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

From 500 Capp Street: Dancing with David Ireland

Editor’s Note: Performances at 500 Capp Street have been postponed until further notice. Updates will be posted here and on the DG Weekly e-bulletin once confirmed. Contact with any questions.

The faintly grey house perches on the corner of 20th and Capp Street in the Mission District of San Francisco. A man, an artist, a community member, a friend—used to live here; his name was David Ireland. The house endures as what most consider his most important work. I know it as a living breathing self-portrait of David’s practice that we have been invited to move with.

To make a new piece titled Moving Not Knowing, Being Not Making, Ongoing Not Finished: Not=Nothing Owns Time. Site-specific, house tour, dance-theater, movement installation; all words to describe what we are after in the David Ireland House.


In rehearsals, a timed ritual has formed. 1: We begin every evening in stillness. 2: We tend to our spines. 3: We generate heat. 4: We stretch. 3 minutes, 3 minutes, 3 minutes, 3 minutes. We all do this in our own methods, to sync together: older man (Yope), older woman (Sharon), young boy (Zenon), another man (Don), three women (myself) (Amelia) (Natalie), 500 Capp expert (Antonio). The stillness always becomes quite loud as the sun sets: my watch clicks, the skateboard rides by, the watermelon slices get sold just outside the window. When I lay down to take this self-portrait in the first still 3 minutes, a small splinter wedges itself into my leg, a hello from the house.

“You can’t make art by making art” —David Ireland

“From the time that I stepped out of the house after that first visit, I looked at the world differently. He disregarded the erudite, rarefied element of what art should be. His ethos was that anything could be art. He looked at cracks in the walls and regarded them as beautiful. It made me look at the world in a different way… Movement was hugely important to David. Yes, he collaborated with choreographers and dance companies, but I think he also regarded the movement of his body within the space as performance. Sweeping the front steps was a meditative thing and it was also a performance. He called it action rather than work, imbuing it with a more forward-thinking attitude versus it just being drudgery.” —Carlie Wilmans, 500 Capp Street Foundation Director

“Art occurs in the practice of life” —David Ireland

We’ve been listening to the house breathe. We’re trying to trace the cracks in the walls, the curves in the halls. We’re following the impetus each wire / sardine tin / Dumbball / splinter / reflection / pillow offers us, towards defining a movement or a sequence or a choreographed image. Inside the amber glow of David Ireland’s self-portrait, we’re listening—like you listen in contact improvisation to the weight of your partner.


They [Ann Hatch and Ed Gilbert] walked me through the house, and I just started experiencing it. I had seen it in photos, but seeing it in photos is nothing like being inside that house… I walked through the house and experienced different features of the house, I was moved, in particular by the upstairs copper window, the Untitled (View from the window) piece. When I experienced that piece, there was a little kind of light bulb that went on. I thought, this piece is AMAZING and it will lose any kind of meaning if somebody were to attempt to cut it out and put it in a museum, or a gallery or something. We did the tour in kind of a similar fashion to your performance: starting in the hallway and moving upstairs, moving back down the stairs, and finishing up in the dining room.” —Carlie Wilmans

We will lead you through the David Ireland House, in small audiences of 10, twice a night. We, as in all the performers, and the project’s collaborators: Amie Dowling, Elaine Buckholtz, Natalie Greene, Sebastian Alvarez. And David in spirit.

Open your eyes. Look for things you wouldn’t expect. Look. Just look. Look at the house through the lens of your own life and your own experience” —Carlie Wilmans

Maya Brinner Modern Class

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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

Feminist Space in Dance: hers and hers asks questions with little seismic’s Katie Faulkner

Photo by Brett Walker

Photo by Brett Walker

Hey, We’re hers and hers. A new queer feminist dance collective in San Francisco We (Courtney King and myself) craft dance-theater with strong woman-identified performers, we write epic poems that make their way into our dances, we blog, we interview our local communities as fieldwork, we conduct an ongoing 35mm film portrait series, we Instagram, and we feature women we admire in an online series called Choreographer Playbook. And we’re just getting started.

We first encountered each other in Katie Faulkner’s modern class at the University of San Francisco’s Performing Arts & Social Justice Program. We began to ask a lot of questions about the relationship between performing and social justice: performing bodies, genders, identities, cultures, norms and histories. We collected a series of these questions in July of 2015 for Emmaly Wiederholt’s Stance on Dance blog — we’ve decided to revisit some of them here, almost a year later.

We asked this original set of questions in 2015; questions to circle around in creative process, in watching performance, and in life in general:

  • What is feminism? What is feminism
    in dance? How can making dance be a feminist act?
  • How are men included in a feminist methodology? How are those with non- conforming gender identities included? How can we represent ourselves and others? Where do we see inequality?
  • Is feminism undermined or strengthened by dance we see today?
  • What can we uncover from experiences/ the body/ideas to ‘an audience?’ How can the personal be shared/related to?
  • Where is the intersection of the personal and the political?
  • What norms are we experiencing that we disagree with? How are we doing? Are we okay? Are you okay?
  • Where does love come from? How do we ask for it?

We asked again.We returned to where we first met and shared our inquiries with Katie, in order to gain some perspective. We’re all in new (but varied) chapters, working on respectively new projects. Katie Faulkner’s little seismic dance company has their 10th anniversary home season, for which she’s creating Memoir (a solo on herself), an ensemble piece for five women titled Don’t Worry Baby, and a duet from 2014 with Chad Dawson. For hers and hers, 2016 has been ODC’s Pilot 67, and will include a few more iterations of our newest (un)apologetic quintet. Then we’ll take a dance “sabbatical” for a new photo essay about “getting ready” and a seminar with our collaborators for reading/research on queer theory.

So, we asked again with our longtime teacher and choreographic mentor, asking her to join our chorus of questions; to maybe arrive at something…

Katie Faulkner: I ask myself a lot of these questions, too. And I feel my answers are always evolving. Engaging in the thought process around them, I have definitely worked in my own personal and political life to try not to get too rigid about any one set of ideas. And to recognize how fluid and how constantly shifting a lot of our understandings around these things are. But, I definitely believe that making dance can be a feminist act, absolutely.

hers and hers [Melissa]: I’m curious about what your feminism is. For today, fluid.

KF: My sense is that [feminism’s] roots are in equity, and I still think that’s true—but I think it’s evolved over time to include conversations about more fully making space— cultural, social and political space—for the fullness of a woman’s knowledge, experience, sense of themselves, agency, power, safety.

h&h: All those descriptive words make me think how connected they all are to dance.

KF: Yes. I do think about and am interested in creating classroom spaces that are basically feminist spaces. Regardless of the gender identities represented in the room. At its core it’s about honoring the whole person by creating safe and robust places for people to really know themselves. All of themselves, as much as possible. I feel like dance is a really unique meeting point for parts of self that don’t come into contact under different circumstances and it’s powerful in that way! … There are so many embodied skills in dance that ask for attentiveness, for listening, empathy, connection, attunement—that in many ways ask for humane perspectives of ourselves and others.

h&h: Maybe it’s a general perception of the word political, and how the value system in art-making leans towards a definition of political performance as more overt, public displays of political issues. Work that is private or personal—or even what happens behind the scenes in home or studio spaces—doesn’t register instantly as really political. I think that the private, personal practices CAN be just as political as… rally cries.

Photo by Melissa Lewis

Photo by Melissa Lewis

KF: I absolutely agree. There are so many ways to work politically… My relationship to dance-making is typically not driven by trying to create work around a central idea or a central agenda. I actually engage with making work as a way of understanding the world better. Of understanding the world inside of me, and me inside of the world.

I’m aware that by choosing to be a dance maker, choosing this career, it feels like a very political choice… women deciding to take some room, to define her physical space, and to ask for a kind of attention to how she chooses to be represented and seen. Choosing work that’s outside of the mainstream, margins of commerce and commodification.

h&h: Right. A transactional way of thinking, versus making something that isn’t as tangible: that is risk. In creating a rehearsal space to work with five dancers, we try to create a liminal space outside of everyday life—to suspend how society often determines the rules.

KF: Everyone has a relationship to risk. We talk a lot about “risk” [in art]. There’s a way I think the idea of risk can be very extrinsically motivated.. When in fact for me, getting in front of a group of people and moving in front of them, and revealing my decisions— just that vulnerability is extremely risky.

h&h: Not even creative risk.
KF: Yeah. Right. That exposure. That’s risky to me. I don’t think we honor that enough.
h&h: It’s a given: ‘of course, she’s a dancer…’
KF: Right,‘there she goes again…’
h&h: ‘of course she’s gonna do that up there’
KF: But, the creative risks I’m able to take are not unrelated to my privilege—white, able-bodied woman working within a generally supportive community. The risks I take are not life and death, and that’s obviously not true for all artists working in the world.

… One of the things you said in your Stance on Dance article that I really liked was about the body. Yes, the body is culture. The body is history. The body is family. The body is relationships. The body is choices. The body is anatomy. I think there’s a way of acknowledging that in process. Going into the room and harnessing the deep knowledge that the body possesses is really profound—if you’re engaging with asking the body, sort of interviewing the body. There are ways of engaging with movement-making that are about adhering to known vocabularies, and there are ways of engaging with movement creation that are really about a process of trying to unearth and understand something that the body knows.

Courtney interviews at Pride

Photo by Melissa Lewis

h&h: For us, asking questions is a natural strategy as we try to stay informed by what’s already there. It comes out conducting inter- views in public, chatting with our dancers in rehearsals, talking to mentors. This urge to ask helps us take inventory of what’s actually relevant. For instance, at the 2015 Pride Parade, how incredibly informative it was to ask people of all ages and genders and races and sexualities, to react in real time to: “would you consider yourself a feminist? What do you think of that word?” … and be totally surprised at each response. Sometimes asking questions feels like the only way that we really know for sure how to operate.

KF: I love that you’re doing that. It makes me realize how much I could gain from interviewing my mentors. And my students! Looking ahead and looking behind. To the side. What I like about that is it engages with uncertainty… for me art-making is this exquisite opportunity to engage with the unknown. I really like that. I really like going into a process not knowing what I’m gonna do… I make work in order to know things. I don’t know things and then try to make work about it… How do you think about it?

h&h: I think it’s about making space for people to reach their own conclusions. How might a dance ask the audience a question and then let them answer it?

Do you feel like your solo-making process right now, is like an interview, but towards yourself?

KF: Yeah, I do. Turning 40 this year, was kind of big…surprising how much that affected me. I know it’s not that old, but it has made me reflect a lot on who I really am as a mover, what I’ve inherited, what I agree with, what I don’t agree with… It’s actually been a slow process of stripping everything away and treating this solo process as an interview:

What does it mean to have been a dancer for 36 years of my life?
How does it define me, or not?
Have I really found a way to make this art my own?
What experiences have I had that make me see the world the way that I do? What’s my own relationship to my own body and my own power?

Photo by Melissa Lewis

Photo by Melissa Lewis

All of the questions mean having to go way way way way back.

I really credit my teaching, as I was growing up [in North Carolina], my training that I received was from this incredible collective of women. I have been doing creative movement, modern dance, choreography and improvisation since I was four years old. I didn’t start doing ballet ‘til I was maybe eight, and I took it one day a week from a modern dancer. And, I danced in a multigenerational dance company from the time I was eight until I was 18.

I’ve been surrounded by women who have created their own dance lives since I was a little kid. I’ve been surrounded by women of every generation making their own decisions about the role that dance plays in their lives. And creating situations for themselves where THEY will thrive surrounded by a loving community of people. At every stage of my life, pretty much, I have been surrounded by women who have chosen dance, and in a way that was very much on the fringes of what was main- stream. They were hardworking, entrepreneurial, and creative. And I think there’s a part of me that takes it for granted because it’s been around me for so long. And I only know now how deeply, deeply blessed I was to have those role models. And how feminist the context of my dance upbringing was. Without my really knowing that that’s what it was.

So when I decided to start making my own work, it was terrifying, but it also felt like a natural progression, having been surrounded by women who essentially said:

Of course this is what you do. If you want to dance, go and do it. Make what you want to make. That’s what you do.

h&h: It was a huge aha! for us, seeing that as a possibility in San Francisco. You, and so many women dance artists have multiple modes or ways of working, as women and performers and choreographers and teachers. I think it’s a huge part of why we want to be here and invest as artists here.

KF: That’s wonderful! I do think that young girls, young women, young people—need examples… need models of thriving and self-actualizing. I feel so fortunate that I have women older than I who I’ve watched navigate the eld—who have found ways of building really rich lives for themselves without having children or maybe without getting married or following the well-worn cultural path that we’re supposed to follow. I feel so lucky that I’m in an area where, to have chosen not to have children, to have chosen to pursue the life and career of an artist, isn’t such a marginalized idea. That I’m surrounded by people everyday who are making different choices is incredibly empowering. To your point, having models of people who are coming into their own in robust, self-determined ways is so so SO important. And political. And feminist. It’s all of those things. It offers up a kind of permission. And that’s incredibly powerful.


We reflect. On this safe and robust time with Katie, that let us think aloud on feminism, risk, space, political x personal, and power. As we tether ourselves to the vastness of larger feminist and dance conversations / communities, this kind of dialogue helps us grow. It informs the future of hers and hers.

Dance-making for us has been an act of questioning. Interviewing the body—rich, knowledgeable, enough. Feminism creates space for these bodies. Feminism involves race, class, gender, culture, history, lineage— it has to, otherwise it’s nothing; it’s a shared her. It’s personal and private and also it’s a communal uplifting. Feminism questions the way things operate. It acts on how we each can work towards power. In uncertainty and inquiry is power. A question can open the door to where an answer is housed.

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

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]

44 Gough St, Suite 201
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 920-9181 phone
(415) 920-9173 fax