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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Dancer Blog- Trolley Dances 2016- Trevor Polcyn

We’re glad to start off our Dancer Blog series for Trolley Dances 2016 with Trevor Polcyn. In recent years, he discovered his passion for dancing and is cast in one of Jean’s community pieces. He is learning new life skills from his dance experience and has some fun stuff to share about the process:

13433300_10153579344606016_6451687250692403931_oCirca 2012 when I was at UCSD getting my B.S. in Psychology, I took two introduction to modern/contemporary classes to help balance out my mind against my academic workload. After graduating in 2013, I starting working and forgot to make time for dancing. It was spontaneous, but ultimately life changing, that I found myself enrolled in Teri Shipman’s Intro To Modern Dance at City College in the summer of 2015. It was there that I rediscovered my love for movement and also heard about San Diego Dance Theater’s Trolley Dance auditions.

I was encouraged to try out despite having very little experience. I had never auditioned for anything before. Needless to say, I felt woefully unprepared and ill-equipped to compete for a spot in the production. And yet, I auditioned. I tried my best because I felt like I should. To quote Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” And it did! The universe conspired and Anne Gehman accepted me into her Trolley Dance. The experience in dancing for Anne in Trolley Dances was what propelled my interest into full gear. I continue to take an array of dance classes at City College, I am a work-study at San Diego Dance Theater for Anne’s Sunday classes, and I have high aspirations to pursue a career in danceSDDT-Trolley-Oct3-114.

My first time dancing in Trolley Dances was 2015 under Anne Gehman. In fact, it was my first time ever performing which makes it a truly unique and treasured memory for me. This is my second Trolley Dance performance. This year I’ll be performing with Wanda Tong Corbin, Kymberly Kellems, and JT Magee, under the guidance of Minaqua McPherson for a performance created and directed by Jean Isaacs. The overall theme of the performance can be characterized as jubilant, quirky, and expressive. Each of us is essentially a character that is an echo or a derivative stereotype of the car we’re driving. The experience is exciting because it allows us to adapt our own quirks, mannerisms, and dance techniques into the characters we’re portraying, creating a truly unique visual experience. 

_TrolPromo.2511.1-XLThe biggest difference with this dance compared to last year is: we’re driving our cars into the dance location as part of the dance performance.
 In order for me to be the character I am, I was forced to learn how to drive a manual transmission vehicle. At the ripe age of 26, it was terribly overdue. Adding a new skill set under my belt is always exciting. I hope that by the end of this, I will feel 100% confident behind the wheel of a jeep. Who knows how many times I’ll stall during the performances… Let’s at least hope it’s in the single digits! If I stall, please understand I’m not a manual-transmission master. Otherwise, I think its going to be pretty straight forward. Enjoy our funky duet shaking moments!

Thanks for giving us some excitement to look forward to! Trolley Dances 2016 runs September 24-25 and October 1-2: do you have your tickets yet? Get on board and enjoy the ride!

Dance photos by Manny Rotenberg
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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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