Author Archive | Dancers' Group

Welcome: Hopes for 2017

Jan/Feb In DanceWhat awaits? A simple question that involves speculation, hope, worry and certainly doing much of what is always done—work with what we have, while doing what we love. While I imagine what awaits, it felt vital to ask Dancers’ Group’s staff what their hopes are as they begin a new year.

Mine is—throughout 2017, find time to participate in life’s wonderfully awkward moments that inform my work and provide the laughter and tears that make life so grand. —Wayne Hazzard, Executive Director

I closed the door to 2016 and open the door to 2017. Before entering I remind myself that the hard work is just beginning. I feel in myself a superabundance of energy, which finds no outlet in a quiet life. Even energy runs out at one point, so for that reason I want to focus on how and where I use my energy. My biggest investments will always be my family, friends and dance—my trinity of happiness. In 2017 I hope to build my family up to their highest potential, enrich my friendships, and continue my allegiance to the powers of Dance. —Edgar Mendez, Artist Resources Manager

I hope for sore muscles, sand on my feet and good books to read. I hope to see my family more often. I hope for the pain to stop so I can dance again. I hope for self-discovery, patience, and courage. I hope for new friendships.

I hope for all of us to disconnect and value silence and introspection. I hope for the city I live in to become affordable again. I hope for something real to be done about the people in the streets. I hope for 2016 not to be the precursor of a downward spiral. I hope for perspective, dialogue and kindness. I hope for more doing. I hope for the warrior in all of us to awaken. —Natalia Velarde, Program Assistant

I recently watched Rick Prelinger’s Lost Landscapes of San Francisco at the Castro Theater, an annual event now in its 11th year. Over a thousand people filled in the seats: we all watched with nostalgia and awe at shaky home videos, old street views, parades, and fog from the 1930s-80s—light leaks, film clutter, scratches, lint and all. This brief experience left me reeling so to speak; enveloped by the past and in community, I thought about 2017. Yet another year in the existence of this city. A new year.

I hope to observe—record, capture, listen to, admire—2017, via our city (our artists, our landscapes, our families, our dances) with the wonder I felt looking onto the beauty of the past. How can we witness and emulate 2017, in all its textures, imperfections, and beauty? —Melissa Lewis, Administrative Assistant

In the close of 2016, I felt forceful waves of change repeatedly crash before me personally, communally, and societally. The instinctive, physical response I experience is to close my eyes, retreat, flinch. I have discovered that this discomfort with change is more palpable lately than in my recent history, and I feel others struggling with similar and varying pains of their own.

As 2017 arrives, I hope to refocus my energy on cultivating an ability to navigate ever-shifting surroundings for both myself and others. I hope to remember and remind that there is power in any gesture made with empathy, and that change can be met not by mourning losses but by readjusting to the potential of a future sculpted from pillars of the past and driven by love. I hope we come together. I hope to dance more — let’s take class! —Chloë Zimberg, Administrative Assistant

More than all else, may the tide turn toward love, justice, and joy. May we be patient with ourselves, yet urgent in our work. May our art help carry us through. —Michelle Lynch Reynolds, Program Director

Community Dialogue: Women in Dance

In developing this issue of In Dance, Dancers’ Group hoped to gather and share an array of perspectives on a topic as complex and open-ended as “Women in Dance.” Thank you to all who responded to our survey questions, sharing experiences and perceptions.


What are the challenges and/or opportunities facing women in dance today?

I am a 20+ year dancer of Argentine tango who has worked for over 12 years in tango-modern fusion largely focused on women partnering women (almost 11 of them as a co-founding member of Tango Con*Fusión). I have experienced doors opening by degrees. As recently as 2007-2008 there was a dearth of support for women partnering women in tango in Buenos Aires. The idea was that a man must be in the equation for it to truly be tango, so if you had two men partnering each other – OK. Two women – not so much. 2016 marked the 4th year that my colleague Christy Coté and I were featured teachers and performers at the annual Congreso Internacional de Tango Argentino (CITA) in Buenos Aires, the 2nd year that we were given a spot in the CITA Theater Show at the Teatro ND, and the 1st year that we were granted the opportunity to teach not one but two (!) classes in Lead-Follow Exchange. In 2010 we were the first female pair to teach, and to present Lead-Follow Exchange as a topic, at CITA. The backstory being that just prior to 2010 – we had nearly given up hope that we would ever be granted the chance to teach such a class at CITA. Today Buenos Aires and the tango world at large are much more accepting of women partnering women, and of gender-neutral lead-follow, than was the case when I began dancing Argentine tango back in 1994.
Chelsea Eng

I believe that there are certain stereotypes that surround women who dance. Whether it is the objectification of our bodies, especially in commercial art forms, or the expectations of what a female body is supposed to look like and move like. Gender stereotypes do seep into the world of dance as well because after all art is but a reflection of life.
Ishika Seth, Mona Khan Company

A new opportunity facing women in dance today is to step away from limited thinking about what is an appropriate aged and sized dancer’s body. This opportunity invites women to embrace the idea that any aged or sized body can express the essence of movement. As this opportunity creates a new paradigm, there is no longer a need to retire from dancing when one reaches a certain age. Likewise, if and when one’s body changes from pregnancy, illness or sudden disabilities, dancing can remain a valid path towards fulfillment whether it is expressed in a class, a performance, in one’s living room or at the beach.

In this new paradigm, the size of a woman’s body is not going to limit her from participating in the world of dance. There will be a reduction in valuing women’s dance abilities based on her body and shape. She can express her truth through movement with whatever size body she may be inhabiting at any given time. The path to freedom is through that very body.
-Lucia August

Women are challenged in dance (as in society at large), by navigating financial and logistical steps to achieving all their career and family goals. When gendered cultural norms place a heavier burden of caregiving and domestic management upon a woman, this can affect her ability to focus on career goals or to be seen by her superiors as competitive or committed at work.

A recent tide of interest in diversity and female representation in arts leadership has inspired large-budget and prestigious dance companies to invest in women choreographers and directors. However, female dancers struggle to be cared for and paid at the same rate as male dancers, and women dance makers fight to have their work recognized at the same pace as men in choreography.
-Lauren Hamilton

As an intersectional feminist and an artist, I seek to provide voice to the struggles of my communities and myself: working class, queer, dancing women of colour. This is a position that I carry in and out of the studio and plays an imperative role in the development of my artistic voice. As someone who lives within the shifting landscapes of diaspora, yet again I see myself as a foreigner: Women’s work has historically been co-opted by men, and those men are more often represented. This is especially true in the field of dance. I believe that we are at an incredible precipice for change right now. There has been a trend of women, though outnumbering men in the field, not surpassing men in the field when it comes to taking on leadership and directorial leads. We have the opportunity for this to shift now. Akram Khan recently wrote that he doesn’t “want to say we should have more female choreographers for the sake of having more female choreographers.” How easy to state when you benefit from the systematic privilege of men in your field and fail to recognize the greater obstacles that women face in their journeys to notoriety. What’s more, emotional processes that dance is meant to address are often consigned to the “feminine,” and never was composer Alex North more wrong when he stated that “[Anna Sokolow’s] ideas about what was going on the problems in society were emotional rather than intellectual.” To which, scholar Mark Franko suggests, “emotion was fundamental to radical culture and foundational to the radical ethos.” Emotional landscape is the basis off of which we create radical dance. And after all, isn’t all dance radical?
-Bhumi Patel

In a girl’s early training, girls are not empowered; and because of the disproportional number of female dancers versus male dancers, many women feel like that they are easily replaceable.
-Milissa Payne Bradley, The Milissa Payne Project

Age…think that is true for woman in general but especially in dance when your body ages out just as your creative prowess begins to peak. basically, a feminist look at dance reveals many of the issues with the added complication of loss of work because of the body aging out.
Deborah Slater, Deborah Slater Dance Theater

Feminism and the aging Baby Boomer wave have helped women (and everyone) broaden their ideas beyond traditional models of dance and dancers. Awareness continues to grow that dance is a practice that can inform a lifetime of art making and serve communities of all kinds, not only dancers.
Greacian Goeke, Impromptu No Tutu Elder Movement Ensemble

I hope that institutions and individuals will reflect on the choices, attitudes and behaviors that promote elitism in dance culture. While we might be able to thank recent TV shows for keeping dance in public consciousness, those shows also promote the idea that dance is inherently competitive. Dance artists need to consider ableism, access and privilege in the myriad ways that we connect, train, teach, create and produce. With fewer spaces and resources available to share, we need thoughtful collaborations and innovative solutions to the challenges we face in this place at this time. For women, especially, this is not a time to put each other down. This is a time to lift each other up, connect and evolve!
-Natalie Greene, Mugwumpin & USF Dance Generators


What do you hope will change in the dance world?

I rue the condescension I have sometimes felt directed towards teaching as ‘selling out’, as somehow ‘less than’ pursuing the path of ‘pure’ art. I often feel at my most joyful when engaged in the art of teaching.
-Chelsea Eng

I hope that the conversations about equity and diversity will begin to ACTIVELY include and embrace disability and the huge community of people with disabilities. I hope that access will be more enforced in the dance world. We wouldn’t operate in places that LGBTQ or people of color or people of different religious beliefs can’t come but there are still inaccessible venues–more than 25 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Judith Smith, AXIS Dance Company

I would like to see less heteronormativity, less gendered casting and character development, and more complex, humanizing roles for women in dance artistic content…I hope the dance world, and the rest of the world, will move away from seeing female bodies as passive objects and instead embrace their power, radiance, and rich potential for uncovering truths about the human experience.
-Lauren Hamilton

As a female choreographer I experience disproportionate opportunities daily. The creative world seems to still, be largely, male dominated. In ballet, women have been discouraged from being the creators of works so many young female dancers seem to think that if they can’t make it as a professional dancer that they have no future in the dance world…Opportunities in dance can ripple out in waves like a stone thrown in still waters. Opportunity is available it just has to be given fairly and consistently.
-Milissa Payne Bradley, The Milissa Payne Project

That women will continue to call out patriarchal abuses and biases. That women will work with other women as allies in creating and supporting opportunities for each other. That men who are similarly en garde against sexist policies are welcomed to work with us. That we read our dances as objectively as possible for the gender politics embedded in them and own what we are putting forth. That we continue to hold as unacceptable institutionalized sexism (what is it .78 to the dollar women are making now?) and advocate and vote only for elected officials who are committed to disciplined gender equity.
Christy Funsch, Funsch Dance

Hidden gender bias – which is a function of the world in general, but oddly prevalent in the dance world in terms of who runs successful dance companies. (nationally, internationally) particularly odd when you consider the matriarchs of contemporary dance. i think SF is a bit unusual in that in the modern dance world, the ‘tough broads’ are hanging in…
-Deborah Slater, Deborah Slater Dance Theater

More recognition (financial and otherwise) for the powerful messages of dances created by and for elder women.
Greacian Goeke, Impromptu No Tutu Elder Movement Ensemble


Are there additional questions or ideas you would like to add?

I would also like to see the dance world become more trans-inclusive.
Lauren Hamilton

Who are your role models for financially and artistically successful women making dances?
Zahava Griss, Embody More Love

The question of “where are the women ballet choreographers” can create frustration. We’re here, we’re creating, but we are not getting the opportunities on the country’s main stages or with the big budget companies. Our work is not supported to the same financial degree, which means the work is often denied the strength of a strong collaborative creative team. For example, I’ve been in situations where the company is commissioning an evening of women choreographers, but presents the work at their studio theater with a condensed creation time and no access to costume or lighting designers. While the creative work might be excellent, what could it have been with solid resources supporting the process?
Amy Seiwert, Amy Seiwert’s Imagery

New View: Sean Bennett

Sean Bennett, photo by Chris Hardy

Tell us about your artistic practice and/or background. I’m a corps de ballet dancer with SF Ballet and I began studying ballet at the age of eight here, through the SF Ballet School’s Dance in Schools & Communities (DISC) program. DISC is a free interactive movement program that runs in 38 schools in the SF Unified School District and includes a scholarship program for continued study at SF Ballet School. I was lucky enough to be chosen for DISC and then went on to study at the School until I was accepted into SF Ballet.

What was your entry into dancing?
DISC was in my elementary school (Clarendon) and I was selected to receive a scholarship through the program. After the year-long DISC program the School evaluates whether or not you will be accepted into their main program. I found out they were interested in keeping me, through a letter they sent to my parents. It turned out that they wanted me to skip a level so when I accepted, I went straight into level 2 of the School. The longer I studied at the School, the more interested I became in dance. By the time I reached the higher levels, I was learning actual repertory roles instead of just taking class and that’s when I really got interested in ballet seriously. I was also very influenced by some great teachers I had that made me want to stick with it even more.

What was it like to be part of the San Francisco Ballet School Trainee Program?
The Trainee Program is the step before becoming professional dancer and you perform much more than you would when you’re in school. So it gets you ready to join a professional ballet company and you first-hand experience in working with incredible professional dancers (SF Ballet). It was great! As a Trainee, you do a lot of roles where you’re standing on stage as part of full-length productions, but at the same time, you are learning so much just by watching the Company members dance. I also learned some of the Company roles and rehearsed them with SF Ballet which really gave me a feel for being part of a professional ballet company. As a Trainee, it was also cool to have Corps de Ballet Member Myles Thatcher come teach us one of his works—I really felt like a Company member, having a work taught to us by a young choreographer—it was a great experience.

Any favorite experiences while you were in the program?
One of my favorite times at the School was being in the Men’s intermediate level. The class was really small but the guest teacher pushed us, we were learning real ballet roles and it was the rst time I thought seriously about being a professional dancer.

What were you doing before joining SF Ballet?
Before doing ballet, I took karate!

What is the most rewarding part of your work?
A couple of things: performing a ballet that I personally really like and the feedback from the audience on our performances (also, if my parents say they liked me in it!). I just had that experience performing Von Rothbart in Swan Lake as part of Program 3. It’s a principal part so you get to work with Company principal dancers and it’s very visible so the feedback you get isn’t for the group or the whole corps, it’s just for you. I got to grow a lot taking on that role—and I got positive feedback for my acting which was nice because usually, everyone is just really focused on the dancing.

What most excites you about living in the Bay Area?
How beautiful the city is, and everything surrounding it. Also, because I’m from here, it’s nice to live in a city where I can support my hometown basketball team, the Warriors.

What’s your neighborhood? Where do you spend your time?
I live in lower Pacific Heights, next to Lafayette Park and I go to the Richmond District a lot because I’m from there and I like the food a lot.

Sean Bennett (3rd from left) in Robbins' Glass Pieces

Sean Bennett (3rd from left) in Robbins’ Glass Pieces

What event(s) will we find you at this spring?
I’ll be busy dancing at the Opera House since the spring is during our season.

First dance/performance memory?
In the DISC Program, our end-of-program performance one year—I got a huge stomachache but my whole family was there so I felt like I had to go ahead with the performance. So I drank a Sprite and went on with the show. Afterward, the teacher even mentioned the incident to all the parents.

Dance idol?
Michael Jackson.

Shortlist of inspiring people, books, moments, classes, etc.?
I find these activities inspiring:

  • Beach activities
  • Basketball
  • Hiking
  • Travel

If money is no object, where is the next place you might travel?
Senegal. I had a teacher in high school from Senegal who takes groups of students to his native country every year to experience the culture and help people out by building houses. I’ve always been interested in helping people and since I never had the chance when I was in the School (since I was always in ballet class), I’d still like to go back and do this.

What’s heaven to you?
Being on the beach in Hawaii.

What’s hell to you?
Being locked in a room all day, wishing I could be outside.

What’s a future goal or dream that you have?
I would really like to travel around the world and experience different cultures.

What advice have you been given that you still hold on to today?
One of my teachers told me that focus is one of my strongest attributes and so I always call on it when things get tough.

What’s the question you wish we asked, and the answer?
What’s my favorite dog breed? Siberian Husky.


A native of San Francisco, Sean trained at American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School and at San Francisco Ballet School. He was named an apprentice in 2011 and a Company member in 2012. Bennett has danced featured roles in Tomasson’s Nutcracker (Russian, Arabian, Spanish, King of the Mice), Caprice (soloist), and Romeo & Juliet (Paris); Tomasson/Possokhov’s Don Quixote (Toreadors); Page’s Guide to Strange Places (soloist couple); and Possokhov’s RAkU (Warriors). His repertory includes Tomasson’s Giselle, Criss-Cross, and Trio; Balanchine’s Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet (1st and 4th movements), Scotch Symphony, The Four Temperaments, and Theme and Variations (excerpts); Cranko’s Onegin; Caniparoli’s Lambarena; Liang’s Symphonic Dances; Lifar’s Suite en Blanc; Morris’ Beaux and Maelstrom; Nureyev’s Raymonda—Act III (Hungarian); Possokhov’s Firebird, The Rite of Spring, and Swimmer; Ratmansky’s Shostakovich Trilogy (Symphony #9 and Piano Concerto #1); Robbins’ Glass Pieces; Scarlett’s Hummingbird; and Wheeldon’s Cinderella (Winter, Courtiers, Tree Gnomes) and Ghosts. Bennett danced in the 2015 film of Tomasson’s Romeo & Juliet (Capulet Men) as part of the inaugural season of Lincoln Center at the Movies: Great American Dance.

Did You Know? Kathy Mata Ballet

For the past 28 years, Kathy Mata Ballet (KMB) has been providing free dance performances to San Francisco seniors and others through partnerships with local community organizations. Dancers’ Group asked teacher and choreographer, Kathy Mata, to share the story of her work and organization.


What is your background?
I am a native San Franciscan. At 8 years of age, I dreamed of becoming a teacher of dance and director of dance productions; my parents were very supportive. Most of my life has been dedicated to teaching and choreographing dance. On my journey toward this dream, I was exposed to major ballet companies that visited San Francisco, and was given the opportunity to have hands-on experience with the greatest stars. As I share with my dancers, one cannot dance a role well without proper coaching from an experienced mentor. I spent many years training in San Francisco with Jean Hart, a teacher from the Royal Academy of Dance, London, and with the Christensens at the San Francisco Ballet School and Company.

How did Kathy Mata Ballet start?
In 1985, many years into my teaching career, I began developing an adult ballet company with the purpose of providing non-professional dancers a venue in which to showcase their skills in performances at community organizations. Our first performance took place in 1987 for the senior home at the San Francisco Jewish Community Center. Its great success inspired me to officially launch Kathy Mata Ballet in 1988.

What’s unique about KMB?
Ours is one of the few dance companies in this country to provide talented adult dancers, most from non-dance professions, with the opportunity to train and perform. The company dancers, all of whom dance and rehearse at least four times a week on top of their professional working day, come from a variety of careers, including accounting, engineering, law, and scientific research. Our main purpose is to perform for seniors and others who may not have access to live dance performances.

group of multigenerational dancers gather around couple in a lean.

Kathy Mata Ballet, photo by Christine Fu

Who is a part of KMB?
At the moment, there are seventeen dancers in the company, not counting frequent guest performers.

How do they become part of the group?
Usually dancers will start by consistently taking classes with me, and then demonstrating a commitment to the mission of Kathy Mata Ballet, through volunteering and/or assisting us with fundraising.

Where does the company perform?
We perform three times a year at The Sequoias, a lovely retirement center in San Francisco, and every spring and fall at the Alonzo King LINES Dance Center, where I regularly teach. Then, in late summer or early autumn, we hold an annual celebration in a larger venue. For the last two years, it was at City College of San Francisco. This year, we are pleased to announce that it will take place at Mercy High School, in San Francisco, on Saturday, August 27. At Christmas we have our annual Holiday show for the Castro Senior Center for the seniors who have very little celebrations other than our group. It’s a joy to see their faces light up with smiles enjoying our performances.

You mentioned that you have a teaching career. What is your teaching philosophy, and how does it connect to KMB?
I teach every day, even on holidays, and strive to offer adult dancers from non-dance backgrounds an opportunity to learn ballet, and for the company to execute innovative dance performances of quality, especially for under-served audiences.

What has been the most rewarding part of your work?
As company artistic director and primary choreographer, I enjoy creating contemporary as well as classical-style works, and pride myself on producing programs which feature a variety of dance styles and music, including ballet, modern dance, jazz, hip hop, salsa, lyrical, musical theater, etc. While I enjoyed traveling throughout the United States, giving master classes and choreographing pieces for small ballet companies, the most important sources of joy and purpose in my life are my students and performers.

What inspires you?
Most of all, my students inspire me.


Kathy Mata was a member of the California Imperial Ballet, Pacific Ballet, and an apprentice for San Francisco Ballet. Mata has taught adult dancers since 1985. From 1995, she has been teaching at the Alonzo King LINES Dance Center specializing in adult ballet. Kathy Mata Ballet was created in 1988, and has since been showcasing original work synthesizing contemporary and classical dance forms, often incorporating multi-cultural dances and music including Gospel, Afro-Cuban, Japanese, Brazilian, Chinese and Modern Dance combined with classical ballet.

Lighting Artists in Dance 2016

Deadline: Fri, Feb 26, 5pm

Through the Lighting Artists in Dance [LAD] grant program, Dancers’ Group is pleased to support lighting designers working in the field of dance. Now in its ninth year, this program engages and supports the development of emerging, mid- career and established Bay Area lighting designers working in partnership with a choreographer or dance company towards the presentation of a public performance.

For more information and to Apply

Nominations Open: Dancers Choice Award Presented as part of Bay Area Dance Week 2015

Nomination deadline: Wed, Jan 14, 5pm

Dancers’ Group is now accepting nominations for the 8th annual Dancers Choice Award.

Help us celebrate! Please nominate an individual or organization working in the Bay Area that you believe has impacted the dance community—behind the scenes, in the classroom, or on the stage.

Nominate your choice at dancersgroup.org/dca.

Nominations will be reviewed equally, regardless of the number of nominations submitted for a person or organization.

Congratulations to past honorees: Danica Sena [2014] Sarah Crowell [2013], Della Davidson & Ernesto Sopprani [2012] Antoine Hunter [2011], AXIS Dance Company [2010], Alleluia Panis [2009], Jessica Robinson Love [2008]

Job: Member Services Coordinator for Dancers’ Group

Application deadline: Monday, December 8, 2014

Dancers’ Group is looking for a part-time Member Services Coordinator

This position works with the executive director and program director to provide lead support for the many artists and dance companies that interface with Dancers’ Group, especially those in our fiscal sponsorship program.

This is a new position within Dancers’ Group and therefore the person hired will have a unique opportunity to shape and refine the direction of the fiscal sponsorship program and the organization’s interface with our sponsored artists/companies.

Dancers’ Group works collaboratively on many of our programs, so the Member Services Coordinator would also engage with other programs, from member services to presenting programs.

Responsibilities:
• Correspondence with fiscally sponsored projects
• Data entry for all donations, grants and earned income received for our sponsored projects
• Tracking reporting on grants
• Maintaining and organizing electronic and hard copy records
• Assistance with additional services to fiscally sponsored projects
• Assistance with Rotunda Dance Series, Dance Discourse Project, Bay Area Dance Week and ONSITE
• Other general office duties as needed

Preferred Skills:
• Knowledge of, and interest in supporting, the Bay Area’s diverse dance community
• Strong communication, writing and editing skills
• Proficient with Microsoft Office for Mac. Knowledge of Filemaker Pro and bookkeeping basics a plus

This is currently a part-time position: 25-30 hours per week with flexible schedule and potential for additional hours and or full-time status.

Please email a resume and cover letter as a PDF to wayne@dancersgroup.org. No phone calls please.

For more information about Dancers’ Group, please visit dancersgroup.org.

Performance Forecasting Calendar Discontinued

In light of our online Community Calendar and print calendar showcased in In Dance magazine — Dancers’ Group will no longer provide a “Performance Forecasting Calendar” as a pdf online.

Community Calendar
To update the community with your upcoming performances, please use our online submission form.

DG Weekly Email
To request your workshop or class be shared with our members via email, please use our online submission form and provide a member discount.

It is absolutely free to submit information to Dancers’ Group; you don’t have to be a member to use it. Find the submission forms here.

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