’s invitation to work with the company. It has been a supreme joy to work with such open-minded and stunningly skillful dancers.

We think the dancers look great in this work and can’t wait for you all to see it too. For tickets and more details about the show, please visit:

Photos 1 & 2 by Manny Rotenberg, Photo 3 by Jim Carmody
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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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