As a way to close out another year ‘in dance,’ we take a look back at some of the memorable moments of 2008. We asked what you felt were the performances, moments, people, or events that stood out as important, memorable or unexpected? We also collected photo from throughout the year, a small sampling of the hundreds of dance performances this year. And bringing it all together is Rachel Howard’s reflections on 2008. Enjoy!
Dancer, Choreographer, and Instructor, Berkeley Moving Arts
My favorite dance experience of this year and the most memorable of any year, occurred this past summer. My company and I brought Mothersongs: Dances to Yiddish Songs of The Old Country, the New World and The Holocaust, to Poland, where Jews have lived for centuries, and where 3 million of them, including my great grandparents were murdered during World War 11. We performed at The White Stork Synagogue in Wroclaw, a very old, newly restored synagogue that had fallen into disrepair after the war, and is now becoming once again a center for Jewish culture. To dance at this beautiful space was magical and to be welcomed by the Polish community was thrilling.
Artistic Director, Xdrop
Street performing in Times Square in NYC was fun, especially when 3 guys walked by and spoke about how they hated art.
Director/Choreographer, Films That Dance
I produce children’s dance performances and films here in Marin County. For fun this year, I rented wooden floors for each of the schools so we could perform outdoors. It absolutely amazed me how the children from Kindergarten to 8th grade reacted to the joy of performing outside in the wonderful Marin air with a “real” professional dance floor.
Choreographer, Instructor and Dancer-Argentine Tango
One of my favorite dance teachers, Mary Rotella, once observed that we dance with most abandon alone, in our living rooms. In late September, I found myself dancing with my tango partner in Erin Mei-Ling Stuart’s living room – in an improvised installation performance for Stuart’s Keyhole Dances, set in her Victorian flat. When not a single roving audience member was peeping into our room, my right foot had an epiphany. It found a new ‘adorno,’ a fresh way to express itself within my 14-years-&-counting tango. Only the plants on the mantle may have noted my mini-breakthrough, but it was real. So was the setting. I had long hoped to work with Stuart, and I was… Calmed by the reminder that sometimes things do sort out and the dearly desired does happen, my recently shaken heart found reassurance. One second of movement, followed by a few seconds of awareness, restored me to peace – for a moment, anyway.
My favorite moment of 2008 is discovering Kira Kirsch as a teacher. She offers depth and clarity in a technique class and still leaves room for personal revelation. It thrills me to find a young artist here who is investing herself in the essence of movement, and then having the boldness to teach so well.
Artistic Director, Project Bandaloop
Hearing seagulls during Scott Well’s site-specific piece for Trolley Dances as the dancers paired off into duets by finding each other with odd animal sounds-and then when they all flung themselves over the fence and mostly disappeared during a perfect lull in the musical score.
fairie medicine dancer
The sun has been up for less than an hour and I’m walking west towards 3:00 and esplanade. Another night of dust-kickin’ ass-shakin’ dance at burning man 2008. There’s a huge art car in front of my camp. The music is melodic and sweetly bass-driven, I coast over to sink into the rhythms…I am not deciding which way my leg moves, my arm to which direction, it is all the sounds of bliss that direct me, and I proceed. I lie down on my plank stage, flipping legs up and over my head I’m upside down, legs taking over, toes reaching to the heights of the balloon shaped art car and the infinite above. Pointe, pointe, develope, the entertainment continues as my body expands and explores…
My favorite dance moment of 2008 was my “Nacho Day.” It was a Thursday, and Nacho Duato’s Compañía Nacional de Danza was in town to make its San Francisco debut. I planned to start the day with a CND Master Class. In my head it was going to be fabulous (but) my normally strong technique completely abandoned me, leaking from my pores like air out of a saggy balloon. Herve Palito (CND’s Artistic Coordinator) was adorably supportive and the class was great, but I sucked. I was still moping when I took my seat that night at the Yerba Buena Theater. I kept thinking “What’s my problem? Everyone has off days.” Then the curtain lifted, and all but amazement was forgotten. In the few quiet moments that existed between each incredible piece and my feverish clapping /woohoo-ing I realized what was going on. Nacho Day‚ was the end of cycle for me…I had wanted the class to be perfect because I wanted the day to be perfect. I wanted to validate all that I had accomplished. I smiled. The lights lowered for the final piece, and as I watched the incredible artistry before me I suddenly didn’t need the day to be flawless anymore. It was enough that I was part of this sweet dance life and that the circle was complete.
Artistic Director, Moving Arts Dance
Standing ovation, opening night of Giselle Act III in July 2008. This standing ovation was seven weeks in the making… but really it was two decades coming together. Moving Arts Dance has been located in the far East Bay area for almost 20 years. As a modern dance-based contemporary dance company we were not quickly embraced by the (greater) community: ballet and competitive dance were the rage in this suburban nest. In 1990, when I first began offering classes in exchange for rehearsal space at local studios they said things like “There is no need for modern dance in Contra Costa County.” Or “Modern dance, hmmm, isn’t that like ‘be a tree?’”…(But on this evening) as the show ended and the audience rose to their feet, the thunderous applause spoke to me of 20 years of pushing the boulder called modern dance up the steep hill of intolerance, and the sound of clapping hands accompanied the beginning of a new era.
Arts Management Consultant, Quinn and Associates
Miguel Santos of Theatre Flamenco being honored with an Izzy for Sustained Achievement, and then moments later winning the award for best Restaging/Revival/Reconstruction — competing with such big names as Dennis Nahat and Helgi Thomasson, no less! He leaped from his seat, and almost danced to the podium to receive the award — his first “earned” Izzy ever! A beautiful, joyful, touching moment…
Dance & arts reviewer, guest from Singapore
The program, Brahms Songs & Dances, was presented by The Lively Foundation. The work was deeply expressive and understated at the same time. When dance gives me a feeling of energy and new understanding of life, I feel I am in the presence of art. That is how I felt at this concert. It was an extraordinary afternoon.
Oddly enough, my favorite dance-related moment of 2008 was not a performance, class, or workshop. It was when I picked up the SF Weekly in July and saw on the cover page a picture of a pair of pointe shoes resting in a pool of blood, with the headline, “Blood, Sweat, and Tutus: Graceful dancers often mask painful injuries to keep their jobs at the San Francisco Ballet.” Written by Joe Eskenazi, the article takes a rare and honest look at what it means to be a ballet dancer – the pain that dancers must endure on a daily basis in an effort to mask their injuries, and the shame and punishment suffered from not being able to dance due to injury. Good for Eskenazi for unveiling one of the best kept secrets in SF Ballet, and good for the dancers he interviewed for being brave enough to risk the consequences of coming forward.
Arts and culture consultant
Marin based master artist, Vishnu Tattva Das has been a hidden Bay Area treasure for a number of years. This was his year to be “discovered” by more mainstream dance audiences when he participated in a program of New Traditionalists this summer at ODC Theater at Artaud. If there was anyone who blurs the lines of performance and transcendence, it is Vishnu whose 6 foot stature can embody the feminine essence in a way that makes your heart melt.
My fondest moment by far was the Urban Bush Women/Jant-Bi collaboration titled, Escallies de Memoire that was performed at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts this past spring. The dancing was powerful, fierce and breathtaking. It conjured the ancestral bond that exists between Africans and African Americans separated by slavery. The choreography was sensual, harsh, tender and playful. I was moved and inspired in ways I have not been in a very long time.
Project Director, Bay Area National Dance Week
My fondest memory of 2008 was my experience in Rachel Berman’s Paul Taylor Workshop this past Fall at San Francisco Dance Center. (Ms. Berman was a soloist with the Paul Taylor Dance Company for over 10 years.) What stood out in my mind was from the start of the workshop, Rachel reminded everyone that Taylor’s movement was a style not a technique. Additionally, the intent of the workshop was to teach Paul Taylor’s choreography which could be interpreted through Berman’s movement. She took dancers from all walks of life including myself and transformed us into an interconnected group as we explored repertory.