San Diego is home to accomplished dancers and choreographers, but not home to many venues appropriate to showcase their works. As choreographer-dancer Blythe Barton explains, “The San Diego modern dance scene is ever-evolving and seems to be in the midst of a ripe growth period. Dance venues are tricky.... We need a big stage and a smaller seated audience. So many theaters that have larger stages...have more seats than local dance artists can fill.” This means one must, in general, seek out the calendars of specific dance companies and choreographers, festivals, presenters, and organizations when in search of a time and place to attend a performance.
What started out in 2002 as a collaboration between then-students Ángel Arámbula and Henry Torres while attending Professional School of Dance of Mazatlán, has evolved into Tijuana-based, internationally traveled and recognized, award-winning contemporary dance company Lux Boreal. Composed of a core 11 choreographers and dancers, plus more collaborators, it is “part of a binational artistic movement that strengthens links between artistic communities.” Their desire to “take dance out of traditional spaces and bring it closer to all types of audiences” is a reason they were named Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch in 2009.” April finds them hosting their 7th Annual Choreography Competition 4x4 TJ Night, whose concept was first produced by Sushi Performing Arts at Bluefoot Bar at 30th and Upas in North Park.
Exploring “the range between technical modern dance and intimate gestured moments” and choreographing works for over ten years, Blythe Barton now has her own award-winning company — Blythe Barton Dance. Known for her signature “big moves,” Barton says you should also “expect shifting dynamics and intricate manipulations of bodies and space.... Dance allows me to share a bit of my soul, if only for an ephemeral moment.” Barton is also a founding member of San Diego Dance Connect and helps direct 40 North Dance Film Festival. Although nothing is on the immediate horizon, as she is a newly appointed full-time faculty member at Mesa College, look forward to works by her new generation of college students and Blythe Barton’s own Summer Showcase.
Run by a committee of choreographers, teachers, and students, the mission of San Diego Dance Connect is to “strengthen the dance community by providing opportunities to network, communicate, advocate, and share resources.” Hosting their own set of dance-related events, yet also aggregating information from others, this is a great source when looking for a general calendar of dance performances happening locally. By partnering with dance-centric artists and organizations, San Diego Dance Connect “empowers the dance community to create a more sustainable and visible dance ecosystem in the San Diego region.” Their current calendar includes performances by North County’s Mojalet Dance Collective and Mark Morris Dance Group’s tribute to the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s album.
13330 Paseo Del Verano, Rancho Bernardo
Twelve years after Mojalet Dance Collective was founded in 1991 by Faith Jensen-Ismay and two other dance educators, Jensen-Ismay took over as sole artistic director. An internationally acclaimed contemporary dance company, their pieces use “h3 elements of design, musicality, and athletic movement.” Solving their own problem of where to perform, Mojalet Dance Collective opened the Vine Theater — a black box theater at Bernardo Winery with a 48-person capacity. The Vine also afforded the ability to present offerings from other artists, which immediately led to Mojalet’s multi-weekend Summer Series — highlighting over 50 choreographers — now in its tenth year. Other future events include a performance with the Center Chorale, as well as a full-length world premiere at Geoffrey Theater in downtown San Diego.
Emmy-award-winning choreographer John Malashock started up his own company in 1988 after an impressive career of theater and dance, including extensive work performing internationally with Twyla Tharp’s dance company. Now Malashock Dance is a force to be reckoned with, constantly producing new works and collaborations while aiming to “advance the art and experience of dance by creating original works that communicate, challenge, entertain, and encourage new forms of personal expression.” In March, look for their five-day 30th anniversary concert — The Ride: [email protected] — whose works will display Malashock’s “signature athletic, emotive, and daring choreography.” The company also showcases works during Friday Night Liberty, Liberty Station’s free monthly art walk.
(P.A.W.) & Emily Miller
Emily Miller, the director at Performing Arts Workshops for the last 4 of its 21 years, was described by a choreographer/dancer fan of hers as “really young and quite a force to be reckoned with.” Miller is also artistic director of GET DOWN/PICK UP Company, where they are “committed to creating work that is...virtuosic, immaculately composed, and deeply honest.” Firstly a dance studio in a “safe, inclusive environment,” P.A.W. has a diverse performance schedule ranging from student works to a traditional Nutcracker to free First Fridays. In 2017, however, P.A.W created two performance “opportunities for local, visiting, and remote artists” — Fresh Dances and Shared Spaces — both aiming to “build personal and professional connections among [the dance] community.”
A staple in San Diego’s dance community, Jean Isaacs has been artistic director of 46-year-old San Diego Dance Theater since 1997. With a company of “fully professional dancers committed to unconventional and deeply courageous programming,” many have gone on to become artistic directors of their own dance companies while still being active with SDDT. Although most recognized for their site-specific Trolley Dances, SDDT greatly utilizes nearby venue White Box, which Jean Isaacs manages, to showcase the majority of their works and events.
2590 Truxtun Road, Studio 205, Building 176, Liberty Station
White Box’s mission is to “provide an accessible environment that curates, produces, and educates artists.” Its nearly 2500-square-foot house seats 132 audience members and was constructed specifically with dance performances in mind. Their calendar is full of offerings worth mentioning, most in conjunction with San Diego Dance Theatre. Sundays in February is the return of White Box Live Jazz, where music and dance come together to “create an experience of embodied sound.” Each week highlights a different choreographer working with a separate set of musicians. Also on the calendar is the ten-day Live Arts Fest and the eighth annual Young Choreographers’ Showcase & Prize where the audience helps vote on a winner.