It’s a Thursday evening and Post:Ballet‘s Robert Dekkers in is five places at once. He’s in discussion with his lighting designer, conferring with dancers, and bringing me up to speed about some of the collaborators he’s working with this season. He cues the music with his phone and the dancers run through DoBe:Family Sing-a-Long and Game Night, Dekkers’ newest work, (due to premier at the end of July), bodies playing off each other in a tangle. There’s humor, exaggerated facial expressions, even partnering role reversal, with the women doing the heavy lifting.The choreography includes elements of games like charades and red light/green light set to a score that revisits singing and nursery rhymes. Read More
If you’ve ever wondered if tango really does live in your blood, you’ll want to attend the 16th annual Bay Area Dance Week to find out. Over the course of ten days, (Friday, April 25 through Sunday, May 4th) sample more than 600 free dance classes, workshops, performances, open rehearsals and lectures offered throughout the entire Bay Area. Whether your passion is hip-hop or hula, aerial or African, dance lovers of all ages, styles and experience can benefit.
“Bay Area Dance Week is a chance to showcase and celebrate the diversity of dance in the Bay Area… to have the opportunity to sit in on a rehearsal or take a class in a different style,even if you’re not a dancer. Come experience the creative process in a different way through movement,” says Carmen Carnes, choreographer and dancer for the Carmen Carnes Dance Ensemble. Carnes also witnessed history in the making; she worked for one of the sponsors who worked with Dancer’s Group to create BADW.
The event kickoff happens Friday April 25th at noon in Union Square with the wildly popular One Dance, featuring a variety of dance groups and schools performing to the same music in an array of styles then dancing in unison for the finale. The week closes with a plethora of free classes, workshops and performances.
Learn the moves for One Dance here if you want to participate:
In the past, program highlights have included a fire dancing expo, a rare open rehearsal from LINES Ballet and a contemporary dance/meditation workshop offered by Carnes in her Petaluma studio. “I am exploring contemporary movement infused with Eastern dance’s attention to detail,” she explains. “This festival puts the North Bay on the map. Dance is happening everywhere, not just in the city.”
BANDW is the most extensive and best attended dance festival in the country, originally created in 1988 by Dancer’s Group to increase the visibility and viability of dance in the community. Each year, over 100 dance organizations and artists present events during Bay Area Dance Week, involving more than 2,500 artists and 20,000 attendees. “As I’ve matured as an artist and a mother I’ve been wanting to do more community-based work,” says Carnes. “I want to build community with teachers, choreographers and dancers alike. This opens the door.”
Program highlights include:
Somewhere within the last five years, after decades of dance classes, something snapped. I longed to move without having to count every beat while remembering what was supposed to come next. I was tired of following other peoples’ choreography. I needed freedom from that cage
I needed a change.
I stumbled on the answer in a very serendipitous way, by following a friend to a 5Rhythms event bright and early one Sunday morning. And I do mean early–the doors opened at 8am. While most people were still lounging in bed, I found exactly what I was searching for: a place to move.Two straight hours of music. Freedom from the tyranny of prescribed steps.
Dancing became something else for me: a celebration. I realize that sounds a little corny, but it’s the truth. Dancing just for fun felt good–really good– and it was incredibly liberating.
It was peaceful getting up early to move around a room full of other swirling bodies, sensual to feel my bare feet on the wood floor. No rules, no stress, no limits. Oh–and no uniform. People wear whatever is comfortable and hip.
A taste of 5Rhythms:
Some personal favorites include:
Ecstatic Dance, Sunday mornings at the historic Sweet’s Ballroom in Oakland (kid-friendly, too!)
Sweat Your Prayers, Thursdays in San Geronimo, Saturdays in San Rafael, Sundays in Sausalito
These open forum dance events have popped up all over the Bay Area and beyond– so much more fun than going to a gym and now a total thing in Sweden as the new, popular lunch hour alternative (leave it to the Swedes to squeeze a little dance party into the middle of the work day). The phenomenon is spreading…
Trust me, they’re on to something.
I recently came across an online dialogue that posed the question: is ballet elitist? I had to wonder how anyone would cling to that idea at this point in time. Although it may have been true centuries ago–when ballet came from dances of the high courts of Italy, France and Russia– ballet today speaks to a wider audience than ever before.
I am lucky to live in the San Francisco Bay Area where companies are finding new ways to make ballet even more accessible. For instance, Diablo Ballet let the crowd call the shots when they put the creative process online, using social media to allow a global audience to choose key elements for their web ballet. Other companies have chosen to share ballet in new types of venues. Post:Ballet’s Artistic Director Robert Dekkers has offered sneak peeks of his newest works at local nightclubs like 111 Minna Gallery and the Infinity Lounge. He also incorporates video and other technologies to create a multi-media experience.
In order to appeal to a greater spectrum of people the face of ballet is changing dramatically. Take a look at the roster of Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet for a case in point. San Francisco is a city known for its diversity and King’s company is a perfect representation. The company is also known for its cutting-edge choreography, but collaborations with world-class musicians such as Zakir Hussain, Mickey Hart and Pharoah Sanders continue to bring public interest to an entirely new level.
Casting an even wider net, The Royal Ballet and Boston Ballet both offered a live stream, bringing ballet home to anyone with a computer (talk about putting ballet in the hands of the people!) and New York City Ballet has implemented their own creative strategy: the New York City Ballet Art Series. The company commissions leading and emerging contemporary artists to create original works of art inspired by NYCB’s dancers and one-of-a-kind repertory of ballets. In the past they have worked with luminaries like Andy Warhol and Keith Haring and recently turned to FAILE, a hip artistic duo, to help bring in a younger audience.
Ballet may have been elitist at one time… but that was eons ago. Today’s companies are experimenting with new choreography, techniques and venues to remain contemporary in feel and appeal. It’s an exciting time to be a dancer–and a dance fan.
Check out a segment from Royal Ballet LIVE: